Kickstand Classic: 1964 Fuji Rabbit Superflow S601 Scooter – The Buick Dynaflow of Scooters

Fuji Heavy Industries/Subaru has a long history in the US, going all the way back to 1957. It wasn’t tiny kei cars like their infamous 360 they was selling back then, but a highly competent, advanced, powerful and well built scooter with a torque converter, no less; no clutch or shifting. There were also whitewall tires, a two-tone paint job, electric start, and a (claimed) top speed of 65 mph.  This was the Buick Dynaflow of scooters.

Japan’s Nakajima Aircraft Co.was a major supplier of military airplanes during WW2, like this B5N carrier attack bomber. That company was of course broken up after the war, and then reborn as Fuji Heavy Industries. But what to build? Japan was poor, and the market for products was very limited.

Watching American GI’s zipping around Tokyo and other Japanese cities on their Powell scooters, which had become quite popular in the US starting in the 1930s, the folks at Fuji had their Eureka moment. Scooters!


Thus was born their 1946 Rabbit scooter, obviously heavily inspired by the Powell. Nevertheless, it was a landmark, not just for Fuji, but for the Japanese post-war personal transportation industry. This would put Japan on wheels, even if it was just two for now. It’s not a stretch to say that they unleashed what would become the world’s biggest and utterly dominant motorized two-wheeler industry.

The new scooter was acclaimed, and a Rabbit was even given as a gift to the emperor, but one suspects it wasn’t likely used too much. But who know what went on behind the high walls of the palace.

Not many months later, another former aviation heavyweight, Mitsubishi, also jumped on the scooter bandwagon with their Silver Pigeon. Others did too, including Honda, with a motorized bicycle. Honda’s first attempt at a real scooter, the 1954 Juno K, was a rare flop. They stuck with motorcycles for the time being, like the immortal Super Cub.

Like rabbits are wont to do, Fuji’s bunny quickly matured, and soon became an aspirational vehicle. Hence the rapid increase in power, size, comfort styling and convenience; the Rabbit was a leader in these all, and developed a  reputation as “the finest motor scooter” in the land.

Starting in 1957, the Rabbit made the great leap over the pond to North America. Rabbit Motor Sales in San Francisco was the first, but the number of dealers quickly multiplied. And in Canada, the importer was no less than  Malcom Bricklin, who would later secure the US rights to the Subaru 360 car. That was to be Fuji’s next new main product, the successor to the Rabbit, which went out of production in 1968.

This 1964 example still sports 1964 Oregon tags, as well as a Santa Monica-based Ossman Scooter Cycle Co. plate protector. I’m not sure which (or any) is original, but I can check with its owner, Tony.

That’s Tony’s foot as well as his Jaguar XJ-12 (with Chevy LS-1) in the background. It turns out I’ve shot and posted a goodly number of his cars and bikes over the years here at CC, including a previous XJ-12, the Rokon, and several others. That’s what happens when you leave such interesting vehicles sitting around the streets of Eugene. I will find them, sooner or later.

This time I ran into him out front of this garage that he shares, and he invited me in to check out his recently acquired Rabbit. I was rather expecting a four footed one, since he’s also a VW aficionado.

One of the first things I noticed was this Rabbit logo. At first glance from a distance, I thought maybe someone had put on a Chevy Impala logo. Not so! In fact, as that 1946 S1 photo earlier in this post shows quite clearly, the leaping Rabbit logo predates the Impala by over a decade.

There’s a pretty elaborate “dash board” with an 80 mph speedometer and a few other goodies, including a “flash” button or indicator for the headlight, presumably.

And its pretty curved rear end, the Superflow logo is there for all the world to see. I assumed it was just marketing hyperbole. Oh no! I was informed by Tony that this has a genuine hydraulic torque converter. And like the original Buick Dynaflow, there’s no actual shifting of gears; it’s just a wide-ratio torque converter (yes, the early Dynaflow and Powerglide did have a manually-selectable Low gear.

Stupidly, I didn’t get down for a good closeup of the little torque converter. But that has to be it, there on the right side of the engine. I wonder if that plastic bottle on top of it isn’t possibly a reservoir for its oil?

The 200cc single cylinder two-stroke mill has fan-forced cooling, and was rated at 11 hp. That’s pretty good, for the times.

There’s a pretty good sized trunk under the passenger seat. And it all exudes high quality materials and construction; a solid little thing.

And a very nice big tail light, to round things out.

I was impressed. But I’d like to hear it go, to really appreciate that torque converter. It would the the outboard motor equivalent of a Buick Dynaflow’s motor-boat sound.