Let's Explore The Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter

Illustration for article titled Let's Explore The Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter
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There are car company names that are acronyms like Fiat and Alfa, and plenty of model names that are initialisms, like the NSX or the BRZ, but not many model names that are acronyms. Subaru made one starting in 1978 called the BRAT, which stands for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter.


It’s kind of a weird name, but the BRAT is kind of a weird vehicle. It was made in Japan but was never sold there. It was sold in the US until 1987, and some other parts of the world until 1994. It’s not really a car, but also not a truck, as the two rear-facing seats qualified it as a passenger vehicle and thus exempted it from the chicken tax.

Early models had a 1.6-liter flat-four pumping out a tire-shredding 67 horsepower. In 1981, the car got a 1.8 that was good for an extra six horsepower. Ground clearance is more truck-like and it came with wrench-adjustable height to add an extra inch.

It’s a hybrid, but not a gas-electric hybrid. It’s a mix of two different things like a duck-billed platypus, or a keytar. Like many hybrids, there are advantages from both sides, but overall it’s not a great car or a great truck. We find out in this retro MotorWeek review about the handling (adequate) and brakes (leave a lot to be desired), and acceleration (lackluster). Fuel mileage is mediocre for a car, and the cargo area is small for a truck.

But, it’s not a truck. It’s not a car. It’s a Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter. Sure there are drawbacks, but it was good enough for our 40th president. If you kind of want a small car, but you kind of want a small truck, but you also want something a little different, then you might want a BRAT.

Matt Brown is an automotive engineer, writer, and builder of unconventional things. Mostly vehicles.



Family friends and a swim coach had them around the late 70's/early 80's — You’ve never tempted death (ie, had an average day circa ‘81) until you’ve sat in those bed seats on the freeway....

Contrary to what’s said here, they were pretty handy — If you’re just carrying bikes, sports equipment, plants, dogs, or the miscellany of suburban life, they were pretty good. Not everyone hauls lumber and tows yachts.