Recommended Watches

It’s an obvious fact that the last couple years have seen a massive shift in people’s TV watching habits. People are watching less live TV than ever before, and as a response, huge amounts of programming are now streamed online or available on-demand. I think this is great because it allows for more content diversity and choices by creating a market with less barriers to entry for networks. I’m now able to enjoy shows, at my leisure, that I wouldn’t otherwise watch for a variety of reasons. Two such shows are Huang’s World and States of Undress, both distributed by Vice.

I am fascinated by the world and all the different cultures that inhabit it. I enjoy learning about and (trying to) understand the history of places, people, events, and the ideas and opinions that shape how we all live today. I love shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Parts Unknown, so it was no surprise that I found Huang’s World and States of Undress entertaining, interesting, and informative.

Huang’s World is hosted by Eddie Huang, who might sound familiar if you’ve seen or heard of the major network comedy Fresh Off The Boat which was supposed to tell the story of Eddie and his family as they develop their identities, manage their struggles, and celebrate their successes as Asian-Americans. Huang’s World is a food-based travelogue that draws on Eddie’s background in the food industry and examines perspectives of identity, culture, history, and politics and their impacts on the regional cuisine and lifestyle of the ordinary people Eddie meets along the way. The show is very much about being in-the-moment, capturing things as they are, and projects a very “real” dialogue between Eddie and his guests as he tries to understand viewpoints on topics and issues that people around the world face every day. While Eddie certainly doesn’t meet the same level of professionalism in his appearance, talk, and actions that you might be accustomed to after watching Anthony Bourdain, it’s clear that Eddie is intelligent and thoughtful, but very outspoken and not afraid to share his own strong opinions that occasionally put him at odds with his hosts or guests. However, it becomes clear that it’s just a reflection of the uncompromising, tell-it-like-it-is nature of himself and his show; but despite his sometimes immature persona, overall, the show does a good job of highlighting global issues and the analyzing the impact they have on people and food.

The second show, States of Undress, is hosted by Hailey Gates, a model turned journalist. Again, the basic structure of the show is similar to Bourdain and Huang’s, but food is replaced with fashion. Through her show, Hailey visits various fashion weeks around the world and meets with guests to discuss the roles and effects that beauty and fashion have on culture and politics. States of Undress is a raw, honest, and often personal, investigation into global and local issues through the lens of what people wear and why. We watch as Hailey interviews intensely nationalist Russians, an ISIS sympathizer, and meets with fashion designers in China wanted by the government for making political statements. Like Huang’s World, States of Undress is very off-the-cuff show, with the viewer experiencing intimate moments as Hailey discusses her opinions on marriage and sex in a very conservative Russia and meets with female victims of acid attacks in Pakistan. I’ve never had much, if any, interest in fashion, but after watching States of Undress, it’s given me perspective on how important what we wear is and the statements it makes for and about people and and its consequences on a culture’s identity, economics, and politics.

Observations

A lot of what I’m covering in Version 1.1 is mostly cosmetic. However, as mentioned before, I’ll be addressing a few other points of attention in the engine/drivetrain and suspension this year as well. Rather than blindly change things on the car, I need to identify specific areas of improvement so that I can make educated decisions on what I need to do to set up the car properly.

I just got back from a drive along Hwy 9, a mountain road that runs between I-280 and the famous California coastal road, Hwy 1. The road is well-known by automotive enthusiasts as being one of the best driving roads in Northern California. And as Adam of the Mythbusters once said, “[T]he only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down.” So while my observations on the driving dynamics of the FRS are still fresh in my mind, I’m going to write this down.

Understeer. Going around corners, I noticed the car definitely understeers. It felt like the front was going to lose traction and wash out. I definitely did not have much confidence in the car and dialed back my corner speeds. Spring rates? Sway bars? Alignment? Tire compound & pressures? I’ll have to do some research and evaluate my options here.

Tires. I currently have the Michelin Pilot Super Sports. While they’re a great all-around daily driver tire, when pushed really hard, they seem to be too soft and give easily. It doesn’t appear I’m rolling over on the sidewalls yet, but maybe it’s time to look into a different compound, especially if I’m going to a stiffer spring.

Height. Car height is good and it appears I have plenty of travel and droop. I did encounter two hard corners where it sounded like the car briefly rubbed, but I’m not worried because it wasn’t bad and I plan to get stiffer springs anyway.

