The funky ute that beat the Chicken tax.
The Subaru BRAT was developed in the late 1970s at the request of the automaker's North American President out of a desire to compete with other small trucks from Japanese rivals like Nissan and Toyota. But the BRAT was different. It came standard with all-wheel drive while its competitors had a rear-wheel-drive setup, thus giving the Subie an off-road advantage. Even Ronald Reagan, before he was elected president, got one for his California ranch.
The BRAT was a funky thing, quite different from today's more mainstream lineup, like the Subaru Outback. It came with some interesting features like an optional T-top roof, a side step into the cargo bed hidden by a spring-loaded door, and an engine compartment-mounted spare tire. Its most famous feature was the rear-facing jumpseat in the cargo bed.
Welded into place, they weren't there for passengers (although two occupants could enjoy a bumpy ride) but rather to dodge the so-called Chicken tax, a 25 percent tariff charged to imported light-duty trucks. The Chicken tax originates from the "Chicken War" between the US, France and West Germany in the early 60s. Those countries placed tariffs on imported US chicken and America responded in kind with a tax on potato starch and brandy. It was soon expanded to light-duty trucks as a favor to US automakers and remains in place today for no good reason. Subaru found a loophole by adding those jumpseats.
In front of the spare tire was originally a 1.6-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine. A 1.8-liter with 73 horsepower arrived for 1981.
An optional turbocharger for '83 and '84 models added about 21 hp. Only those turbo models could have a three-speed slushbox option, otherwise all BRATs were four-speed manual-only. Oddly, it was never officially sold in Japan and was discontinued in 1994.
There are still plenty of examples out there in varying condition, and this 1987 BRAT for sale on Bring A Trailer looks great considering its 104,000 miles. The white body has the classic 'BRAT' decals on the B-pillars. The front bull bar, bed-mounted roll bar, and twin pop-up roof panels add to its appeal. Those auxiliary lights lack wiring and there is some corrosion on some body panels. An aftermarket Pioneer CD player replaces the factory cassette player but the original window sticker is included. As of this writing, the top bid reached $5,205 and the auction ends on March 29.