Zero Rust Survivor: 1986 Subaru Brat 4×4

Most of us likely know by now that the Subaru BRAT is one of the coolest vehicles ever made. Yes, I realize there’s a vehicle called the El Camino which was a very similar concept, but the BRAT wins for having four wheel drive, a flat-four engine, jump seats in the bed, and an optional “Cyclops” eye in the front grill. They usually lose, however, for being very rusty. This BRAT is not, and looks like one of the best survivors to come up for sale as of late. Find it here on eBay with a Buy-It-Now of $13,999.

The BRAT is well-loved among car enthusiast circles, one of those models that is seemingly able to transcend the boundaries of brand loyalties, making friends with people who typically don’t like Asian makes and models. The BRAT was just so wonky and so clearly the type of vehicle a die-hard car guy would build if he held the purse strings at a major automotive manufacturer. The BRAT seen here has a body that’s in excellent condition and all the factory badges remain in place, which are impossible to find if they go missing.

What’s even more incredible about this car is that it was used as a display vehicle at a Pennsylvania Subaru dealer for years, and professionally repainted by that same dealer. That explains why it still looks so good today, with its Willow Green Metallic paint in excellent condition. Even more incredibly, the seller reports it was recently outfitted with a new old stock Subaru factory air conditioning system, apparently found on a dusty shelf somewhere still new in the box. How awesome is that?

That being said, it hasn’t escaped from having some flaws due to age, including the cracked dash (too bad the seller couldn’t find a brand new dashboard sitting in a warehouse.) The seller claims it runs terrific and has just over 65,000 original miles. There is a CV boot on the front passenger side that needs replacing, but the seller may get that done before it goes onto a new owner. While it’s not the best, this survivor BRAT is still pretty damn nice.


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  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    The paint doesn’t look right to me on the front fender. Maybe it’s the camera lighting or just the metallic toothpaste color.

    Like 4
    • Denise Shalifoe

      It’s getting a reflection off of the bright blue building.

  2. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Every time I see one of these, I have to wonder a bit what it would take to put a turbo version WRX, Forester or Outback XT, or even a STi complete driveline in it….

    Can’t help myself. Would be a bit of a sacrilege to hack up a clean example, of course. But so much easier than starting with a rust bucket.

    Like 5
    • Frank Perk

      The Subaru BRAT forum has step by step instructions for this exact swap. It’s very popular.

      Like 1
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    That shiny new gas shock in the rear really elevated this guy. Must have been carrying some pretty big loads for a light truck. Pretty rare to see one in this good condition.

    Like 3
    • Frank Perk

      Actually shiny due to not being used. It’s original suspension.

  4. Howard A Member

    “One of the coolest vehicles ever made”? Oooo, that’s a hefty claim, I can think of several cooler on this very page alone, but t’weach their own, I suppose. The BRAT kind of filled a void for Subaru, not having a mini-pickup of their own( and still don’t to this day) aside from the newer car/pickups. Their biggest claim was, of course, the AWD, but in reality, these were miserable vehicles. Thin metal rusted easily in the very environment they were intended for, lousy heaters, while the AWD helped, they were too light, and did poorly in heavier snow, something, say, a full size Blazer or Bronco would blast through. These did have a following, city folks mostly, that didn’t have to go far, and laid the framework for Subaru as the most popular AWD vehicle. Like all these Asian products that developed into mega billion dollar companies, you had to start somewhere.

    Like 13
    • Denise Shalifoe

      Subaru is coming out with a pickup next year! Hubby and I are anxious to try one out. We love our 2010 Outback but a pickup would be really handy.

      Like 1
    • David

      I had a 1981 station wagon and have to agree with you on all counts. It was a decent trail toy w/true 4WD with Lo range but thin metal, light and low ground clearance did cause some issues with deep snow. And the heater, as you said was lousy.

      Like 2
  5. Terrry

    Too bad it’s missing the optional roll bar and seats in the bed..way cooler! These were often used as “beach buggies” may be why so many of them rusted.

    Like 3
    • Dave

      Not in western Pennsylvania! Even Ziebart and the others failed to prevent these from rusting away within a few short years. The concept was sound…people wanted four-wheel drive without the gas-guzzling American vehicles that offered it but the money they saved on gas was far less than having to buy a new car every two or three years.
      Subaru’s Justy was perhaps the smallest 4×4 car they sold, but owners found that they weren’t up to snow more than about 3 or 4 inches deep.

