From Bricklin to the BRZ: 45 years of Subaru in CanadaSep 3rd, 2023
The first Subaru ever sold in Canada bears little resemblance to the cars we know today. Automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin saw the potential in a Japanese scooter called the Rabbit and began importing it in the late 1950s.
Bricklin is perhaps better known as the father of the ill-fated New Brunswick-made SV-1 Bricklin sports car in the 1970s. But he was also the person who opened the door to Subaru in North America. After the Rabbit, he began importing to the USA the 360, a 60-hp Subaru microcar, then the Subaru 1000.
Neither of those models arrived in Canada, but the Subaru DL arrived in 1978. Also known as the Leone, the DL was a precursor to the Impreza: it came with a boxer engine and optional four-wheel drive. And it was a hit. What followed were the Subaru Brat (1978), the Justy (1984) and the XT (1985), and by the late ‘80s Subarus had become a regular feature on Canadian roads.
But Subaru’s triumphs extended beyond showrooms. After informal participation in stage rally through the 1980s, Subaru formally created its factory World Rally Championship team. Participation in the Canadian Rally Championship soon followed, and Tom McGeer brought home the brand’s first Canadian manufacturer’s title in 1993 in a Legacy GT. After McGeer came driver Pat Richard, and many more championships. Subaru remains the presenting sponsor of the series to this day.
From pioneering models like the DL sedan and Brat to rally victories, Subaru has left an enduring impact on Canada. And as Subaru celebrates record sales in June and July, the brand’s influence remains strong: a symbol of innovation and adventure in Canada.