Subaru has always thought outside the box. Pistons pointing sideways, spare tires under the hood for traction in winter, plaid seating, seats in the bed of a pickup truck, 4WD as an option on all models, a third headlight hidden behind the emblem on the grille. You would think there are arbitrary options throughout the company’s history but in fact they are all features available on one model, the Subaru BRAT. Sans the “cyclops” light, this also happens to be a list of features on a particular 1980 Subaru BRAT found on Craigslist Pittsburgh.
Subaru launched its quasi-competitor to the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino in 1978, called it the BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) in America or the Brumby in Australia.
At the time the American offerings had rear wheel drive only and toted woefully underpowered 351 and 305 cubic inch engines, but the Subaru offering came with a bulletproof 1.6L EA71 OHV engine. The BRAT made only 68hp, but coming from 1.6 liters (97 cubic inches), it was a hell of a lot more bang for your buck than the 125hp being produced in the El Camino.
Mated to a 4WD transmission and operating as FWD when in 2WD mode, it was more desirable to the layman who was looking for a fun go-around truck that could make it through the snow or some light off roading.
During Subaru USA’s formative years, the company was known for being utilitarian and bare bones, more or less living by the belief of form following function. Upon arrival of the EA71 generation of Subarus in the mid 70s they were equipped with many, often luxurious, options as standard equipment, even on the standard DL models. This BRAT is a top-of-the-line GL model, however, as noted from the quad headlights. The interior shows its top-spec options with an awesome brown plaid interior.
The Brat also had seating for four, unlike the American options. Yes, the other two seats are in the bed, and they are called “jumpseats” by Subaru. Not only are they in the bed, when the BRAT was first introduced they were advertised as being so comfortable and free of wind that you could read a newspaper back there. This was later confirmed by Subaru USA during a publicity stunt.
The jumpseat idea obviously would not fly on a modern car, and it’s likely that Ralph Nader had a crisis during the seven years these were available. The jumpseats were later discontinued in 1985, 2 years prior to the end of the BRAT outright in the United States.
The Subaru BRAT was a very popular car in it’s time, often used for off roading or as rancher’s work trucks, even Ronald Reagan had one at his ranch. The chassis was getting updated along with the rest of their line throughout the 1980s with the addition of new options and technologies. The engine options also began to vary as time went on, with each engine becoming more powerful, and still being based off the original EA71 68 HP 1.6L flat 4. With EA81 in 1981, they raised displacement to 1.8L making 73 HP while still retaining the pushrod OHV design of the heads, in time adding their first ever turbocharged option to this engine and bumping power to 95 HP.
With only 15,80o miles This BRAT is among the cleanest examples in private ownership, likely equal to the white promotional vehicle owned by Subaru USA themselves. It’s also very well equipped, with the optional topper, sought-after factory steel 8-spoke wheels, manual 4WD transmission, that awesome plaid interior, original vinyl graphics on the side, and even the original books in their plastic wrapping. If you’re interested in owning a piece of Subaru history and one of the most fun trucks around, follow the link here to contact the owner. The asking price is $10,500.