America and Australia have a few things in common, despite being on opposite sides of the world. We’re both massive countries with wide stretches of open landscape. We both love cars—specifically muscle cars. And at one time, both countries had light trucks based on passenger cars, also called utes. America’s most popular ute was the Chevrolet El Camino, which ran through five generations from 1959 to 1987. By the late 1980s, America’s fascination with the ute dwindled as light trucks like the Ford Ranger and Toyota Pickup took over. Australia was able to keep the ute going another 30 years until the Holden Commodore finally ceased production in 2017, portending the end of the Holden brand altogether. El Camino values, for the most part, have been flat over the last several years, as the market has turned in favor Japanese cars over American muscle. In light of this shift, let’s take a look at Japan’s version of the ute: the Subaru BRAT.
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I don't believe I have ever seen a Subaru BRAT being used as a work truck. The high attrition rate is down to Subarus of forty years ago being a regional phenomenon in places with lots of snow combined with the cars being bereft of rust resistance.
I have a 2003 Subaru Baja (essentially a 4 door Brat). The car is solid and built like a tank. It has a door from the bed into the rear seat that I use to slide surfboards into. It is a surprisingly great car and hopefully it will go up in value and be worthwhile to maintain long term and become collectible. They were made in Lafayette, Indiana for the American market only. I have heard that Aussies are buying them and converting them to RHD.
We lived in 'rural' Alaska during the 70's and 80's. Subaru's were everywhere, mostly wagons. My wife was fed up with driving my CJ5 and wanted something 'nicer'? On a trip to Anchorage we stopped at a few car dealers and I swear that bronze-ish colored BRAT (as pictured above) winked at her. That little car went everywhere she wanted to go without objection. I fabricated a trailer hitch for it and could tow two snow machines with ease. Heck that BRAT even pulled my F250 out of a ditch. We kept it for 11 years and it was still running great - although I did replace the CV joint boot covers and front fenders as the rust worm got to them. I think we paid about 5K for it and sold it for 2K, not bad for 11 years.
I had a '79 Subaru wagon that I got from a rural postman. It had a 100K+ miles when I got it and other than a leaky rear main seal (very messy) it was a bullet proof motor. Living in Minnesota, the rust issue is a big one. Subarus always struck me as poorly detailed for water runoff. The on demand four wheel system was also bullet proof and worked great in light snow. The bottom of those cars had lots of bash plates that worked well but, more than once, got me high centered on heavy snow or slush. I had to carry a snow shovel to dig out snow from beneath the car to get the tires back down to the pavement.
I saw a BRAT on a used car lot in Missouri (I think) travelling from MI to TX this past week.
Its somewhere north of the AR state line with MO.
I commented on it and my wife, who was driving at the time, even offered to go back for look, This is the same wife who wont play "Wheeler Dealer"
We have had 5 Subies since 2003.
Loved my ‘79 Brat! It looked just like the photo! Lots of crazy stories and memories I could not have had with any other vehicle. Those rumble seats were a hoot and a chick magnet.
Being a senior in high school and getting freshmen girls out of gym class to do doughnuts on the football practice field, and dragging the baseball diamond with girls riding in the back.
Parking backwards at the drive-in movies while sitting in the rumble seats. Driving under an electric fence for the fence to drop behind the cab and fry my friends riding in back.
Making custom bumpers and a skid plate to skip across the sand and mud. Blasting sand dunes at the beach and when I got stuck on top of a dune the ones in back would jump out and lift the back bumper and down the other side I go leaving them spitting sand.
Go mudding with my buddy’s and while they had big pickups with monster mudder tires, I just got a running start to skip across on my skid plate.
Got stuck and had to call the tow truck only once, about 11pm in a Saturday night, hint-hint.
I could talk for hours about my Brat.
The only vehicle I truly miss, but I can’t bring those times back as they are only fond memories.