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[ The Subaru Sambar ]
1961 ~ (昭和36年-今日 スバル·サンバー)
Manufactured: 1961-2012 (Fuji Heavy Idustries); 2012 to date (Toyota)
The Sambar is a small kei class truck “kei-tora” and is available as a van or pick-up truck. Popular in the domestic market, the Sambar is also produced in China and Korea, as well as in Finland as a joint venture with Elcat Automotive, where it is used as a post-office delivery van.
Since its introduction, the Sambar has used a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive format (with optional 4WD from 1980 onwards), with the first two generations using the air-cooled engine from the Subaru 360 saloon, and later generations using the water-cooled engine from the Subaru Rex, Vivio and the Pleo. Until 2012 the Subaru Sambar model was still using the 6th Generation chassis and body with updated fascia. It was the first kei truck in Japan that used the cab-over design, with the passenger cabin over the engine.
The current generation is a rebadged Daihatsu Hijet / Atrai. The name Sambar is very similar to the top trim package for the VW Type 2 called the Samba introduced in 1951, which also used an air-cooled engine installed in the back, utilising rear-wheel drive. Many Sambar are fitted with a copy of this type of front.
He designed the Sambar and was inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame in 2004.
[ First Generation ]
From the very beginning in 1961, the Sambar used 4-wheel independent suspension and a rear engine, rear drive, powertrain that helps keep the vehicles weight balanced. Inspired by one of the first microvans, the 1957 Fiat Multpla, it was based on the Subaru 360 platform and it was introduced at the 1960 Tōkyō Motor Show in both private purchase and commercial versions. The chassis uses a ladder frame construction, using a torsion bar trailing arm suspension in the back, and the bodystyle is commonly referred to as “one box”. The reverse gearshift position was a left pattern selection, instead of a right pattern selection. The EK series engine, was accessed from an access hatch inside the vehicle.
In the van version the front doors opened in the same fashion as the Subaru 360, meaning the doors opened backwards (suicide doors), with the rear passenger doors opening conventionally, causing the hinges for all doors to be centrally located, with a rear hatch in the back. Bunk beds could be installed as an option for outdoor camping use. The Sambar was created for people that wanted to carry small loads, such as for commercial delivery. It was nicknamed the “kuchibiru” (lower lip), due to the low profile of the front bumper.
1st Generation (1961 – 1966)
Length : 2,990 mm (117.7 in) Width : 1,300 mm (51.2 in)
Height : 1,520 mm (59.8 in) Wheelbase : 1,670 mm (65.7 in)
Curb weight : (Van) 470 kg (1,040 lb) (Pickup truck) 395 kg (871 lb)
[ Second Generation ]
The re-designed Sambar appeared in January 1966 with a fresh new appearance, with a truck version also introduced. The nickname for this generation is the “baban” Sambar. A raised roof for extended headroom was added to the options list in 1968. Starting with the 1970 model year, the engine was now accessed from outside the vehicle, and the front doors were conventionally hinged. To enhance safety a full padded dash pad was introduced, sharing the dashboard panel from the new R-2 saloon. A styling upgrade was also done, adding a faux grille to the front of the vehicle that had no function other than a more modern appearance, as well as bringing the corporate look of the all new compact Subaru Leone.
2nd Generation (1966 – 1973)
Length : 2,995 mm (117.9 in) Width : 1,295 mm (51.0 in)
Height ; 1,535 – 1,545 mm (60.4 – 60.8 in) Wheelbase : 1,750 mm (68.9 in)
Curb weight : (Van) 535 kg (1,179 lb) (Pickup truck) 465 kg (1,025 lb)
[ Third Generation ]
The 3G Sambar appeared on the 10th February 1973, it was nicknamed the “Gōriki” (Herculean strength) Sambar due to an advertising campaign at the time. The first series still carried a 2-stroke 2-cylinder 356cc engine but by now was water-cooled. The engine code was EK34, the truck received the K71 model code while the van was called a K81.
