86S Ibukiyama

Since the inception of the 86, Toyota Japan has been celebrating the revival of fun that it has brought back to Toyota’s lineup by holding 86 owner events across Japan. These events are held on mountain pass roads, known as “touge” in Japan, made famous by a certain tofu-delivering AE86. At these events, owners are given the chance to connect with other drivers and local area clubs, are treated to free food and special guest appearances, and celebrate their ownership through parade laps and other events.

Toyota Japan really goes out of their way to do these things for the owners. They don’t have to do any of this, but the fact they do, really says a lot. Good job Toyota. I just wish I could experience something like this in the States.

Inspiration?

I’ve been feeling rather conflicted with the FR-S as of late. I really want to stick with a subtle, street-oriented car in an effort to keep the fun, easy-to-drive nature of the stock car, but when I see pictures of the Bride/Prodrive/Esprit 86:

It just makes me go, “Ughhh…this is nice.” I would love to get the Esprit lip and wing, but then I’d end up with a car that wouldn’t really be at home on the street anymore and would feel rather ridiculous driving around, not to mention the attention it would get from the police and other drivers (then again, it is just a weekend car). And then there’s the case of totally altering the car’s characteristics to pull it all off. The suspension would have to be changed again to accommodate a larger wheel and tire setup, and there would likely have to be some engine work as well (counterpoint: Griffon 86) to handle the aero. It certainly wouldn’t have the feeling the stock car has, but would it still be just as fun? Is it really the direction I want to take with the car? Hmm…

Project FRS: Suspension

This particular entry has been sitting in my drafted posts folder for about a month now. During that time, I’ve been trying to understand why I continue to post on here. Yeah, it’s a topic I’ve mentioned before, but as the days go by, I spend more time thinking about it. There are far better photographers and writers out there with content that’s a million times better than mine. I rarely do anything or go anywhere these days, so I all I have left to post about is the FR-S, but who really cares to read about my justifications for certain parts? So I bought XYZ brand. Cool. Whatever. I don’t know anymore, but since I started it, I might as well finish it, right? I suppose the timing is appropriate because this may very well be the last post on part selection the FR-S. The car is pretty much where I wanted it, a very low-key and timeless build. My main goal was to focus on improving the parts of the car that I felt were lacking or could use some improvement while keeping the car nimble and fun. Having changed the wheels, tires, and brakes, the only piece left was the suspension.

Suspension was a huge hurdle with the FR-S. From the factory, the Showa supplied dampers were found to be critically damped, which is a good thing, if you didn’t already know. Many people, myself included, have actually been pleased with the stock units from a performance aspect, but the one thing I couldn’t do was overcome the 4×4 ride height. Someone mentioned that if the stock suspension was an inch lower, most people wouldn’t change a thing. I would have to agree, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case I was faced with.

I know I’ve stated it before, but my whole perspective on tuning stems from the position that if I replace something on the car, the new part should perform better than what it is replacing. Since its release, the FR-S has made quite a name for itself in regards to its superb handling. I definitely didn’t want to ruin the car by slapping on a set of cheap coilovers for the sake of a lower ride height (I already made that mistake once). Unfortunately, by taking that position, I knew that I would be looking at potentially spending thousands of dollars for a high end solution.

I began my search almost immediately after the FR-S was purchased. At that time, not much in the way of quality brands were out yet for the FR-S, just a lot of Chinese/Taiwanese junk. Since I found the stock suspension was better than I had expected and had a growing understanding of the differences between good and bad suspensions, I was in no rush to jump into an impulse purchase. I spent the last year or so lurking and reading every suspension tech thread on FT86club, trying to understand more about suspension in general, suspension on the 86, and what constituted a “good” aftermarket suspension. I also began to develop an understanding of what I wanted for a suspension solution for my car.

After a while, I found that I wanted a single adjustable or fixed damping shock. Most people like lots of knobs that click 19287392 times. I am not one of those people. In my research, I found that those knobs are next to useless, especially on low-end shocks. I will admit that I don’t fully understand compression and rebound and how changes in each affect the system as a whole. Sure, I could’ve got a set and used them as a learning tool so that I could learn and understand, but I didn’t want to spend all my time in my driveway or in the pits playing with the settings when I could be spending that time on the street or track enjoying the car.

Rebuild and tuning support was also an important consideration for me. I wanted a shock that I could bring to a local shop for rebuilding or revalving. Shipping halfway around the world just to repair or fine tune or just having no support at all? No thanks.

There are times during my research that I was convinced that I was over-analyzing the process and I would be fine with something “affordable.” I went through several reconsiderations, at one point even considering just getting a set of Swift lowering springs. When that happened though, I just had to step back and remind myself not to settle and that I’d be much happier with something that fit all my wants and needs, not just some.

Eventually, with the help of a friend, I was guided toward Bilstein. Bilstein fit all my criteria, but as I soon learned, it would be months before any application for the FR-S/BRZ would be released in the US. Europe and Japan both had suspension kits on the market months ago. I played with the idea of importing a set of Bilstein coilovers from Japan when I read a post on FT86club about someone in Southern California who had purchased a Bilstein kit and had Bilstein engineers set everything up for him. I decided to look more into what he had done and called Bilstein USA to find out more about it. When I called, I was told that Bilstein US was actually going to release the B14 (PSS) kit in the US the following week. Bilstein recommended AJ USA and the next day I had my order placed.

Now that I had the coilover situation sorted out, the next hurdle to overcome was camber adjustment. The 86/BRZ lacks camber adjustment on all four corners. Thankfully, there were some options. For the front, I purchased a set of HVT camber plates. The plates allow for 1.8 degrees of camber adjustment while retaining the stock suspension travel, which is incredibly important for any car, but definitely benefit the 86 in particular since the car lacks proper suspension travel at lower ride heights. A good explanation of these mounts can be found here. The rear camber issue was solved by adjustable Cusco rear lower control arms. There are a lot of lower control arms out there for the 86/BRZ, but personally, Cusco was the only brand that I felt confident in purchasing. Cusco has been around for ages and I feel much better about the craftsmanship they put into their products. Interestingly, a ton of Cusco products are actually rebranded OEM parts. Plus, I was able to get a unbeatable deal on the set I ended up getting from JDMEGO.

Well, that basically wraps up the suspension on the FR-S. Here’s a quick picture of the car as it stands. I’ll have some better photos whenever I get around to it.