Battle Of The Tiny Fujis: 1989 Subaru Justy 4WD vs 1970 Subaru 360

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Good morning, everyone, and happy Monday to you! I trust you all had a good weekend, and that the dads out there got some cool stuff (or just rest and relaxation) for Father’s Day.

From the looks of it, you all enjoyed me messing with the Friday formula, so we’ll keep it up for a while and see where it takes us. We might look at a pair of cars from Copart or police auctions or six-figure Bring A Trailer auctions. But only on Fridays. The rest of the week, it’s nothing but $2,500 clunkers as far as the eye can see.

So let’s see which little British car you fancied:

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That would be my choice as well. That Spitfire is just too cool to pass up. A lot of commenters thought that both of these cars were priced a little high, but based on the amount of work done that a new owner wouldn’t have to do, I don’t think they’re too far out of line. Add up the totals of those parts on Moss Motors and you’ll see what I mean.

Today we’ve got a pair of teeny-tiny cars from Fuji Heavy Industries, or as you might know them better, Subaru. Let’s check ’em out.

1989 Subaru Justy 4WD – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.2 liter inline 3, 5 speed manual, FWD with part-time 4WD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 84,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yes, but needs a wheel bearing replaced

Remembe when I said last week that I don’t really like Subarus? Yeah, that doesn’t apply to the Justy. I have a thing for small hatchbacks anyway, but one with push-button 4WD? Yes please. It’s like a tiny rally car, and who doesn’t love rally cars?

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Not that you’ll be winning many races, with a 1.2 liter three-cylinder engine, but speed isn’t everything. The addition of four-wheel-drive made the Justy stand out against competitors like the Geo Metro and Daihatsu Charade (remember those?). And it’s a good-looking little car, too, in that boxy ’80s kind of way, clean and simple and purposeful.

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This particular Justy is in running and driving condition, but the seller says the right rear wheel bearing is shot and needs to be replaced. Not a terrible ordeal for a do-it-yourselfer if you have the right tools, but if you need to have a shop do it, tack on another few hundred to the price. The seller also says the air conditioning and radio don’t work, but I don’t see a button for A/C, so maybe they mean the blower fan. I suppose it’s possible they’re on the same fuse.

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Aside from those issues, this car looks like it’s in good condition. The seller says the title is from the previous owner, but they have a bill of sale; it shouldn’t be a problem, but make sure the paper trail is complete. I’ve been through the hassle of trying to track down a missing bill of sale, and it’s a pain in the ass. But if everything checks out, this could be a good deal on a unique little runabout.

1970 Subaru 360 – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 356cc 2 stroke air-cooled inline twin, 4 speed manual, RWD

Location: Omaha, NE

Odometer reading: unknown

Runs/drives? Nope, but seller claims “was running a couple years ago”

First, I’d like to thank my friend Eric Rhodes for sending me this ad. I’d still like to get a tip-line set up eventually, but until then, it’s good to know my spy network is out there keeping an eye out for interesting cars.

If you want to know who’s to blame for the noisy WRX that just cut in front of you and punctuated the move with a cloud of vape smoke, it’s Malcolm Bricklin. Bricklin imported the first Subarus to the US, starting in 1968, with this little fella: the Subaru 360.

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This thing is barely a car, honestly. It has a 356cc two-stroke engine, weighs about 900 pounds, and according to contemporary tests, takes 37 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour (which must be terrifying). It’s not even ten feet long. It was considered a deathtrap when new, and any notion of safety beyond that of a moped is laughable now. But it was a foot in the door of the US market, and that’s all that Bricklin, and Subaru, needed.

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This 360 is rough, and it looks like it has been sitting outside. All the paint is gone, and large swaths of what look like Bondo are speckled all over. (The roof is rust-free because it’s fiberglass, by the way.) But it’s nearly all there, and even the parts that can’t be used, like the door cards and seat fabric, could be used as templates to make replacements. The very rusty engine was said to be running a couple of years ago, but we all know that means basically nothing now.

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Really, what might be best for this anyway is to transplant some sort of motorcycle engine into it. The stock engine is 25 horsepower, so it wouldn’t be hard to double that with the right swap, so it could at least get out of its own way. It’s a unique project, certainly not for the faint of heart, but if you like a challenge, here it is.

