Home » Cold Start: BRAT Best, Not Bratwurst

Cold Start: BRAT Best, Not Bratwurst


I was tooling around town with the kiddo in the Changli this weekend when we happened to pass this wonderful specimen, what looked to be a survivor, unrestored Subaru BRAT, a facelifted one that still had the incredible jump seats in the bed, making it somewhere between an ’83 and an ’86 car. I love these things.


It’s the seats that really make it for me: they’re such a wonderfully absurd loophole-jumping ploy, as they made the BRAT into a passenger car instead of a pickup truck, and as such weren’t subject to the cruel 25% Chicken Tax. 

The lack of seatbelts is exciting, but even better are those terror-grip handles with their BMX-style rubber grips, designed to be held, white knuckled, as your shirtless, chain-smoking cousin drives like a maniac, splashing into the deepest possible puddles and potholes in the gravel roads behind your uncle’s property.

That drain hole in the middle there likely works for urine as well as rainwater, as I bet has been tested many, many times over the decades.


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38 Responses

  1. Those handles would have been handy in my past. Had an older sister who loved to toss us around the back of her Toyota pickup as much as possible including brake checks. She mostly just didn’t want to have to bring us with her anywhere and we eventually didn’t want to go with her anywhere. Also had a friend with an old Dodge Ram who got it airborne with me in the back because.. 16 year olds.
    I probably should have worn a football helmet daily for a good portion of my childhood.

  2. Come on folks! You’ve never ridden in a pickup bed? It’s the best!
    I worked at a Subaru dealer back when these things came out and I can promise you almost no one got killed riding in those seats…

      1. Every time I visit Hawaii, I still see people riding around in pickup beds. Don’t know if it’s strictly legal there or what, but I saw people doing it as recently as 2019.

        One of my earliest memories is riding in the bed of my dad’s 1952 Chevy 3100 pickup circa 1974 or so. I had an earache at the time, so I was pressing my ear against the back of the cab to keep the wind from blowing into it too hard.

  3. I’m assuming FMVSS don’t allow something like the rear seats anymore?

    I can kinda imagine, given the brand’s mojo, the Jeep Gladiator having a similar setup as an option.

    But I also imagine if even allowed, to pass regulatory requirements, they’d have to be permanently affixed/not removable, and not enough people would opt for it since it would take up the already limited bed space.

    Too bad, as it could wind up eventually being an Aztec camp tent-level curiosity.

    1. Well be reasonable once you’ve been stopped speeding, and the trooper notices the open beer and cooler, the whiff of pot, and the your wife/girlfriend crying and a blackeye those seats are the least of your problems.

  4. Picked up a 1990 model Brumby (AgQuip edition!) back in January. The carbureted 1.8L has surprising pace from what I’m used to from the era.
    Here in Australia we didn’t have any Chicken Tax nonsense, so no weird jump seats for us.

  5. Is it still on its original head gaskets? 😉

    Time to repeal the lame-ass chicken tax, and also accept the international UNECE standards too.

  6. You can narrow that down to 84-86 since the ’83 cars had a slightly different grill. I have such a love-hate relationship with the Brat… My first car was an ’84 GL and those are mostly extinct in the US, I think because people cannibalized them for Brat parts. Well, that and they rusted and didn’t hold up very well.

    1. I’m confused no link 1 picture no drain hole or grill picture. Although bad take if you got a urine drain hole you generally have a cooler permanently mounted in the back.
      There is an old saying from this age “fuck the passengers I’m just worried about the beer”.

  7. Those two seats in the back look sketchy. I wonder how many dudes ended up bouncing on their own nuts after going over a bump. No thanks.

  8. Maybe if GM had the balls to install those jump seats, the El Camino may have survived!

    You gotta hand it so Subaru with this thing, crazy configuration, and crazy name.

  9. I remember these had little trap doors in front of the rear wheel, spring loaded, which you would push in with your foot and get a foothold to climb into the bed/rear seats.

  10. That looks like a thing one should buy if it is not too rusty.
    The original seat belts probably died for UV rays.
    This needs saving and new belts for the terror riders.

  11. I was on a jury for a defendant who among other things, fled the sheriffs in a Brat. During the trial, the officer praised the Brat as a getaway vehicle as it crashed through a chain link fence gate, drove through a field of manzanita and only stopped when it ran into trees to close to pass through.

  12. When I was a kid my dad had a rule banning me from riding in the back of pickups. This rule was a result of a bunch of us 7 and 8yos climbing over the tailgate to stand on the bumper and hanging over the edge of the bed rails trying to stick things in the tires as my grandfather’s truck was going down the road. Anyways, one day my friend’s dad comes home with a pickup with seats in the bed!!! To my 8yo mind this was obviously a safety conscious individual and surely my dad’s rule didn’t apply to THIS truck, right?

    Looking back on it as an adult, all of the things my friend’s dad did back then, he most certainly was NOT a safety conscious individual, but that Brat was still cool as shit though.

  13. I had one exactly like this one years ago. 84, same blue paint, same T-tops. Loved it. Rust was the undoing of it. The rear shocks literally busted through the rear fender well in the bed.

  14. Those handles – like any grab bar – are, and always shall be, called “holy shit handles”.

    If you’re using them before necessary, you’re only making the driver nervous.

      1. Driver has one eye on the trail, one on the bobbleheads in the rearview. If they don’t see flailing arms, it means they’re on the handles.

  15. I used to love riding in the back of my dad’s BRAT as a kid. I was so sad when he sold it when I was 15 because I was really hoping it would be my first car.

  16. In the snowbelt, these BRAT seats were ONLY for kid brothers. Nobody you wanted to talk to again would be subjected to ride there. Too cold/hot, too hard plasticky seats, too windy, too wet (if snowed or rained that prior week), too loud and absolutely no way to hear the tunes on the radio or even carry on a conversation to your littler brother next to you.

    1. It’s the kind of thing I would’ve loved to ride in but I wouldn’t let my kids ride in. By that science, I’m pretty sure that makes them great?

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