Junkyard Find: 1984 Subaru BRAT

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The 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.

I 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).

73 horsepower, which would be considered absolutely unacceptable in any vehicle attempting to be even vaguely truck-like today.

Nice nearly-a-T-top double sunroof— called a “Halo Twin Roof”— on this one.

Just 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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Jim brewer Jim brewer on Aug 23, 2014

    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.

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    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Aug 27, 2014

      @spreadsheet monkey 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.

  • Subaruofbend Subaruofbend on Aug 21, 2015

    i know this is an older post but i am curious what the name of this yard was!? im looking for brat parts for a restoration. any help would be awesome!!

  • CKNSLS Sierra SLT I am thankful for those who have served/and serve this country to protect our freedoms.The "usual suspects" are quiet.......
  • KevinB Hemmings ran an article on the 1960 Cadillac Series 62 grille and its complexity. It took a lot of work.https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/1960-cadillac-series-62
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Now going for $7000.
  • SCE to AUX Working on a deck project. Also replaced the A/C compressor in a Subaru.
  • A I have a project 87 or 88, don't have the year in front of me. Tranny was starting to slip when my daughter drove it, original tranny so it's likely the rubber seals are failing. I had a backup tranny so i disassembled it to see what kind of shape it was in. I did see it needs all the rubber seals, hard parts are all good. So a basic rebuild kit should fix it. The reason she stopped driving it was because she heard a slight engine knock. So both engine and tranny likely will need a rebuild. We are from Wisconsin but only rarely driven in snow, underside looks solid and a bit of surface rust here and there. Some fading from the sun.She has decided to let it go now that ahe is a mother and no air bags. This car is fun to drive but at my age i don't need another project. Will send pictures if anyone is interested, I will let it go at junk price, just would rather see it fixed and driven then crushed and melted down.Contact info thewoz69@gmail.com