The Subaru Brat is the automotive equivalent of a teenager with a mullet: weird, a little reckless but brimming with enough self-confidence to make it cool.

The Brat came from Subaru's desire to compete in the burgeoning light pickup market of the late-1970s. To get around the so-called Chicken Tax that added a 25 percent tariff on imported pickup trucks, Subaru threw two seats in the bed, which technically allowed it to be classified it as a passenger car. The result was a great, weird combination of a complete lack of safety, with a low price and lots of driving fun.

In the video below, Motor Trend's Jonny Lieberman takes a 1978 Brat through the desert and shows just how much fun a little pickup can be.


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  • 35 Comments
      DriveThis
      • 10 Months Ago
      While I was a teenage lad, one of my friends had a Brat. We would play this fun game in a field where two guys would sit in the back seats with the tailgate down. The driver would put the car in reverse and back up as fast as possible, then slam on the brakes. Whoever didn't fall out of the bed of the truck won.
      • 10 Months Ago
      [blocked]
      gary
      • 10 Months Ago
      Subaru should do it again. There's absolutely zero competition in the small, efficient, personal pickup market anymore. The Baja didn't work because it was butt-ugly and expensive. A modern-day Brat off the Impreza/Crosstrek platform would be alone it it's segment. Check out this artist's concept of what a modern BRAT could be: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/Bantum69/Auto/XV%20UTE%202013/SubaruXV-Ute2013-sc3.jpg
        gary
        • 10 Months Ago
        @gary
        Another angle: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/Bantum69/Auto/XV%20UTE%202013/SubaruXV-Ute2013-sc4.jpg
      Joe K
      • 10 Months Ago
      Really? he is an auto writer/commentator and he doesn't understand the difference between AWD and 4WD? Love the Brat, don't like him.
      inuvik
      • 10 Months Ago
      This was one tough little beast. In 1980 my friend and I drove to the very top of Steens Mt. In SE Oregon in his Jeep CJ. In those days you could drive to the very top all the way to the communication towers at the 9900 ft level. To say this was a trail would be a generous statement. It took over a hour to go the last mile (low range, low gear crawling). Huge rocks, drop offs, washouts, extremely steep in places. So here we are sitting at the peak of the Steens, the highest point you could drive to in Oregon and we hear this noise get closer and closer. Metal banging at times and a it sounds like a little import car revved up. We look at each and say "What the Hell is that noise?". In about 30 seconds a Subaru Brat comes bouncing up this rocky 20%+ incline trail just be bopping along scraping underneath, bouncing off boulders. He pulls right along side of us at the top and says "wow that's a bad road!". I had never seen a Brat until that day. Neither my friend or I had a clue what this amazing little tank was. He showed us it had real 4WD with a 2 speed transfer case. Jump seats in the bed with the handles to hold on to. Crazy crazy vehicle. After about 10 minutes he took off down the hill smacking all the skid plates on the way. It made a impression on me, a 18yr old kid, that's for sure.
      Hi There Paul
      • 10 Months Ago
      Like we'll ever see another small pickup in this country.
      Pauline Overby
      • 10 Months Ago
      I had one. amazing amount of fun. But that engine was garbage, It came with a one year warranty. I took it hunting geese in Canada, the engine heads cracked. No support in Canada, buy the time I got it back to MPLS, MN. And called Subaru it was on day 366. I was told in no uncertain terms that the warranty expired yesterday, you on your own. Never considered Subaru anything but junk since then. I repaired the engine and traded the car, it went to the Subaru dealer wholesale, and blew at engine again. FUN but JUNK.
        Jeff Gilleran
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Pauline Overby
        They only had problems cracking heads if the valves were not properly adjusted at the right intervals. All manual adjustment, no hydraulic yet. It could be caused by the valves being set too tight by a uncareful mechanic burning an exhaust valve creating backfiring, wiping out the head through warping. If on the intake side, the engine would backfire through the carb, but mostly causing stalls. Nasty either way. They weren't really junk, just particular about maintenance. My aunt had 300k on hers and it still ran great when she sold it. She regrets selling it. Bought it new in 1978.
      Avinash Machado
      • 10 Months Ago
      Future collectible.
      Sanchez
      • 10 Months Ago
      LOVE
      thedriveatfive
      • 10 Months Ago
      Its awesome! It was my second car so I may be a bit biased.
      Robert Wantin
      • 10 Months Ago
      Great stuff. Makes me miss my seemingly indestructible '85, the last year for the rear seats. I had, by far, the coolest lawn chair in the entire apartment complex.
      bK
      • 10 Months Ago
      So much unique experimental cars back in the day
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