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Good Buy? Rust-Free 1986 Subaru BRAT

The words rust-free and Subaru BRAT usually don’t go together too often, but they do in this case. This 1986 Subaru BRAT looks like an absolutely fantastic example to snag and tinker with over the winter and have a show-stopper in the spring. This solid example can be found here on craigslist in Shakopee, Minnesota and the seller is asking $5,995 for it. Thanks to Gransedan for sending in this tip!

I have to admit, this car is incredibly tempting but I told myself I wouldn’t buy any more cars this year and I have just two and a half months left on my self-imposed car-buying exile. Thankfully, that doesn’t include motorcycles. This Subaru has been in the seller’s family for the last couple of decades and was kept away from road salt so that may explain the incredible condition of this little 4×4. The clear coat is peeling in spots and there are a few chips and small dings but overall it looks great. In case you’re wondering, Hagerty is at an incredible $9,900 for a #3 good condition BRAT so this one is a bargain. It won’t last long at this price.

The topper, or cap as a lot of folks say, is the clincher on this one. It’s a useful accessory and once we peek inside of it, we see that the famous/infamous jump seats are missing. This would have been the last year for the jumpseats in the US and I’m not sure where they went but good luck finding another set. This BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) is a few years too new for the equally-famous cyclops third-eye passing light that was under the logo in the center of the grille. But even without those two features, this is one great looking car.

The interior looks equally great, other than the obviously worn carpet, or maybe it’s just the floor mat, on the driver’s side. That’ll just give you something to do over the winter. The seller says that the floors are solid and the underside photos seem to show that to be true. Speaking of photos, the seller has uploaded 20 good photos onto a craigslist ad! That’s about the only good thing to come out of 2020 for me. Kudos to them for giving us enough photos to make a decision for an online car ad.

The BRAT of this era would have had Subaru’s EA-81, a 1.8L boxer-four with 73 hp. A turbo version would have been nice but this isn’t a car for tracking down a Tesla in ludicrous mode, it’s for having a fun little vehicle that’s capable on the road and very capable off-road. The 4-speed manual makes it fun to drive and there’s just enough to do on this one to make it a fun project while still being a usable car. Have any of you owned a Subaru BRAT?


  1. Dave

    These would rust if you kept it parked in the garage all winter with an open bag of salt! This one is, unless it’s rotten underneath, in amazing condition! My 4 year old Jeep Patriot just had its control arms replaced due to failing inspection from corrosion. The arms in my wife’s 2014 are mint by comparison. Hers doesn’t get driven on PA 28, where fracking brine is spread on the road.

    Like 2
    • Taco

      Cars made out of beer cans dont rust.
      I thought it was an Outback
      Cause thats where it outta be,
      Out Back

      Like 1
  2. Howard A Member

    IDK, they were novel vehicles, but based on a friends search for parts on a similar vehicle, I think it may be a problem. Looks like hard to work on too. Never liked the spare tire next to the engine, although, under the back isn’t any better. Needs a 5 speed. Why? You’ll see,,

    Like 0
    • MarveH

      Last year I indulged myself in my retirement and went to a year and a half long automotive school. One of the students, and often my shop partner, had an 82 BRAT. I spent a lot of time wrenching on it and did some junk yard parts runs for him.
      Not hard to work on at all. All carburated vehicles from the emissions era can be finicky sometimes, but not too bad. Just have all new vacuum lines and your half way there.

      Like 3
  3. Slightly Askew

    I’m sorry to see that the “mother-in-law” seats are missing in the back.

    Like 2
  4. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking truck. I remember when the Subaru Brat was on the market. I was too young at the time to drive, but I remember finding this more interesting than other truck based trucks. While I’ve always liked 4wd, I’ve never liked the truck based 4wds that were on the market at the time.

    Like 1
  5. ResAlaska

    ‘85 was the last year got back seats. 86 and 87 (the last production year) they were not offered.

    Like 1
  6. fstedie

    I always thought putting the spare tire inside the engine compartment was a bit odd. Could not have been good for the rubber…

    Like 2
  7. AutoArcheologist AutoArcheologist Member

    I’d grab one and use it as another fossil finder… Great for the New England snows and enough behind it to travel most highways at 70mph.

    Like 3
    • bone

      Not really good for New England snows ; you’d be lucky to get 5 years out of it before it disintegrated when these were new.

      Like 0
  8. Mike

    I watched a 1980 daily driver while driving an ice cream truck back around 1989. Once it sat for a few months I knocked on the owners door. Picked it up for $100. Drove it to work and college for about a year. Got hit in the back. Damaged the tail gate. The errant driver gave me $100 for my trouble. A few months later the rotten passenger floor sagged enough to tear the electric fuel pump wires. With the upper shock mounts long melted away, I junked it. So sad. It only had the 1600 and was pretty under powered. In addition, it was absolutely dangerous when in 4X4. I’m still fond of plaid interiors because of that little truck.

    Like 0
  9. Steve R

    They came with seatbelts in the rear.

    Steve R

    Like 2
  10. Mark Brunsen

    I’ve been told the reason for the spare in the engine bay, was an engineers idea, and supposedly was to deflect force away from occupants, in frontal collisions.

    Like 7

      spares in the engine bay is not unique to the BRAT; many Citroens had such feature starting in 1955 (DS) and later in many models.

      Like 0
  11. Bill Koehler

    I had one and threatened if my wife’s water hadn’t broken before leaving to the hospital she would have to ride in the back.

    Like 0
  12. Walter Rose

    actually the year could be considered correct for the third eye passing light but it is the gl so the grill would have a hexagonal pattern and would be skinnier, as opposed to the dl which was the prominant passing light model especially in australia (the subaru brumby). also the jumpseats would not be too hard to find. they come up often in about the 50-150 dollar price range. the pickup cover is a nice addition though.

    Like 2
  13. Erik

    I always thought it would be cool to have a Brat but this one looks pretty tired…When did something like this reach a just shy of $6k asking price?

    Like 1

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