Spring 2003 Forward to a Friend

It may not date as far back as cave paintings, but the use of graffiti as a means of political expression arose long before teenagers discovered “alternative” uses for spray paint. The renegade spirit of much of the 1960s is captured by some of the graffiti that dotted everything from the walls of downtown neighborhoods to the stately halls of campuses across America. Some creative samples of counterculture scribbling include:
  • Boredom is counterrevolutionary.
  • No replastering, the structure is rotten.
  • Live in the moment.
  • Abolish class society.
  • Poetry is in the streets.
  • Practice wishful thinking.
  • Make love, not war.
  • I don’t have time to write on walls.
  • I’m a Groucho Marxist.
(Source: www.bopsecrets.org.htm)

This year Subaru of America, Inc. celebrates a landmark anniversary – 35 years of providing you, our customers, with unique, carefully engineered vehicles designed to fit your lifestyle. We’re proud of our history and heritage, and it’s a good time to take a look back at how Subaru of America has evolved and grown in the past few decades. In this first of three installments, we reflect on the company’s early years, beginning in 1968.

America was introduced to Subaru during a time of wall-to-wall change. Vietnam was on our minds and on our television screens, while protesters filled college campuses and the streets. “Peace, love, rock and roll” was the mantra, “flower power” was in full bloom and a generation of musicians traded dance beats for a political voice.

The Watergate incident would become the symbol of a failed presidency. And 240,000 miles from earth, Apollo 11’s Eagle raised clouds of lunar dust as it settled onto the Sea of Tranquility.

This was the moment – as America took wild swings from seismic jolts of conflict and shock to unimaginable technical triumph – that the Subaru 360 hit America’s highways. Imported from Japan, it was cheap ($1,297!), and it was ugly. But it set in motion a company with a vision that synched with what Americans were looking for.

The 360: Automotive Iconoclasm

While the 360 was not exactly the car for daredevils, it did offer practical, ultra-economical transportation to the pioneering 600 drivers who put their faith in a product from a new company with Japanese parentage.

The 360’s “cheap and ugly” image was perfectly suited to an era when prices were low enough to make jaws drop open in amazement today. It was a time when gas cost 34 cents a gallon, first-class stamps were just 6 cents, a dozen eggs cost 53 cents and you could be the proud owner of a brand-new home for just $26,600. Sounds pretty good, even with a median household income of about $8,000 a year. And it was a time when “ugly” was, well, the clothes you put on every morning.

Rock music is what gave the 1960s and early 1970s the memorable soundtrack that still plays in the backs of our minds today. The sounds of political protest and freedom meshed with counterculture; this was an era when unique bands made their marks in the national consciousness. From San Francisco’s Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, to New York’s Velvet Underground, to the ever-broadening boundaries of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones – the period played host to songs and albums that impacted a generation, and the generations that followed.

The Subaru vehicles launched during this time were the perfect counterpoints to the American models of the era. Where Detroit insisted on filling the highways with behemoths, Subaru was among the leaders in the automotive industry who decided to produce more practical, engineering-driven vehicles – a path the company still follows, and one that still meets the needs of America’s motorists.

In the years that followed the inaugural Subaru 360 and into the mid-1970s came other Subaru models that helped change the way America drove with their front-wheel drive vehicles and the extra safety and versatility that only on-demand, four-wheel drive could bring. The Subaru 1000, FF-1, GL Coupe and 4WD Station Wagon were introduced to increasing success in the marketplace and growing respect among the automotive press.

As 1976 rolled around, Subaru products were winning “Car of the Year” honors and the company was racking up sales of nearly $84 million.

Take a look at our earliest models and you’ll realize how far Subaru of America, Inc. has come in the last 35 years. But while there’s little immediate resemblance between the diminutive Subaru 360 of the 1960s and the world-beating Impreza WRX that currently occupies our showrooms, take a closer look and you’ll realize that thoughtful engineering, top-notch construction and remarkable fuel efficiency have been a part of every Subaru, and always will be. Here’s a look at four of the first models offered by Subaru of America.

  • Introduced by Fuji Heavy Industries in 1958
  • Exported to America starting in 1968
  • Priced at $1,297
  • Powered by a two-cylinder, two-stroke, 22-horsepower engine
  • Fuel-efficient rear-mounted engine produced 66.3 miles per gallon

  • The first front-wheel drive car from Japan
  • The first Subaru with a four-cylinder “boxer” engine, an arrangement which would evolve into the company’s trademark engine design
  • Available in two-door, four-door and wagon models
  • Offered from 1969 to 1972

GL Coupe
  • Provided exceptional gas mileage
  • Sportier styling, with rugged, all-steel unit-body construction
  • MacPherson-strut front suspension
  • Dual-diagonal braking system provided safe, sure stopping power

4WD Station Wagon
  • The first mass-produced four-wheel drive passenger car in America
  • A single lever shifted the wagon to four-wheel drive
  • Featured a four-speed transmission and delivered superior gas mileage
  • “Climbs like a goat, works like a horse, eats like a bird,” according to ads

1977-1995: From BRAT to SVX – Subaru Covers the Mark

What came next for Subaru? See Subaru carve its niche in automotive history with the BRAT in 1977, then enter the high-performance luxury market with its SVX in 1992, as America witnesses a disco revolution, followed by soaring gas prices, the Reagan years and a home-computer revolution led by a young entrepreneur named Bill Gates.