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Subaru Rex 1972 – 1992 (昭和47-平成4 スバル·レックス)


Subaru Rex 1972-92
    Subaru Rex 1972-1992

The Subaru Rex, is also known as the 500/600/700, Ace, M60/M70/M80, Mini Jumbo, Sherpa or Viki in various export markets, it was produced from 1972 – 1992 mainly for sale in Japan, although it was also sold in Europe, South America, Australia and the Caribbean.  The Rex superseded the R-2 as Subaru’s kei-car, and has been available in commercial versions as well as in a passenger car version.  It underwent major changes in 1976, 1981 and again in late 1986.  The 2nd Generation Rex 1981 – 1986 also formed the basis for the larger Subaru Justy.  The name ‘Rex‘ comes from the Latin word for ‘King‘.  In some export markets, the Sambar microvan has been marketed as the ‘Rex Combi‘.


The 1st Generation (1972 – 1981)

The Subaru Rex  1stRex.jpg  (1st Generation)

The Subaru Rex (K21), introduced on the 15th July 1972, was the replacement for the Subaru R-2, which was itself the replacement for the long lived, but outdated Subaru 360.  Because the R-2 was based largely on the 360, originally including its air-cooled 2-stroke engine, it lasted for less than 3 years.  In contrast, the 360 was produced for 11 years and the rear-engined Rex was produced for 9 years.

The Rex represented a fresh start design wise, sharing little of its appearance with the Subaru 360, although they were mechanically the same and shared a rear-engine layout.  The Rex also retained the 360/R-2’s rear swing axle.  The appearance of the new Rex was similar to the new larger platform of the Subaru Leone.  The Rex originally featured the same water-cooled 356 cc EK34 2-stroke engine as used in the R-2, and was available only as a 2-door Sedan.  In February 1973 a 4-door Sedan was added, and a 3-door Van was added in February 1974.  The Van could be  registered as a commercial vehicle, allowing for considerable savings in taxes and fees.  The EK34 engine came with a 32 PS (24 kW) single carburetor on the Custom L, Super L, and other trim levels down to Standard, 35 PS (26 kW) for the TS (Touring Sport) and 37 PS (27 kW) twin carburetor for the sporty GSR.  The GSR was also lower to the ground due to the fitting of radial tyres.


BODY & CHASSIS: Sedan 2/4-door; Van/Wagon 3-door hatchback; Swingback 3-door h/back.

LAYOUT: Rear engine, rear drive 1972 -1981.

Front-engine, front wheel drive (FWD);  FF, All-wheel drive (AWD) 1981 – 1992.

ENGINE: 356 cc EK34 2-stroke I2;  358 cc EK21 I2;  490 cc EK22 I2;  544 cc EK23 I2.

TRANSMISSION: 4/5-speed manual; optional ‘Autoclutch1980 – 1981.

Wheelbase: 1,920 mm (76 in)

Length: 2,995 mm (117.9 in) 1972 – 1976;  3,185 /3,190 mm (126 in) 1976 – 1981.

Width: 1,295 mm (51.0 in) 1972 – 1976;  1,395 mm (54.9 in) 1976 – 1981.

Height: 1,255 /1,385 mm (49.4 /54.5 in)

Curb Weight: 480 /570 kg (1,060 /1,260 lb)


In October 1973 the 2-stroke was replaced by a 358 cc rear-mounted, water cooled, 2-cylinder, 4-stroke engine called the (EK21).  This produced 31 PS (23 kW) at a peaky 8,000 rpm and 3.0 kg/m (29 N/m; 22 lb/ft) of torque @ 6,500 rpm, and featured SEEC (Subaru Exhaust Emissions Control).  The car also received a minor facelift, with a ‘frowny‘ rather than the ‘smiling‘ grille and a new chassis code (K22).  Front disc brakes were also introduced as an option at the same time.

The 4-stroke Rex could reach a top speed of 110 kph (68 mph).  The 3-door, 2-seater Van (K42) arrived in February of the next year, when a 5-speed version ‘Custom 5‘ was also added.  In September 1974, along with a minor facelift consisting of a new grille and bumpers adjusted to allow for the fitment of larger license plates, a Wagon version (K26) appeared. This received 4 permanent seats, but could no longer be registered as a commercial vehicle and had a considerably lower maximum load.  At the same time, a Super L version of the Van was added.

Vans & Wagons received a lower tuned engine, with 28 PS (21 kW) @ 7,500 rpm, but torque increased somewhat to 3.1 kg/m (30 N/m; 22 lb/ft) @ 5,700 rpm.  This became the power output of the standard Rex as well for model year 1976 after the SEEC-T (Subaru Exhaust Emission Control – Thermal & Thermodynamic) emissions control system was introduced in December 1975.  Torque was down to 2.9 kg/m (28 N/m; 21 lb/ft) @ 6,000 rpm.  The equipment levels were also reshuffled, with the B-type replacing the Standard and then rising from the AI via the AIG & AII to the AIIG on top.  The AII & AIIG versions received disc brakes in front, but the 5-speed was no longer available.

