It was regarded as the first front-wheel drive Subaru assembled from the hand of Fuji Heavy Industries. It was first launched in 1966 under the Japanese government ‘kei car’ regulations. All the previous models from Subaru like Subaru 360 and Sambar were rear-engined as well as rear-wheel drive compact cars. A boxer engine was used for the first time in any production Subaru.
It was planned by Subaru management in 1960 to launch a successor to the prototype Subaru 1500 having a fresh code name ‘A-5’ and feature a 4-cycle air-cooled, flat 4-cylinder (horizontally-opposed) engine with 1500 cc displacement. It was supposed to feature a double wishbone front suspension. Because of the limited resources of Fuji Heavy Industries, the vehicle never went into production. Although, the 360 was available in the market during that time, Subaru desired to have a vehicle that could accommodate four passengers easily. Reducing the engine noise and enhancing the interior through front-wheel drive layout was other priorities of Subaru.
Another attempt was made by Subaru in 1963 where they used a new project code ‘A-4’. This time they opted for a smaller 923 cc engine with front-wheel drive layout. The entire length of the vehicle was 3,885 mm (153.0 inch) and a selected wheelbase of 2,400 mm (94 inch), while having front wheel width of 1,230 mm (48 inch) and a rear wheel width of 1,220 mm (48 inch). The weight of the car was 500 kg (1100 lb). This car went into production and designated a production code A-63. The vehicle was finally hit the market under Subaru 1000 name. In order to make it space efficient and quiet, air-cooled engine was dropped in favor of water-cooled engine.
On October 21, 1965, the Subaru 1000 made its official debut at Hilton Hotel Tokyo (currently known as Hotel Tokyu Capitol). Eight days later, the vehicle was displayed at the 12th Tokyo Motor Show on October 29. In October 1966, the Subaru 1000 went on sale in Japanese market with a model code of A522. On February 15, 1967, a 2-door sedan with model code A512 was added in the lineup followed by the launch of 4-door van on September 14, 1967.
Subaru 1000 was offered with a water-cooled, flat 4 (or horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder) engine featuring overhead valves managed by pushrods. Before mounting this engine, the engineers at Subaru thoroughly examined the Porsche, Volkswagen and Chevrolet Corvair and reached to conclusion that the said engine will do good if mated to a front-wheel drive setup. The only problem was the pulsations or oscillations from universal joints, but the problem was overcome in association with the bearing maker Toyo Bearing (now called NTN) by inventing an epoch-making ‘double offset joint’. The present day Subaru models are still using horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder or flat 4 engines, although the power of engines has been increased with the help of updated overhead cam driven valves.
Like many other traditional FWD (front-wheel drive) vehicles, the Subaru 1000 also used internal drum brakes. Some of the other individual features used in 1000 include: missing heater core as the heating system received heat straight from radiator and a hybrid suspension system. In 1970, the Subaru 1100 also called the Subaru FF-1 Star replaced the Subaru 1000 in United States along with many overseas markets.
About 4000 units of 1000 were produced since its introduction through March 1969 as an equivalent to the Nissan Sunny B10 series and Toyota Corolla KE10 series.