Driving the Subaru 360, one of the worst cars ever sold in America

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'Cheap and ugly:' Subaru's first US model was a disaster

Proving that, in America, something is feasible, Subaru acquired its begin right here 50 years in the past by importing a automobile so unhealthy it almost doomed the model from the beginning.

At the moment, Subaru (FUJHF) vehicles and SUVs are lauded for his or her security and high quality. Client Reviews, arguably probably the most influential journal amongst automobile consumers, routinely praises its merchandise.

Client Reviews was influential in 1968, too, which is why the journal’s devastating evaluation of the tiny Subaru 360 was so damaging. It took the tiny automobile a full 37.5 seconds to go from zero to 50 miles an hour. Sixty miles an hour on flat floor wasn’t actually doable with the automobile’s 25 horsepower two-cylinder engine. That was in all probability a superb factor. The entrance bumpers have been “just about ineffective in opposition to something extra formidable than a watermelon,” the journal mentioned. Dealing with was dangerously unhealthy. Throughout abrupt maneuvers, the again wheels tended to twist up beneath the automobile like a turtle’s leg.

In brief, the Subaru 360 was “Not Acceptable,” the journal wrote, in massive letters.

Gross sales of the 360 collapsed. The person whose concept it had been to import the vehicles, Malcolm Bricklin, left the corporate. He would attempt once more, about 20 years later, with a Yugoslav automobile imported because the Yugo. In a current interview with CNNMoney, Bricklin blamed Client Reviews for the 360’s failure and insisted the automobile wasn’t unhealthy, contemplating its worth. It price $1,300. Toyota’s least expensive mannequin, the Corolla, price a whole bunch extra.

Bricklin’s intelligent concept with the 360 was to import a automobile that wasn’t, beneath American guidelines, a automobile in any respect. So far as American regulators have been involved, if it weighed lower than 1,000 kilos, it was not a automobile and, so, was exempt from many laws. The Subaru 360 weighed 965 kilos.

Associated: I drove the unique supercar

My curiosity, and my braveness, have been piqued. I had by no means heard of a automobile this unhealthy. I’ve pushed a Yugo, and it did not actually appear atrocious, contemplating its $three,995 beginning worth within the late 1980s, 1000’s lower than a Toyota Tercel.

subaru 360
Small and underpowered in its day, the Subaru 360 feels much more misplaced on trendy roads.

The 360 I borrowed from a prime Subaru USA government and drove on roads and highways across the firm’s New Jersey headquarters was, certainly, terrible. In actual fact, it was the very worst automobile I’ve ever pushed. It made me alternately chuckle out loud and concern, deep down in my quivering guts, for my very life.

A Subaru 360 is three toes shorter than a Volkswagen Beetle. It’s a tiny automobile on tiny wheels with a tiny little engine. On a contemporary freeway, it’s a toy sailboat in a dashing river of mega-yachts. I leaned ahead, attempting to crush the gasoline pedal down a bit of additional. The mower-sized two-cylinder engine raged loudly, attempting its hardest to maintain me from getting run over by SUVs. The very best I might handle, ever, was one thing over 45 miles an hour, and it took all the pieces to get there.

subaru 360
Even by the requirements of low-cost vehicles, the Subaru 360 was spartan.

More often than not, the brakes provided the mere suggestion of stopping. They did work, of their means, after I needed to make an actual panic cease. A automobile — one with brakes — pulled in entrance of me and stopped arduous. Instinctively, my foot smashed the brake pedal. The 360’s snout dropped down towards the asphalt whereas its hind finish rose into the air like a cat getting its butt scratched. I yanked on the steering because the automobile squirmed facet to facet, threatening to show sideways and put its stomach into the air. Lastly, it got here to a shuddering cease earlier than I hit something.

It was a driving expertise as spectacular as any I’ve had. It was spectacular how far an organization can come from a starting like that.

CNNMoney (New York) First revealed July 6, 2018: 10:51 AM ET

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