The History of the Subaru Sambar Kei Truck

Avishka Chandeepa

Posted 28 March 2024


Subaru Sambar Truck is a Kei-truck named after a large deer native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia meaning the vehicle runs light and well. In addition to its long history, the driving performance, stability on rough terrain, and design rivaled the best of the Kei-truck world. Suzuki Carry and Honda Acty to name a few.


How many generations of Subaru Sambar are there?

Currently, 8 generations. All the history and specifications are down below.

What year Kei-trucks can be imported to the US?

Any Kei truck older than 25 years can be imported into the US and Australia.

How to purchase a Kei truck?

With Zervtek Japan, we can source, purchase, and ship a Kei-truck using Japanese auto auctions. It’s cheaper and you get to choose from a lot of options. Additionally, we take care of everything up to the destination port so the whole process is completely hassle-free!

How much does a Kei truck cost?

Importing a Kei truck, depending on the condition, year, and mileage could cost anywhere from 2,500-7,000 USD including shipping to Australia and most other countries.

What are the best Kei trucks?

The best Kei trucks are the Subaru Sambar, Suzuki Carry/Every, Daihatsu Hijet, Mazda Scrum, Nissan NT100 Clipper, and Mitsubishi Minicab.


First-generation Subaru Sambar (1961-1966)

First introduced at the 1960 Tokyo Motor Show, it was inspired by the 1957 Fiat 600 Multipla and the body configuration was based on the Subaru 360 (nicknamed Japan’s Volkswagen). This model adopted a cab-over layout (driver’s seat above the engine), and a RR (rear engine) with 4-wheel independent suspensions. This layout continued to be used in Subaru Sambar for the next 50 years.

Subaru Sambar First Generation

  • Body type: 2-door cab-over truck/3-door cab-over one-box
  • Engine: 356cc EK32 air-cooled 2-cycle in-line 2-cylinder
  • Drive system: RR
  • Maximum output: 18ps/4,700rpm
  • Maximum torque: 3.2 kg・m/3,200 rpm
  • Suspension: (front) trailing arm independent suspension, (rear) swing axle independent suspension
  • Size: Length 2,990 mm x Width 1,300 mm x Height 1,520 mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,670 mm
  • Vehicle weight: 470 kg


Second Generation Subaru Sambar (1966-1973)

The “New Sambar” came with a cleaner front face equating to a slightly modern look. The engine remained the same, but a minor change in 1970 added a reed valve that increased its power to 26ps/5500rpm and 3.5kg/4500rpm. It had a dummy grille and was called the “Babaan Sambar”

The transmission stayed a 3-speed Manual transmission on the base version with 4-speed with overdrive and 6-speed forward/2-speed reverse with an auxiliary transmission also available.

  • Body type: 2-door cab-over truck/3-door cab-over one-box
  • Engine: 356cc EK33 air-cooled 2-cycle in-line 2-cylinder
  • Drive system: RR
  • Maximum output: 26PS/5800rpm
  • maximum torque: 3.6kg・m/ 4,500rpm
  • Suspension: (Front) semi-trailing arm independent suspension, (rear) semi-trailing arm independent suspension (Sambar truck low floor type)
  • Size: Length 2,995mm x Width 1,295mm x Height 1,545mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,750mm Vehicle weight: 495kg


Third Generation Subaru Sambar

The third generation was known as “Gouriki Sambar” and first debuted in 1973. The air-cooled engine (Ek31 type) which had been there since the first generation, was now replaced by a two-cylinder, two-cycle, water-cooled engine. The rear indicator lamps were separated from the brake lamps and became orange.

 In February 1976, the two-cycle engine was replaced with another water-cooled engine but with a four-cycle, two-cylinder SOHC engine (EK21 type). In May of the same year, a 500 cc engine (EK21 type) was added to the same body and the model was reborn as the “Sambar 5” (K75 type).

 In 1977, the vehicle body width was completely expanded to the new standard, becoming the 550cc K77 type (equipped with an EK23 type engine).

In 1980, a four-wheel drive model with excellent drivability was introduced for the first time as a light truck, and it was used on rough roads and steep gradients daily. It was highly regarded by farmers and became an explosive success leading to the next model- in April 1981, the Farming Sambar was born and put on sale.

  • Body type: 2-door cab-over truck/5-door cab-over one-box
  • Engine: 356cc EK34 water-cooled 2-cycle 2-cylinder
  • Drive system: RR/part-time 4WD
  • Maximum output: 28PS/5500rpm
  • Maximum torque: 3.8kg・m/5000rpm
  • Suspension: (front) semi-trailing arm independent suspension, (rear) semi-trailing arm independent suspension (truck low floor type)
  • Size: Overall length 2,995 mm × Overall width 1,295 mm × Overall height 1,610 mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,730 mm
  • Vehicle weight: 545 kg


Fourth Generation Subaru Sambar

The fourth generation came with full-time 4WD for both the trucks and the vans and was equipped with Subaru’s “free-running full-time 4WD”. The front suspension was also changed from the independent suspension system to a MacPherson strut-type suspension.

Minor changes in May 1986 included vehicles being equipped with ELR seatbelts. In 1987, all 4WD vehicles were changed to ventilated front disc brakes making it the first to be installed in Kei trucks and vans at the time.

  • Engine: 544cc EK23 water-cooled 4-cycle in-line 2-cylinder OHC
  • Drive system: RR/part-time 4WD/full-time 4WD
  • Maximum output: 28PS/5500rpm
  • Maximum torque: 4.3kg・m/3500 rpm
  • Suspension: (front) MacPherson strut independent suspension, (rear) semi-trailing arm independent suspension (4WD truck standard roof three-way open STD)
  • Size: Wheel length 3,195 mm x width 1,395 mm x height 1,680 mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,805mm
  • Vehicle weight: 670kg


Fifth Generation Subaru Sambar

Introduced in 1990, with the new Kei standard regulations, the displacement had increased to 660cc. The engine was an in-line 4-cylinder with a maximum output of 40ps equipped with an ENO7C type carburetor.