Alignment. Alignment feels good, but I think some more camber might be good. I’m currently at 1.8 (F) and 1.2 (R). I think 2 (F) and 1.6 (R) should be good. I’ll keep the toe at 0 (F) and a hair out in the rear for stability (not sure on the numbers, but it’s very minimal).

Springs. Compared to the stock springs, the Bilstein B14 (PSS), which use progressive springs, are 6 to 47% stiffer in the front, while the rear ranges from 19% SOFTER to 47% stiffer. I’m not happy with the progressive rate set up because it introduces too many variables. It tries to do too many things at once with too many trade-offs–which I verified in my drive. I would very much prefer the consistency and predictability of a linear spring. Since I knew this was a problem already, I’ve spent well over 8 hours the last week doing all sorts of general research on suspension dynamics and focused research as it relates to the 86 platform in an attempt to start from scratch with ideal spring rates for the car. I’m over my head in numbers and theories at this point and I feel like I’ve gotten nowhere. I need to talk to some professionals before I totally give up, but at this point, I’m leaning toward a 250 or 275 front and 300 or 325 rear set up . I was told that the rates themselves and the F/R balance isn’t too important (to a degree), it’s more about having properly valved and matched shocks.

Power. Hwy 9 is popular. Not just with other car guys, but motorcyclists, regular cyclists, hikers headed to various trails that start along the road, and of course, the 5-0. While extremely tempting, it’s not the place for crazy driving (keep it off the street and bring it to the track), but it’s still a place where you can get a good feel for the car. I was able to stay in 4th most of the way to Alice’s, but there were some times I felt caught in-between gears. I think 3rd would’ve put me out of the power and with 4th, I was just barely getting into it. I’m planning a swap to a 4.56 or 4.88 final drive anyway, and people say it’s one of the best mods you can make as it brings the power down into a useable range, so that may be my solution here. I am also planning a carbon driveshaft and maybe an Ecutek or OFT tune. Combined, that should be enough for me, but I think I need a few more Hwy 9 sessions for further investigation.

I think that about covers everything I noticed. Looks like I have a lot more research and testing/investigating ahead of me…

Driven, not polished

If he was alive today, Ferdinand Porsche would give his full approval of this video. After all, the man was once quoted as saying, “Our cars are meant to be driven. Not polished.” But really, Porsche or not, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of what we drive, we all should be focusing more on our passion for being behind the wheel by exploring new roads and sharing adventures with other gearheads, not going out once a week to stand around in a trendy boba shop parking lot.

Project FRS: Ver 1.1

Just about a year ago, I was involved in an accident in my daily driver tC. Surprisingly, insurance didn’t total it, but I was kind of over the car, so I ended up selling it to the body shop I was going to have repair it. Without a car, I bought the FRS off my father, which I’ve been driving for the last year. In that time, I’ve realized how enjoyable it is to drive, but it’s also highlighted some changes I’d like to make and allowed me to develop ideas for some personal touches.

As I probably mentioned before, I love Porsches, especially the old aircooled hotrod 911s. For a while (well, I still am here and there), I was looking to buy a Porsche, but after looking at the finances that would probably be involved, I had to convince myself that now wasn’t the best time to purchase one (sigh.. 😩). But spending all that time around badass 911s at work, events, and just searching for or following cars on social media and forum build threads has instead given me a lot of inspiration for the direction I wanted to take with the FRS.

So, you might be thinking, what’s a hotrod 911? Well, it looks something like this…

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oslo blue

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A few characteristics:

No aero. Aside from some duck tail spoilers, the cars keep their factory appearance. The whole premise of the hotrod 911 revolves around a lightweight approach to tuning. This is the same approach I’m going to take on the FRS. Like the Porsche 911, I’d argue that the body lines of the FRS are classic (it helps the 2000GT was the inspiration for the design and proportions) and the car doesn’t need any ridiculous body or lip kits (including widebody or overfender kits), overkill GT wings, or insane time attack aero, especially if it’s just going to be a street car. The only exterior mods I have planned are a sharkfin antenna and 5Axis trunk spoiler. In my opinion, the car doesn’t need anything else.

Tweaked suspension. Involved with a company in the business, I can say there’s a lot of suspension options for 911s. There are packages for people who wish to keep the torsion bar setup and for those that want to convert to coilovers. There are solutions for people who want to keep the factory ride quality, people who want to turn up the stiffness to 11, and the guys building the hotrods which typically fall in-between these extremes. Since my goal is a street car, I see no need to go with a full polyurethane bushed suspension and super stiff coilovers, but I will be addressing some key points such as revalving my Bilstein B14s and coverting to linear Hyperco springs (to replace the progressive springs), adding spherical upper mounts that will increase suspension travel, upgrading to some redesigned suspension bolts from the ’15+ GT86 and BRZ tS, correcting the roll center geometry, and addressing some deflection points in the chassis and suspension. Since I already have a lightweight wheel and tire package as well as the AP Racing brakes, I won’t be changing anything in those areas.