So there they are: two tiny cars from Subaru’s past that are way more interesting than the swarms of Outbacks and Foresters that descend on farmer’s markets across the country every weekend. Which one would find a place in your driveway?

Quiz Maker

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37 Responses

  1. The 360 is undoubtedly cooler and more quirky, but it’s pretty damn rough.

    That said, Justy give me that little 3 cylinder, I guess. Thank God it’s a manual.

  2. If you have the budget for a full restore, then the 360 is the way to go. If you don’t, then the Justy.

    I voted for the 360 because I like imagining that I have the money to do a full restoration on it.

  3. I can appreciate the charm of a dopey looking classic kei car, but that 360 looks rough. I’m not joking when I say my father’s old Corolla held up better after thirteen years in the open in Montana. And forget about parts availability. They’re probably all in Japan, and they all probably cost an absolute fortune. The Justy seems the far better choice to me. It runs, it’s more liveable, and parts would be a bit easier to find. Thus, it gets my vote.

  4. I’ve met a few people that have owned Justy’s and they have generally good things to say about them. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a 360, were they imported to Canada?

    I’m voting Justy. Bound to have much better parts availibilty than the 360. Based on my Subaru experience they like to use the same parts across many models and years so finding brake and suspension replacement parts shouldn’t be too hard.

    1. My mom bought an ’89 Justy brand new off the lot. Probably the most dependable car our family has ever owned. Not a good family car, though. My brother and I fought like cats and dogs for the front passenger seat.

      1. Sounds like my brothers and I with my mom’s 1985.5 Ford Escort 3 door. When they bought a new Ford Aerostar in 1990, we all wanted to sit in the back instead of fighting over the front.

        “He’s touching me…no I’m not, yes you are!” was a thing of the past.

  5. I’ll always have a soft spot for the early Justy’s. A guy at my high school had one, it was white and he put little blue flames coming off the back of the front wheel wells… He beat that thing like a government mule, I’d often see it parked jammed halfway up some berm with one wheel off the ground, but it took it and kept on chugging. Neat little cars!

  6. If I wanted a perpetual project, the 360 for sure. I’ve never attempted much more than minor fabrication, and I would enjoy the challenge. It would probably be permanently stuck as my lowest priority, and it would probably take me dozens of years to even get presentable. Half way through, I’d change directions and electrify it, or put a motorcycle engine in it or sell it. But the motor is interesting enough that I would restore that first, and keep it nice, if not for me, then for the next guy.

    If I wanted a driver, I take the Justy for sure. I would hope it would be just for screwing around. There are hundreds of better daily drivers available every day at or near this price point, and this is just too old and small to play in traffic with modern trucks and SUVs. For me, it only qualifies as a desperation daily.

    Instead, it would be fun to cut the fenders, rivet on some flares, and put huge knobby tires on it, then offroad it. Or get studded tires and run it on a frozen lake. If I found a cheap spare engine or two, I’d look for a turbo or supercharger and see how much abuse the engine can take before it blows up.

    At this point, I would take the Justy.

  7. I love small hatchbacks from that period, too. I’d take the Justy. My older brother’s first wife had one, and we used it to blast up US 1 highway in PA in the winter in the early ’90s on the way to the Gold’s Gym we played racquetball at. I always thought having 4WD in such a small car was really cool.

  8. The 360 is way more interesting, but too rough for me. Some are saying a moto engine would be the thing for this, but I’m thinking a bit differently. How about an air cooled snowmobile engine? Polaris makes a 550 fan cooled that’s good for 55 HP.

  9. I knew an old man who won a new Justy at a seniors buffet draw. He gave it to his son to use on his farm because “4WD” and he wasn’t going to switch from his beige Buick. I don’t think it was ever registered for road use. That thing survived something like 25 years of indignity, especially being driven by farm hands who had no attachment to it. Because it never saw public roads, it never saw salt. I seem to recall a tree finally fell on it.

  10. I’d take the 360 and try to make it something like the 380mph Triumph GT6 in the blown fuel modified sports class.

    Also, fun fact, the justy was one of the last models of assenger car sold in the US with a carburetor.

    1. The “assenger” car market is woefully underserved.

      (Just kidding with you – I know the challenges of this comment section..just couldn’t help myself. I guess I’m under my quota of “Dad jokes” apparently)

  11. I want them both! Not for any rational reason. They just seem fun!

    The 360 because it could be a fun fart around car. Eventually.

