Big turbo, little Subaru. Errol Brittain's Subaru Brumby (Brat) is taking names at the drag strip in his quest for a 7-second world record!
Back in the late 1970s, Subaru came up with an idea for a vehicle that was so unusual, they didn’t even sell the thing in their home country. Known as the BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) in the United States, the 284 in the UK, and the Brumby in Australia, the model’s identity crisis wasn’t relegated to just its name.
In what was either a stroke of genius or just the result of a stroke, Subaru engineers decided to take a Sawzall to the rear section of the second-generation Leone three-door hatchback and create a light-duty, four-wheel drive truck out of it. The North American version of this car-turned-pickup is an especially curious machine, as Subaru discovered a way to avoid the notorious “Chicken Tax” tariff placed on light duty trucks by installing carpeting and welded-in rear-facing jumpseats in the open cargo area of the vehicle so it would be re-classified as a passenger car.
In production from 1978 to 1994, Subaru’s take on the El Camino formula would become something of a cult favorite over the years. But with less than a hundred horsepower on tap, it was never revered for its performance prowess. Yet despite the anemic factory powertrain and less-than-ideal weight distribution, it didn’t stop Errol Brittain of Brisbane, Australia from turning one into an absolute beast of a drag racing machine.
With a current personal best of 8.2 seconds at 164.5 mph in the quarter mile, Brittain’s Brumby is by far the quickest example of its kind. But these days, he’s got his sights set on even loftier goals.
“I got hooked on drag racing after seeing a Top Fuel race event at Willowbank Raceway when I was 15 years old,” Errol explains. “The sound and speed had me amazed. When I got my driver’s license at 17 years old I purchased a 351 Windsor-powered 1969 Ford Fairlane that ran a 14.0 second quarter mile at 101 mph. I thought that was quick back then! But a few years later I went for a ride in a 12-second car powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and I was hooked for life.”
Not long after that, Brittain shifted his focus toward Japanese hardware. “I have always loved Subarus – especially the World Rally 22B, two-door model,” he explains. “In the past I’ve owned an 11-second 1994 WRX wagon as well as a 1996 WRX sedan that was the first manual Subaru in Australia to run a 9 second quarter mile pass. We ran 9.9 at 149 mph in full street trim back in 2010.”
While the all-wheel drive Impreza platform provided the grip Errol needed for quick launches out of the hole, it was a double edged sword when it came to reliability. That was something he knew he could solve with the Brumby. “The Brumby ute was the perfect test bed to push the engine power higher and not have the drivetrain concerns of a WRX,” he says. “Even though it’s not much lighter with the race-built Powerglide two-speed transmission and 9-inch rear, we don’t have those drivetrain concerns anymore.”
As you might imagine, Brittain’s Subaru is a far cry from the machine that originally rolled out of the Japanese automaker’s factory decades ago, but it’s still motivated by Subaru power today. Under the hood is a 950 horsepower EJ25 mill that’s fed a steady diet of methanol and boost, the latter of which is provided by a Garrett GTX turbo. The Powerglide transmission from Reid Racing sports a 6,000 RPM stall converter and sends the twist to a Strange differential through a 3.5-inch steel driveshaft. The Brumby rolls on 15x3.5-inch Weld Racing AlumaStar wheels up front and 15x8.5-inch Centerline Banshee wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson 28x9-inch slicks in the rear – the largest tire allowed in the Pro289 and Street 289 classes that Brittain competes in.
“Maintenance on the car is fairly low due to the fact that we’re not running a manual with multi plate drag clutch and so on,” he notes. “We just do the usual fluids, spark plugs and check regularly for items getting loose. The two-step is fairly savage.”
He also points out that Wiseco slugs are an integral part of his arsenal. “We have used Wiseco pistons for more than 13 years, going right back to my first WRX street car. The current Wiseco piston is a one-off custom that we designed with Mike Skeen at Wiseco. A lot of custom touches have been made to it based on the knowledge we have acquired over the years by pushing the EJ engine platform to its limits.”
Brittain tells us that the 2018 race season is moving along nicely, and some of his favorite events are still to come. “We have the big two-day Jamboree Race meeting coming up August 25 & 26th,” he says. “I won the class at this Jamboree Meeting in 2016, so we have high expectations for this year.”
While race wins are always high on the list of priorities for any competitor, Errol has one specific target he’d like to hit. “Our major goal is to beat the Subaru EJ four-cylinder quarter mile world record,” he says. “The EJ world record currently stands at 7.96 seconds at 173 mph, held by the White Bullet STI.”
Although he’s a few tenths shy at the moment, there’s a plan underway to shave some time off those ETs. “We are currently more than 400lb heavier than we need to be for our race class,” he notes. “Future development will include pulling lots of weight out of the vehicle to improve performance even more.”
With that much mass still on the table, it looks like it’s just a matter of time before Errol’s Brumby is blasting into the 7s.