The Subaru BRAT, short for “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter,” was known by a few names in various world markets, in Australia it was the Brumby whereas in the United Kingdom it was known as the 284, it other world markets it was branded the Shifter, MV, or Targa.

Subaru developed the BRAT as a pickup version of their popular Leone station wagon, both vehicles shared the same four-wheel drive drivetrain and a number of body panels and other parts.

Despite its unusual looks the BRAT would prove to be a successful model for Subaru, filling a niche for people who didn’t need a full sized pickup truck but still needed some of the functionality.

Fast Facts – The Subaru BRAT

  • Thanks in part to its light weight and small dimensions, the BRAT proved highly capable in its role as a small on or off-road pick up, and it was used extensively by farmers and outdoors enthusiasts.
  • Subaru kept production costs low by sharing many components of the BRAT with its sibling model, the Subaru Leone 4×4 station wagon.
  • A pair of plastic seats in the back and some carpeting allowed Subaru to sell the BRAT in the USA without needing to pay the 25% “Chicken Tax” that was applied to imported pickup trucks.

The Subaru BRAT

Interestingly, the Subaru BRAT was never officially sold in Japan, this has led to it becoming a popular grey market import back into its country of origin, where they can fetch prices considerably higher than much of the rest of the world.

Surbaru Brat Cutaway Illustration

Above Image: The light weight and low cost of the BRAT combined with its four-wheel drive system led to it becoming an enduringly popular vehicle with farmers and outdoors people alike.

The BRAT was first developed by Subaru at the request of the President of Subaru of America, who had realized that the company needed something to compete with the popular small trucks being offered in the USA by Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota.

Unlike many of its competitors the BRAT featured full four-wheel drive which made it ideal for use both on and off-road, a feature that proved popular with farmers who liked the BRAT’s economical running costs.

Subaru first introduced the BRAT in 1978, it was then kept in production over various model series until 1994 when it was discontinued.

The most famous BRAT owner was none other than President Ronald Reagan, who bought one in 1978 and kept it until 1998, owning it throughout his entire presidency and regularly using it on his ranch near Santa Barbara in California.

One of the keys to the success of the BRAT was its simplicity, it used a version of the unibody design from the Subaru Leone, with a reliable flat-four engine up front providing the power.

The first engine used in the 1978 introductory model was the 1.6 liter Subaru EA flat-four engine. This liquid-cooled engine has an aluminum block with aluminum heads, two valves per cylinder, and 67 hp at 5,200 rpm.

Subaru BRAT 11

Above Image: The BRAT was powered by either a 1.6 or 1.8 liter all-alloy flat-four engine that could send power to all four wheels or just two depending on the driver’s preference.

From 1981 onwards the BRAT was fitted with the slightly more powerful 1.8 liter version of the EA engine capable of 68 hp at 4,800 rpm with 3 lb ft more torque. 1983 and 1984 models could be ordered with a turbocharged version of the EA engine producing 94 hp.

In recent years the Subaru BRAT has been enjoying a rise in popularity, many of them succumbed to rust or neglect years ago so good quality survivors are much sought after and tend to attract quite a bit of attention when they come up for sale.

The 1990 Subaru BRAT “284” Shown Here

The Brat you see here is actually a 284, the same model with a different name for the UK market. This is a one-owner vehicle that was bought new in 1990 by Major J.F. Hibbert and owned by him for over 30 years.

It now has 38,612 miles on the odometer and a remarkably comprehensive stamped service history. The exterior panels have been resprayed in the original blue to a good standard and the load bay has been left unrestored, allowing the next owner to use it for its intended purpose without worrying about adding scuffs or scratches.

The car is now for sale via Collecting Cars out of the United Kingdom, with bidding currently at £5,600 with 3 days remaining. If you’d like to read more or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.

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Images courtesy of Collecting Cars

Published by Ben Branch -