A Glimpse Inside Subaru’s Secret Collection of Cars

A nondescript building at Subaru’s secret testing facility north of Tokyo is where one of the most well-rounded collections of the automaker’s cars resides.

From some of the earliest Subarus ever built to the brand’s first SUV, the vehicles gathered inside could be the most significant in the Japanese brand’s history. The problem is that outsiders rarely get a glimpse beyond the walls of the sprawling testing facility, let alone inside this building. So when Subaru offered us a chance to head inside with a camera, we jumped at the opportunity.

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It was in the 1950s that Subaru began developing its first cars, and they were certainly small in stature. Kei-cars, as they were known in Japan, were perfect for navigating city streets as well as the country’s tax and insurance regulations. Early versions, like this 1954 Subaru 360, was powered by a 360-cc engine, and weighed a scant 849 lb (385 kg).

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All-wheel drive has been the driving force for Subaru — both literally and figuratively — for decades, and it all started for the automaker back in 1972 with the Leone wagon. Subaru’s first four-wheel-drive passenger car, the Leone wagon was the pioneer for everything the automaker does today. The Leone was also available in sedan and coupe versions.

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The Subaru Legacy was first introduced in 1989 in both sedan and wagon forms, but it’s the former that lives on today in the North American market. The Legacy wagon was also the precursor to what would become the brand’s first ever SUV, when Subaru, hard up for cash, decided to beef up the suspension and call it an Outback. The rest, as they say, is history.