Video: 1978 Subaru Brat – Coolest of the Chicken Tax Trucks
Subaru's Weird and Wonderful Workaround of the Chicken Tax
If you take a look at all the pickups currently sold in the U.S. market, midsize as well as full-size, they're all made in North America, which since the mid-1990s, has been defined as the three-nation NAFTA trading bloc of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Other automotive segments have cars built in any number of different nations, but not trucks. Why? Because of a five-decade-old tax levied against imported pickup trucks and other products in retaliation against France and Germany for their punitive import tariffs against U.S. poultry products.
One of the most creative circumventions of the Chicken Tax came in the form of the Subaru BRAT, a boxer-four-powered mini El Camino, if you will, but with a little more off-road capability. Motor Trend's Jonny Lieberman managed to get his hands on Subaru of America's pristine 1978 BRAT from the company's headquarters in New Jersey, and put it through its paces in the California desert.
The BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) was powered by a 67-horse, 1.6-liter carbureted boxer four-cylinder engine. Later models came with a larger 1.8-liter, and even a turbocharged model was offered.
You would think a seasoned auto scribe such as Lieberman would have been spoiled by six-figure high-powered exotics, but he seemed to have as much fun in this modestly powered runabout than in any thoroughbred from Zuffenhausen or Maranello. He even compliments the Brat's "perfectly tacky" woodgrain trim.
Of course, no test of the Subaru BRAT would be complete without sitting in the rear-facing seats bolted into the bed. As Lieberman attests, they're as terrifying and dangerous as they seem, and it's amazing in retrospect that the vehicle survived until 1987 in the U.S. market. Check out Lieberman's blast from Subaru's past in the video below!