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Best of 2012: Speeding back to youth in a BRZ

Arthritis won’t stop these 60-somethings from having a grand time.

Published December 25, 2012

Two gents in their early 60s, half-crippled with arthritis and other ailments which hamper body movement, got their hands on a six-speed Subaru BRZ.

That old saying about never being able to go back was thrown out the window for a couple of hours as the two put this little black road rocket through its paces.

The Boxer engine in the BRZ was twisted pretty well and the car obtained speeds well in excess of legal limits, but it was the shifting of the six-speed gearbox that brought back memories of their youth.

The BRZ is a front-engined, rear-drive car, with the shifter going directly into the gearbox, and the car shifted like the big-engined muscle cars they drove when Sunoco 260 grade gasoline was under 50 cents a gallon.

It was impossible to blow a shift with the BRZ, no matter how hard the perfectly-positioned gearshift was manipulated. The shifting pattern was tight, the throws short, and by holding the lever one could feel all the inner workings of the transmission.

The whine of the synchros when selecting low gear was especially memorable and really gave the driver a feeling of being part of the machine.

All the BRZ needed was the iconic Hurst white cue ball on the end of the gearshift lever to help believe you were in a 396 Camaro or 340 Dart Swinger.

Obviously the BRZ was a quick car, and although it did not have all the fury and drama of thrashing a large-displacement V8 with all four barrels of the large carburetor howling and the left front wheel approaching flight during acceleration, Subaru’s Boxer engine emitted a thrusty resonance which did make cabin conversation difficult.

These same two gents have driven everything from original Mini Coopers to Austin-Healeys to Porsches to big-block Chevs, and the BRZ presented itself as the natural progression to these performance cars in the aspect of feeling each turn of the engine and each snick of the gear lever.

Unfortunately, the natural progression of the two gents has limited their ability to get into a car as low as a BRZ, but once inside, the aches and pains magically went away. Not a practical car for the pair, but they were certainly able to return to their youth.

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