You know how there’s some remarkable cars that just sort of perpetually bounce around the collective consciousness of gearheads, periodically re-emerging to once again dazzle/delight/disgust a new crop of car-fetishists? Of course you do. One of the most enduring of these comet-like cars has to be the hilarious half-Subaru Brat, half-Volkswagen Beetle that we have been writing up for years, going all the way back to 2009. That’s pretty amazing. It’s for sale yet again, which means I’m being sent messages about it non-stop, so this time I decided to talk to the owner a bit about this weird little bit of sausage in the global automotive gumbo.
I reached out to Glenn, the current custodian of the Subabeetle or whatever you want to call the 1985 Subaru Brat/1973 Beetle slamwich, and found that he’s actually only had it four months or so, having purchased it from “an old man in Florida.”
I asked Glenn if he had any insight into the story of this thing, how it came to be, and sadly, he did not, just some speculation that’s likely pretty close to what most of us have guessed:
“No clue, I would say two wrecked cars and some alcohol were involved.”
And, really, that seems a pretty likely, if unconfirmed, origin story.
I asked what everyone really wants to know, which is how does it drive, especially with both front and rear engines engaged — is it the all-wheel drive, flat-eight experience we’re all secretly craving?
Sadly, but not shockingly, no.
The issue is that “unless you’re an octopus” you can’t really drive it with both engines engaged, and Glenn went on to confirm this by showing me the pedal setup in this thing:
Aaah. Yeah, ok, I get it now. It looks like the two drivetrains are not really connected at all, hence the twin clutches and twin throttles. It looks like just the Subaru brake system is handling all the stopping, though.
So, if you drive it, you can choose from the Brat’s liquid-cooled flat-four making about 50-something kilowatts for those front wheels, or, if water is scarce, you can enjoy the Beetle’s 37-ish kW air-cooled flat-four and its iconic rattly soundtrack.
I bet with practice you could find some way to use both at once, for that AWD 90 kW monster experience, but I suspect that would take a lot of practice and probably handle very strangely.
Based on the pedal placement and the fact that’s a normal VW pedal assembly (well, minus the clutch extend-o-tube), I think the Volkswagen floorpan extends all the way to the front here, and must sort of just slide under/inside the Subaru’s unibody.
There’s two shifters, two batteries, and you can see the VW’s ignition switch on the dash there, just above the Subaru shifter. I was told there’s just one fuel cell for both engines to drink from, and it takes up the whole rear luggage well of the Beetle-butt, so the car really doesn’t have any dedicated luggage space aside from the glovebox. You could fold the Beetle’s seat down, I suppose.
The bodywork is actually very well done, and Glenn says that it looks pretty seamless where the Plane of Merging would be, and it feels solid and well-constructed. Whoever first had this absurd dream sure managed to realise it well. Plus, look how the wider lower body area of the Subaru gets nicely inset just before the Beetle’s rear fender there — this isn’t some quick tack-welding job, real work went into this.
Glenn has titles to both cars, interestingly enough, and the Beetle’s was last signed in 1994, which may give a rough idea about when the pair were first siamese’d. It’s currently registered under the Subaru’s title.
It’s met its reserve on eBay, and is only at a bargain price of $US2,500 ($3,284), but I really hope whomever’s hands this much-seen beast falls into will really appreciate it.
I feel like it’s time for a new paintjob, get rid of those goofy decals, and really do it up right. Let’s get a new bumper on the rear of the Beetle, with good chrome and the proper rubber impact strip, and maybe even fit one of those fantastic “cyclops eye” badge-flip-up centre headlamps onto the Subaru there.
The Subabeetle has, over the years, become an icon of the Greater Global Goofball Car Community, and I believe it has earned a certain amount of respect. I know Glenn is reluctant to get rid of it, but his current stable of cars, which includes a Nissan300ZX, a race-prepped Porsche 944, and an Audi Quattro, is keeping him plenty busy/broke.
So, next custodian of the Beetlebrat or Subabeetle or whatever you call it, I hope you’re prepared for the gravity of what you’re taking on. I look forward to getting the link to this thing emailed to me again and again the next time it’s up for sale.