Subaru Then and Now...

America was introduced to Subaru during a time of crazy change. A war in Asia was on our minds and on our television sets, main street, and college campuses were debating, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not.  "Peace, love, rock and roll" was on the mind and lips of many people in the country, "flower power" was in full bloom and a generation of musicians traded dance beats for a political voice.

Nixon and the Watergate incident would become the symbol of a failed presidency. While 240,000 miles from earth, Apollo 11's Eagle raised clouds of lunar dust and a man would take giant step for mankind.

This was the moment, as America took wild swings from seismic jolts of conflict and shock to unimaginable technical triumph, that the Subaru 360 hit America's highways. Imported from Japan, it was cheap ($1,297!), and it was ugly. But it set in motion a company with a vision that synched with what Americans were looking for.

While the 360 was not exactly the car for daredevils, it did offer practical, ultra-economical transportation to the pioneering 600 drivers who put their faith in a product from a new company with Japanese parentage.

The 360's "cheap and ugly" image was perfectly suited to an era when prices were low enough to make jaws drop open in amazement today. It was a time when gas cost 34 cents a gallon, first-class stamps were just 6 cents, a dozen eggs cost 53 cents and you could be the proud owner of a brand-new home for just $26,600. Sounds pretty good, even with a median household income of about $8,000 a year. And it was a time when "ugly" was, well, the clothes you put on every morning.

Rock music is what gave the 1960s and early 1970s their mojo, and we can still hear the music that was part of our coming of age! The sounds of political protest and freedom meshed with counterculture; this was an era when unique bands made their marks in the national consciousness. From California's Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, to the English invasion of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones...the period played host to songs and albums that impacted a generation, and the generations that followed.

The Subaru vehicles launched during this time were the perfect counterpoints to the American models of the era. Where Detroit insisted on filling the highways with behemoths, Subaru was among the leaders in the automotive industry who decided to produce more practical, engineering-driven vehicles, a path the company still follows, and one that still meets the needs of America's motorists.

In the years that followed the inaugural Subaru 360 and into the mid-1970s came other Subaru models that helped change the way America drove with their front-wheel drive vehicles and the extra safety and versatility that only on-demand, four-wheel drive could bring. The Subaru 1000, FF-1, GL Coupe and 4WD Station Wagon were introduced to increasing success in the marketplace and growing respect among the automotive press.

 As 1976 rolled around, Subaru products were winning "Car of the Year" honors and the company was racking up sales of nearly $84 million.

America was emerging from its doldrums. With the Vietnam War and the fuel embargo safely past, the nation celebrated its bicentennial in grand style. By 1977, our spirit was reinvigorated and our gas was once again affordable. Americans were ready to hit the highways and seek adventure behind the wheel.

 What a perfect time for the Subaru BRAT to make the scene. A memorable name that means Bi-Drive, Recreational All-Terrain Transporter, BRAT was a go-anywhere, do-anything way to make the most of fun, sun and the open road. It's what American drivers needed, a sporty, economical performer that helped build customer loyalty for a car company that was still the new kid on the block.

Gaining Traction

 The BRAT became an instant hit with drivers who craved the ruggedness of a 4 x 4 with the comfort of a passenger car. Its fuel economy was tops among the competition, delivering the highest EPA gas mileage of any 4WD vehicle sold in America. And the MPV model won Off Road magazine's 1978 Excellence in Engineering Award. Even today, long after the last car rolled off a Subaru assembly line, people from around the world fill the Internet with pages dedicated to the BRAT.

For most of the 1980s, President Reagan oversaw a renewal of confidence among Americans. After 444 long days, the hostages returned home from Iran. MTV filled millions of homes, and teens danced along to their favorite videos just as their parents practiced their moves a generation before with "American Bandstand." And from the heart-stopping "Miracle on Ice" in 1980, to the gold rush in 1984, American athletes were turning the Olympics into their own medal mint. It was at this time that Subaru and the U.S. ski team joined forces for a long, successful combination, making the DL 4WD Wagon the ski team's official car and Subaru an official team sponsor.

