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.