Junkyard Find: 1984 Subaru BRAT

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1984 subaru brat

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.











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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.

    • See 1 previous
    • 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!!

  • Jerry Hightower I'd like to see a true hardtop.
  • Jerry Hightower I'd like to see a true hardtop
  • 28-Cars-Later "Six-thousand dollars get you in the door."You just cost me six thousand dollars! And one Cadillac.
  • 28-Cars-Later Kudos to the Mazda team on the attractive front end, though the lack of front bumper is still detention after class. Rest of it is also visually appealing, its shocking me how good this looks and how bad Honda (and to an extent Toyota's) styling is in comparison.
  • Slyons My guess is they keep the 2.0 liter they have now with minor tweaks, and shoehorn in the 48V mild hybrid system that just debuted in the CX-90. Should allow for all the regular fun of wringing out the 4 cyl and bump the fuel mileage up at least a couple points. I don't think we'll see a major evolution of the drivetrain until the next next model (NF?).
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