      Like 2
    • Howard A Member

      Actually, it was those rear seats that qualified it as a car, not a truck and got out of certain taxes, I believe. I couldn’t imagine anyone actually riding in those, but rules was rules.
      And for the record, I don’t ever recall seeing one with the “Cyclops” headlight, as I think it violated US lighting rules at the time.

      Like 3
      • pixelpusher

        I owned a station wagon of the same vintage that had the cyclops headlamp, as sold to me in the US. Were they not intended for US consumption?

        Like 1
      • Frank Perk

        Cyclops was up to 1982 and was legal in the USA at the time. Eliminated due to changes in US regulations for 1983.

        Quite correct on the rear seats. The chicken tax rule changed in 1986 which permanent killed the rear seats and eventually all US sales due to high truck import terrific at the time.

        Like 1
      • David

        My 1981 Subaru GL 4WD Wagon had the “Passing Lamp” as Subaru called the cyclops light. It was DOT NHTSA legal and was only available on the GL trim level and 4WD models. It was also only available for a couple years. I think it was 1980, 1981 & 1982 but it may have been gone my 1982. I do know that once the cars/BRAT had 4 headlights, the passing lamp was gone.

        Like 1
      • Chris

        In elementary school my friend’s mom had one of these and my buddy and I LOVED riding in the rear-facing seats in the back!

  6. chrlsful

    I know a ‘rake’ is a modified set up some want on their cars, looks lousy ona BRAT ( “stick it out even further, Chad”. ‘OK’: ) or most cars…
    Opinion only (but I really like these along with ’60/6 ranchero, rampage’ n similar others). Like many, no 1 wanted them but me, no money to stock pile all these different beauties. Now the prices R sky hi… such is the world~

    Like 1
  7. Mike

    Bought one in the late 80’s for $300. A/C, roll bar, and jump seats in the bed..sold it a year later for $500.😂

    Like 2
  8. Howie Mueler

    Yes very cool, not crazy for the color, so is the seller saying this never had the seats?

    Like 1
    • Frank Perk

      The seats were eliminated partway through 1986 due to changes to the “chicken tax”.

      Subaru only added them to circumvent the truck import tax.

      When the govt removed the loophole, it resulted in killing off the BRAT in the US market by 1987. It continued elsewhere until 1993.

      • Frank Perk

        Oh … and, since I’m the owner, yes, it’s correct. This one never had the seats or the rollbar.

  9. Robert Deull

    Does it have automatic transmission?

    • Howie Mueler

      It says manual, and you can see it in a photo.

      Like 3
  10. 433jeff

    The cyclops was I believe an 82- or 83 option, This isnt an AWD vehicle, its better its 2 or 4 wd with a low range, in 2 feet of snow throwing it in 4 low Really matches the terrain. The only thing better than the brat 4 speed tranny with low range is the later 5 speed tranny with low range, This engine also has the timing gears instead of the belts, which isnt a big deal unless your belt brakes. I Think the turbo option was available with auto trans. The brat is a really great dog rig with the cap on the back and the sliding rear window, your puppy can actually stick his head almost out the drivers window. In 87 the jumpseats were no longer sold i think because of insurance issues. I did drive these for years , i like the wagons better( more room) And yes there is an adapter to put an ej22t or ej 22 or 25 in these. The Pancake fits. Or if you have the money, the gran puba the EE20 diesel , ( cmon USA bring in the soob diesel or the corolla 4wd diesel wagon, jerks) . The tdi will fit with an adapter but you need to do the 50 degree engine slant as well as upper and lower mods, lift and clearence ect.

  11. Wilburn C Shook

    I remember when these came out. I wanted one, liked the looks. I knew they weren’t in the same league as a Chevy pickup or any other truck. Sure you can’t load them down with heavy material, but for what I wanted it for, it was fine. Driving around town, taking the trash off, simple light truck. To bad the “small” trucks are nonexistent any more.

    Like 2
    • SubGothius

      Compact and even subcompact trucks and utes still exist; they just aren’t sold in the US anymore, due to our absurd CAFE regulatory scheme:

      • David Moore

        Thank you for that rabbit hole read. Interesting article, I’m not sure I totally buy into his analysis but it makes sense. Some of the comments were unhinged and some were spot on. It is interesting that some compact trucks barely performed better than their full sized brethren for fuel economy too.

        Like 1
  12. Jim

    It’s only worth $3000 tops !
    Cracked dash, dirty interior.
    No way that sat in a dealership..

    Like 1
  13. Cheryl Paul

    I’m restoring an 84 right now. Can’t wate to drive it. Need new decals and chrome. Where can I find these items?

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