Small Is Beautiful

Will at driver's door

Will found this on the side of the road, and after he told me about it I begged him to show me.

It’s tiny, rusty, and a little older than I expected. Like a very, very small VW Bus, it has a rear-mounted engine. I think it’s a Subaru Sambar, but that’s mostly based on the details I gleaned from the Subaru 360 article, which reveals that engine was probably air cooled, displacing 330 CCs, and producing under 40 HP.

US imports began in the mid-60s, but by 1969 Consumer Reports magazine branded the automobile “Not Acceptable” because of safety concerns and lack of power.

To hell with safety and power, I love this little thing. I want a small, fuel efficient car like this.

subaru sambar, van, car, small, k car, kei car, subaru, sambar, little

7 thoughts on “Small Is Beautiful

  1. Pingback: » Smashitup Smashitup Smashitup!

  2. i am 13 years old and i really like your van and want to buy it im know im only 13 but i have the money and if you could give me a call at 210 455 3911 please

  3. Hello,

    Great photo! I was in the USAF over in Misawa, Japan in 1974-75 and I bought a Sambar van (exact year of manufacture unknown) from one of the guys that was rotating out back to the States. I paid him $150 for it. It was a tiny thing and was painted a kinda funny green color, but it got great gas mileage and seemed to run forever on a tank of gas. We drove all over Japan in that little van and had a ball! Had it for nearly a year and wanted to sell it as I was getting ready to come back to the U.S. Had a buyer lined up (you guessed it – for $150!) and he wanted to take it out for test run one weekend. He came back the next day and told me it had gotten stuck in the snow on a mountain about 45 minutes from the base. We borrowed another guy’s car and drove up there, only to find it missing! We looked around for a while, only to discover it smashed against a tree down the road about 100 yards away. A little Japanese shopkeeper saw us moping around outside and ran out to tell the story. Seems that a cement mixer had hit the skids in the snow on the road and demolished it, entirely by accident. We went back into his shop and called the number on the card the driver of the truck had left with him. What followed was the funniest conversation that ever took place between people speaking two different languages! We finally got someone that knew about 20 words in English, and that , coupled with our 35 or so words of Japanese, got a company representative sent over to us. The construction company wanted to do the Right Thing, so they wrote me a check for 175,000 Yen (about $574 in those days – a real fortune for a 3-stripe sergeant in the USAF!). I thanked them very much , as I figured I came out o.k. on that deal! BUT – and there’s always a BUT – the local cops came and informed me that I was in a lot of trouble with the Japanese Motor Licensing Division. Since the vehicle was totaled (sadly), I had to pay for its removal AND turn in both the front AND rear license plates. Surprise! Back we went to the scene of the disaster, and found the van stuck so tightly to the trees that we could not remove the front plate OR get the van unstuck and hauled away. I was told by the Japanese authorities that I could NOT exit Japan until the matter was cleared up. I was sure that I was doomed to stay there forever………. So, not wanting to become a Japanese citizen at that time, I again went back to the little Japanese shopkeeper and asked him (via many gestures and some pidgen Japanese) if he knew anyone that could help out. He made a phone call, signed for us to wait a few minutes, and sure enough about 60 of the local townspeople showed up. They went down the hill to the van and in about 10 minutes had it out of the trees, the front plate removed and the thing loaded up on a small trailer-type cart that they hauled away, smiling and bowing and waving to us. Never had seen anything like it! AND – they wouldn’t take a single Yen for doing all that. Who says that the Japanese don’t know hospitality? I still have some very fond memories of that little van, though. If I could find one like it I believe that I’d buy it just for the smiles it would bring!

    • @Mark: that’s a heck of a story, thanks for sharing it. Good thing you weren’t in the van when it got smacked by the truck, it doesn’t look like there are any crumple zones in the body.

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