Our pal TheProfessor47 submitted this tasty little morsel at the Cohort for our impromptu Short Car Day, but I missed it until now.
If you’re like me and had never heard of a Sambar, this rear-engined powerhouse features an air-cooled 356cc 20-horsepower engine shared with the Subaru 360, possibly for times when 28 horsepower would be overdoing it.
That is neat! You know you have a small car when the license plate looks freakishly huge.
That’s exactly what got me as well! I was initially thinking it didn’t look too small, and then I really noticed the plate…
Aren’t some mildly updated versions of this van, and its pickup truck sibling, still being made? I think the trucks especially are still being sold in the US, with an engine governor, as low speed “off road” vehicles for use on industrial plants and university campuses — but the governors can be removed, and titles and tags obtained with varying levels of dissembling to DMV . . .
I believe so. They’re popular with farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma for checking fences and such.
Despite being still fairly small the new ones would be much larger than this van, I’d guess it is shorter than the Fiat Multipla too.
Low speed varies by situation. I was on the phone with my John Deere dealer and the hold music included a spiel for the Gator beast (all terrain utility). They said it’d go up to 45 miles an hour. On a road, meh, but on a woods trail, that would “offend my sense of survival” to quote Guy Clark. I don’t know too much about them, but the ATV folks as well as the tractor people seem to have variants, in 2, 4 and in Deere’s case, 6 wheel drive.
Havent seen on in centurys good find
In this video of a ’69 Sambar pickup, the owner says it’ll fit in the box of a full-size pickup.
The comprehensive Wikipedia article says they made Sambars up through 2009, when they got replaced by badge-engineered Daihatsus. Lots of photos including this darling custom.
The 69 is interesting its like a 3/5s Corvair Pickup with the rear engine and side gate for the bed.
These ‘fake’ VW’s are now being imported from Japan to the UK. They’re popular with the Nissan Figaro brigade here as a lifestyle vehicle. The first two rows of seats fold ‘flat’ to make two very lumpy and uncomfortable twin beds. The engine is a turbocharged 600cc 3 cylinder engine with a CVT automatic. I was intrigued to buy one, but knowing the Justy’s reputation for self destructing automatics, combined with a tiny supercharged engine under the seat (overheating issues), full time 4wd, and eye-wateringly expensive parts, I decided to sober up before venturing back on the Bay.
The front panel on these things is like a ‘swatch watch’- its interchangable depending on your mood.
What a cool little van. When I saw it on the Cohort, my first thought was it was a Fiat.
I’d love to see one of these parked next to a ’76 Sedan de Ville, it would look even smaller than it is.