Junkyard Find: 1986 Subaru BRAT GL
Subaru sold the Leone in the United States from 1972 through 1994, going through three generations in the process. It was available here in sedan, coupe, hatchback, and wagon form… and as a pickup known as the BRAT. Today's Junkyard Find is a second-generation BRAT, found in a self-service yard between Denver and Cheyenne.
Unlike the other versions of the Leone sold in North America, every BRAT had four-wheel-drive as standard equipment. This made it a sales hit in snowy, mountainous Colorado.
As recently as 10 years ago, I found so many discarded BRATs here that I didn't even bother photographing most of them.
Since that time, examples of the BRAT have become very rare here, in the junkyard or on the street.
Some rusted to death, but most just got used up.
This one was in pretty good condition when its career ended. It isn't rusty and the interior is worn but not horribly abused.
Just a bit over 150,000 miles on the odometer at the end. The highest-mile junkyard Subaru I've documented so far was a 1993 Impreza with 319,554 miles.
This is a high-zoot Brat GL with plenty of nice features and options. US-market Subaru Leone-based car models in 1986 were just called "The Subaru" and so their trim levels became de facto model names here.
In order to evade the 25 percent Chicken Tax on imported light trucks, Subaru installed carpeting and jump seats in the beds of 1978-1985 BRATs sold here. This made them cars in the eyes of federal law. It was one of the more clever methods of Chicken Tax avoidance, but lawsuits resulting from injured back-seat passengers in these "cars" ended up costing Subaru plenty.
1986 was the first model year for the jump seat-free BRAT.
As we can see from the underhood emissions sticker, this is a 49-state (non-California) vehicle and it was categorized as a light truck by the federal government.
At first glance, I thought the shaky-looking graphics were a backyard-applied attempt to imitate the optional factory-applied decals.
However, closer examination shows that 37 years of exposure to the elements simply blew out the edges of the lettering. By the way, BRAT stands for Bi-Drive Recreational All-Terrain Transporter. Not quite as good a tortured Japanese-English acronym as Nissan's PLASMA (Powerful and Economic Light Accurate Silent Mighty Advanced) or Sun Creative System's WOOZ (Wild and Original Object with Zoom), but respectable.
It appears that this truck began its career in Bristol, Pennsylvania, just across the Delaware River from New Jersey.
This oil-change sticker shows that it was still in Pennsylvania in 1993. The lack of rust probably indicates a relocation to the west soon after.
The engine is a 1.8-liter boxer four, rated at 73 horsepower and 94 pound-feet when new.
The transmission is the base four-on-the-floor manual. BRATs were never offered here with five-speed manuals, though a three-speed automatic was an option. I've only found one slushbox-equipped BRAT in all my junkyard travels.
This truck has true four-wheel-drive, with a lever the driver had to yank to switch to front-wheel-drive for use on dry pavement. Subaru began selling vehicles here with what we'd now call all-wheel-drive during the late 1980s; every U.S.-market new Subaru came with AWD starting with the 1996 model year.
This truck has the optional T-top roof, pitched as the "Twin-Halo" roof by Subaru.
It also has the no-extra-cost factory four-speaker AM/FM radio, which was necessary for listening to the top hits of the era in proper fashion.
There's air conditioning, which the 1986 Edmund's Foreign Car Prices book claims was standard equipment in the 1986 BRAT GL (I'm skeptical).
From the front, it looks nearly identical to the GL sedan of a couple of years earlier.
The MSRP for this truck before options was $7,783, or about $21,667 in 2023 dollars.
The final model year for the BRAT in the United States was 1987. Sales elsewhere continued through 1994. Subaru tried to revive the old BRAT magic with the Legacy-based Baja for the 2003-2006 model years, but sales weren't great.
"Just tell 'em it saves ya money, bustah!"
This commercial for the early BRAT emphasizes the fun jump seats.
In Australia and New Zealand, it was known as the Brumby.
[Images: The Author]
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