Massaged engine. There are a tons of options from fuel injection, to bigger carbs, to engine swaps from in almost every flavor of displacement from 2 to 4 liters. The possibilities are endless, it all depends on your budget. But the end game is all about response and overall balance with the car as a whole, not necessarily raw power. Now, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of options when it comes to the FRS. If you want more power than bolt-ons offer (which really isn’t much), it basically comes down to some form of forced induction and engine swaps. However, these choices don’t really reflect the mantra of the hotrod Porsches I’m inspired by, so I’m considering an N/A build. I’m not sure yet if I want to do a 2.1L build or leave the motor mostly stock for reliability sake. For now though, I’m looking at the Jackson Racing NA oil cooler kit, STi axles, and a DSS carbon driveshaft. I’d really like to do a header and tune, but until I live in a state not controlled by smog nazis and enforced by cops with nothing better to do, I don’t really want to mess with obvious emissions changes. I will probably be able to fly under the radar with built internals, but what good is that without being able to tune?

Spartan interior. Hotrod 911s take Porsche’s focus of being driver’s cars to the next level. The emphasis remains minimal weight and distractions. Often you’ll find just a thin layer of carpet (or none at all; and sound deadening? what’s that?), a backseat that no longer exists (and sometimes replaced with a roll bar), bucket seats, no radio and other creature comforts, lightweight (RS) door cards with pull straps, and a sports steering wheel. Since the FRS is going to stay a street car, I’m not going to delete the AC or radio, rip out the interior panels, and put a roll bar in (although I’ve thought very hard about it, haha). However, I have plans to order Recaro Sportster CS seats and customize them with a unique tartan fabric, replace the door handles with pull straps like those found on the GT4 and new 911R, and replace the steering wheel with the TRD Momo wheel and GT86 airbag cover. I’ve also thought about replacing the black seat belts with red ones (like you can have optioned on new 911s), but I’m not sure how or if that’s possible. The overall goal is a sporty, yet comfortable, classic street styled interior.

So, that’s basically where I see the FRS going in 2016, and in January, version 1.1 began. Version 1.1 is mostly a refresh build implementing the some of the changes I outlined above, but will also address some smaller details.

So what’s on tap for 1.1?

Paint. Unfortunately, since purchase, the FRS has been designated as an “outdoor car,” and has experienced the brunt of California’s “brutal” elements. In just 3 short years, the headlights have UV damage, the tail lights have condensation again (replaced once under a TSB), and the paint…well, I don’t have any words for the paint. A couple weeks ago, I took the FRS to Bob at Auto Concierge in Fremont where he verified my gut feeling about the paint condition on the car. The paint is in horrible shape, but also mostly a mystery. After trying two different paint depth gauges, Bob was unable to get a solid reading on the paint. Since I intend to keep the car, I decided to just have it done right and invest in a quality paint job. Also, circumstances have changed and I’ll have access to a garage, which means I can finally have a covered place to keep the car. So, the car will be painted and I’ll be staying with the red (Firestorm). As nice as a color change would be (I wouldn’t mind Ferrari Fly Yellow or Albertblau), a full paint is more involved than I’d like to get right now. It’s just going to be an exterior refresh for now. I will only consider a full change when I take the car down to bare metal to do it right. That’ll happen maybe in 30 years… haha.

New FRS headlights. I opted not to get the OEM GT86 headlights because I’m not sold on the LED DRLs. I’ve seen newer cars with burnt out LEDs already and it isn’t a great look. Plus, the halogens on the FRS are similar to the headlights found on the Levin and I’m all about keeping it classic (and simple).

JDM tail lights. It may seem incredibly insignificant, but the clear/chrome tail lights in Europe and Asia are visually much better than the US spec ones which require a red reflector.

New front bumper. My dad managed to scrape up the front bumper pretty badly when he was driving the car, so I figured it would be the same or cheaper to get a new bumper than pay for the labor of smoothing out the original bumper.

Miscellaneous bulbs. I picked up some LED bulbs for the headlights and chrome TRD winker bulbs to replace the orange bulbs in the turn signals. Again, mostly an OCD thing like the JDM tails.

