Subaru BRAT

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The Subaru BRAT (acronym for “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter”) is a light-duty, four-wheel drive[1] coupé utility,[2] version of the Subaru Leone originally introduced in 1977. The BRAT was developed directly from the company's four-wheel drive station wagon model and was first introduced as a 1978 model – following the concept of coupe utilities such as the Chevrolet El Camino and the Ford Ranchero. The BRAT is also known as a Brumby, MV Pickup or Shifter depending on where it was sold. The vehicle was sold from 1978 until 1994.


All BRAT's had four-wheel drive and the Subaru EA engine. Early models received the 1.6 litre EA-71, whereas 1981 and later models received a 1.8 litre EA-81 engine. The 1983 and 1984 models could be purchased with an optional 94 hp (70 kW) turbocharged engine. Manual transmissions were standard on all models, and an automatic transmission was available on turbocharged BRAT's. The 1980 and earlier models had a single-range transfer case, while 1981 and later GL models had a dual-range transfer case (DL's still had single range), and all turbocharged models were equipped with a 3 speed automatic transmission with a single-range, push-button, four-wheel drive.

First generation[edit]

First Generation
Subaru BRAT / Brumby / MV Pickup Gen I
Also calledSubaru 1400
Subaru 1600
Body and chassis
Body style2-door pickup truck
Layoutfront-wheel drive
all-wheel drive optional
Engine1.6 L EA71 OHV H4 (A33/34/67)
Transmission4-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Wheelbase2,455 mm (96.7 in)
Length3,995 mm (157.3 in)
Width1,500 mm (59.1 in)
Height1,385 mm (54.5 in)
Curb weight775 kg (1,709 lb)

Developed in Japan in 1977 at the request of the President of Subaru of America, the BRAT was introduced to match the demand for small trucks in North America, in order to compete against other manufacturers, such as Toyota, Nissan, and Mazda. Unlike trucks from other manufacturers, all BRATs had four-wheel drive, as they were developed from the existing Leone station wagon.[2] When the Leone was redesigned in 1979 for the 1980 model year, the BRAT continued with the original Gen I body until 1982.[1]

Jump seats[edit]

Subaru BRAT rear jump seats

North American and Canadian BRAT models featured carpeting in addition to welded-in rear-facing plastic jump seats in the cargo area. The seats were a ploy[3][4][5] to circumvent a punitive tariff on light trucks known as the Chicken tax. The plastic seats in the cargo bed allowed Subaru to classify the BRAT as a passenger car, rather than as a light truck. This significantly reduced the costs of importing BRATS to North America, as passenger cars were charged a 2.5% import tariff, while light trucks were charged a ten times higher 25% import tariff. They were discontinued after the 1986 model year.

Second generation[edit]

Second Generation
Subaru BRAT / Brumby / MV Pickup Gen II
Also called
  • Subaru 284
  • Subaru Brumby
  • Subaru Shifter
  • Subaru MV
  • Subaru Targa
  • Subaru Pickup
Production1982 – 1994
Model years1981–1994
Body and chassis
Body style2-door coupe utility
RelatedSubaru Leone
Wheelbase2,456 mm (96.7 in)
Length4,424 mm (174.2 in)
Width1,620 mm (63.8 in)
Height1,415 mm (55.7 in)
Curb weight1,000 kg (2,205 lb)
SuccessorSubaru Baja
Subaru BRAT Targa Top

The BRAT was restyled in 1981 and the jump seats were discontinued after the 1985 model year. The BRAT was re-introduced with a rise in popularity of small trucks being sold in the United States, primarily from Toyota, Nissan, and Mazda. Production continued into 1994 but ceased to be imported to North America in 1987. It was also known as the Brumby in Australia and New Zealand and the MV Pickup / Shifter in the UK. Imports to Europe, Australia (from 1978), and New Zealand continued until February 1994. The BRAT was not sold in Japan and was manufactured for export markets.


The early 1980s saw the introduction of a second Gen Targa-Top version. It also had other features, such as: a spring-loaded hidden door, for a side step into the cargo bed; and a spare tire mounted under the hood.

In Australia there were specialty features: Ag-quip / packages with graphics, Roo bar, sump guard & rear step bar. Wagon wheels were also optional.


It was an export-only model, never being officially sold in Japan. Due to this, the BRAT became a popular grey import vehicle in Japan.

There were several locations that manufactured the vehicle:

Subaru never considered marketing the BRAT in their home market, due to a truncating demand of pickup trucks that had been occurring since the late 1970s. The declining demand came as a result of Japanese customers shifting to station wagons at that time.

In 1987, exports to North America ceased, but exports to Europe, Australia, Latin America, and New Zealand continued until 1994.

Notable owners[edit]

President Ronald Reagan owned a 1978 BRAT until 1998, which he kept at his ranch near Santa Barbara, California. The vehicle has since been restored and returned to the ranch, which is now owned by the Young America's Foundation.[6]


There have been several private enterprises that have used the BRAT / Brumby / MV Pickup in Motorsport events:

  • 2014: Settlement Creek—Brumby desert racer.
  • 2018: Freddie Flintoff chose a 1985 BRAT during an electric vehicle challenge on Top Gear series 27. Unlike the other vehicles, Flintoff kept the petrol engine in situ, as well as installing a Tesla power-plant.
  • 2020: 1988 Drag Brumby—fastest EJ powered vehicle.[7]

Future concepts[edit]

There were no third generation BRAT/Brumby/MV pickups as the range was discontinued after 1987.

Subaru did, however, reveal a concept pickup in 1993 called the Suiren and later on in 2002, the automaker released a similar pickup vehicle called the Baja.


  1. ^ a b James M. Flammang (1994). Standard Catalog of Imported Cars, 1946-1990. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, Inc. p. 589. ISBN 0-87341-158-7.
  2. ^ a b ワールド・カー・ガイド28: スバル [World Car Guide #28: Subaru] (in Japanese), Tokyo, Japan: Neko Publishing, 1998, p. 71, ISBN 978-4-873661-73-5
  3. ^ Dwayne Bray (June 20, 1995). "Jury Selection Begins in Negligence Trial Over Crash of Subaru Brat". LA Times.
  4. ^ Paul Elias (September 21, 1995). "Man Paralyzed in Accident Awarded $1.7 Million by Jury". LA Times.
  5. ^ Todd C. Frankel (July 6, 2018). "The strange case of Ford's attempt to avoid the 'chicken tax'". Washington Post.
  6. ^ "The Presidential BRAT", Drive – The Magazine from Subaru, Winter 2009
  7. ^ Drag Brumby

External links[edit]