By on May 6, 2010

Only in 1969: Cheap and crappy production values, mispronounced name of the car you’re selling, which was a cheap and ugly wart. All redeemed by the girl in bell bottoms. Sort of.

If you survived that, don’t miss this longer film extolling the remarkable virtues of Subaru’s 1969 lineup, including the legendary 360 Super Sport (!) with wild racing and crazy over steer footage. Also the pickup, van, and introducing the new FWD Star. Late sixties history is so…scary, especially when you lived through this yourself. (Note: the first minute is very dull, but hang in there, it gets better and better)

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48 Comments on “Subaru 360 Vintage Ads: Cheap, Ugly Ads With Sexy Girl Extolling Cheap, Ugly Cars...”

  • avatar

    They actually call it “cheap and ugly” in the voiceover — you don’t see that kind of honesty in car commercials anymore.

    “All kinds of people are driving Subarus…including some real groovy chicks!” LOL

    Then when you think it can’t get any quirkier, the Subaru 360 pickup truck shows up…

  • avatar

    Groovy chicks in bell bottoms! I’m on board. Seriously, the first set of ads, and the whole cheap and ugly thing borrow heavily from Real (old) Beetle marketing. Anyway, this is certainly a lot of fun. And, one of my neighbors has one of these. Cheap and ugly and 35 years old.

    360 refers to the spinning you can do.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Can’t believe they tried to sell such an undersized car in the US , they didn’t bother in the UK as it was clearly too small.

    • 0 avatar
      Ken Kirkland

      When I was in grad school in the late ’60s, one of our secretaries who was a very heavy lady purchased a 360. Watching her getting out of this vehicle was a sight to behold.

      A review of the 360 at the time ended with the words “The best thing to do with this vehicle is to slam the door and walk away”.

  • avatar

    I know it was a long camera shot but it sure looked like that girl was really paying attention when she was driving down that boat ramp. Or maybe that’s just the look you have when your face is three inches from the windshield.


  • avatar

    I think it is terribly cute, in the same way as old Fiat 500s. You just want to rub it between the ears. And are they really mis-pronouncing the name? One would think that the company paying for the ads knew how to say their own name. How do native Japanese speakers say it?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Don’t forget that the importation of the 360 was all Malcolm Bricklin’s doing. Subaru (Japan) had nothing to do with these ads.

    • 0 avatar


      It was Subaru that invited Bricklin to be the US distributor.

      The story, as Bricklin told me at the NAIAS when he was trying to cook up that ill-fated deal with Chery, starts with Lambretta scooters. Bricklin was a closeout specialist. He’d gotten a hold of a few thousand Lambrettas, sold them all, and couldn’t get more. Looking around for another deal, having been bit by the motorized bug, he thought about importing Japanese cars to Israel. So he went to Japan, hoping to make a deal with Toyota or Nissan. Instead he discovered that the two Japanese majors adhered to Arab countries’ boycott of Israel. If you did business with Israel, you could write off the chance of doing business in the Arab world, so Nissan and Toyota weren’t interested in the small Israeli car market.

      I think Bricklin’s exact quote to me was “This Jew boy said fuck ’em and I looked for a deal with someone who couldn’t afford to pass up a new market.” Subaru, desperate for sales, gave him the franchise for Israel.

      Bricklin got Subaru well established in Israel. Since then it’s been a popular brand there. Tal Bronfer can correct me if I’m wrong, but for a while I think it was the best selling brand there. The Impreza is, today, one of the 10 best selling cars in Israel.

      Bricklin said that on the strength of his success introducing Subarus to Israel, Fuji asked him to do the same in the US. One has to give Malcolm his propers. With what is generally considered one of the worst automotive designs in history, the Subaru 360 he introduced a new, foreign named, brand to the American market, got a dealer network set up, parts distribution, etc. and managed to keep it alive long enough till the company actually had product that Americans would drive. The Consumers Reports ‘most unsafe car in the world, run away!’ review was legendary. So to establish the brand in the face of that kind of notoriety at least took some moxie.

      I’ve heard it suggested that Subaru eventually realized that Bricklin was more of a liability than an asset, so they bought out his distribution rights, but the truth is that just about all the car companies have captive North American distribution subsidiaries these days because it’s more profitable to not have to share with a middleman. Once they were established with a dealer network in North America, Fuji/Subaru didn’t need Bricklin anymore.

      Bricklin is the consummate hondler, a hustler, a deal maker. He’s still claiming that Visionary Vehicles will be selling PHEVs made in China.

      The thing w/ Bricklin is that with all of his failures and schemes filled with grandeur he can also legitimately point to some successes. The Bricklin car did go into production and he sold thousands of them. He did establish Subaru in North America. The Yugo launch is still the most successful initial launch of a new brand – they sold something like 250,000 in the first two years.

      Sure, all his successes come with a “yes, but”, but isn’t the car industry more fun when there are characters like Bricklin, Durant and Tucker around?

    • 0 avatar

      I found this japanese Subaru ad from 1971 (same time period). The pronounciation sounds to me exactly like in the Bricklin ads. It looks like at some point Subaru USA decided to anglicize the sound.

