During the fall of 2003 my friend was showing his BMW Isetta at a car show. He happened to strike up a conversation with a gentleman who had one, among a large number of other antique and vintage cars, for sale. Numbers were exchanged and discussions lead to a trip to see some of the vehicles in hhis collection. Over 50 of them were stored in a dis-used Cold War era bomb bunker that he rented at the Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. Apparently pending loss of storage due to a clause in the Patriot Act (preventing civilians from renting property on military bases post 9/11), required that he "thin out" his collection.
A few days before Christmas 2003 we met at the collector’s house; interesting cars like a ’61 DKW, ’53 Willy’s Aero, a Panhard and a Citroen DM were in various degrees of decomposition in the yard. It was a 15-minute drive to the Westover Airforce base, we passed through the checkpoint and drove by 8-10 doors built into a hillside on our way to bunker #18. It was all three of us could do to open the blast doors and peer into the deep gloom of the bunker. Our flashlights provided the only lighting; cars were packed in, some on top of trucks and even 3 model A Ford bodies stacked like cordwood!
The vehicles contained ranged from the mundane ('87 Isuzu Trooper) to antique (’37 Olds and 30’s Cadillac). We were forced to walk over some of the cars to inspect the contents. Other finds were a ’46 Fiat, ’56 Sunbeam Talbot and a 1969 Subaru 360 - the latter appearing to be in very good original condition. In short order a deal was struck to purchase the Subaru and arrangements were made to pick the car up the weekend after Christmas. (Getting the car out was an ordeal – ever try and move a ’56 Holiday 88 that all 4 wheels are frozen?)
Actually my friend Pete purchased the car (I was under orders from “The Skipper" NOT TO DRAG HOME ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!) When my wife reviewed the pictures & video we shot in the bunker she thought the 360 was so cool she questioned why I did not buy it… Well… a couple of months went by and Pete decided to pursue other interests - the 360 had not been moved since we unloaded it so he phoned me to see if I would be interested. With enthusiastic spousal blessing, the car passed to us.
The restoration was tough since most of the parts to the 360 are unique and cannot be substituted with other things. I owe a great debt of thanks to my college friend Steve and his father Claude - a former Subaru dealer in the 1960's. They gave me 400 pounds worth of NOS and used parts, manuals as well as all the Subaru Special Tools Inventory - saved all these years since they closed the dealership in the early 1970's. I also owe the Subaru 360 Drivers Club a hearty thanks for all their advice and help. Without the help of these folks there would have been no way this car ever would have been back on the road. The car is registered and running well with nary a hiccup in the past 10 years!