Subaru: The Colorado Connection

by | Mar 4, 2019

Today’s Post by Joe Farace, photographs by Barry Staver.

Malcolm Bricklin is an American businessman best known for an unorthodox career spanning more than six decades with numerous failures and successes, primarily in the manufacturing or importing automobiles to the United States.

In the mid-1960s, Bricklin went to Japan to meet with Fuji Heavy Industries hoping to arrange a deal to import their scooters. While there, he saw a Subaru 360, at right, which got up to 60 miles to a gallon of gas and because it weighed under 1,000 pounds did not require federalizing. He then signed an exclusive contract to import Subaru cars into the USA, forming Subaru of America.

The first Subarus to enter the US were the 1968-1969 Subaru 360s and less than six months after the company formed, it went public becoming the only publicly traded import car company. Barry Staver made the photographs you see at Heuberger Subaru in Colorado Springs, America’s largest volume Subaru dealer.

The Subaru 360’s name was derived from its tax limited (in Japan) engine displacement of 356 cc. It had a curb weight of 1,000 lbs, used monocoque construction and had swing axle rear suspension, fiberglass roof panel, and rear-hinged aka “suicide” doors. It was a classic Japanese Kei car. Nicknamed the “ladybug” in Japan, the 360 was available as a two-door, station wagon or convertible, actually a coupe with roll-back fabric roof like the Fiat 500. As the Fuji Heavy Industries’s first automobile, production reached 392,000 over a 12-year model run. 10,000 of them were sold in the United States, where Bricklin advertised them as “Cheap and Ugly.”

Bricklin later founded General Vehicles to manufacture the Bricklin SV-1 (1974-1976), imported and marketed Fiat’s X1/9 and Spider convertibles (1982), imported and marketed the Zastava Koral hatchback from Yugoslavia under the Yugo nameplate (1985−1992.)

While Bricklin now lives in Monroe, New York at the height of his success he owned a 5,000-acre home in the Colorado Rockies with an indoor shooting range, a riverfront swimming pool, helipad, and pet camel.

Ilight.bookf you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to buy Joe a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here.

Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photograph that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available from Amazon for $21.88 and used copies are four bucks. The Kindle price, for some reason is really high. ($93.95)