A little car of great importance.

Subaru’s very first mass-produced minicar has been designated as a Mechanical Engineering Heritage item for 2016 by the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers. Nicknamed ‘ladybug’ in its home country, the ‘360’ was introduced in 1958 and was engineered to comply with the regulations regarding minicars of those days which had to be within three-meters long. Despite its very small footprint, the vehicle still had enough room to host four adult passengers.

The two-door city car received its ‘360’ name after the 356-cc, air-cooled two-cylinder engine mounted at the back which worked together with a three-speed manual gearbox sending power to the rear axle. Initially, output stood at 16 hp (12 kW) in a car that tipped the scales at less than 1,000 pounds (453 kilograms). Later on, more powerful versions with 25 hp (19 kW) and 36 hp (27 kW) were launched, along with other body styles, including a wagon and a convertible.

It remained in production until 1971 and a total of 392,000 units were assembled during the model’s 13-year run. With a 0-50 mph (80 kph) run in an agonizing 37 seconds and a theoretical 60-mph top speed, people certainly didn’t buy the car for its performances. They did however purchase the minicar for its downright amazing efficiency, managing to return 66 miles per gallon (79.2 mpg UK or 3.5 liters / 100 km).

The 360 Model K111 pictured below is the 78th item to be certified by the JSME and is on display in the Subaru Visitor Center at the Gunma Yajima Plant in Japan.

Source: Subaru

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The Subaru 360 Model K111 Designated as Mechanical Engineering Heritage Item by Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), the manufacturer of Subaru automobiles, is pleased to announce that a Subaru 360 Model K111 minicar preserved by FHI has been designated by the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers (JSME)*as a Mechanical Engineering Heritage item for 2016. A designation awards ceremony was held at Ichijo Hall in the University of Tokyo Yayoi Auditorium on August 7 as part of an event celebrating Machine Day and Machine Week.

JSME certifies historically significant mechanical engineering heritage items existing in Japan in the aim of encouraging the careful preservation of such items and passing them on to future generations as part of the nation’s cultural heritage. It has been certifying Mechanical Engineering Heritage items continually since 2007, and including this year’s additions has certified 83 items in total.

Launched in 1958, the Subaru 360 was Subaru’s first mass-produced minicar. Built within the 3-meter total length required of minicars at the time, the Subaru 360 seated four adult passengers with ease and offered a comfortable ride. Nicknamed the “ladybug”, it gained wide popularity in Japan for its compact design and practical layout.

The Subaru 360 Model K111 certified this year as item No. 78 on the JSME list of Mechanical Engineering Heritage items is displayed in the Subaru Visitor Center at FHI’s Gunma Yajima Plant in Japan. Visitors taking factory tours at the plant can see the vehicle displayed with other past Subaru vehicles.

*Established in 1897, JSME is among Japan’s largest engineering societies and aims to advance and develop mechanical engineering, related systems, and associated fields.