Subaru Rex Van 360    (1975 – 1976)

(High roofed version with engine placement visible)

In April 1975, the Van received a higher roof and became a 4-seater.  This was necessitated by Japanese commercial vehicle regulations which required the floor to be completely flat when the rear seat was folded.  Because the Rex’s engine was mounted in the rear, the cargo floor was rather high, meaning that more head room would be required before a seat could be installed.  The Wagon continued in production until the SEEC-T version was introduced in December, but it lost most of its market with the availability of a 4-seater Van.


[ The  550cc  Era ]

In response to new regulations for kei-cars, Subaru introduced the larger engined Rex 5 in May 1976.  It retained the earlier bodywork, but was broadened by 10 cm and had a longer bonnet resulting in a new overall length of 3,185 mm (125.4 in), and received a 490 cc version of the previous engine.  The Rex 5 (K23), (K43 in the Van version) engine was still 2-cylinder with an OHC design, and retained the SEEC-T emissions control system.  Power increased from the emissions choked late 360’s to 31 PS (23 kW) @ 6,500 rpm, while torque increased to 3.8 kg/m (37 N/m; 27 lb/ft) @ 4,500 rpm.  The AIG version was dropped.  The Van version received a 28 PS (21 kW) @ 6,000 rpm engine with the same torque, albeit at 500 rpm lower.  Van equipment levels were Standard & Super Deluxe.  This version, called the Subaru 500 in export markets was short-lived, and was replaced by the bigger Rex 550 exactly 1 year after being introduced.

Subaru 500/600    (Export version)

The Rex 550, introduced in May 1977, featured the SEEC-T equipped water-cooled, 2-cylinder, 4-stroke 544 cc EK23 series engine.  The chassis code was (K24), it remained rear-mounted, coupled to a 4-speed manual gearbox.  Maximum power remained 31 PS (23 kW) at a slightly lower 6,200 rpm and torque was 4.2 kg/m (41 N/m; 30 lb/ft) @ 3,500 rpm.  A comparatively well equipped Custom L version of the Van (K44) was added.  As usual, the vans received a lower powered version of the engine, with 28 PS (21 kW) @ 6,000 rpm but the torque figures were exactly the same.  The Van could take a maximum load of only 200 kg (440 lb), 100 kg less than most of its competitors.  This was counteracted by the comparatively high level of passenger comfort in the Rex Van.  The Rex 550 was called the Subaru 600 in most export markets.  Subaru made much of the ‘Multi-Use Lever‘, which combined the headlight, turn signal, and windshield washer functions. This was not installed on the lowest spec versions, Standard & Type B.

Subaru Rex 550 AIIG    (1979 – 1981)

In March 1978 the Swingback version was added, a 2-door Sedan which received a larger, opening rear window.  The large rear window necessitated a slightly smaller opening to the engine compartment, but this was more than made up for by allowing for access to the rear luggage compartment from the outside.  In March 1979, the Rex underwent a very minor facelift, the most visible results being new rims and slightly differing bumpers and a small spoiler in front.  Then, in response to the very low priced Suzuki Alto, a version of the Van called the Family Rex was added in October 1979.  It was priced at a very low ¥480,000 (£3,545).  An automatic clutch version was added in March 1980.


The 2nd Generation (1981 – 1986)

Subaru Rex 2G  REX 2nd-early.jpg  (1981 – 1985)


Layout: Front engine, Front-wheel drive (FWD);  Front engine, 4WD.

Engine: 544 cc EK23 I2;  544 cc EK23-T turbo I2;  665 cc EK42 I2.

Wheelbase: 2,255 mm (88.8 in);     Length: 3,195 mm (125.8 in)

Width: 1,395 mm (54.9 in);          Height: 1,350 mm (53 in)

Curb Weight: 565 kg (1,246 lb)                   Bodystyle: 3 / 5-door hatchback.


In August 1981, the 2nd Generation Subaru Rex became front-wheel drive (FWD), with all new bodywork and independent suspension all around.  At the time, it was stated that the only parts of the rear-engined predecessor to have remained were ‘two connecting rods and an ashtray’.  Power remained at 31 PS (23 kW), with a twin-barrel carburetor.  3 & 5-door hatchback versions were available.  Optional on demand 4WD became available after October 1983, a first for the class.   The 4WD system was electrically engaged by depressing an embedded switch on top of the gear shift.  A turbo was introduced on the 4WD Rex in December 1983.  The “Rex Dinos”, a trim level introduced in 1982, was only available by mail order catalogue !!

 The Rex Combi    (Van version)

In the European markets, the car was originally marketed as the Subaru 600 or Mini Jumbo.  In September 1982 it became the Subaru 700, as it received a larger 665 cc version of the 2-cylinder engine, producing 37 PS (27 kW), a 35 PS version using lower octane gas was also available.  The engine used a single-barrel carburetor.  Top speed was 125 kph (78 mph), compared to 110 kph (68 mph) for the 31 PS (23 kW) domestic version.  These cars were 9 cm longer than their domestic counterparts, due to bigger bumpers, and received 12″ wheels, rather than the 10″ units used for most models in Japan.  Production ended in September 1986, as Subaru was getting ready to introduce the modernised 3rd Generation Rex.

