After over a month away, the wagon has finally made its triumphant return home. In August, the car spent some much-needed time at Wile Motorsport in Walpole, Massachusetts. In addition to a brake upgrade (more on that later), I also had Wile tackle another critical modification to the car’s feel: the shifter. More than 195,000 miles does a serious number on shifter bushings; the term vague would have been a major compliment to my previous shifting setup. I knew that this situation needed to be addressed.
Having completed most of the supporting modifications in the form of polyurethane bushings and mounts, I began looking at different chassis-mounted short-shifters (bold for a street car, but if I can live with nearly solid bushings, I think I’ll be fine).
After seemingly endless research, I opted for Garagistic’s chassis-mounted shifter and double-shear selector rod (DSSR). Machined out of aluminum, this aesthetically striking centerpiece should be perfect for my application.
Having no expectations other than, “It has to be better than what’s in there,” I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never done any shifting modifications to any of my previous cars, so living with a modified shifter was going to be completely new.
After getting the car back, I was excited that the new and old shifts have absolutely nothing in common. The Garagistic unit is infinitely more tactile and engaging; rather than suggesting what gear to select, the new machined aluminium selector clicks into place like the action on a newly minted bolt-action rifle. It’s decisive and deliberate.
In addition to its newfound “gatedness,” the shift throw has decreased by what feels like 90%. Remember the old analog Dell keyboard with which you played Nicktoons Racing on the family PC (okay, just me?)? It would be similar to using that 1990s keyboard up until 2020, only to suddenly realize that Apple’s keyboard designs exist.
It’s a vastly different feel.
I love this thing. I can absolutely see how someone would hop into the wagon and say, “Wow, this is weird.” I think that’s why I love it so much. I’ve successfully reversed out millions of dollars in R&D by BMW to separate the road from its passengers. This shifter is the perfect complement, and completes the more hardcore feel of the car.
For street application, I won’t lie, it’s a bit of an overkill. You have to really muscle the stick around. Who would have thought that a shifter mounted directly to the chassis doesn’t like being operated gently?
Aside from the obvious downsides, however, the shifts are extremely fulfilling when you get them right. Under hard acceleration, nailing shifts and banging through gears seems almost too easy; it’s unbelievably rewarding to slam the stick into gear, feel the click, and to get back on the power. This setup on the track is going to offer a serious advantage, and I can see why so many have opted for this or something similar.
This seemingly mild modification has dramatically changed the characteristics of driving the wagon, and it’s something I wish that I had done much earlier. For now, the novelty of muscling my way through the gears hasn’t worn off—but then again, neither has owning the high-mileage E46 Touring.—Tucker Beatty
[Photos courtesy Tucker Beatty.]