Welcome! Tune in to your Saturday Morning Car Tune to read about the raddest yet dumbest and least practical thing I’ve ever purchased. You know all those awesome vloggers and auto journos who chronologize their lives behind the wheel of their muscle car restoration project or high-horsepower tuner build? Yeah, you know that most of those folks also have regular-ass daily drivers behind the scenes, right?
The Gears & Gasoline Bens have pickup trucks and a reasonably-built WRX STI to shuttle them around when they’re not grenading transmissions or setting lap records. David Patterson, a.k.a. ThatDudeInBlue, has a Ford F-150 for his regular grunt work. Matt Farah has a Mustang Mach-E and a Vespa, and Jason Cammisa has a Volkswagen e-Golf. Remember those things? And I have… A lowered Subaru BRZ with a silly wing and no catalytic converters.
I bought a thingy
As you can see, the weight of my genius hurts sometimes.
But alas! I have… Reasons. Probably not smart ones. But I didn’t start this new features section to discuss moneywise consumer advice.
Say hello to the latest notch in my belt, a modified 2022 Subaru BRZ that I bought off an old coworker from my speed shop days, who himself bought it off the shop as it was a former shop car. Akin to the press BRZ I drove to GRIDLIFE in the fall, it’s a Limited trim, which means alcantara and leather upholstery throughout, heated seats, and a fairly banging sound system. It has wired Apple CarPlay as standard, as well as cornering headlights and a digital gauge cluster. Oh, and it’s a manual, too. Huzzah!
It has also been modified to high heaven, as this car had previously served as a work friend’s track car, having accumulated 3,200 miles over some mostly highway commutes and three track days, one of which Larry Chen photographed the car. Keen to always sign up for the next event but also deeply religious about a proper break-in, the BRZ has undergone one diff fluid change and five oil changes. And then there’s the laundry list of mods, including, ahem:
- 200TW Hankook RSV4 tires (245/40/17) on 17-inch WedsSport TC105X wheels
- Obnoxiously squeaky track brake pads that are surprisingly usable in daily driving and all weather
- Zebulon swan neck wing
- Artisan Spirits front lip with a barely-livable splitter extension
- Catless full exhaust with equal-length headers and an A’PEXi catback
- Ecutek programming kit with a custom 91-octane tune
- Jackson Racing oil cooler
- Antigravity battery
- SPL adjustable rear control arms
- Vorshlag camber plates
- Cusco strut tower brace
- Motion Control Suspension (MCS) coilovers, the exact model of which I still need to figure out
There’s probably a bunch I’m forgetting. And I’m still learning the exact details of what exactly each model of part is in the event I ever need to repair or replace them. Among spare things that aren’t installed, I still have an oil catch can, various chassis doo-dads, and the all-important oil pan baffle. If you’re even remotely familiar with the BRZ/GR86 platform, you’ll know these things are… Finicky, to say the least. But I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But how does it rip? Well, let me tell you.
I don’t know all that much. In the 800 miles I’ve logged in the last two weeks, I haven’t really pushed it hard at all, not even in the local canyons since seasonal traffic is high and road temps are cold. But that’s okay. My friend built it for the track. And to the track, it’ll return to show me just how much I’ve grown (or devolved) since my time ripping around canyon roads and road courses in my trusty old V6 Mustang. But I can tell you what it’s like to live with and how you can replicate such an experience, should you dare.
Daily driving a BRZ track car isn’t the worst idea I’ve had
This little tike, for all its track-focused intentions and intimidating looks, is actually a bang-on daily driver. No, I didn’t take that much copium today. I mean it! It’s usable, and it’s comfortable. Ish. Or at least it’s a comfortable-ish daily if you haven’t experienced a new Toyota Prius lately.
The MCS coilovers ride remarkably well despite being adjusted to a stiffer dampening setting by the previous owner. Hell, I’d say it rides close to, if not the same as, the stock suspension setup, albeit with slightly more noticeable jitters over high-frequency bumps. And when I mean slightly, I mean you just feel them a little more than stock, and it’s never harsh. Large road imperfections like asphalt patches, dips, and potholes are nonissue, which is fantastic to hear about in a track-built car. It means you have the compliance to attack apexes without upsetting the chassis, and you have the comfort of not shattering your spine on the drive home.
It’s a testament to the quality of the coilovers and proof that, and say this with me, you don’t need to ride like shit to have a great handling car. Porsches and Corvettes prove this. This does, too. Color me impressed. Get yourself some quality coils or adjust your dampers to find that happy middle ground, people. It exists, and I promise you it’s not maximum stiff.