5Axis rear trunk spoiler. I picked one up a couple years ago, but I began having issues with the adhesive, so I pulled it off. I’ll get it installed correctly after paint.

Debadge. I’ve seen some Porsche owners paint or put a sticker of the Porsche logo crest on their cars and I kinda like the look, so I’m considering painting the Toyota badge on the front. The rear trunk handle will be debadged and have the holes filled prior to paint. I may leave the FRS badge where it is, but I’m also thinking about having something custom done on the 5Axis spoiler kinda like the Fairlady Z432.

TRD trunk aero cover. For the practical reason of keeping leaves and other debris out of my trunk.

TRD shark fin antenna. Basically for cosmetic reasons, but after receiving it, I’m not sold on the look. It’s a lot bigger than I expected. Part of me wants to get rid of the antenna entirely since I don’t listen to the radio and replace the entire roof with a dry carbon one from Esprit or Revolution, but I’m not sure I want to get that involved and start messing with the structural safety of a car that isn’t a dedicated race car.

TRD door stabilizers. This was a curiosity purchase. The theory is that a spacer fills the gap in the door striker area, providing quicker steering response by cutting down the delay from when the steering wheel is turned. I wanted to test the product and see if there was any substance to the claim.

TRD Momo steering wheel and JDM GT86 airbag cover. No real explanation other than I wanted them, haha.

So far, I’ve accumulated most of the parts listed above and the car is almost ready to go to paint. I’m just waiting on the JDM tails and TRD steering wheel to arrive. The seats, suspension, and engine/drivetrain products will come later in the year. Basically my goal is a fun, sporty street car tuned in a classic, timeless style. We’ll see how it all comes together…

News: 86GRMN

After many years of development by Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s in-house motorsports division, the road going version of the 24 hour Nürburgring cars, named the 86GRMN, will be available to purchase in 2016. Production is limited to 100 units and purchasing will be conducted by a lottery system. Oh, and it costs $53,000.

Aside from some obvious exterior carbon fiber enhancements, and unlike TRD’s 14R60, there appears to be some significant changes to the engine, drivetrain, and suspension. A rough Google translate seems to indicate changes in engine specs supported by a new ECU and images show a brand-new intake and exhaust manifold design. Other changes mentioned include a hollow driveshaft, intake and exhaust, transmission gear ratios, final drive, monoblock 6pot front and 4pot rear brakes, a single adjustable fixed-perch suspension design, as well as changes to the factory Torsen LSD. Gazoo has also gone through the chassis design and made improvements to the rigidity of the body, claiming a “torsional rigidity of about 1.8 times the base model ratio.”

Gazoo Racing also made an interesting choice with the wheel size and selected 17×7.5 fronts and 17×8.5 rears, with 215/40 and 235/40 respectively. I say interesting because most track enthusiasts have found that square setups have been proven much faster and more predictable than staggered, and for a car born from motorsport, it seems like an odd decision.

The car will be officially on display at the Tokyo Auto Salon in a couple weeks. For detailed information (in Japanese) and images, click here.

Gazoo Racing has created multiple cars for different racing series, and all of them have been sources of inspiration for me, mostly in the areas of suspension and engine. The Gazoo/TOM’S Spirit 86 was on display at Toyota Megaweb dealership on Odaiba earlier this year and I spent a long time poking my head and phone in and around the car (while probably getting a lot of people staring and wondering what some random white kid was doing). This particular prototype was actually on display the same time I was there, but was closely watched by a Toyota employee, and looking mostly like a stock car, I didn’t really have an opportunity or bother taking the time to take an in-depth look like I did on the Spirit 86. I wish I did now though…

Garage 550

I love looking at old race photos (especially ones with Porsches, haha). The cars, the people, the environment; I find it all so intriguing. I’m on a bit of a 550 kick right now, so this photo in particular I found myself spending a few minutes pouring over all the details.

Toyota 86 – Final Touge

Tonight, September 27, marks the final broadcast of Toyota Japan’s touge series where they celebrate the fun to drive nature of the Toyota 86 by exploring many of Japan’s most well-known driving roads. For the past 3 years, 156 short 5 minute clips have showcased the beauty of rural Japan, taking the viewer from arid, desert-like expanses to rainy, lush mountain switchbacks. In the final episode, Toyota has compiled some scenes from previous episodes mixed with some never-seen-before clips to create a special sendoff.

Enjoy.