      The ad is at:

      At least Subaru is consistent in that they use the new sound of the name equally in other english speaking countries. Unlike Hyundai, which is H-yun-day in every single country in the world (including UK and Australia), but Hun-day in the US.

    • 0 avatar

      Both pronunciations are wrong to some degree. Japanese doesn’t use stress accents like English. Generally, all syllables are given equal stress and all vowels are fully pronounced. This is hard for English speakers, who really want to stress one syllable and neutralize unstressed vowels. Thus, when pronouncing Japanese words, different English speakers hear the accent in different places. To my ears, the modern pronunciation of Su’baru is closer to the Japanese cadence. The reason it sounds wrong is because the ‘ah’ in the second syllable gets neutralized to an ‘uh’ in English. Try the modern English pronunciation with an un-neutralized ‘ah’ and you’ll be pretty close. See also Hiro’shima vs. Hiroshi’ma.

      And they said you couldn’t do anything with a linguistics degree. Ha.

      Also, pronouncing Hyundai correctly is un-American.

  • avatar

    Not sure how Gustav Holtz’s “Jupiter” interpreted via the groovin’-60s-jazz-soundtrack relates to Subaru. But I kind of like it.

    • 0 avatar
      A is A

      And what about Mussorgsky´s “Pictures at an Exhibition” disguised as Japanese music?.

      What an incredible chutzpah is required to sell a car as a “sports car” whit that kind of behaviour in the track.

  • avatar

    The part where the girl appears with the snifter was bizarre. Did the car need a stiff drink after a long day? Perhaps she was taking a leak behind a sand dune?

    • 0 avatar

      Did the car need a stiff drink after a long day?

      No. Just the driver. Who knows?, the 360 probably started to look good after three or four stiff ones. And, if not, it was surely more fun to drive. My god, just thinking about those Ad-men coming up with phrases like “concave racing roof” makes me realize I spent my life in the wrong business.

    • 0 avatar

      Not to mention, the engine was a 2-stroke. So didn’t she need two snifters, one with gas and a smaller one with oil?

  • avatar

    What really stood out for me was the size disparity between the gravel hauler and the Subaru in the third commercial… Yikes!

  • avatar
    7th Frog

    well, now they can market them as overpriced and ugly.

    I did nearly but an outback wagon in 2008. Now nothing they make appeals to me.

    I dig me some groovy chicks. and a belly dancer no less.

  • avatar

    These cars?? do look somewhat familiar, however I don’t recall ever seeing one on the road.
    And I was living in SoCal at the time.

  • avatar

    It looks like a Fiat 500 on steroids. You just need a few drinks to visualize it as a beautiful car ;)

  • avatar

    Am I hallucinating this?

  • avatar

    As I shop for my next grocery getter, I cannot help but wonder where is my eight-grand (adjusted for inflation) puddle jumper. I know. I know. I’m supposed to get a used Taurus or Corolla instead.

  • avatar

    66 MPG? What did these things weigh — 1,000 pounds wet?


  • avatar

    The only thing I remember about the 360 was Consumer Reports rating it “Unacceptable”.

    I don’t remember the ‘Star’ at all. I guess they didn’t market them in the Northeast.

    I do recall seeing Honda 600’s at about the same time.

    • 0 avatar

      The Star is the first FWD Subaru. It is really the ancestor of all Subies to follow.

      The first 360 in the clip clearly wears a Pennsylvania plate. Bricklin’s first HQ for Subaru of America was just outside Philly. I think the “groovy chick” scene starting at 2:07 is in downtown Philly. When they switch to the “Autodrive” car it looks like the setting changes to California.

  • avatar

    We need Bertel to weigh in on the pronunciation. I’m not sure it’s wrong.

  • avatar

    During a close-out sale at a clothing store in Martinez, CA in the early 19903 saw a lone pair of “elephant bells” in my size.

    The width at the bottom of the pant legs had to have been 2-feet across!!!!!

    They were Levis and rather valuable but I had to wear vice sell them for what would have been a small profit compared to a Hemi ‘Cuda.

    It was chuckle inducing as the human herd stopped and gaped with many pointing and laughing and some flashing peace signs (2 upraised fingers with culturally confused displaying but one upraised digit) and various shouts of “groovy” tossed my way.

    I reckon you young kids are thoroughly confused by this post but, never fear, I, an Old Coot of the Disgruntled variety, has been confused for decades.

  • avatar

    Did that ad say 66 mpg at the end?
    Cheap, ugly and efficient is more like it.

  • avatar

    This (especially the pickup truck version) would have made a great car for Inspector Clouseau !

  • avatar

    The Subaru dealer in Hudson NH had one in his showroom during my short, ill-fated ownership of a Subaru Outback. It is a tiny car.

