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Subaru Domingo versus Sambar

Discussion in 'Microvans' started by tegnamo, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. tegnamo

    tegnamo New Member

    I tried searching these forums literally for "domingo versus sambar" but no luck.

    So I hope this thread is not a rehash.

    I'm looking at importing either a Domingo or Sambar. I live in the US so that should tell you about what parts I can likely find more easily. It would also imply that I can only import a 25 year old vehicles, so by today's date that's a 1994 at the newest.

    I would like it to have full-time 4WD and a manual, and if a Sambar I'd want the supercharger option as well to help that tiny 660cc engine out.

    But ultimately I don't know if it's better to shoot for a Sambar or Domingo.

    One point of confusion. I see in some resources that the Domingo never came in a manual 5-speed and full-time 4wd option.

    But...I do see one up for auction that purports to have just that! Here is the frame number results from epc-data.com


    So, I guess that is a possible spec?

    I see the size difference is modest. Either way this vehicle would be a city runabout. No big highway drives save for a possible 30 minute freeway jaunt sometimes.

    Let's say I can get a 1994 version of either, with reasonable miles and condition. What say you forum wizards?

  2. Arkivel

    Arkivel Member

    They are effectively the same vehicle except the Domingo has bigger bumpers, a different driveline and engine, and it will do highway speeds. The Sambar is basically a low speed vehicle with low gearing. Taking a Sambar on the highway will mean hitting the red line. I've been told that a Supercharged Sambar might have 10% more power while a Domingo is maybe 40% more. For me Domingo is the one to get however, it will be more a lot more difficult to find one versus a Sambar as they are getting somewhat rare.
  3. tegnamo

    tegnamo New Member

    Thanks for the input.

    Do you know if there is such a thing as a Domingo with 5-speed and full-time 4wd?
  4. Arkivel

    Arkivel Member

    I cant confirm that full time 4 wheel drive exists but I have seen it advertised in Japanese auctions.
  5. dandurston

    dandurston New Member

    I've been wondering the Sambar vs Domingo question as well. Some resources indicate the Domingo is longer (hence 3 rows of seating), but elsewhere I read that the only additional length is in the bumpers and it is the same volume inside. Does anyone know a confident answer on this? I could do without the larger motor, but would like a bit more space than the Sambar (having had a Suzuki Every).
  6. Wakakusa

    Wakakusa New Member

    I've also been looking into getting a Sambar or Domingo recently. I've asked an importer a few questions, and they've told me that other than the bumpers, the Domingo is the same size as the Sambar vans. They also told me they are a great vehicle to purchase at auction and import because they do not meet the Kei qualifications in Japan, so those in the country are not as interested in them as Sambar vans, but in the context of importing one to the USA/Canada, they will be more comfortable on highways with the larger engine and top speed, where the Kei qualifications don't matter. I'm currently deciding in-between getting a supercharged Sambar truck, or a 90's generation Domingo van, which is easier said than done.

    It looks like a Domingo (1990-1998ish) pops up on Pacific Coast's auction site once ever 4-7 days on average, with Sambar Vans (before 1994) popping up maybe a little more frequently. As for the Sambar Trucks, there are usually at least 10-15 available for auction at a time. So in order to get what you're looking for, it may take a while.
  7. dandurston

    dandurston New Member

    Thanks for that. Good to know. Interesting auction site too.
  8. Arkivel

    Arkivel Member

    I check the auctions every day. It may be best to find an importer that can source cars outside the auction if you're looking for a very specific model.

    If it hasnt been said already stay away from the ECVT auto transmission. Besides being slow as hell, they are unreliable, and basically no one in North America works on them.
  9. Maximal

    Maximal Active Member

    regarding 4WD, some vans came with fulltime AWD or switchable 4WD. power difference in the city is negligible on carb vs EFI supercharged Sambar, but supercharged will hold their speed better on hills at highway speed

    ive done 700-1000km trips in my carbureted one, it'll coast at 100kmh fine and ive done 130kmh with tailwind, but steep hills it just eats dirt and its painful 60-70kmh max in 5th
  10. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    My Sambar does 120 km/hr without complaint. It has all the options and the manual transmission. Having said that, the tachometer doesn't work, so I'm not sure what RPM it's doing at that speed, but it's high, almost certainly more than 6000. With such a small engine it has to be geared pretty low in order for the power it produces to be useful. The FSM says to change the spark plugs every 10k km due to "constant high RPM."
  11. Maximal

    Maximal Active Member

    120kmh im at 7000-7200rpm
  12. eperez

    eperez New Member

    tegnamo I drive a 96 Domingo, manual, full time all wheel drive. I tried out a Suzuki Every before going with the Domingo and the size difference is really negligible. The Domingo does seat (with seat belts) 7 people, though the leg room for a taller adult isn't fantastic. The high roof makes it feel way roomier however. It does well on the highway, I drive to work about 40km, about half of that is highway, and it does well. We went with the Domingo because we have kids so the extra seating makes the different, but if you just want carry capacity the Sambar turbo charged will do in my opinion. I think the biggest thing to consider is what parts are most accessible to you where you live. The Domingo needs almost everything imported from Japan cause there just aren't that many around, the engine stuff is the same as the Justy, but anything to do with the rest of the vehicle has to be imported or fabricated, at least that's been my experience so far restoring my Domingo. I live in Vancouver BC. Hope that helps. Cheers!

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