Someone paid $46,000 for this mint 1978 Subaru BRAT
The Subaru BRAT pickup is a lot of things: small, capable, economical, and weird. BRATs are neat, but this one in particular is downright sweet. Someone sure thought it was worth a bundle—it sold for a record $46,198 on Bring a Trailer. We live in a strange, strangely wonderful, time.
The tired internet trope du jour is that a true car enthusiast would only drive a brown manual-transmission station wagon (bonus points if it’s a diesel-powered rotary Miata), but surely an exception could be made for this Mellow Brown mini-pickup.
The go-anywhere aesthetic and all-wheel drive is amplified with a handful of tasteful modifications. Tube bumpers front and rear match the white in-bed rollbar and factory 13-inch wheels. A small winch protrudes from the front bumper like a helping hand after you have stumbled down on the street. A soft tonneau cover hides the rear facing seats that kept the BRAT exempt from the “chicken tax” that imposes a 25-percent tariff on small trucks.
Under the hood sits a (notoriously underpowered) 1.6-liter flat-four mated to a four-speed transmission, with its shifter sticking through the floor into an immaculate black interior. It’s clean, almost too clean, but that can be explained by the odometer reading: 2500 miles. Documentation accompanies the cute-ute, confirming the five-digit odometer is not on a second trip around.
To me, this little pickup has all the right panache to stand out in any crowd it joins, hardcore car people or not. While the off-road modifications might seem odd to some, I think they fit the unique style of the BRAT. There were snow plows built for BRATs after all, playing heavily to its all-wheel-drive underpinnings.
The bidding was nothing if not lively in the final half-hour of the week-long listing. Two bidders were left standing increasing bids by leaps and bounds (one of them in “Porsche bids” which all end in Porsche model numbers) until it seemed to hit fever pitch.
$46,198 is a a big sale, but it’s worth remembering that one sale does not set a market. According to Hagerty valuation experts the previous world record price sat at $17,600, making this sale almost triple the previous record. The condition, low mileage, and ownership history certainly played a factor in the sale, helping this odd four-seater realize a previously unimaginable price. Or maybe it was the inclusion of the 20 Subaru-branded solar-powered calculators. These are the questions I am left to ponder as I lie awake at night.
Will this bring the best of the BRATs to market soon? Maybe, and we would be okay with seeing more of these unique pieces of mini-truck history. So many lived hard lives that great examples are hard to come by, but they are certainly out there, waiting to be treated like the unique pieces of automotive history they are. Don’t forget, even Ronald Reagan had one, and he reportedly loved it to pieces.