As of February 1976, the engine was upgraded to the EK21 4-stroke water-cooled version introduced in the Subaru Rex to reduce emissions. This model saw the introduction of an electric window washer pump to improve driver visibility. Because of regulations changes, only 3 months later the engine was again upgraded with a 490 cc displacement (EK22) engine of a similar layout for the Sambar 5 (K75 truck, K76 panel van and K85 van). This was naturally sold as the Subaru 500 in export markets. This was in turn soon replaced by a full 550 cc (EK23) model, the K77/87 of March 1977. In export, the Sambar 550 was known as the Subaru 600. Minor horsepower improvements were introduced in 1977 along with an increase in the width of the vehicle. A sunroof was added to the options list in 1979. Four-wheel-Drive (4WD) was introduced as an option in 1980, on both the van and truck bodystyles, coinciding with the same feature being offered on the Subaru Rex.
3rd Generation (1973 – 1982)
Length : 3,195 mm (125.8 in) Height : 1,850 – 1,885 mm (72.8 – 74.2 in)
Width : 1,395 mm (54.9 in) Wheelbase : 1,805 – 1,820 mm (71.1 – 71.7 in)
[ Fourth Generation ]
1982-1990 4G 544cc 28 bhp
On May 9th 1982, the 4G Sambar (KR) appeared, at the same time as the non commercial Sambar Try (KT). Wheel size increased from 10” to 12”, allowing for larger drum brakes. Full-time 4WD also became available and an electric clutch was added to the options list and disc brakes for the front wheels.
4th Generation (1982 – 1990)
Length : 3,195 mm (125.8 in) Width : 1,395 mm (54.9 in)
Height : 1,650–1,900 mm (65.0–74.8 in) Wheelbase : 1,805 mm (71.1 in)
[ Fifth Generation ]
The Sambar’s engine was now upgraded to 660cc and the 4WD version was sold as the Subaru Dias Wagon. Automatic transmission was offered in tandem with full-time 4WD. The special edition Subaru Dias Classic also appeared at this time.
5th Generation (1990 – 1998)
Length : 3,295 mm (129.7 in) Width : 1,395 mm (54.9 in)
Height : 1,760 – 1,895 mm (69.3 – 74.6 in) Wheelbase : 1,885 mm (74.2 in)
Curb weight : 680 kg – 990 kg (1,499.1 lb – 2,182.6 lb)
[ Sixth Generation ]
1998-2012 6G 660cc 57 bhp
New kei class regulations allowed for an increase in body size. The 4WD Dias is now only offered with a 3-spd automatic transmission and power output is increased to 58PS (57bhp). In 2007, investment by Toyota in Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru ended all production of kei class vehicles. Toyota owned Daihatsu models were now to be re-badged Subaru. In 2009 the Sambar was replaced with the Subaru Dias Wagon, a re-badged version of the Daihatsu Atrai Van.
6th Generation (1998 – 2012)
Length : 3,395 mm (133.7 in) Width : 1,475 mm (58.1 in)
Height : 1,815–1,905 mm (71.5–75.0 in) Wheelbase : 1,885 mm (74.2 in)
Curb weight : 730 kg – 1,010 kg (1,609.4 lb – 2,226.7 lb)
[ Seventh Generation ]
2002 Subaru Truck: 2010 Subaru Dias Wagon:
2012- date 7G:
The 7G Sambar truck and van were introduced on April 2nd 2012, based on the Daihatsu Hijet and Toyota Pixis. With this generation, the engine was installed to the front of the vehicle between the front passengers, and driven by the rear wheels and continues to offer on demand 4-wheel drive. Features include, air conditioning, power steering and an AM/FM tuner.
During its lifetime, the Subaru Sambar has had many iterations, and export models abound with different names for each country. Normally the engines are increased in size and power, which takes them out of the kei car genre.
The “Subaru Sambar” in Computer Games:
Choro Q Park (’98): ’92 Top Gear: Dare Devil (’00); Kaettekita Cyborg Kuro-Chan (’02); Midnight Club ll (’03); Initial D: Street Stage (’05); ’92 Blur (’10); ’82 Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (’11);