A minor design was changed in September 1992 including a change to the headlamps into square halogen lights.

In 1995, the transmission of Automatic vehicles changed from ECVT to a torque converter type 3-speed AT with high reliability and durability.

  • Body type: 2-door cab-over truck/3-door cab-over one-box
  • Engine: 658cc water-cooled inline 4 SOHC 8 valve EN07C type (NA), EN07F type (NA), EN07Y type (supercharger), EN07L type (LPG)
  • Drive system: RR, part-time 4WD, full-time 4WD
  • Maximum output: EN07C: 40ps/6,500rpm // EN07F: 46ps/6,400rpm // EN07Y: 55ps/6,200rpm
  • Maximum torque: EN07C: 5.5kg ·m/3,500rpm // EN07F: 5.6kg·m/4,600rpm // EN07Y: 7.1kg·m/3,800rpm
  • Transmission: 5MT/EL+5MT/ECVT/3AT
  • Suspension: (Front) McPherson strut independent suspension, (Rear) Semi-trailing arm independent suspension
  • Size: Length 3,295mm x Width 1,395mm x Height 1,760-1,895mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,885mm
  • Vehicle weight: 680-990kg


Sixth Generation Subaru Sambar

The sixth generation was announced in 1999. The body size was increased per the new Kei standards in 1998. Most vans and trucks of other manufacturers were semi-cab while the Sambar continued with its full cab shape.

Supercharged vehicles were improved to output 58ps and the carburetor was removed for NA engines.

Interior of the Subaru Sambar truck at the Japanese auto auctions

Small improvements in August of 2001, brought the output of NA engines to 48ps along with tail lens colors changing from amber to clear.

The first minor change brought changes to the front face and headlamps while the second minor change in November 2005 brought further changes to the front face and alteration of the meter panel.

On February 28, 2012, the production of the Sambar Truck manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries was discontinued.

  • Body type: 2-door cab-over truck / 3-door cab-over one-box
  • Engine: 658cc water-cooled SOHC 8-valve EMPi EN07F in-line 4-cylinder (NA), EN07Y in-line 4-cylinder (SC)
  • Drive System: RR, selective 4WD (TT/TV), full-time 4WD (AT car/TW system)
  • Maximum output: EN07F: 35kW (48ps)/6,400rpm, EN07Y: 43kW (58ps)/6,000rpm
  • Maximum torque: EN07F: 58Nm (5.9kgm)/3,200rpm, EN07Y: 74Nm(7.5kgm)/4,400rpm
  • Transmission: EL+5MT (TT2/TV2 panel van)/5MT/E-3AT
  • Suspension: (Front) McPherson strut independent suspension, (Rear) Semi-trailing arm independent suspension
  • Size: Length: 3,395mm x Width: 1,475mm x Height: 1,815-1,905mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,885mm
  • Vehicle weight: 730-1,010kg


Seventh Generation Subaru Sambar

The seventh generation made its debut in 2009 when the passenger version of the Sambar was introduced as the Subaru Dias Wagon, a rebadged version of the Daihatsu Atrai van. The truck was released later in April of 2012 with a supply of a Daihatsu Hijet truck rebadged as Subaru Sambar.

The only difference between the Daihatsu Hijet and the Subaru Sambar was the badge and the front grill and the driver seat SRS airbag for all cars.

  • Body type: 2-door truck/5-door van, 4-door pickup
  • Engine: KF-VE type 660cc in-line 3 DOHC, KF-DET type 660cc in-line 3 DOHC with IC Turbo
  • Drive system: FR/selective 4WD
  • Maximum output: KF-VE type MT: 37 kW (50 ps)/5,700 rpm, AT: 39 kW (53 ps)/7,000 rpm, KF-DET type 47 kW (64 ps)/5,700 rpm
  • Maximum torque: KF-VE type 64 N・m (6.5kgm)/4,000rpm, KF-DET type 103N・m (10.5kgm)/2,800rpm/4,400rpm
  • Transmission: 5MT, 4AT
  • Suspension: (Front) L-type lower arm & MacPherson strut-type coil spring, (Rear) Tray Ring link axle type coil spring/axle type leaf spring (truck)
  • Size: Length 3,395mm x Width 1,475mm x Height 1,780-1,930mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,450mm Vehicle weight: 880-980kg


Eight Generation Subaru Sambar

The truck went through a full model change into the Daihatsu 10th generation Hijet truck. Other than the emblem, it was pretty much the Hijet.

WhatsApp Image 2024-03-28 at 10.53.28 (1).jpeg

  • Body type: 2-door truck
  • Engine: KF-VE type 660cc inline 3 DOHC
  • Drive system: FR/selective 4WD
  • Maximum output: KF-VE type MT: 34kW (50ps)/5,700rpm, AT : 39 kW (53 ps) / 7,200 rpm
  • Maximum torque: KF-VE type 60 N・m (6.1 kgm) / 4,000 rpm Type leaf spring
  • Size: Length 3,395mm x Width 1,475mm x Height 1,780mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,900mm
  • Vehicle weight: 740-810kg


Contact Us

If you're interested in importing a Subaru Sambar from Japan for yourself, check us out. We source vehicles from the Japanese auto auctions which has over 200,000 vehicles passing through each week. This ensures that you have a ton of options to choose from and find one that fits your exact specific needs and budget. Furthermore, with ZervTek handling everything up to the destination port, it is extremely hassle-free.

If you require assistance or have any inquiries, feel free to reach out to our dedicated sales team. We're here to help!

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