What isn’t so hot is this goddamn splitter. Getting into my family’s driveway is now a learning curve. And speedbumps near my friend’s house are now a practice session for autocross. It’s tolerable, but only barely. Normally, you’d be able to not scrape on most crap on the road. But now I actually have to be paying attention, whereas a stock BRZ may as well be a rally car in comparison, billygoating over dips and inclines.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Stance scene folks are laughing and envious at my comparatively truckish ground clearance. Again, it works for now. I’ll live, even if it means putting a few scuffs in concrete driveways here and there.
Fuel economy? Okay. I lauded the stock BRZ press loaner for handily beating the EPA estimates with hardly any effort, easily eclipsing 32 to 35 mpg on most freeways. Now, I have to try to hit 30. I should be lucky to even be averaging 24 in mixed driving. As it turns out, things like bigger, stickier tires and fat aero parts that produce a lot of drag end up producing a lot of drag. Who would’ve guessed? Fuel economy is still okay. Better than my V6 Mustang. But the small tank means fill-ups are just as, if not more, frequent.
If there’s anything to truly take solace in besides the commendable ride, it’d have to be that my friend left the interior mostly intact. No goofy rear seat deletion or removal of any carpeting or insulation to cut weight. He daily drove this car, too, and he’s more sensible than most. Or at least he’s sensible enough not to completely ape the livability of a car when it still has to drive to and from the track.
The OEM heated seats are still here and still get lovably scorching in our bitter desert winter. The stock sound system is still a banger, too. The only hints of modification inside are the custom steering wheel upholstery and a shift knob. The trunk liner has been removed to allow for access to the rear shock towers where the dampening adjustment lies, but if that’s had any effect on NVH, I haven’t noticed. If anything, it just made more room for groceries. Totally important in a car like this.
The exhaust is annoy-the-neighbors loud on startup but becomes smooth, balanced, and mature when warmed up, producing no drone whatsoever. In the cabin, it sounds as though the car was fitted with a somewhat tame catback and nothing more; that’s to say, it’s quiet when you want it to be. Great for dates. Or if you have tinnitus. Or if you and your date both have tinnitus.
Daily your track car. Who’s gonna stop you?
So. Driving someone else’s former track toy. Not bad. Not bad at all. It could do with a milder splitter or no splitter at all. And the catless exhaust means that CARB reps will shoot me on sight the instant I cross the state line to buy a lotto ticket. But not bad at all. At least it’s done right, which is the defining line between versatile track cars you can use daily and hyper-focused track cars you’d rather trailer.
Any track-built car could pull shifts as a commuter. A car is a car. It’s all a matter of how it’s set up and the quality of the parts. Just know there will have to be compromises in how comfortable you can be or how hardcore you can build it. Frankly, if your idea of a track car is decent coilovers and sticky tires, you’re set! Hell, you’d clear more speed bumps than me. You’ll generally be fine if you leave ground clearance for larger floor jacks and attacking apex curbing and if you fervently believe the stiffest suspension setups aren’t always the best. Oh, and unless you’re entering time trials in the damn thing, don’t turn your interior into a scrap heap. Leave that to the dedicated race car builds. Your bum and your eardrums will thank you.
So there you go. Go ahead. Daily your track car, and live life like Ryosuke Takahashi except in suburban America and not urban Japan. And if your track car is a little more on the extreme side, Well, daily it anyway. It’ll be funny.
A new car for new adventures
So, if my last car was leagues more practical than this BRZ on a regular basis, why did I even bother with it? Simple.
I felt it was time to part ways with my prior car of six and a half years and wanted to level up. Simple as that. And while the Mustang could’ve definitely been its own track star with more money thrown at it, it was time to try a different platform and expand my palette a bit. So, when the opportunity came to snag my friend’s BRZ and depart from my 10-year-old, 114,000-mile trooper of a My-First-Sports-Car, the car I bought right after dropping out and shuttled me through a rebooted college career, a military enlistment, numerous road trips, getting absolutely lost as fuck in the Eldorado National Forest (beautiful place to get lost, by the way), and my first few jobs, I had to jump on it.
Think of the switch in Takumi and the Initial D story moving from the White Ghost of Akina arc to the Project D arc. And with it will (hopefully) come falling lap times, a more serious and mature take on driving, and, most importantly, all-new learning experiences I never had or bothered to pick up as a deadbeat college kid. But this is not to completely say goodbye to my little blue car. It was sold to a good friend, so it’s still in the social circle for me to witness its growth in new hands.
So far, ownership is looking like it’ll be a breeze despite the car’s livable shortcomings in the Suburban Errand Run GP. But can I fill in the shoes this car needs to topple my buddy’s lap records and move up a couple classes at HPDE days? There’s only one way to find out. But before then, there are those inherent oiling gremlins I must keep at bay first. Because #justsubiethings, apparently.