Good morning, and happy Friday to you all! For our end of the week showdown, we have a Subaru truck, and… a Subaru truck. So let’s finish up with yesterday’s plain white sedans, so we can get to them:
A rare win for a lackluster Chrysler product! I’m not sure if that means it’s the better choice, or just less bad. But I agree; in my younger days I probably would have chosen the Accent for the manual, but now at fifty, I’m much more inclined to choose the comfy car. And compared to a Hyundai subcompact, that Stratus is like riding on a cloud. So to speak.
For today’s choices, I have the fine folks over at Opposite Lock to thank. I had already spotted one of them, but I had no idea what to put up against it, until Oppo members “Beefchips” and “Highlander” suggested the perfect idea: the same car, only newer. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks, fellas!
1980 Subaru Brat – $4,495
Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter overhead valve flat 4, four-speed manual, part-time 4WD
Location: Longview, WA
Odometer reading: 158,000 miles
Runs/drives? Excellent, they say
The Subaru Brat (or BRAT, for the pedantic, standing for “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transport”) is one of the most egregious vehicular tax dodges of all time. It’s a pickup truck; anyone with any sense of automobile taxonomy would call it a pickup truck, but because it technically seats four, Subaru circumvented the infamous “chicken tax,” a 25 percent tariff on light trucks. But wait, you’re about to ask, it’s a single-cab truck; where do those other two passengers ride?
In the back, of course, holding on to a pair of rubber-gripped “oh shit handles” for dear life. These seats were welded in place, so they could be called “permanent.” Many Brat owners cut them out to make full use of the bed. I’m actually surprised to see this one with its jump seats intact.
Inside the cab, the driver and the one passenger they actually like are treated to such luxuries as heat and seatbelts, and get to sit in these snazzy plaid seats. The vinyl is a bit cracked in places, but for its age, this thing is in remarkable shape inside. The seller says it runs and drives “excellent,” but leave extra time to get where you’re going – the little carbureted pushrod flat-four in this truck only makes 67 horsepower.
Cosmetically it looks pretty good, except for a little boop on the nose and some unevenly faded paint. I’ve always liked these early Subaru steel “wagon wheels,” too. And I like the brown; when I was a kid I had a Stomper 4×4 toy that looked just like this.
2006 Subaru Baja – $5,900
Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter overhead cam flat 4, five-speed manual, AWD
Location: Santa Fe, NM
Odometer reading: 199,000 miles
Subaru dropped the Brat in the US after the 1986 model year, and then went sixteen long years before offering another vehicle with a pickup bed: the Baja. This time it was based on the Outback station wagon, with four doors, so the rear-seat passengers could sit inside, out of the rain. This would have neatly avoided the chicken tax again, but the Baja didn’t need the help; it was built in Indiana.
This Baja is from the final year of production; the Baja is one of those vehicles that everyone loved the idea of, but nobody bought. Only 30,000 were sold. This one has a five-speed stick, but it doesn’t have the hot turbocharged engine that was available. It’s all wheel drive, of course, like every Subaru from the mid-90s onward.
The dealership selling it doesn’t give us a lot of information to go on regarding its condition, and it does have nearly 200,000 miles on it, but Subarus seem to hang in there all right, as long as you keep up on the maintenance. You would be wise to ask about the head gaskets, since they are this car’s mechanical Achilles heel. At this mileage, I would imagine they’ve been replaced once.
We don’t get many photos either, but from what we can see, it looks straight and undamaged, with only a couple of minor dings and some wear and tear inside. It’s kind of boring in silver; I prefer the yellow-and-silver two-tone Bajas myself.
Sadly, Subaru doesn’t make anything like the Brat or Baja anymore, and is unlikely to ever again. But as usual, the aftermarket has you covered: a company called Smyth Performance (which you might remember from the Charger ute we showed you last week) offers a DIY kit to turn an Impreza or WRX into something resembling a 21st century Brat. But if you’re unwilling to take a Sawzall to a perfectly good Subaru, you can always go for the factory option. You’ve got two eras to choose from. Which one will it be?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
Given the market for these, both are a really good price. I say get both. But really this is a super tough call… the third gen Legacy platform is one of the best Subarus ever, and that first-gen Brat is one of the cleanest original ones I’ve ever seen, not to mention it has the jump seats. Yes, definitely need to get both.
I’m a modern FancyBoy…. I’m going with the Baja…
I love the Gen 3 Legacy platform in wagon form, but I’ve always hated the looks of the Baja both for the Outback cladding and the overall lumpy appearance. The bed is integrated/El Caminoed so much better in the Brat.
The early BRAT all day. Those are impossible to find as they returned to the earth pretty quickly through the 80s.
Well, thank you for that Smyth link. Now I’m looking for bugeye WRXs to convert into a truck.
Rock me with them wagon wheels!
How is this poll close?
Do you people even have souls?
I briefly owned a 79 Brat; it got me through the infamous Blizzard of 96 without hassle. AWD plus skinny tires and light weight; it was almost unstoppable. I would love to have another.
Mine was missing the jump seats; I don’t think they were “welded in”, and the previous owner had removed them so he could fit a shell on it.
Fun fact: The spare tire is under the hood, crammed in there with the tiny Fuji engine.
I already have a Baja so Brat all the way!
Oh my gosh, that brown-over-brown scheme on the Brat is SPECTACULAR.
I went with the BRAT because these things are Unicorns, I haven’t seen one in 20 years!
I picked the Brat for the interior and bed seats alone, but realistically that Baja seems decent too. Having both would certainly make for an interesting conversation starter at your summer BBQs
I would eat so many brats in the back of that BRAT
It is hard to compare these vehicles. The Baja has high miles, but you could realistically use this as a daily driver until it breaks. It probably has some value as an oddity/collector car, but it is mostly a vehicle to be used as transportation. The Brat is clearly more of a fun toy/collector car at this point.
I think I will abstain from voting this time since I don’t want to choose between a collector car and a transportation appliance. If I have to pick one, though, I’ll take the 6th generation Ford pickup parked behind the Brat.
The baja is undoubtedly more practical, but I’m team BRAT
Schaper Stompers! I still have my red Chevy Luv one. Here’s a link to an image of one just like it:
As for my vote, today’s choices have muddied the waters with one collectable and one you could daily. I’ve chosen to go with the collectable vehicle with that awesome plaid interior. I think it would make a great project to get into even better condition, and would get some attention at a local meet.
I find both equally desirable, but had to go with the Baja as the more sensible choice. There’s lots of nostalgia vibe for the Brat, though.
Odd side note: I originally mistyped the word “nostalgia” as “nastalgia” and recognized it as an accidental portmanteau of “nasty” and “nostalgia”.
“Nastalgia (noun): Having fond feelings and memories for things that were not that great in reality.”
I think “nastalgia” would be a word perfectly describing my feelings for a lot of cars made in the the 1975-1985 malaise era. For instance, I still desperately yearn for an Aston Martin Lagonda and a Ferrari 400i. I also have fond memories of the malaise era Mopar products our family drove exclusively during that era.
I like it!
I love both of these. Both are great for their own reasons. I would buy them both.