Despite the fact the suspension had yet to be fully dialed-in, the ride was liveable, and the T/A handled the potholed roads and rough pavement without pitching, bottoming out, or rattling dental work loose. The power rack-and-pinion steering felt a bit overboosted, but that's another item that will be further tuned. Remember, this is a prototype. In the turns, the BRE T/A is stable and flypaper sticky, and the bolstered seats and snug harness keep your posterior off the console or door panel.
Mashing your right foot into the carpet brings on the power like right now! With the four-link rear suspension set on the soft side and the super-wide Michelin Pilots out back, the BRE T/A squats and shoots like it should on launch. The quick-revving LS7, 3.73s in the rear, short tires, and the gearing in the Tremec conspire to make the Second-gear shift come up quick. With a stab of the clutch and a yank of the shifter-it seems like only about 2 inches-the 1-2 shift is complete. Not long after comes the 2-3, followed by the 3-4, and then the traffic-court side of the speedometer. Once you take your foot out of it, dropping the shifter into Fifth rewards you with lower revs and a more mellow exhaust note for effortless cruising at high speeds.
Need to stop? No problem. The 14-inch rotor, six-piston caliper Baer brakes and a Hydroboost system combined with those large contact patches at the four corners promise to rip off your sunglasses upon deceleration.
Of course, the lowered stance, fat tires, and throaty exhaust that provide so much fun from the driver seat do not go unnoticed by bystanders either. But do they realize how much this car is changed from a stock SE at a glance?
If you're a fan of the SE cars, then the body enhancements to the BRE T/A are readily apparent. Chief Designer Phil Brewer said of the stock SE, "It's a great design and still looks good today. We just wanted to update the areas of the car that made it look dated. The wheel and tire sizes are obvious, but I also felt the glass moldings, the four square headlights, and the amount of pinstriping dated the car too much."
Beginning at the beak, the nose is now one piece of fiberglass that has the area where the Pontiac arrowhead would be filled in. It also features driving lights with ports molded into the fascia. The blinker/parking lights have been removed for the lower air intakes, which now serve as brake cooling ducts and feature custom gold honeycomb inserts. The grilles are custom as well, with fabricated buckets installed to facilitate the use of projector-beam headlights in place of the stock quad system.
Beneath the nose is a custom-designed air dam flanked by wheel spats that may look familiar-or not. They resemble the '79-and-up pieces, but they're slightly different and are now flush-mounted with no welting, for a cleaner appearance.
Fresh graphics hearken back to the original, but add a dash of modern style and understatement. Brewer explains, "I felt the entire graphics package, of which the bird is the major component, needed to be toned down a bit-it needed to be more subtle. Ultimately, we decided that we could actually make the bird bigger than the original, but also make it more subtle by keeping it mostly matte black on gloss black, with gold highlights. We also covered the entire back of the hood in matte black to make the Shaker more prominent."
BRE T/As also feature flush glass for the windshield and the backlight. While the appearance is restrained, the process is involved. Not only did a 0.25-inch spacer have to be welded into each channel, but the compound curves of the stock rear glass are such that it could not be reused, so a custom one had to be produced for the BRE cars.
Out back, the spoiler and rear bumper remain stock, but sharp-eyed readers will notice, aside from the new graphics, that the taillights are much brighter and the backup lights are gone. The former is thanks to LEDs and the latter is now a single light, mounted beneath the bumper to follow the letter of the law.
All this is highlighted by multiple coats of BASF Glasurit in a base/clear system. The matte-black treatment was also used on the air dam, fender air extractors, and all the spoilers.
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