Errol Brittain’s Oddball Subaru Is An Eight-Second Drag Strip Terror

July 31, 2018 / by Bradley Iger

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. 

28x9-inch Mickey Thompson slicks are installed out back, the largest tire that’s eligible for use in the Pro289 and Street 289 classes that Errol races the Brumby in.

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.

Nestled beneath the unassuming hood is a methanol-injected EJ25 making close to a thousand horsepower.

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.

While the Brumby is highly competitive within the classes it competes in, Errol says there’s 400 pounds of weight to drop before he hits the minimum, so there’s certainly still some time on the table.

“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.”

Kirkey race buckets, Simpson harnesses and a full roll cage keep Brittain safe during the eight-second passes that the Brumby regularly cranks out.

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.”

Errol says that the drivetrain issues he’d had with the WRX platform caused him to start looking for an alternative, and the Brumby fit the bill.

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.

A Reid Racing Powerglide two-speed transmission with a 6,000 RPM stall converter and sends power to a Strange differential through a 3.5-inch steel driveshaft.

“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.”

The Brumby’s best ET currently stands at 8.2 seconds @ 164.5 mph – an impressive feat on its own. But Brittain’s quest for the EJ-powered Subaru world record will see him gunning for high 7s and beyond.

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.


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Written by Bradley Iger