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Microwave Not Included: 1979 Subaru Brat

Subaru Brat

When it comes to utility vehicles, the Subaru Brat has to be one of the more interesting ones ever built. It was based on a Subaru station wagon, but with the rear roof section cut off. To get around the tariff placed on small trucks, Subaru mounted a set of jump seats in the back. It circumvented some taxes, but it was also dangerous passengers. In the past few years these things have actually gained some serious collector’s status. This 1979 Brat is in need of a new home, where it can receive some much needed love. It appears to have endured some rough times in its life, but has weathered the worst of it quite well. Someone started rebuilding the engine, but never finished. The seller didn’t provide any photos of the engine bay, but I see some vital engine parts in the truck bed, along with a microwave. Hopefully everything needed to make it run again is still here, but you won’t know until you start putting it back together. Have a look at this project here on eBay in Montague, California.

1979 Subaru Brat

Growing up in Wyoming, I had a close friend who lived on a large ranch. Included in their fleet of ranch trucks was a late model Subaru Brat. I have many fond memories of shooting trips in that beat up old Subaru. Riding in the rear jump seats was always an exciting and slightly terrifying adventure, especially with a group of firearm packing teenage boys. Even then I had heard stories of the damage inflicted to rear passengers in roll overs, so any time we approached a steep incline I would signal to the driver to stop so I could hop out of that truck and walk. While I feared roll overs, I was always impressed with how capable that little truck was on muddy and rutted up dirt roads. It put some of the newer trucks to shame with far less clearance. Sure it didn’t look that great, but it was dependable, fuel efficient, and could go just about anywhere.

Subaru Brat interior

The Brat was based on the Leone Wagon, which at the time was Subaru’s most popular model. In an attempt to capture some of the sale’s success Toyota and Nissan were seeing with their light duty trucks, Subaru decided to join the party. They didn’t have the means to develop an actual truck, so they simply modified the Leone. As a result, the Brat looks more El Camino or Ranchero than pickup. I’ve never been a particular fan of the later Brat’s styling, but I think these early model cars look quite nice. I wouldn’t mind having this one, of course only if it were running and driving. The 1.6 liter boxer four isn’t particularly powerful, but it is bulletproof and provides enough torque to keep them going up the steepest of grades. I wouldn’t plan on towing much of anything with it, but that’s the case for most light duty trucks.

Subaru Brat Project

This could actually make for a great little parts hauler. It is going to need work, but if it is all there it shouldn’t be too hard to get and keep running. It would be easy on the wallet and you could haul a decent amount of junk in the back. I’m a little concerned about what modifications may have been done to this one in the past, but since it’s going to need a restoration anyways, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. With no reserve and bidding at $200, it might be worth throwing in a bid! It could make for the perfect winter and hunting season beater! What do you think?


  1. Dolphin Member

    Not too surprising this Brat is in CA. I think most of these were bought by young guys who had surfboards and surfin’ girls to transport, mostly to beaches in CA. I don’t know too many wives who would want to sit in the open air facing where they just came from with little Suzie strapped into the seat next to them.

    I’m guessing that the only people who might want to restore one of these now is an ex-surfer, or maybe even a current surfer, who has some good memories of those times. I’m also guessing that these made for some colorful magazine ads and a youthful image for Subaru, but that the WRX has done a lot more for Subaru’s bottom line than the Brat did.

    That roll bar looks aftermarket. I don’t recall that these came with a roll bar, altho maybe one was a factory option. Anyone know?

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  2. DT

    Buy a wagon or sedan that runs and donate its motor to the Brat,these are hard to find and the back seats are even harder to find. These are basicaly Goliath motors

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    NO point to repair the engine, when you can by a low mileage container engine from Japan where they must stop driving the cars after it reaches about 60000 miles. So several car boneyards import Japanes engines, tranies steering assemblies and sell them for a few hundred dollars and they are complete with everything on them, power steering pump ect. I have bought several of them and they are of exellent shape. It would cost much more to repair the original one in parts alone, than this junkyard engine cost. You can get all the Japanes made engines at this places, they fill up 40 foot ocean containers with them.

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  4. jim s

    another posting where the vehicles in the background are as interesting as the featured car. i would go for the newest ready to drive Brat i could find. i see this at it’s current bid as good buy on a parts car. nice find

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  5. Will

    Of course this car is in California. It has very low rate of survivability elsewhere. These cars rusted on the showroom floor. Anywhere but California and this car would be a big unrecognizable pile of rust. Not worth putting money into unless its just something you need to complete your collection.

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  6. vince Habel

    In PA they were classified as a car because of the seats in the bed. It cost much less to register than a truck. i had a friend that had one and it held up very well.

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  7. Robert J.

    Back around ’84. I had a friend who ran a janitorial company using a Brat to transport his floor buffer. The seats had to go to make room, so he donated them to my sears 8hp go-kart restoration project. They made for excellent go-kart seats and to my young mind were as good as Recaros for the kart. Dirt road. Good times.

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  8. gerry S. Member

    Not sure where Viking got his info from but here in Japan there is no rule about stop driving vehicles at the 100,000km (60,000mi) there was a rule that made older cars more expensive to keep on the road by making the inspection requirements yearly vice ever two years but that has been gone for quite a while and the only thing now is the Japan version of the cash for clunkers has made cars over 13yrs old have higher annual taxes. Back on topic the Brat was never offered here in Japan and I would love to have one I have only found one very nice example that was reverse imported and it was well over $10k hell even the Leone’s are rare as hens teeth here.

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  9. skloon

    A buddy has an ec36 and 6 speed that is going wanting, this is ideal

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  10. thefatkid

    Bidirectional recreational all-terrain Transport = BRAT. some of the scariest rides in my life have been in the back jump seat of a Brat. I’m with Viking, why rebuild just buy a new motor for 600 bucks… What scares me about this vehicle is all the missing parts. Sure they will have boxes of junk but how much will be useable

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