APART from truly exotic cars such as Ferrari and the scintillating new TVR (on its way), most models are pumped out like washers – in manufacturers’ line-ups they might be for all that Jock Tamson’s bairns. One car, however, is quite rare yet doesn’t cost the earth to buy. In fact, a brand new one can be acquired for the price of some Minis.
The car I’ve been buzzing around in recently is the Subaru BRZ. Although it has a metal fixed roof, I like to think of this model as a sports car rather than a coupe. It has two doors, two front seats and the sculpture of two rear seats that don’t come with legroom. Under the bonnet is a petrol flat-four boxer chain cam engine linked to a manual gearbox that drives the rear wheels.
I took the BRZ down the M6, leaving at J37 to make my way towards the southern part of the Lake District. Remains of the past, such as where Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter lived and where Donald Campbell died on Coniston 50 years ago, cannot be overlooked. But best of all is how the jagged peaks are mirrored in vast lakes, wooded fells give hill walkers a high-octane boost and in general there is an air that the whole place is a holiday park.
The lakes are mainly long and narrow in profile and with mountains positioned to amplify the striking landscape it is perhaps indeed an area that’s best suited for revellers in country pursuits.
The road network is contained to routes that wriggle by lakes and around the high lands and despite having a good book of maps in the car the absence of satellite navigation and those vital signposts at that very crucial time resulted in my directionfinding ability being exposed.
It meant my well-intentioned visits to meet Jemima Puddleduck and Cousin Ribby at Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm at Near Sawrey and to Hawkshead where poet William Wordsworth attended the local grammar school and lodged at Anne Tyson’s cottage in Red Lion Square became victims of a wrong turning.
I didn’t mind this too much as I was beginning to have a love affair with the BRZ, which apparently stands for Boxer Rear-wheel drive Zenith.
Subarus are celebrated for having boxer engines and the Zenith part is possibly responsible for this car being at a pinnacle. This haphazard guess may be slightly more educated if you know that “Subaru” is Japanese for “unite” but is also the name given to the Pleiades star cluster thus the stars on the company’s logo.
I am not in the open air with the fresh lakeland breezes swishing through my hair and I’m not enclosed in excessive luxury but I am in a car that in all other respects is a true sportster. In front, a long bonnet, behind, a short tail. I’m in the middle, low down, secure with a steering wheel in my fingertips that’s exceedingly precise and with a centre of gravity that’s lower than a Ferrari 458 I have a ride that is the nearest I can imagine to being in a go-kart.
The bonus of this is that lacing my way through passes and winding lakeside roads conveys some immense pleasure as the BRZ grips passionately to the road. Its gearstick sits high and is delightfully notchy, road wheels create a satisfying din and the
engine roars like a bench saw that’s being pressed hard. The radio speaks to me as if from the bottom of a hollow biscuit tin, reminding me this car is all about driving and soaking up mechanical sounds and feeling you’re doing 300mph when in fact the speedo reads 55mph.
My wrong turning, with apologies to Potter and Wordsworth, resulted in coming across the Lakeland Motor Museum. It’s been created on the site of the former Backbarrow Blue Mill that at one time made the washing additive ultramarine pigment, often called Dolly Blue. I dare say the sometime fashionable blue rinse of many genteel ladies may have incorporated a wee tincture of this.
Lakeland has been cleverly, thoughtfully laid out to present cars and motoring memorabilia. Perhaps more important is that its appeal transcends inspecting cars of a certain vintage or provenance and so it is a joy to follow the prescribed route faithfully to gain total satisfaction.
Although some cars are stars, such as Donald Campbell’s 1936 Bentley, a Second World War Willys Jeep and a TVR alleged to be the fastest ever built, I was more fascinated by the collections of motorcycles and scooters, including a video presentation of Isle of Man and John McGuiness with his Honda CBR1000 Fireblade.
This museum successfully steps back in time and has faithfully recreated shop windows that feature a bookshop, the Co-operative, shoemaker, post office, toys, hobbies and a boutique all have authentic contents. I was not surprised to learn there are more than 30,000 items on display. In another building is a special exhibition to Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald, who between them captured 21 world and land speed records in the Bluebird series of cars and boats. You can see replicas of the 1935 Bluebird car, 1939 Bluebird boat K4 and the ill-fated 1967 jet hydroplane Bluebird K7.
And so, with a rescheduled route, I made my way in a pensive mood northwards by Windermere on a helter-skelter road that eventually passed by Ullswater and joined the M6 near Penrith. The Lake District is a beautiful area – busy yes, but there’s plenty of it for everyone to combine in harmony.
The Subaru is not a particularly fast as sports cars go but it is adequate in performance and refinement, making all the right noises and making the driver feel involved. The BRZ model is simple: it comes with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission and is available in one level of trim, SE Lux. The automatic is £1500 dearer. If you must have sat nav, sucker one to the windscreen for £50.
The Subaru BRZ offered supercar sounds and racing car precision as it laced its way around the southern edges of the Lake District
Despite its focus on engine roars and a lack of luxury options, including a sat nav, the BRZ found its way to some of the Lake District’s most attractive spots