This newly imported JDM Sambar Kei truck features push-button four wheel drive, a crawler gear, and a flatbed with fold-away sides, for all your small trucking needs. The Starting Line has just taken possession of this Sambar along with a 1995 Honda Acty truck to match.
Like all Japanese Kei class vehicles, this Subaru comes with right-hand steering, compact proportions under 10.8 feet in length and 4.6 feet in width, along with a tiny engine less than 660 ccs. That's smaller than many modern motorcycle engines.
Many of these Kei trucks, including the Sambar, take advantage of this engine size by tucking it under the vehicle, right between the rear wheels. The driver is then placed way up front in a cab-over layout, and the front tires are located almost directly below them. Inside amenities are quite lacking. There's enough room for exactly two people, while a console in between provides heat, A/C, and analog radio. The gauge cluster provides speed in Kilometers per hour, fuel level, engine temperature, and some kind of 1990's tire monitoring display. A tachometer is however absent, so shifting of the transmission is done by sound and feel.
The left handed five-speed shifter includes a crawler gear in the first position, handy for getting unstuck from mud or gravel. The action of the gearstick feels very direct without slop or bushing wear, which is a sign of a well-maintained vehicle at this age. After all, the Subaru has driven just under 25,000 Km (15,500 miles) over its 25-year life. Four wheel drive can be easily engaged in lower gears by a bright red button on top of the shifter.
The Sambar's bed is about six by four feet, nearly matching the cargo space of a modern day Ford Ranger. Unlike just about any American truck, the tailgate and sides can also be folded down for a true flatbed experience. Many owners of these Kei trucks take advantage of their blank slate design by converting them into things like campers, rescue support vehicles, or food trucks. The trucks' compact size, light weight, and four wheel drive make them very easy to drive over unpaved terrain. For this reason, they're also very popular as farmers' field vehicles.
The engine can be accessed via a screwed-down hatch underneath the bed. The clutch plate and gearbox are right along with it, sandwiched between the wheels. Most Kei vehicles featured inline-three engines, but the Sambar received a fourth cylinder, with a total displacement of 658 ccs. This "Clover 4" engine is renowned for its stout torque-iness next to Kei contemporaries. The straight four uses a single overhead camshaft with two valves per cylinder. In operation, it is very quiet and low-revving, almost diesel-like in its eagerness to take off.
This Subaru Sambar is now United States road legal under the 25 year import rule, and can be yours for only $8,000. E-mail The Starting Line via info@TheStartingLine.us, or call at (434) 830-1183 to ask for information or make a buying offer. You can also stop by our shop adjacent to VIR at 1081 Ace Drive, Alton, VA 24520 to check out the Sambar and its Honda Acty cousin in person.