How to Restore an 86 Subaru Brat

Written by joann joubert
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How to Restore an 86 Subaru Brat
Only 92,445 Subaru BRATs were sold in America. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Similar to many modern day SUVs, the 1986 Subaru BRAT, or Bi-drive Recreational All-Terrain Transporter, was a rugged all-terrain monster that also provided comfort for drivers. It could be considered a hybrid between a car and a heavy-duty truck with a powerful 1.8-litre engine that had a maximum 93 horsepower. However, production of the Subaru BRAT ended in 1987. Restoring a 1986 Subaru BRAT can be a challenging project, but with time and the right equipment, anyone can successfully complete it.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Jack
  • Jack stands
  • Grease
  • Tarp
  • Labelled storage containers
  • Large rubber mallet (optional)
  • Ratchet
  • Socket set
  • Tire iron
  • Power sander with attachments
  • Work area
  • Subaru replacement parts
  • Electrical socket access
  • Broad range of automotive tools
  • Subaru re-upholstery kit
  • Air compressor
  • MIG welder
  • Primer and exterior paint
  • Engine hoist
  • Re-chrome kit

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  1. 1

    Purchase handbooks and magazines concentrating on restoring Subaru automobiles. Search for Subaru enthusiast groups in your neighbourhood to find others who may be willing to offer advice or help. The more knowledge you can acquire about restoring Subaru vehicles, the easier it will be to successfully restore yours.

  2. 2

    Choose a large workspace that can accommodate a disassembled Subaru BRAT, as well as equipment, storage bins and additional lighting. You also need access to electricity. The more organised your workspace, the less likely you will lose components. Secure a tarp in an area of the room and place parts and components on it during restoration. Create labelled containers for small pieces.

  3. 3

    Disassemble the Subaru's exterior. Remove the bumpers, bonnet, front grill and doors. Disconnect the head and taillights. Raise the Subaru with a jack, then place jack stands beneath the frame. Remove the wheels and axles. If excessive rust is present, use grease and a rubber mallet to help with disassembly. Hoist the engine and transmission out of the body. Place larger parts onto the tarp, and store small pieces within labelled containers.

  4. 4

    Disassemble the Subaru's interior. Remove the parts and components of the console and interior trim. Remove the seats and use a Subaru specific re-upholstery kit for separate restoration. Discard the carpet. Detach the front and rear fenders of your Subaru.

  5. 5

    Examine all components that have been removed from your BRAT. Clean and restore all viable parts, replacing all those that are damaged, especially rusted metal.

  6. 6

    Examine the main body, the frame, fenders, bonnet, doors and floorboards for holes, scratches and rust. Repair damage, performing patchwork using a MIG welder. Solder healthy metal to the damage. Ensure that the BRAT's body is straight and smooth. Order replacement doors, fenders and bonnets, if necessary.

  7. 7

    Reattach the fenders and use and power sander to smooth the exterior. The Subaru's panels must be aligned. Prime the exterior, and then paint your BRAT.

  8. 8

    Restore viable power components separately, such as the engine and transmission. Survey the radiator, alternator, carburettor and axles separately. Check the starter, driveshaft and brake systems for viability, replacing components as necessary. Hoist the engine's components and slowly lower them back into your Subaru, and then install. Be sure to work slowly during installation to prevent damage to engine parts.

  9. 9

    Check all electrical components, replacing any damaged pieces. Install headlights and taillights, and then the brake systems beneath the BRAT. Attach the front and rear bumpers to the frame. Install the mirrors, windows and windshield. Re-chrome the exterior. Attach the wheels to the assemblies. Pull out your jack stands and lower the Subaru with the jack.

  10. 10

    Install the interior of your BRAT, starting with seat and carpet installation. Install interior components, including the interior trim, door panels and handles, and console with controls. If all interior components are working, then test-drive your Subaru BRAT.

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