Late Rex Sedan    (Rear view)

The body shell of the 2nd Generation Rex was also lengthened and widened to become the original Subaru Justy, with a larger 1-litre engine.  The Justy remained in production until 1994, outliving the next generation Rex and even the Rex label itself.

Subaru Sherpa Super Deluxe     (Australia )


The 3rd Generation (1986 – 1992)

The Subaru Rex  1988 Subaru M70 Super Deluxe 3-door hatchback (2015-07-24) 01.jpg  (3rd Generation)

The 3rd Generation (KG/KN) was presented in November 1986 with the commercial spec Rex Combi with either 3 or 5 doors.  The sedan version, intended for private use, was added a month later.  In addition to an SOHC 2-valve engine with 30 PS (22 kW), a version with 3-valves/cylinder (two intake and one exhaust) and 36 PS (26 kW) was also available.  There was no turbo version of the new Rex.  A 2-speed automatic transmission was also available, as was a part-time 4WD system.  Twin viscous full-time 4WD with a limited slip differential for the rear axle was made available in February 1987.  From this point all 4-wheel drives received the more powerful 3-valve engine.   A CVT transmission was added in June 1987, called ‘ECVT’.


Bodystyle: 3/5-door Hatchback;   Layout : FF ; AWD

[ The  Engines ]

544 cc  EK23 I2;   544 cc EK23 supercharged I4

547 cc EN05A I4;   547 cc EN05Z supercharged I4;

658 cc EN07A/E I4;   658 cc EN07Z supercharged I4

665 cc EK42 I2 (export);   758 cc EN08 I4 (export)

Wheelbase: 2,295 mm (90.4 in);  Curb Weight: 590 kg (1,300 lb)

Length: 3,195  / 3,295 mm (125.8  / 129.7 in)

Width: 1,395 mm (54.9 in);  Height: 1,360 mm (54 in)

Related image         Related imageemblem3画像

A supercharged version with an intercooler and electronic fuel injection was added to the options list in March 1988 as a response to the success of the Suzuki Alto Works and the Daihatsu Mira TR-XX.  The output of the engine increased to 55 PS (40 kW).  A supercharger meant less lag than for a turbo, although specific output tended to be somewhat lower than the competition.  This was available for both the 3 & 5-door versions.  May 1988 saw an available electrically deployed canvas top added to the 3-door.  The turbo and later supercharger were installed in Japan to improve tailpipe emissions, with an added benefit of increased horsepower, Japanese drivers in 1975 were taxed on the emissions their car produced.

Subaru Ace    (New Zealand)

June 1989 saw a gentle facelift and the replacement of the EK series engine to the 4-cylinder EN05 Clover 4 unit with 38 PS (28 kW) available to the standard engine and 61 PS (45 kW) from the supercharged engine.  This was the first kei 4-cylinder since the Mazda Carol, and was unique to the class.  Naturally aspirated models received cat’s-eye shaped headlamps and a reshaped bonnet while the supercharged models retained the earlier rectangular units, but with a new 4-hole grille.  The (KH1/2) series Rex (KP1/2) for the commercial Rex Combis, remained available in combination with the ECVT transmission and 4WD versions, but the 2-speed automatic was dropped.  In July export versions, the M70 in Europe and Sherpa in Australia received the same changes and switched from the 665 cc 37 PS (27 kW) 2-cylinder to become the M80 in Europe, the Ace in New Zealand and the Fiori in Australia.

VX Supercharged (KH3)    (2nd facelift)

The 550 cc 4-cylinder model was uncommonly short-lived, as in March 1990 another facelift followed, with a 660 cc version of the EN engine (EN07) and an extended, more rounded nose because of new kei regulations taking effect.  These external differences did not appear in the Australian market until August, and early in 1991 in Europe, on the Mini Jumbo.  This, was to be the last Rex, to receive chassis codes (KH3) FF Sedan, (KH4) 4WD Sedan, (KP3) FF Commercial, and (KP4) 4WD Commercial.  This generation Rex was marketed as the Viki in certain Southeast Asian markets.

Related image Related image

The name was also used for a special edition ‘Rex ViKi‘ in the Japanese domestic market.  The end for the Rex came in March 1992, when it was replaced by the Subaru Vivio.  A total of 1,902,811 Subaru Rex were built in its lifetime.  Recently the Rex has become somewhat of a cult car in Japan, being popular in front-wheel drive drift events.

Yunque GHK 7071    (China)

The Chinese Yunque (Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation) built the 2nd Generation Subaru Rex under license as the Yunque GHK 7060 between 1991 & 2005.  There were also GHK 7060A ‘Free Wind‘ and GHK 7071A ‘WOW’ models, featuring interesting looking bodykits.


[ G A L L E R Y ]



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