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Classic Car Cultist: Subaru BRAT

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On: Tue, Nov 8, 2011 at 3:13PM | By: Chris Salamone

Classic Car Cultist: Subaru BRAT

Remember that insanely popular kid from high school? The one with the mullet and cigarette pack carefully rolled into his sleeve? What made him popular was not that outlandish haircut, and certainly not any strange ability to communicate better than the rest of us, nor was it the product of a highly confused and misguided generation. Instead, his claim to fame can only be attributed to the one universally recognized symbol of a ‘top of the food chain’ status. Say hello to the Subaru BRAT.

The BRAT, a clever acronym for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter, was a car which defied categorization. Part car, part utility truck, Subaru essentially chopped the rear top off of the company’s four-wheel drive station wagon and released the BRAT as a competitor for the then heavily popular Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero market.

Just like any good ‘free market’, the United States nearly thwarted Subaru’s BRAT plan with a nifty piece of legislation nicknamed the Chicken Tax, which placed hefty tariffs on light trucks in response to international tariffs place by France and Germany on our US Chickens purchased abroad. To avoid paying 25% tariffs, Subaru welded two hilariously inadequate jumpseats into the BRAT’s cargo area so that the vehicle could be classified as a passenger car – with a much friendlier 2.5% tariff.

Subaru’s BRAT sold in the United States from 1978 until 1993 and received all kinds of strange consumer adaptions during that time. People equipped them with monster truck tires, camper tops, and unique paint jobs. For a brief period, R/C cars could be modeled to scale as miniature versions of the BRAT.

The vehicle’s popularity has waxed and waned over the years, but there have been some quite notable highlights. President Ronald Reagan owned a 1978 BRAT until 1998, which he kept at his beloved Santa Barbara ranch. The NBC show My Name is Earl showcases a red, white, and blue BRAT driven by character Joy Turner. As far as movies go, BRATs can be found in Napoleon Dynamite, Knight Rider, and The Goonies – films which span several generations of cult-obsessed cinephiles.

During the early- to mid-2000s, Subaru tried to reignite the BRAT with a newly-minted modeled called Baja. Unfortunately, the Baja met a quick demise in 2006 and BRAT enthusiasts were forced to once again rummage the dust bins of not-quite-vintage used car ads to find their idea of heaven on dirt. Just fewer than 300 have sold on eBay Motors in the last two years with prices averaging from $3,400 to $5,700. Nevertheless, Subaru’s truck/car/station wagon remains a vehicle worthy of admiration and a certain kind of respect, spelled B.R.A.T.

Check out this dodgy, yet convincing 1982 ad featuring Ruth Gordon and one sharp BRAT:

Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge)



dwalter | 3:25PM (Tue, Nov 8, 2011)

very cool!


Stephy21 | 9:11AM (Wed, Nov 9, 2011)

I love the name B.R.A.T it fits it very good.

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