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History of the 1978-1993 Subaru Brat
In the late 1970s, Subaru was beginning to understand that all-wheel-drive in a passenger car would become its signature feature and main selling point. Up to 1978, Subaru offered a line of small, inexpensive economy passenger cars and 4WD station wagons. That year, the Japanese automaker introduced the BRAT - a multi-purpose vehicle that would eventually rise to cult status.
The BRAT was based on the same passenger car underpinnings as the rest of the Subaru line, but was designed with a pickup truck bed similar to the concept behind the Chevrolet El Camino or Ford Ranchero. While the BRAT nameplate reflected the irreverent and sporty nature of the marketing for the new vehicle, the name is also an acronym for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter.
The BRAT was given a sturdy 4WD drivetrain based on the same 1600 cc engine used in all Subaru DL vehicles of the era. The engine was rated at 67 hp and 81 lb-ft of torque through 1981, when Subaru changed its designation to GL and upgraded to a standard 1.8-liter engine with 73 hp and 94 lb-ft of torque.
All standard BRAT models received a 4-speed manual transmission with a transfer case actuated by a lever in the passenger compartment. From 1978 to 1980 the 4WD system was a single range unit, but when the GL 1.8-liter engine was introduced, the 4WD system became dual-range for more effective off-roading. For the 1983 and 1984 model years, buyers could also opt for a turbocharged version of the 1.8-liter engine at 95 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. This engine came exclusively with a 3-speed automatic transmission and a push-button actuated single range 4WD system.
From 1978 to 1985, the bed area was outfitted with two rear-facing seats with handlebars, emphasizing the BRAT’s usability for off-road sports. The BRAT received a mid-cycle refresh in 1982 to bring the body styling up to match Subaru’s other passenger cars and wagons. After that, the BRAT remained virtually unchanged to the end of production. While overseas production continued to 1993, the BRAT was last imported to the United States in 1987.
Today, the BRAT has achieved cult status among Subaru 4WD enthusiasts, and it is prized for its small size and great capability. Enthusiasts have transplanted later Subaru drivetrains into the BRAT, giving it far more power, and upgraded the suspension to make the vehicle even tougher in off-road conditions.
1978 Subaru Brat (Truck) Info
2dr Pickup 4x4
4-cyl. 1595cc/67hp 2bbl
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