Subaru was gaining traction. Drivers knew they could expect both performance and economy from Subaru, and Subaru designers continued to push the design envelope. At the same time, America was adapting to the rapid advance of home computers that were, by the year, smaller, faster, better. Subaru followed suit. The XT Coupe debuted in 1986 as a technically advanced model. Its sweeping design evoked the image of an eagle and earned the distinction of the world's most aerodynamic car. The New York Times was impressed enough to call it "the ultimate in jazzy design." It was quite a departure from Subaru's "cheap and ugly" entry into the American market less than 20 years earlier.

Moving from the 1980s into the 1990s brought a barrage of changes that in some ways rivaled even the turbulent '60s. The Cold War suddenly entered the dustbin of history as "The Wall" came tumbling down. The sea of change spread quickly throughout the former Iron Curtain, as former Communist nations experienced velvet coups and experimented with democracy. Soon, Operation Desert Storm would be adding the prefix "Mother of all ..." to everything from war to laundry lists to arguments with the IRS. Our world turned into a "global village" almost overnight, as we watched the Gulf War on CNN  24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In this changing world, Subaru continued to redefine its own image. The Justy proved that while Subaru models could climb hills, they also could put the pedal to the metal. Justy set the Class I Production speed record with a two-way "flying mile" average of 117.4 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats.


Then, in 1991, it was time for the Subaru SVX to take a bow. As a show-stopping entry in the high-performance luxury market, it grabbed hold of a new niche in Subaru marketing with a power train to rival any competitors'. and if anyone thought that the SVX introduction meant that Subaru had turned its back on its roots, the Impreza soon followed. Winner of three consecutive World Rally Championships, the Impreza Rally Car boasted the same engine configuration as the Ferrari Testarossa and the Porsche 911, while maintaining superb all-weather traction.

Subaru had succeeded in evolving its own image in a world marked by abrupt shifts in politics, technology and society. President George H.W. Bush couldn't keep his "no new taxes" pledge, so in came President Bill Clinton, who felt our pain. The '90s advanced, and the speed of the Internet brought the world instantly inside our homes and made "24/7" a catchphrase. Bill Gates and his Microsoft empire gave hope to "computer geeks" everywhere, while Michael Jordan had kids around the world wanting to "be like Mike." "Cheers" closed its doors, and Forrest Gump saw life through a box of chocolates.

It's a new millennium...the turn of the century arrived and life continued along without so much as a Y2K. What began as a sense of optimism for the new century, evolved into a test of human spirit as towers came down, and law enforcement officers, and fire fighters in NYC showed true courage. Reality TV demonstrated the good, the bad, and the ugly. The economy was on a roller coaster, the stock market riding up and down as well, it was clear Subaru would need to be sensitive to that type of market and introduced cars up to the challenge!

The Subaru vehicles launched during this time were the perfect counterpoints to the American models of the era. Where Detroit insisted on filling the highways with behemoths, Subaru was among the leaders in the automotive industry who decided to produce more practical, engineering-driven vehicles, a path the company still follows, and one that still meets the needs of America's motorists.

In 2010 Subaru re-designed its Legacy, and Outback models. In 2012 Subaru created a totally re-engineered, more fuel efficient Impreza. Available in sedan and 5 door models, the new Impreza captures, the hearts, and minds, of a whole new group of customers. This car catapults Subaru into the spot light and the critics agree, it's a winner!

2013 sees the introduction of a true performance car, the BRZ, a joint venture with a company that shall not be named, revolutionizes the way people look at Subaru. Its sleek design and throaty roar turn heads and hearts to this fun and affordable sports performance vehicle! Subaru also introduces a new SUV...the XV Crosstrek is designed for those people who love the outdoors, and boldly go wherever the heck they want to!


2015...a new and exciting Legacy and Outback. These cars are simply put...the best in a long line of solid, Subaru vehicles. The addition of Star-link, and Eyesight safety technology, means that these cars not only perform better than our competition, they now lead in technology. This is a big win for Subaru customers, as well as, those people who are new to Subaru!


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Belknap Subaru

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