By on August 22, 2014

03 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersThe Subaru BRAT, basically a factory El Camino-ized Leone, has quite the lawsuit history in this country, due to the Chicken Tax-evading-but-dangerous jump seats in the bed that made the BRAT a “car,” legally speaking. The BRAT was sold in the United States until the 1987 model year, but it’s nearly impossible to find examples built after the early 1980s. Here’s a reasonably nice-looking ’84 that Shawn Rodgers (you may recognize him as the hero of the Junkyard Build Quality Challenges, as well as the captain of the very fast Bunny With a Pancake On Its Head 24 Hours of LeMons Rabbit team) saw in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard last week and was kind enough to photograph for us.
02 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersI shoot junkyard BRATs whenever I see them, and so far in this series we’ve seen this ’79, this ’82 (which still had its jump seats), and this Sawzall-converted ’86 (I’m a sucker for cruelly hacked-up Subarus).
21 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers73 horsepower, which would be considered absolutely unacceptable in any vehicle attempting to be even vaguely truck-like today.
10 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersNice nearly-a-T-top double sunroof— called a “Halo Twin Roof”— on this one.
16 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersJust the lo-fi solution for listening to bad mid-80s AM hits!


In Australia, the BRAT was called the Brumby and it was marketed with ads featuring pig passengers.

In the United States, Ruth Gordon pitched the BRAT.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Subaru BRAT...”


  • avatar
    krhodes1

    My extended family had 11 of this generation of Subaru at one point. My Grandparents started it by trading a huge boat of a Chrysler wagon for an ’80 Subaru hatchback when gas prices spiked in ’79. Those redesigned Subarus really hit a chord in Maine, being FWD (and occasionally 4wd) when most Toyotas and Datsuns weren’t, cheaper, and seemingly more solid – my Grandfather was impressed by how the doors sounded when they closed. Sadly they rusted like few cars before or since. All were gone from my family by ’92 or so, and no one has bought one since. Not a single Brat in the family, though as a young kid I thought they were cool. An ’82 GL sedan in this same color red was my very first car.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I don’t recall anyone I knew who listened to AM radio after the early 70′s, at least not for music.

    • 0 avatar
      TopJimmy5150

      AM Radios were standard right up to the mid 80′s on a lot of cars. The last car we had without FM was an 82 Pontiac J-2000. I think maybe the 85 Plymouth Horizon we had also was AM only. AM used to not just be ramblings of raving lunatics and sports, believe it or not. I remember lots of music on AM back then.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        Heck, my 1987 Chevrolet came with an AM only radio. It wasn’t working, so I swapped in an AM/FM/CD unit.

        I listen to the oldies mostly, so my favorite station is on 1140 AM.

        Limbaugh isn’t the only thing on AM.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I drove from San Diego to Boston and back in ’82, and my after-market AM-FM was tuned mainly to AM. There were a lot of places you couldn’t get good FM reception, and if you did, they were classical radio stations playing obscure composers. You could always find a choice of AM stations playing “moldy oldies” from the mid-’70s!

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Semenak

        MY 1979 Ford LTD had only AM. I thought of swapping it but, the A/C ductwork under the dash would have taken hours to swap radios. I left the car unlocked hoping someone would steal the radio and save me half the work… LOL

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @FromerFF
      In my part of the world (Outback Australia) AM transmission is quite popular. This is due to the range of the transmissions.

      FM doesn’t have the same transmission range and we don’t have satellite radio.

      We do have FM, but that only good for around 60-80km form the transmitter. You then start to have knolls affecting the FM transmission.

      But with the connectivity of the modern motor vehicle with MP3, Wi-Fi, even CDs, you can still have good quality music.

      But, at work we guys sometimes are tuned into a AM station, mainly the two kinds they listen too, Western and Country;)

  • avatar

    If I had the room for 30 cars, this would be one of them. The small truck debate rages on once a month at this site. We need to start arguing that everyone needs one of these instead of an F150 or Ram. I don’t know who these were for, but I am glad they exist.

  • avatar
    319583076

    I’ll start using the word “brumby” as frequently as possible thanks to this post.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I wonder if anyone has done one as a Kidd Video-themed Lemons entry?

  • avatar
    matador

    I’ve hauled hogs in trucks before. There is no way that a pig would ever stay in there! Thirty seconds, and Porky would be gone!

