Cars and Coffee. Upon hearing that phrase, most people immediately think of the famous weekly meet held in Irvine, or even perhaps the Woodland Hills location which Jay Leno is known to frequent. However, both these events take place in Southern California, the home of undoubtably the largest community of car enthusiasts in the nation. But what about Northern California? Well, unfortunately, we don’t have anything on the scale of the events in Southern California, but one shop is quickly making their cars and coffee event well-known in the NorCal gearhead community.
Established in 2012 (if I recall correctly), every second Saturday of the month from April to October, Canepa opens its doors to the automotive enthusiasts of Northern California. Two years later, the Canepa cars and coffee gatherings have grown to over 200 attendees. It’s actually been over a year since I’ve been to Canepa’s cars and coffee, but now that I have some time, I’m going to try to make it regularly. I unfortunately missed the first event of 2014, so I made sure not to miss this month’s.
With the FR-S freshly washed, I headed off to Canepa around 8:15am and about 45 minutes later, I rolled into the parking lot. There’s nothing quite like Canepa. Home to some of the greatest and rarest cars in racing history, Canepa allows you to get up close and personal with the cars and really take in all the details of a finished vehicle or one undergoing the process of restoration. But before we get to those cars, here’s a few photos of the cars that caught my eye in the parking lot.
This 914 had an EJ swap from a WRX. Very cool.
And some artsy-fartsy photos…
Walking inside, you find yourself at the entrance to Canepa’s showroom of cars for sale.
I’ve seen the Interscope Racing 934 before, but I have to get pictures every time I see it. It’s just that great.
BMW CSL. Another gorgeous car.
How often do you see a CLK DTM AMG?
Canepa is known for its variety. Where else would you find a ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona and an ’04 Porsche Carrera GT together?
From the showroom, I made my way to the shop floor where there were many cars in various stages of restoration or repair.
Currently, Canepa had not one, but three, Countachs.
This Bugatti EB110 has been here since I first visited. I wonder what’s taking so long.
Canepa is an OCD paradise. All those bags taped to the wall contain various pieces associated with parts of the car and are labeled accordingly. Proper organization makes me happy. :D
The other half of the shop is probably even more impressive.
I hadn’t seen the giant murals yet, so to finally see them was really neat.
The other two Countachs.
And yes, Canepa also works with two wheeled modes of transportation.
Where else in the world are you going to find a Porsche 959, Jaguar XJ220, Lamborghini Countach, and IMSA 240Z together like this?
This 962C was ordered by Trust (known as Greddy to us) for testing in Japan. It was never raced competitively, so it might be one of the most pristine examples left in the world. Despite this, Canepa still restored the car and has it set up and ready for future track time.
Upstairs is the Canepa museum, full of racing legends.
And to finish it off, one of the most famous Porsches, the 917, in an equally famous livery, Gulf Racing.
Well, that’s all I got. I hope you enjoyed the photos. If you’re local, I encourage you to visit future events! The atmosphere is really relaxed and there’s a lot to see and be inspired by. Till next time…
Just a few things to think about. Personally, I wish more people built proper street cars. I find them more fun and interesting than full-blown wannabe race cars or cars “built” for parking lot show-off meets. It’s all about balance.
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.
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…
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.