Last August 7, the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers (JSME) announced that the Subaru 360 K111 minicar has been distinguished as a Mechanical Engineering Heritage Item for 2016.
Launched in 1958, the Subaru 360 is the automaker’s first mass-produced car. The car conforms to the Kei-Jidosha (Japanese Minicar) regulations that were set during the time to prevent heavy city congestion and measures less than 3 meters long. Subaru’s first car sat four adults with ease despite size restrictions and offered a relatively comfortable ride. Its rounded design earned it the nickname of “ladybug” during its production, and the 360 continued to gain wide acceptance and 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.