Everyone appreciates a vintage off-roader. But Broncos, Defenders, and Land Cruisers will cost you dearly in this day and age. Pristine, capable and legendary just isn’t going to happen on a budget.
You can still get something rare, quirky, and fun on the cheap, however: check out this 1986 Subaru BRAT pickup currently up for auction on Bring a Trailer.
BRAT, for the record, stands for “bi-drive recreational all-terrain transporter.” This truck was a light-duty pickup Subaru sold in the U.S. from 1977 to 1987. It’s basically a Subie version of the Chevy El Camino — a car where the Japanese company took a two-door wagon, chopped the top off the back, and made a truck. It was sort of the 1970s equivalent of the Subaru Baja. Ronald Reagan once owned a BRAT; one also makes a brief appearance in the film Napoleon Dynamite.
Yes, those are horrifically unsafe open-air jump seats in the cargo bed. Subaru used those as a ploy to get this vehicle classified as a passenger car instead of a truck to avoid the 25 percent “chicken tax” tariff that the federal government slapped on imported light trucks in 1964. Subaru had stopped including them on the BRAT by 1986, but this Subie has the seats from a previous model retrofitted. Other notable stock peculiarities include the t-top with removable glass panels and the spare tire mounted under the hood. The seller also added a winch.
For extra rarity, this Subie has a swapped-in EA-81S engine from the early 1980s. That gets paired with a four-speed manual transmission and a four-wheel-drive transfer case, to create a capable (if not very powerful) off-roader.
The high bid on this 1986 BRAT, as of this writing, is still under $7,000. Sadly, while it is a California car and California seems like the ideal place to enjoy the BRAT’s open-air majesty, the seller asserts that it will not pass California smog regulations.
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