FORMER PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN OWNED A 1978 SUBARU BRAT – THE PERFECT VEHICLE FOR WORKING ON HIS RANCH IN SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA.
In 1977, Subaru launched the first-generation BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter). Its name comes from its full-time, front-wheel drive with on-the-fly, all-wheel-drive capability. With its 67-horsepower, horizontally opposed, four-cylinder engine, the vehicle was based on the 4WD wagon and was popular in rugged areas. The Subaru BRAT featured bolted-down jump seats in the bed and was designed for the American market.
THE RONALD REAGAN BRAT
Former President Reagan owned his 1978 BRAT until 1998. The versatile vehicle was perfect for working on his 688-acre ranch in Santa Barbara, California.
In 1998, the Reagan family sold their ranch to the Young America’s Foundation and previously had gifted their ranch vehicles, including the BRAT, to friends. In 2004, this BRAT was sold on eBay®. Then, in 2005, it was bought back by the Young America’s Foundation. “When you’re interpreting history, you want to make sure you have the original as much as possible,” revealed Marilyn Fisher. She is the historic curator for the ranch who facilitated the purchase of this vehicle in 2005.
Subaru of America, Inc. stepped forward along with former Reagan National Security Adviser Richard Allen and worked with the ranch, The Westside Group, and other individuals to restore this vehicle to its original state. The vehicle had sustained significant weather-related rust damage and had missing and broken parts that were no longer produced. Mike Escudero, owner and founder of The Westside Group, commented, “Underneath the wear and tear, we knew we would find great bones and classic engineering.”
The Westside Group completely restored the Reagan BRAT. Everything was removed from the vehicle and was either restored or replaced. Some of the new pieces were completely fabricated. According to Todd Peters, vintage Subaru enthusiast who supplied miscellaneous parts for the restoration: “They tore it down to nothing and put it back together. It was the best [rebuild] to this point.” The engine was rebuilt to original factory specs along with the red paint and body – including the original BRAT graphic on the B-pillar.
Recalled Escudero, “We were pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming support of a devoted community of Subaru BRAT owners worldwide who generously provided us with information, resources, and original parts – some from their own vehicles.” After a year of work, this authentic restoration looked like it had just rolled off the assembly line.
RANCHO DEL CIELO
The Reagans bought the ranch that overlooks the Santa Ynez Valley and the Pacific Ocean in 1974 when Reagan’s second term as governor of California was coming to an end. In 1998, the Young America’s Foundation preserved the ranch as a living monument to Reagan’s accomplishments. Today, it’s a centerpiece for student programs. The BRAT is still housed at the ranch in the tack barn.
School group tours and limited tours only are available through the Reagan Ranch Center office because of the remote location of the property. For more information on the Reagan Ranch, visit www.reaganranch.org.