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No Rust? 1978 Subaru Brat DL 4×4

“Our 4 wheel drive Brat is even more fun than any other car on the road today. Or off the road for that matter. Just the flick of a lever inside the car will shift the Brat, even while in motion, from full-time front wheel drive to 4 wheel drive. And that’s up to 50 MPH. How’s that for a switch.” So says a 1978 Subaru brochure. This Brat is listed here on eBay where you’d expect to find them in abundance: Tacoma, Washington. The current bid price is just $3,550 and there is no reserve.

At first glance, this two-headlight DL model (GLs had four headlights) Brat (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) looks like a time capsule, with straight lines, nice Cashmere Beige paint, and no visible rust in the usual places. Then I noticed the grayish-looking area on the passenger door and right fender and was wondering if that was rust repair, dent repair, or why that area was repainted. There’s a similar area by the gas door on the left rear quarter and around the left rear wheel well.

Sadly, the seller doesn’t pop the rear hatch and open the tailgate to show any photos inside what we called a “topper” growing up in the upper Midwest. Most people probably refer to that as a cap or shell, and the seller says it’s a “camper.” They talk about it quite a bit but don’t show the inside at all. Bummer. This is the first model year for the Brat, or BRAT, and it really does look like a nice one. Hagerty is at $13,300 for a #3 good-condition example, so even if (when) this one gets new paint, which it would under my ownership, it should be able to be under that number, depending on what the seller’s reserve is.

I’m not surprised to see a few issues with the driver’s seat, that’s pretty common for these cars. Even though I’m usually a stickler for keeping things original spec, I would probably add some later Subaru plaid fabric. The dash appears to have a crack and that worries me more, but anything can be fixed if you put enough money into it. Speaking of that, Hagerty is at $23,700 for a #2 excellent Brat.

This is really the only visible rust, on the bottom of the door seams and it doesn’t look bad at all. The only other rust is shown in the photo of the roof. The seller also didn’t include an engine photo (I know), and that’s always disappointing when they took the time to show so many others. This one should have Subaru’s EA71, a 1.6-liter boxer-four with 65 horsepower and 81 lb-ft of torque. This one has a four-speed manual and it reportedly “runs and drives good.” If it’s as rust-free as they say, this is a good buy. Any thoughts on this Brat?


  1. Avatar photo Richard Olmsted

    Hey owner,
    I love it. Can you help me afford it ?
    73 y.o. in Nevada. I would care for it well
    Let me know if we can talk.

    Like 9
    • Avatar photo Steve

      The owner will probably never see your comment. Helpful hint, post it on eBay.

      Like 2
  2. Avatar photo Dakota Always

    Looks like some good old fashion 70’s fun. Love to have it. Whoopti do for my Subaru.

    Like 4
  3. Avatar photo numskal Member

    Shouldn’t there be rear facing seats in the bed? I noticed “the ranch brat” logo on the camper roof, so it may have had an easier life than most of its siblings (people I knew that had one were off-roaders and beat them hard)

    Like 3
  4. Avatar photo Big C

    These Subaru’s rotted out faster than a meth heads teeth. The owners must have washed, then air dried it after every outing. You don’t see these anywhere, around my parts.

    Like 17
  5. Avatar photo HoA Member

    “Faster than a meth heads teeth”,,,that’s a new one. Considering my limited liking of Asian cars, this was not one of them. I always embraced the fact of a 4×4 that WASN’T a gas hog, and the BRAT was probably one of the 1st. Its biggest downfall, aside from the rust,,,faster than a meth heads teeth,( good one), was lack of covered space. The cap, camper, or shell, whatever, fixed all that. The seats in the box were useless, and only there to make it skirt regulations, and sold as a car. Today, I don’t think it matters. This car still has all the things I don’t care for in Asian cars, but the 4×4 and covered bed more than make up for it. I love my Jeep, but for about the same price, could be equally as happy with this.
    Now, how ’bout parts? I’d have to think aftermarket mechanical should be as good as any. Good luck on any body replacements however.

    Like 4
  6. Avatar photo Troy

    I don’t recall if this year had a 5 digit odometer or not but I think the mileage is higher based on the aftermarket gauge in the one dash picture and get rid of that canopy

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo justpaul

    It’s not at all uncommon to find Brats with the rear seats missing. They were useless for adults, fun for children for about 5 seconds, and ate up a good bit of the already limited bed space. I knew a guy in NJ who cut his out the day he bought the thing so that he could try to squeeze a dirt bike into the back of it.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, this is what the Baja should have been: Small, nimble, and useful enough for the average homeowner who doesn’t want a Honda Ridgeline for the monthly run to Home Depot or Petco. I’ve always like the second generation bodylines better myself, but that wouldn’t stop me if it was local.

    Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Matthew Dyer

    So… The WRX wagon from last week and this brat should get married. Specifically, the WRX turbo could be married to this body. That would make great fun!
    P.S. I’ve only changed oil on a Subaru.

