A 1969 Subaru 360 has sold for an insane $50,000. For that price, you could afford a number of significant Japanese classics. A Datsun 510 or Fairlady Roadster, Toyota Celica or AE86, early Mazda rotary, and so on. Or, you can get into a bidding war for a kei car with a 356cc, 2-stroke, 2-cylinder engine.
Of course, being owners of Japanese cars we know that cachet and a powerful motor isn’t justification for more value. The Subaru 360 is historically important. It was Subaru’s first success story, spanning 12 years of sales during Japan’s automotive awakening. As such, it was the first car for hundreds of thousands of Japanese families and synonymous with the country’s post-war economic boom. There’s only one non-commercial car in the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and it’s a Subaru 360.
The 360 was also the first Subaru to enter the US market, thanks to importer Malcolm Bricklin. But, to say that the car wasn’t a hit would be an understatement. It was deemed the most unsafe car in America by Consumer Reports in 1969. It was such a massive flop that dealers were giving them away at the low, low price of $2,000 for a six-pack (which works out to $333 per car). Some say that new cars still on ships were dumped into the Pacific. Others say that there’s a mass grave of unsold 360s beneath a Subaru facility in New Jersey.
“Boy, are those people kicking themselves now!” is something we’d probably say if we ourselves weren’t flabbergasted at the $50,000 sales price on Bring a Trailer. It’s not even a Young S or Young SS, the rare sport and sportier trim levels of the 360.
Admittedly, it’s a superb example of a Subaru 360. It has lived in Washington state since it was sold new. According to the listing, it was “parked in its original owner’s garage from 1973 until 2011.” Whether that means it was garaged or sat unused is unclear. The lucky seller refurbished it after purchasing it in 2019, including a repaint in its original color.
For a car that was literally disposable, it’s very complete. It came with the manual, tool kit, and warranty card with service stamps from the original dealer. It appears to be a top US-spec specimen, one of the top in the country, perhaps. But, it is still far from the best example we’ve seen. In fact, some of the parts used on the restoration appear to have been sourced from JDM Car Parts, whose founder restored that JCCS Best in Show winner.
In fact, that car was subsequently sold, and though we’ve been asked not to disclose the price it was a steal compared to this car’s. This sale sets a benchmark for not only Subaru 360s, but microcars — who have their devotees but are often seen as more curiosity than car — in general. But, that’s the way the market goes. It’s not always logical. For the full listing and photo gallery, see the auction on Bring a Trailer.