The Subaru Rex was known by several different names in the export markets such as Ace, Viki, Sherpa, 500/600/700, Mini Jumbo or M60/M70/M80. It was first appeared in 1972 as a kei car produced by Japanese automaker Subaru. Initially, it was launched for Japanese market only, but later it was exported to countries like Europe, South America, and Caribbean. The Subaru Rex outmoded the R-2 one of the earlier kei car produced by Subaru. It was offered both as commercial and passenger vehicle versions. During its entire lifetime, it received major changes at three different points, i.e. in 1976, 1981, and in 1986. The second generation model of Rex paved the way for larger Subaru Justy.
As for name, the term ‘Rex’ is derived from a Latin word for ‘king’. The Sambar minivan is sold in many markets under ‘Rex Combi’ nameplate.
First Generation (1972-1981)
The first generation (K21) Rex was launched on July, 15, 1972. It replaced the previous R-2 from the Subaru lineup. The Subaru R-2 was itself replaced the long running 360 and was also built on same 360 platform. Compared to 360’s eleven year run, the Rex lasted for nine years.
As for design, the Rex brought introduced some new designing cues with some stylist cues taken from 360, but mechanically speaking, it was pretty much similar to Subaru 360 as both had a rear-engine arrangement. The Rex’s rear swing axle was also taken from the Subaru 360/R-2. Look-wise, the Rex was identical to the Subaru’s new Leone. The engine was also retained from R-2, i.e. water-cooled 356 cc EK34 2-stroke engine. The first generation Rex was only offered in a 2-door sedan style. The 4-door sedan was introduced in February 1973 followed by a 3-door Van a year later. The Van version could be registered as a commercial vehicle so as to prevent a good amount from taxes and fee. The Custom L, Super L and certain other trims along with standard came with 37 PS (27kW) single carburetor engine, while the 37 PS (27 kW) double carburetor engines was used in sporty GSR trim. The Touring Sport (TS) trim level came with a 35 PS (26 kW) double carburetor engine.
Second Generation (1981-1986)
The second generation Rex was launched in August 1981 as the front-wheel drive vehicle. The second generation Rex appeared with a revised bodywork and also an independent suspension. However, the power still obtained from a twin-barrel carburetor rated at 31 PS (23 kW). It was offered as 3- or 5-door hatchback. On demand four-wheel drive was made available as an option in October 1983. The four-wheel drive version received turbocharger in December 1893.
Subaru 600 or Mini Jumbo was the name used for Rex in the European markets. The Subaru 600 changed into Subaru 700 in September 1982 with an introduction of 665 cc 2-cylinder engine rated at 37 PS (27 kW). The engine was based on a single-barrel carburetor and produced a maximum speed of 125 km/h (78 mph).
Third Generation (1986-1992)
The third generation Rex designated as KG or KN was introduced along with commercial spec Rex Combi in November 1986. It was offered as 3- or 5-door versions. December 1986 saw the launch of sedan variant. It was initially introduced with a SOHC 2-valve engine rated at 30 PS (22 kW), but later 3-valve per cylinder with 2 intake and 1 exhaust version was added in the range with an output of 36 PS (26 kW). The third generation Rex didn’t receive any turbo version. In February 1987, the Twin Viscous full-time all-wheel drive system with slip differential for the rear axle was also released. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) was made available in June 1987 and commonly referred to as ECVT.
In March 1988, a supercharged version was made available as an option featuring intercooler and electronic fuel injection. Supercharged version raised the engine power to 55 PS (40 kW). It was offered both for 3- and 5-door models. An electronically controlled canvas top was introduced to 3-door version in May 1988.
During its lifetime, about 1,902,811 units of Rex were produced by Subaru. Subaru Vivio was announced as a replacement vehicle for Rex and eventually it was discontinued in 1992.