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Whatever Happened to the Subaru BRAT?

Have you ever seen one of those Subaru vehicles that looks like a car in the front and almost like a pickup truck in the back? If you have, there's very little chance that you will ever forget that experience because they are very unique looking, to say the least. Truth be told, these vehicles are just popular enough for you to still see one every once in a great while, even though they haven’t been produced since 1994. For those who have seen them, it’s often hard to know how to classify them. Are they considered a car or a pickup? Perhaps they are something completely unique with a name all its own. As it turns out, that’s sort of true. This vehicle is the Subaru BRAT, and it was popular for drivers in many parts of the world long before Subaru became the powerhouse car company it is today.

All About the Subaru BRAT

If you’re wondering why BRAT is in all caps, there is a good reason. The car was named to help describe the vehicle itself. BRAT stands for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter. That is a mouthful, to say the least. This is a car that began production in 1978 and ran all the way up through the 1994 model year. It was largely produced throughout the United States and Canada but was also exported to Japan and the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, it was known under an entirely different name, the 284. As it turns out, it had a number of additional monikers in other countries as well. What made this particular car so unique, other than having a name so long it had to be shortened to an acronym? For starters, it was designed as more of a utility vehicle than anything else, hence the reason it looked more like a pickup in the back. It also featured four-wheel drive, something that was relatively rare at the time, especially for vehicles of this particular size. Perhaps the most unique thing about its overall design is the fact that despite its four-wheel drive capability and the fact that it was designed specifically as a utility vehicle, it was built upon the same chassis that Subaru’s most popular cars were built on at the time. This explains its small size, something that is sure to get the attention of anyone who sees one. After all, it's not every day that you see a car/pickup hybrid that's smaller than even the smallest compact pickups in production.

Why Subaru Stopped Production

There are a number of reasons that Subaru eventually made the choice to stop producing this automobile. Like most cases when an automaker decides to stop production on a particular model, there were a lot of different things that came into play that caused them to make this decision. For starters, a couple of high-profile accidents had happened involving this particular vehicle. In one, the driver was paralyzed and ended up suing Subaru, stating that the vehicle itself was defective. Furthermore, he stated that the accident never would have happened had it not been for design flaws in the vehicle itself. This became a very public case and would have caused Subaru enough grief had that been the only one. The problem is, more and more people started coming forward with similar issues and the car started to gain a reputation as something that was unsafe to drive. Even today, this information is still hotly contested. People fall on both sides of the camp regarding whether or not the vehicle is actually faulty or if the accidents were caused by driver error. A few people have even gone as far as saying that some individuals sort of jumped on the bandwagon after the first case went public, all in hopes of cashing in on a potentially big payday. No one would argue the fact that a car with jump seats welded into the box could potentially have safety issues, especially by today's standards. In the world of uber safe cars that have airbags everywhere, riding in a car like this wouldn't even be legal in most places. That said, it was designed before a lot of these changes were ever even considered. That fact alone is something worth remembering.

Can You Still Find One?

What if you’ve truly fallen in love with the car and you want to get your hands on one for yourself? You might end up with a real challenge on your hands. Experts estimated that as many as 800,000 of these little cars were made during their production run, but only a handful are still in driving condition today. In fact, there are less than 1,000 of them that are still on the road. It’s absolutely staggering when you think of the sheer number of these cars that were made compared to the few that still exist. Why are the numbers so disproportionate? Unfortunately, a great deal of it has to do with the passage of time, something that can’t be avoided regardless of how hard one might try. Add to that the fact that many of them were scrapped in junk yards after the high profile lawsuit and it becomes easier to understand why there are so few examples left. There is no question that Subaru has come a long way since the days of the BRAT. In fact, it now produces highly reliable cars that are among the safest automobiles on the road. Who knows, none of it may have ever come to fruition if not for the BRAT, a vehicle that has long been forgotten by most. One thing is certain, it’s not so easy to forget for those who owned one, or even the few who were lucky enough to drive one once or twice. It was an odd little vehicle that almost seemed to have an identity crisis, yet it stamped itself indelibly on the hearts of anyone who ever came across one.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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