Pleiades Double Happiness – Subaru Brat, Van, or both?

Of all the Japanese car brands, you’d think this one would have appeared here before. Subarus have an oddball history, with unusual styling, flat-4 engines, and all-wheel drive. And while many Japanese makes started out quirky, and gradually went mainstream, Subaru has stayed somewhat true to its roots, making its quirks into its key differentiators (sorry for the business-dork speak). Although, to be honest, Subaru has gone more mainstream in the dimensions of its cars, and has added frames to its windows. But on some level, that’s where all cars are moving as automotive technology matures even further – less than optimal solutions fall by the wayside.

Anyway, enough rambling! Let’s get back to the oddball cars. Subarus back in the 1970s were really pretty weird; maybe not so weird in the context of the other cars on the road when they were new, but with attrition and some hindsight, they are rather unusual cars. Beyond that, they had some pretty strange bodystyles, and while not terribly powerful, built a reputation for being tough and good in bad weather. Which brings us a car that’s become iconic for Subaru, with a famous seating arrangement. Our main feature for today is a Subaru Brat, which is listed for $2900 in the Canton area, north of Atlanta, GA.

1978 Subaru Brat right

So the flesh tone isn’t really the most interesting. But on the bright side, if you lose your shirt, people won’t notice while you’re driving. The seller says there’s some rust, but the car generally seems to be in good shape. The engine has had some fuel system work and some oil seals replaced. With the condition, it’s most likely this car was stored for a while and then revived.

1978 Subaru Brat front

The nose comes with brush and pan guards. While it doesn’t seem factory, it does lend an air of toughness to this car (truck?). Those broad expanses of beige need to be interrupted by some black striping or something. If you could duplicate those windshield visor stickers that said the cars name in all-caps across the top, that would be a neat touch.

1978 Subaru Brat interior

Interior looks pretty tidy, but the color is definitely nothing inspiring. Again, the condition is what’s driving this – to find a car like this in straight, original condition is pretty unusual. The car also apparently runs very well.

1978 Subaru Brat rear

Here you can see the back seats in the bed. Apparently, it’s got seatbelts for those back seats – the question is, in what situation would they actually help? Some of the rust is in the tailgate – since it’s not visible here, either it’s a horrible bondo job, or just light bubbling that will eventually need attention. Have you driven one of these earlier Subarus? What’s it like? I’m probably not the first to think of this, but how wouldn’t any later turbocharged Subaru engine make this thing fun?

If that’s not weird enough for you…. well, here’s the near-genesis of Subaru in the United States. Along with the little 360 microcar, there was a van. They weren’t very popular, but there’s still one left in Yakima, WA for $2000. The seller’s description is, shall we say, brief. And I quote:”90% restored. Runs.” I would only suggest driving this as an alternative to, say, a scooter. But what an alternative it is – a bright red box on black wheels.

1970 Subaru 360 van

Park where the Smarts park, only be cooler. Have you driven one? What’s it like? I’d guess slow.


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4 Responses to “Pleiades Double Happiness – Subaru Brat, Van, or both?”

  1. Chris Says:

    I’m having daydreams about living on a small island with that subaru van as my transportation…

  2. Matt Says:

    I think I’ve come across more 360 vans than coupes in my years of being aware of the Subaru 360 line. There was an example on SF bay area craigslist not long ago with full rainbow arches painted on it from back when full rainbow arches were still about making kids smile.

  3. pickles Says:

    There’s actually a Suby 360 on Craigslist in LA right now..

  4. James Says:

    Had a 78 Brat. Very quick for a small vehicle. Could climb real steep hills and went off road well on old motorcycle trails. Only down fall was ground clearance and at the time were no mods for it other then a body lift. brings back memories.

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