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Multiple cars throughout history have been made sexy through sport, motorsport or at least something which resembles. Even the very smallest of cars. This will of course suit a real man perfectly – even with the smallest of cars.

Some of the world’s most brutal and hardcore things come from Japan – for instance Samurais and Yakuzas. The nation also has what must be the most extreme tradition for dealing with your own failure: Harakiri/seppuku. Further to this, Japan also has a bizarre cartoon genre in manga style with its micro heroes.

Japans traditional manga cartoons have a style very much of their own.

With certain parallels with the nations erotic movies. – or so I’m told…

Few things in the world ooze the same brutality, honour and dedication as Japanese Samurais.

In the light of these micro heroes, it’s perhaps only natural that they also gave birth to some of the smallest cars in automotive history – the kei-class. The full name is kei jidōsha (軽自動車), which translates to something along the lines of light automobiles. This class of cars were invented by the Japanese government in 1949 and were initially restricted to having engines of only 150cc. However, it quickly became obvious that this just wasn’t sufficient, so during the following years the maximum allowed engine capacity increased until by 1955, everyone agreed that 360cc was an adequate engine size for small cars. The whole objective was to get Japan back on its feet (or rather, wheels) after the war – in part by helping the local car industry to produce and sell plenty of small and cheap cars, but also to improve the infrastructure through enabling companies and the public to become more mobile.

Of course the Japanese weren’t the only ones to go down this route, and there were even smaller cars than the kei cars, but Europe’s small three-wheeled scooter- and moped cars just aren’t real cars. Even Fiat’s ever so famous 500 model – both in the initial form of the Topolino, but also the later and well-known bubble-shaped 500 – had a 500cc engine which is of course massive compared to those first kei cars.

Despite its name, the Fiat 500 ‘Topolino’ was fitted with an enormous engine of almost 600cc.

Nope, the kei cars had to make due with a mere 360cc, and they just had to make the most of it. They had to sell them too. But back in the old days – when everything was better! – there was nothing wrong in using sex to sell cars. Or at the very least, erotic and sexual suggestions. And so it was with the small kei cars as well.

Subaru were first out with a mass-produced kei car, which they simply named 360. It was a very cute, practical and well-constructed kei car, and the brochure seen below portrayed pure idyllic scenes with truly delicious photography:

But surely I’m not the only one left with a gut-wrenching feeling of all my manhood being brutally amputated? It’s all just a tad too sensible and pretty, isn’t it? Okay, so they opted for the classic aviation scene – it this case using a helicopter – in an attempt to sex up the little Subaru. But even with that, the whole advert still leaves you with a general taste of sensible innocence. A proper man can easily find such environments slightly nauseating, and later sports cars even made a point out of openly advertising their disgust with practicality and sensibility. Was Japan ready for this yet?

Instead one could argue that Subaru effectively invented the world’s first GTi, in their efforts to sex up the little 360 and make it appeal to male customers. Naturally, it wasn’t called a GTi as fuel injection wasn’t really an option just yet, and equally no kei car could ever honour the “Grand Touring” moniker. Instead it was dubbed the “SS”. It is unlikely that this reflected another nation’s cruelest powers – rather, it was simply short for “Super Sport”.

As such, the name was really very apt for the little Subaru, as it must have been one of the first road cars in history to exceed a specific output of 100hp/liter: 36hp from the tiny 360cc engine – and all that at a screaming 7,000rpm. Perhaps even more noteworthy was the maximum torque which was delivered at a heady 6,400rpm.

This bad boy is ready for the ladies.

On such a high-octane note, the brochure above suddenly seems very well judged. The young Japanese stud has mobilized all his manhood and donned his driving gloves along with his most fashionable attire. And the hair. Just look at that perfect hair! This dashing young lad is rich on attitude, and he’s on the hunt for young women. It’s quite obvious.

It’s naturally also utterly politically and socially unacceptable. But Subaru had a solution for that too, as can be seen on this next picture:

Well, truth be told, this is just as politically unacceptable, as it’s quite clear that the young lady has a very similar goal. She’s on the prowl for a man, but she’s only got 25hp at 5500rpm to catch him with. Needless to say, that’ll be impossible when he has the full-fat 36hp at 7000rpm. Goes without saying really. However, she’s been properly kitted out to make up for it – with a machinegun of all things?!?

If I were in his shoes, I’d immediately surrender myself. Besides, she looks sweet. Though I’m a bit confused about her western appearance, but maybe it’s deliberate to send an international and cosmopolitan sign of broad understanding and tolerance. What do I know?

But I do know where this leads: Sweet harmony and bliss. Which Subaru wisely also depicted:

Having neutralised his manhood with her machinegun, they decided to live a quiet life together as a traditional family. The stock Subaru 360 was now deemed sufficient, which possibly lead to them not having sex anymore – instead they made love (quietly) every Wednesday. At least in the beginning…

So is there a moral to the story? I believe so. It’s all about attitude and about not losing it. Of course all of this occurred in the sixties, and much has happened for the happy little family since then. And if they don’t already own a classic car, they really ought to buy one – possibly a “SS”. With that, the husband can call on his inner playboy, rejuvenate himself, and thereby introduce renewed love and passion to their marriage.

Because as we say here on ViaRETRO, any classic is better than no classic – and that applies to the really small one too.

ViaRETRO bonus information: Subaru also produced a kei pick-up. And the picture – pure sex!

6 Responses

  1. Ian Newman

    Thank you Claus, for this enjoyable article – and for mentioning the largely unknown SPO rating of the Subaru Young SS – at least in the Western World. As owner of possibly the only example outside of Japan of this delightfuly quirky little variant of the Subaru 360, I often wipe the smile from many a big-block petrolhead’s face when I mention that statistic!

    The Subaru Young SS (they dropped the “360” part of the name for this and its younger sister, the cosmetically-similar, but lesser powered Young S) was basically produced in response to the threat of the newer, more modern Kai cars that stole the Subaru 360’s best-selling status in the late 1960s – a perch it had occupied for the ten years since its inception in 1958. It was an attempt to appeal to the younger generation, and a response to the growing demand for higher tech, increased power and an updated more modern appearance…. but there was only so much they could do. Compare the lines of the Honda N360 (called the “Scamp” down here in Australia) with the Subaru 360 and it becomes quite obvious that this particular Subaru design was being rapidly left behind. This fact is also bourn out by the 360’s successor, the R-2, bearing a very similar boxy shape to that of the Honda N series.

    My Young SS is currently under restoration – and I cannot wait to get in that driving seat!

  2. Claus Ebberfeld

    You’re welcome, Ian – and thanks for commenting with more insight on the subject. And not least with a story from the real world of SS. You must be married, then!

  3. Ian Newman

    Married? hardly – my “other” resto project car is a Honda 1300 Coupe 9. I wouldn’t be able to afford ALL of those things!

  4. Anders Bilidt

    Ian, what a fantastic couple! A 1300 Coupé 9 and a Young SS. Two very rare and individual choices among Nippon classics. I admire your taste Sir… ;-)

  5. Dave Leadbetter

    What were they slipping in the tea in the Subaru marketing department back then?

    And where can I get some?


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