  • avatar

    It appears that Subaru had looked at a few Beetles before they made their tribute car. That was very entertaining. Thanks Paul

  • avatar
    Scott Douglas

    I in fact owned a 360 Sedan for maybe 4 years in the early 70’s. ‘Put about 30,000 miles on it. ‘Used Suzuki 2-stroke injector oil whereas everyone else in town used plain old 30 weight. The result was that mine ran better than theirs. The specs are amusing: 10 inch wheels, suicide doors, 356 cc twin, 940 lb dry weight. Topped out about 55; I saw 70 on downhill grades with the proverbial tail wind. The car’s shining moment: it was the only car in the neighborhood that would start at minus 20 F.

    Of course, everybody teased me about the silly car until I let them drive it. Then they didn’t want to return it. It’s been said that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slowly. The 360 was ALWAYS driven WFO!

    • 0 avatar

      I too owned a 360 during my 1st 2 years of college. Just out of high school and I had a brand new car! You used to have to add a quart of oil every couple of weeks because of the two stroke engine. Mine would also pop a spark plug wire every now and then and you couldn’t drive past 1st gear. And 1st wasn’t synchromeshed, so you had to make a complete stop before you could downshift!

      When my tires needed replacing, the car was too small for standard lifts, so I remember the tire dealer using a forklift to raise the car!

      I got mine up to 80 mph once, flooring it on a steep highway downhill. The air vent was a lever you pushed under the dash and the window washer was a rubber bulb you squeezed on the dash. I remember I put racing stripes on the door panels and diagnally across the rear hood.

      I also remember a co-worker “bench pressing” the front end and being able to park it between my parents cars in our two car garage.

      I too wish I still had it sometimes, although I shiver at how dangerous it was to drive on the highway, lol!

  • avatar

    This is gold! Great find. I like the van and truck. Brilliant looking utility.

    Did the 360 come in an STi version? ;)

  • avatar

    Grew up in the Philly suburbs, and my music teacher had one of these, and she was not a petite woman. My old man could hardly hide his amusement that anyone would actually buy a 360 for daily transport. I still remember the Consumer Reports review of this little beast (my father is still a CR subscriber to this day). As Catbert said, in nice big block letters: UNACCEPTABLE. Paraphrasing: “It’s hard to imagine the front bumper withstanding the impact of anything larger than a watermelon.” A shot of the defroster in action, clearing a little ‘wedge’ in the upper right corner of the windshield. Those were the days allright…’elephant’ bells in yellow and purple, or pink and purple. Good times!

  • avatar
    Rusted Source

    I dig these videos, really put a smile on my face. I like the styling too, they’re spunky. I’ll take mine in the van though.

    Cheap and ugly. Hey at least they weren’t try to make it out to be something it wasn’t.

    You just gotta love YouTube.

  • avatar

    A sporty-car mag (either R&T or C&D) of the day referred to the 360 as a “motorized chamber pot”!

  • avatar

    In the early 70’s I lived in Mountain View CA. As I recall, the sales of the 360 fell off of a cliff after the CR review. Someone in Redwood City set up a track right by the 101, bought a bunch of unsold 360s, and for a some money you could go flog the daylights out of them. If it broke, just get another one.

  • avatar

    You guys are absolutely brilliant. Where do you FIND this stuff? In Wisconsin we never saw these things. My brother bought the first Honda Civic from a dealership in Libertyville, IL and was treated like royalty wherever he drove the thing around Milwaukee. It rusted out faster than anyone could’ve imagined. I wonder if there are any of these old Subies around anymore?

    Great job, guys! You’re the best!

  • avatar


  • avatar

    It’s pretty cute to me but it yells out Death Trap! They should retro this and compete against the Mini and give it either AWD or RWD.

  • avatar

    When Subarus were this tiny, it would have been difficult to “get in on” in the back seat. Dr. Demento was on the radio, and he played this little ditty from a band called Damaskas – “Making Love in a Subaru”

  • avatar

    Awww, i want to adopt one.

  • avatar

    Is it just me, or was the groovy girl channeling Jan Brady?

  • avatar

    From the Subaru site, they make mention of the alternate pronunciation of the name:

  • avatar

    I imagine just how slow the 360 with ‘autodrive’ must have been! But that 66 mpg is tempting.

  • avatar

    Some have mentioned Consumer Reports’ rating of “Not Acceptable” for the 360 in its April, 1969 issue; I found this pdf of the article at this site.

    Interestingly, vehicles weighing under 1,000 pounds (450 kg) were exempt from Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards of the time. The 360 weighed in at just seven pounds (three kg) below this limit. Thus, no dual braking system, minimum bumper height, headrests, collapsible steering column, effective wipers and defroster or even flat instrument panel knobs. I seem to recall reading that at least one state tried to outlaw the sale and registration of this vehicle.

    Despite its reputation as a deathtrap, I’d still love to own one to tool around the neighborhood, even after reading about the detailed 1,200-mile break-in ritual described in the Consumer Reports article.

  • avatar

    Just to show that any car, regardless of it’s virtues (or lack thereof) will find a following, I invite you to take a look at this page from my website…

    I can assure you that there’s nothing like parking a 360 next to a Ferrari at a car show. Guess who draws the bigger crowd?


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