It stood out among the sea of muscle cars that surrounded it. Like an oasis in a parched desert, it was the rarest of sights. Complete with backward-facing rear seats, a wooden JDM steering wheel, and Gucci seat covers, this second generation Subaru BRAT beckoned me closer.
I had never seen one of these unicorns in person before and I’m glad that Chance’s was the first one. The patina along with the tasteful modifications and additions only added to this “not quite car” yet “not quite truck” beast.
The name is an acronym for “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter”, much like the NSX stands for “New” “Sportscar” “eXperimental”. One of the standout features of the BRAT was the plastic seats in the cargo bed, a fantastic example of the zero regard for well-being that automotive manufacturers had at the time. The real reason for their existence was so Subaru could classify the BRAT as a passenger car rather than a light truck, thereby avoiding the “Chicken tax” on light trucks. This reduced tariffs from 25% for light trucks to 2.5% of passenger cars.
Chance’s first encounter with a BRAT happened way back in the day when he learned to drive one in the Montana snow.
“It was a first generation so it was a little smaller but basically the same thing. It was my girlfriend’s step mom’s car and I thought it was amazing but she thought it was the ugly yellow creature. Most all kids in Montana got old Subies for their first cars then as they were cheap and plentiful in those parts.”
This particular BRAT was in driven condition but overall in good shape. Then again, this is an off-road pickup truck so NOT driving it would be ruder than putting it to the test. As one should immediately do when buying a car that witnessed the Berlin Wall in one state or another, Chance replaced every bushing and refreshed the suspension components to assure that his spine would survive California potholes. After the rains of a few months ago, that’s a sound investment.
It unfortunately did not come with its trademark jump seats at the time of purchase, but that was nothing that the internet couldn’t solve. He swapped the stock carburetor for a Weber, installed a new fuel regulator, a distributor from 2wd Subaru XT for a better torque curve, advanced the timing 8⁰, and installed a custom 2″ unequal length long-tube merged header system to “embellish and emphasize that unique Subaru firing order sound”.
“I kept everything as stock as I could or at least period correct-looking to pay homage to the greatness of EA81 Subarus.”
And can we talk about the Gucci seat covers?! Apparently they’re just a temporary solution for worn seats but they just fit the interior color scheme soooo well that frankly I think they should be a permanent feature. Am I crazy? I mean yes, but still.
As is to expected, this bratty BRAT draws looks and breaks necks at any show it attends. Chance tells me that when fellow owners (or BRAT Daddies as he calls them for reasons I’m probably better off not knowing), the hooning stories come out. It’s a BRAT thing, you wouldn’t get it.
It was clear from the way he looked at it that Chance loves this thing. It’s the kind of adoration for a comparatively unexciting car that would seem strange to someone outside of the automotive enthusiast space. To us though, it’s as common as rust on a 70s Datsun.
“She’s definitely a keeper. I’m always progressing on it and never will finish. Never for sale but maybe an even trade for something that someone loves just as much. That way, it would make for a cool story on why I don’t have the BRAT anymore.”
Right about here is when I try to come up with some clever or slightly sarcastic way of ending the article but in this case, Chance did it for me. Hell, maybe I should hand the website to him if this is the kind of content he can write up.
“This BRAT is like its owner: an obscure, smaller, highly capable hybrid creature born in the 80s that obviously knows how to party, has a great sense of humor, and can carry a couple of ladies on its back.”
Damn right brother.
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