    The Justy because, as Car And Driver pointed out in a comparo of small cars, you can reach out the driver’s window and open the gas flap, so it should count as having a remote release.

    1. As far as I can tell from a few photos that 360 has been towed on a tiny trailer with ratchet straps holding the tailgate up, a chunk of 4×4 to chock the wheels and a tow strap attached between vehicles to god knows what. It’s a rolling death trap that doesn’t even run. Hard pass.

  12. I took the 360 because I am a sucker for weird shit. One of my customers has the van version of one of these, I’ve been for a ride and anything north of about 45 will make you reevaluate just about every life choice you’ve ever made. But you’re not going to see another one, and the same just can’t be said for Justys in the PNW.

  13. I so wanted to like the 360. I could Channel Malcom in it. But. Despite the sites love for the $#it in $#itboxes, i cannot go there (and I’m personally piled higher and deeper myself…).

  14. You just couldn’t let there be two Subarus in the final, eh?

    That said, the 360 is just too far gone for me. I’m voting Justy. A buddy inherited his grandmother’s years ago. No power steering, but she was driving it into her 80s! We gained newfound respect for her after driving it.

  15. Can I get the Spitfire from Friday? The college girl up the street had one when I was in high school. Drove it a couple of times.
    360 looks cool, but no way am I up for that project.
    Justy, no thanks, I already have a much newer gutless Scoobydoo.

  16. I really like both of them. The Justy is lightweight, durable, AWD, and manual. You really can’t go wrong. I once had an musing of converting one into an overpowered EV. A Model S PLAID system in that thing with AWD and a LoneStar pack(so as to keep the weight close to stock) would be nucking futs!

    The 360 is a slow deathtrap with a terribly designed steering and suspension geometry that make it totally uncontrollable at speeds over 45 mph, but it’s quirky, extremely light, and looks like nothing else on the road.

    In the end, I had to go with the 360. I’d restmod it. It NEEDS a roll cage, and a complete replacement of all of the stock driveline, braking, suspension, steering, ect components with stronger and more modern items. It could be made “safe enough” to where it isn’t an outright death trap. I’d love to have it gifted with a tuned Hayabusa engine, and keep the finished weight around 1,100 lbs or less with all of the modifications it would need to make use of that power and at least be marginally-survivable in a minor collision.

    A ‘Busa engine tuned for about 600 horsepower in an 1,100 lb car would be a bit peppy for sure. Also can’t go wrong.

  17. I have less than no interest in the Justy. The equivalent Hondas I owned back when I owned outdated small hatchbacks were all less depressing. The 360 is beyond daunting to terrifying. Way too much sanding and backbreaking labor to make it look halfway presentable, and there’s no way I’d even try to drive it with that 2-stroke chainsaw motor in it. But at least it’s cute and fun, and it’d be easy to just put the motor and batteries off an old movie studio golf cart in it and use it to go back and forth to 7-Eleven.

  18. Way back when, before this Justy was imported I got to play in one a friend bought. In hard packed snow up near Yellowstone. With siped tires and that silly 4wd engaged I played rally driver for hours. Slow motion (less precise) gymkhana on a budget. Wonderful memories. The 360 is a cooler museum exhibit, but no one should be driving it on public roads. Not now, not then.

  19. Totally the 360! Who wants a clapped out rusty old hatchback that looks like a Ford Festiva? At least the 360 is interesting. I have a 4wd ‘car’ and a 4wd crossover so don’t need a rusty old hatch back.

  20. Mark, I just have to say the best answer to your question is “Neither!” The only way the Justy could be more depressing would have been if it was one of those equipped with a CVT. And the 360…well, the next owner might get lucky and find that the seller messed up with the gas/oil mix, and that powerless, smoky little wheezer out back is frozen solid. Any other engine you might throw in there — with the exception (maybe) of some Briggs and Stratton units — would overpower what some laughingly call “suspension” and “brakes.”

    Maybe if the 360 was a “Young,” it’d be worth buying to do a $49.95 Earl Scheib “restoration” and tempt all the fanatics on Bring A Trailer.

    I’ve driven both. And even by my most lenient standards, they simply don’t cut it.

    1. Extensive experience with both cars here. 360 is a death trap, even when running as it should. Still amazed Bricklin even was able to import these pieces of fecal matter. The Justy was a very competent vehicle and damn near bullet proof though.

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