    Like 1
  9. Avatar photo Bob_in_TN Member

    About the time I was finishing college and moving out of state, a neighbor of my folks got one. So I would see it a couple times a year when I returned for a visit. What I recall was how quickly, and badly, it rusted. I don’t remember exactly, but seems like it was in very bad shape within a half dozen or so years. This was in central Ohio.

    Like 4
  10. Avatar photo Glemon

    You mention two headlight BRATs, and four headlight BRATs, but the best BRAT is Cyclops BRAT https://youtu.be/iOrftQaGip0?si=RcQ4Zd9vrOhjT5t5

    Nevertheless this rust free car looks like a deal if the reserve isn’t too high.

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo Old Man

    I got a kick out of the Brat, even though as a pick-up they were worthless.

    Like 0
  12. Avatar photo Scott

    A roommate of mine had one – I drove it occasionally – way underpowered with a gear box like a coffee mill….no thanks.

    Like 0
  13. Avatar photo 433jeff

    Here is a super deal, sure it’s the little motor, little shifter, wipers that won’t keep up to real winter. Perfect grocery getter, the only real drawback is it has the never fail timing gears, so you will have to keep that money in your pocket.

    All these real Subarus that are left and not rotted shouldn’t see winter anyway,

    I like the 86-94 gl wagons, I did use 86 brat for a while, with a cap on it, it was the best dog vehicles cuz the brat had a slider do could put his head next to yours while driving.

    Once I lost a cap at 55 with my BIL following, all of a sudden I noticed sun where there never was. He waved me to keep going as it disintegrated into little pieces. The turbo 1.8 were great. More power

    Like 1
  14. Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

    Ah, yes, the “Chicken Tax” work around! The “Jump” seats in the bed meant it was a car, not a truck, and the import tariff was 2.5%, not 25% for a small pickup truck or SUV! Source: Wikipedia.


    Like 1
  15. Avatar photo Memphis Harris

    All the Japanese cars of that era rusted quickly. Sadly most are gone to the crusher. The steel was thin and highly stressed. I recall finding a first year rx7 at a garage sale in Chicago 25 years ago. With all the salt up there the original owner flipped for the rusty Jones treatment on it. And I must say it worked like a charm. Word of warning. Wankle engine useless climbing an ice covered hill. Didn’t used to put two rear facing seats in the bed with pistol grip handles to hold onto? P

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      I am confused, the Wankel engine was a Mazda thing, this is a Subaru. What am I missing here? The jump seats in the bed were exploiting a clever loophole in the tariffs the US applied to Japanese imported pickup trucks at the time. Cars got hit with a 2.5% tariff, but pickup trucks got slammed with a 25% tariff, so Subaru added two (2) seats to the bed and Presto! Their little “ute” truck instantly became a car!

      Like 2
  16. Avatar photo Kirk

    Love the brats but has Hagerty gone completely insane ? Lol $24000 for a #2 Subaru Brat ? Really loved the GLF I owned for a year but it’ was still a tin can economy car made as cheaply and efficiently as possible and even brand new was a cheap car that most only got 5 or 6 years out of before rust made them un useable . Where does Hagerty come up with these car values I don’t know

    Like 2
  17. Avatar photo Glemon

    I guess they don’t like comments with links, cause I did one earlier and it is not showing up. The article talks about a two headlight and four headlight Brat, but the most interesting BRAT of all is the Cyclops BRAT with a middle hideaway headlight.

    Like 1
  18. Avatar photo Chris Eakin

    The Mighty Car Mods guys found one of those sitting in a shed somewhere in Australia and bought it to rebuild (with a little help from Subaru) for a fundraiser for some worthy cause. They updated the drivetrain and did a great job getting it ready as a prize for some lucky winner. This BRAT might be a worthy object for another such project – not necessarily as a fundraiser, maybe just a funraiser.

    Like 1
  19. Avatar photo Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    The seller has uploaded a few new photos showing the engine, underside, and inside the “camper”!

    Like 4
  20. Avatar photo Mark

    The spare tire is missing under the hood

    Like 0
  21. Avatar photo manthony

    Most of us BRAT owners removed the rear seats at some point. Only there because of the “chicken law tariffs” meant to protect domestic truck production. All early Japanese pickups came in sans bed to avoid this tax . The rear seats were not a comfortable place to ride, aven in California, and I had both roll bar and seat belts. The factory bed shell was prone to cracking. Had an 83, and two friends had a 79 and 81. They were not intended for serious off roading, but if there was a road, they went. Sold my factory service manual online some years back, and it caused a bidding war. Mine was slow but dependable. Slow, however, is relative, as I have owned a few Beetles…

    Like 1
  22. Avatar photo Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this listing totally disappeared from eBay! How does that happen? Was it not getting close to the seller’s price and they pulled it somehow? I don’t think I’ve seen that before.

    Like 1

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