    You need a setup like this to haul hogs: http://i1017.photobucket.com/albums/af296/AvantA6/IMG_0140_zps7d3f1423.jpg

    Now, that would ruin the “asthetics” of the Subaru, though! For some reason, I doubt you could build a good rack onto a Brat without major modifications.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    I had forgotten about the vents stretching across the dash, that roof option, and the design of the sliding rear window. I see one outside of Mayfield, Ky regularly. It’s been parked for years and gets a little more brown from the bottom up every time I drive by.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Rode hard and put up wet .

    Poor old thing ~ I guess no one wants these push rod engined things ? .

    I don’t see any rust and not much damage either , oughta be cheap to made a D.D. out of non ? .

    -Nate
    (LOVE Ruth Gordon !)

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in the 80′s I knew someone with one of these. They got great use out of it for hauling light equipment and bikes. Unfortunately the tin worm got to it to the point that the gas tank had to held up with galvanized strapping. It lasted long enough till it was time for the bone yard.

    These older Subaru Flat 4′s had a timing chain which eliminated the need for the 60k belt and tensioner service. But the one thing that held up incredibly well was the T-top hatches, aka“Halo Twin Roof”. The seal was tight and they never leaked. If only the tops on GM F and G-Bodies were as well designed.

  • avatar
    davew833

    Makes me shed a wee tear to see a BRAT that’s almost completely rust-free in the JY like that. The few we see in Utah are usually more rust than metal. Not only was Subaru rustproofing of that era substandard, but the sheetmetal seemed to be so thin that you could dent the fenders just by looking at them wrong. I’ve had probably half-a-dozen Subarus of this generation and the biggest challenge for me was keeping the carburetor working properly as they aged.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Boy does this bring back memories. In 1986 my wife brought one of these new and i brought a new 1986 VW GTI. We live in Queens. NY and cars get a good workout in this area. I still remember my wife’s car for the carburetor troubles and oil leaks. The dealer was the worst i ever had to deal with. It seems everything that went wrong was not covered by the warranty. Then the rust you could hear just walking into the garage. Spent money for Rusty Jones and that was just money wasted. Sold it before our feet went thru the floor and counted my blessings. On the other hand the VW was bullet proof and the dealer was a gem. 14 years of driving to Manhattan without so much as a flat.

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    I bought one of these right after I got out of the NAVY as a second/work vehicle. Same year, everything the same except mine was that light blue. The t-tops had a storage net deal behind the seats. Rust eventually took it’s toll unfortunately. I beat the living hell out of it, and it never missed a beat. Would love to find another one some day, but rainbows and unicorns, etc. Supposedly the BRAT is the number one search on ebay motors with the fewest results almost annually.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    One of my garage resto-mod fantasies is to restore a Brat and swap in a WRX power train. Keep it looking mostly stock with the white painted steel wheels with white lettered off road tires and have a very unique q-ship.

  • avatar
    OzSRV

    They were and still are pretty popular here in Australia, they go for huge milages without needing serious work but do eat cv joints regularly. We got them till 1994, only the late models got aircon so they’re the ones people want when buying one.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Saw an old rerun of “Top Gear” that went on and on about how Subarus are a cliche vehicle for tweedy country gentlemen. It just seemed so bizarre, since that was in no way, shape or form the U.S. image of a Subaru buyer.

    The show explained that in the early days of importation into the UK, the dealer network was so weak, that they sold their vehicles through farm implement outlets. The aforesaid tweedy country gentleman would buy one for the first hand’s (or whatever they call them in Britain) use and that after seeing how well they performed, the tweedy country gentleman would take over the car.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      It’s true (although perhaps not to the extent that TG claimed). Many of the British upper classes are happy to spend big on Range Rovers or Merc/Volvo/Audi SUVs. But there is a minority who like to be anonymous, and find that an old Subaru helps them blend in with “ordinary” working class rural British folk.

      Is there an equivalent car in the US that serves a similar demographic? Grand Wagoneer maybe?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Old Mercs from the 80s perhaps. People with the GW in the US like to spend lots of money on them making them perfect, so they can fit in in the northeast at their beach house. Not very anonymous, really.

        Wealthy people who want to fit in also buy Ford trucks. Or a Suburban.

        If I were a wealthy English upper class’mn, I’d certainly have a Range Rover for when it was raining and I wasn’t bringing my dog, and an XC70 when it rained and I brought the dog, and an 80s Bentley for when I went into town on nice days.


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