No one really knew it at the time, but the 1966 Subaru 1000 brought the brand’s winning formula to life. This car was the first in its line to have a front-wheel drive setup, boxer engine, and room for four. The only thing that’s missing is their symmetrical all-wheel drive system, which came a bit later. Barring that, their modern cars continue to use this formula to great success, earning them a truly loyal following. Ready to see how this all came about? Here’s what you need to know about our classic car of the month, the 1966 Subaru 1000.
A Front-Wheel Drive Marvel with Endlessly Cute Appeal
Prior to creating the 1000, Subaru spent 12 years trying to perfect their rear-wheel drive Volkswagen Bug rival, the 360. Instead of rolling out a true successor to that car, they decided to go in a completely different direction by making their next model front-wheel drive.
With that move, they gave compact car enthusiasts an alternative to all the rear-wheel drive models on the market at that time, including the:
- Nissan Sunny
- Mitsubishi Colt 1000
- Toyota Corolla
Despite the drivetrain differences, the exterior styling of the Subaru 1000 gave nod to all those cars, but came in coupe, sedan, and wagon body styles.
Across all body styles, it featured the round headlights from the 360 plus a wide chrome grill and full-width bumpers. The stance was much lower due to the use of torsion bars at the front and coil springs in the back. A double-wishbone front suspension was installed to boost handling in all driving situations.
At the interior, passengers got bench seats at the front and rear. Since there was no room for a floor shifter, they put the four-speed manual shifter right on the steering column. The rest of the interior build was rather barebones, but comfortable enough for four to ride in style.
The Arrival of the Iconic Subaru Boxer Engine
Although it was originally meant to be air-cooled like the 360, Subaru engineers elected to make the jump to an all-new water-cooled powerplant instead. To do that, they explored engine builds from Porsche, Renault, and the like to come up with their own version of the iconic boxer powerplant.
The Subaru boxer started as a simple 977cc horizontally opposed four-cylinder powerplant, which produced 55 horsepower at 6,000 RPM. Although that was plenty enough power to push the 1000 around town, Subaru never stopped building upon that initial design. Modern variants make over 310 horsepower with their larger displacements, overhead cams, and high-tech systems.
Subaru also made another big move in 1966 by moving their boxer engine up front. Since it was a water-cooled engine, it didn’t have to hang out the back, after all. The result was a quieter cabin space and more room for cargo.
The Winning Subaru Formula Keeps Evolving
Although the Subaru 1000 only remained on the market for a few years, it forever changed the way Subaru built cars. They kept going with the boxer engine, of course, and continued evolving the look of the 1000, starting with the 1970 FF-1.
For that model year, the engine size was bumped up to 1.1L to wring out 60 horsepower at 5,600 RPMs. Within two more years, they rolled out the 80 horsepower 1.3L engine for the final version of this body style, the FF-1 1300G. Due to its sheer fuel efficiency and low sales price, this version quickly gained popularity in the United States.
By 1972, Subaru kissed the 1000 platform goodbye and replaced it with the unassuming Subaru Leone. This predecessor to the Impreza came with 1.1L to 1.8L boxer engines and could come with optional four-wheel drive. Beyond that, it was fun to drive and had a rather sporty appearance, cementing this carmaker as a fan favourite across the globe.
As the start of it all, it’s no surprise that the 1977 Subaru 1000 has become a coveted collector car. If you can get your hands on this little piece of history, you’re in for a real treat. This classic car gets waves and smiles wherever you go and is always welcome at local car shows.
If you do go all in and treat yourself to this beautiful ride, be sure to protect your investment with collector car insurance. Our team at Wayfarer Insurance Group can help you get set up with the right level of coverage for your needs. Just give us a call at 1-844-929-4768 to learn about our insurance plans and get coverage for your classic car today.