Mini cars have always been popular, and these days those that fill the "Cheap-And-Cheerful" segment are in the main well built, and provide a better than reasonable driving experience. But if you go back a couple of decades, that was not always the case. You didn't need to look any further than the offerings from Lada to figure that out.
So buying a good quality small car was not so easy. Those in the know will tell you that there was one stand-out car, the zippy little Subaru Sherpa. The car had quickly become the micro-mini market leader in the Japanese domestic market, and with good reason.
The ancestor to the Sherpa was obviously the Subaru 360
, the "Ladybug" going a long way to establishing Fuji Heavy Industries as an automotive market leader. The 1969 R2 model followed, and now bore more than a resemblance to the Sherpa.
Under the bonnet of the Sherpa was a lively little two-cylinder, four-stroke water-cooled 665cc overhead cam engine that managed to give the car a top speed of around 125 km/h. Around town (which was its intended purpose), the Sherpa suprised many with its relatively large cargo capacity, frugal fuel consumption and comfort.
Easy to drive, easy to park, easy on the hip-pocket and with enough performance to keep you up with the traffic made for a compelling argument for those looking for a true city car. The little Sherpa only came with a 32 liter fuel tank, but with consumption of only 6.1 liters per 100 kilometres in the city, and 5.1 on the highway - the small tank was more than adequate. Add to that a 9.6 metre turning circle, you can understand why the little car endeared it'self to so many.
The Sherpa's mechanical specification was very good. Front disc brakes and rear drums provided very good stopping power, and independent suspension courtesy of MacPherson strut up front with trailing arms
at the rear meant the ride was much better than any such small car should have offered.
Zero scrub suspension geometry, rear gas shocks, rack-and-pinion steering and a hefty stabiliser bar ensured handling was well above class standards of the day. The four speed manual gearbox was carefully geared to make the most of the power and torque bands of the tiny engine, the result providing the Sherpa with good performance and spectacular economy.
Optional accessories included: air conditioning, bull bar (aluminimum alloy), dress rims, headlight guards, louvre rear window, mudflaps (front and/or rear), rubber mats front, cargo mat, roof rack, style stripes (string set), style stripes (graduation set), front door visors, window protection bars (rear) and weathershield.