Subaru BRAT: Named in Japan

Subaru BRAT: Named in Japan

The Subaru BRAT is unique to this segment because, while it was named in Japan, it was also sold in America.  Most of the names featured here would never pass muster in the States, where we don’t hang squid in store windows.  But in Japan – where they hang squid in restaurants, bars, doctor’s offices and private homes, presumably to ward off Godzilla – it seems anything goes.

Let’s start off with what the BRAT is: crap.  It’s also a pickup truck, but not if you ask Subaru.  You see, to circumvent the famous “Chicken Tax,” which decrees that all imported trucks be subject to a 25 percent tariff, Subaru installed rear-facing seats in the BRAT’s cargo area so it would qualify as a passenger vehicle.  The result was a much lower tax rate and, of course, certain death for those who used the seats, which were without seatbelts, open to the elements, and, inexplicably, plastic.

Since they couldn’t call the BRAT a truck, Subaru called it a Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter, or, BRAT.  Bi-drive, in this case, meant all-wheel drive, which Subaru was hocking even before it had a name.  Clever, huh?

Apparently Subaru didn’t think so, as they had a different name for the truck in nearly every market.  Other monikers included the Subaru Targa, even though it had a fixed roof; the Subaru Shifter, even though it came with an automatic; and, in Australia, the Subaru Brumby.  My personal favorite is the BRAT’s UK name, the 284, which carried no apparent significance other than a randomly-assigned number.

The BRAT lasted through the late 1980s in the States and, somehow, the early 1990s in Asia and Europe before finally succumbing to what could only have been a slew of expensive product liability lawsuits.  We don’t miss its weird styling, its silly name, or its dangerous seats.  Well, maybe a little.

4 Responses to “ “Subaru BRAT: Named in Japan”

  1. Pontiac 6000LE says:

    Didn’t it spawn the baja?

  2. MrFixit1599 says:

    I have had 2 Subaru’s, the first one being my first car, an 81 GL Hatch. FWD only, and could still get it more places than alot of 4wd trucks if only because I drove the hell out of it and it wouldn’t break. Several years later I bought an 86 BRAT with T-Tops, rear suspension was a rusted out mess, but it still never let me down once. Again, drove the hell out of it, and the 4wd let me get into even more places that I should not have been able to get into. I peruse Ebay, Craigslist, etc every now and then looking for the holy grail I almost bought a few years after that. It was brown, it was an 88, the last year I believe, it had T-Tops, and a TURBO!

  3. Blackcloud_9 says:

    Ahh…the days when piling people un-tethered into the back of a pick-up was perfectly ordinary manner of transport. You were only limited by the size of your pick-up’s bed (and hauling capacity if all of your friends were particularly heavy). I thought the plastic seats in the BRAT were cool (I was a lot younger then). Seat-belts! Shmeat-belts! – They’re over-rated anyway! The seats were plastic so they would stand up to elements better.

  4. Blackcloud_9 says:

    Oh, and thank you for explaining the BRAT acronym. I thought it was really stupid for Chevy to name their little import truck (which I believe was an Isuzu) the LUV. It was years later when I learned it stood for Light Utility Vehicle

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