During an awarding ceremony at the University of Tokyo last August 7th, the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers (JSME) announced that a Subaru 360 K111 minicar has been distinguished as a Mechanical Engineering Heritage Item for 2016.
Preserved by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), the 360 was Subaru’s first mass-produced minicar that was launched in 1958. Given the Kei-Jidosha (Japanese Minicar) regulations that were set during the time to prevent heavy city congestion, the 360 was built within a 3-meter total length that was required to meet regulations. Despite that restriction, the 360 seated four adults with ease and offered a relatively comfortable ride. Its bulbous design earned it the nickname of “ladybug”, and the 360 continued to gain wide popularity across Japan for its compact design and versatility.
That said, the JSME deemed the Subaru 360 noteworthy as a historically significant mechanical engineering heritage item. This recognition is part of JSME’s aim of encouraging the careful preservation of such significant items and passing them onto future generations as part of Japan’s cultural heritage. Having certified Mechanical Engineering Heritage items since 2007, JSME now recognizes a total of 83 items as relevant historical pieces.
The Subaru 360, which is No. 78 among the list of JSME’s distinguished pieces, is currently being displayed at FHI’s Gunma Yajima Plant.