Subaru is well known as an automaker that marches to the beat of its own drum.
Even in the midst of a modern “manstreamification,” most of the brand’s vehicles still have standard full-time all-wheel drive and all of them come with a boxer-style engine.
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But back in the day, before corporate interests really took over, Subaru was allowed to be weird. Bizarre sports coupes, oddly shaped SUVs and after-thought seat installations weren’t too obscure for the car producing arm of Fuji Heavy Industries. Here are five of the strangest Subarus in history:
5. Subaru 360
Available from the late 1950s until the early 1970s, the Subaru 360 was a micro city car. This alone isn’t overly strange, but many of the details on the 360 were. The passenger doors were rear hinged and there was a floor-mounted fuel lever that eliminated the need for a fuel pump since the gasoline was gravity fed.
Sitting in the rear of the car was a two-stroke, two-cylinder engine that displaced just 356 cc. That is what gave the 360 its name, referring to the 360 cc tax credit class of cars. Later, the term 360 would take on a secondary meaning as the tail-happy handling characteristics of the car had a lot of owners spinning out in their 360s.
4. Subaru Bighorn
The Isuzu Trooper may be the most rebadged automobile in history. At one point or another, versions of the Trooper were sold by Acura, Chevrolet, Holden, Honda, Opel, SsangYong, Vauxhall and, yes, Subaru.
Called the Bighorn, Subaru sold the rebadged Trooper from 1988 until 1993 in Japan only. Even though the Trooper would undergo a redesign in 1991, the Subaru Bighorn would soldier on with the first-generation architecture until it was discontinued. The only power plant available was a 2.8-liter turbo diesel.
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3. Subaru Alcyone SVX
The Subaru Alcyone SVX was an unusual car in many ways. The overall styling featured some unique elements, highlighted by the window within a window design. This was said to improve wind buffeting at highway speeds, but made drive-thrus a nightmare.
Under the hood sat a horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine measuring 3.3-liters in displacement. It sent 230 hp to all four wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. A front-wheel drive version did briefly appear in North America and Japanese customers could opt of optional four-wheel steering.
2. Subaru Brat
Small pickup trucks were hot in the late 1970s and Subaru wanted in on the action. More of a car with an open bed rather than a purpose built pickup truck, the Brat sat two people up front in the cabin. But this meant the Brat would have been susceptible to the so-called American chicken tax that puts a 25% tariff on imported light trucks.
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To circumvent this, Subaru bolted two rearward facing plastic chairs in the bed of the truck. A safety nightmare, passengers heads actually bobbed around higher than the Brat’s roofline, so keeping the truck sunny-side up was more important than ever.
1. Subaru XT
Before there was the SVX, there was the angular Subaru XT. With a fairly conventional for its time wedge shape, the back window was a wraparound design set at a fairly steep rake. Power came from a choice of horizontally opposed engines, a 1.8-liter in naturally aspirated or turbocharged flavors as well as a 2.7-liter six-cylinder.
The XT came equipped with some interesting and advanced equipment for its time. A single wiper blade, retractable door handles, adjustable suspension, headlight washers, push-button all-wheel drive, digital gauge cluster and hill holder could all be equipped to the XT.
But the most unusual feature had to be the XT’s steering wheel. To apparently resemble a jet fighter cockpit, the wheel only had one vertical and one horizontal support bar. This gave it an unusual asymmetrical appearance and took some getting used to when operating.