Thursday, August 18, 2016

Time to Say Goodbye

The BRZ is a delight, and I haven't really wanted to modify it a lot lately. It just drives really nicely. So, without any new modifications to report on, I haven't really had a reason to update this blog. There are a few things I can report about living with the car on a (semi-)daily basis.

The trunk is surprisingly useful. I have taken tubs of parts up to our Summit Point Pro Shop store at the race track. I have hauled folding tables too and from Boxerfest. The car can indeed swallow a spare set of its own wheels and tires, although it's tougher if they are 255 width.

The front seats are quite nice for a variety of drivers. Even six-foot-plus drivers never seem to have a problem getting to a comfortable driving position. The fact that the seats adjust the old fashion way (no heavy motors to weigh the car down) is a bonus.

The rear seat, on the other hand, is laughably unusable. No human being over two years old can fit back there without sitting sideways with their feet on the other seat.

I've switched back and forth between stock-width 215 tires and the much wider 255's I run in the summer. The 215's give the car a very sharp, precise steering feel. The 255's instill a lot more confidence and I feel like I can toss the car around more without worrying so much that it's going let go suddenly. Either way it's still very easy to kick the rear out with a little goose of the gas pedal. Thanks, twin-scroll supercharger!

For that matter, the Sprintex supercharger gives the car a perfect combination of torque and power. It's not overwhelming, but it's enough to be satisfying. I never have felt like the car wasn't fast enough or quick enough. Plus, the supercharger has been rock-solid reliable. I'm very pleased with it.

The Valenti tail lamps never get old. They look great, especially at night.

But alas, all good things must come to and end. I've recently acquired a new Focus RS, and along with other strays I have adopted along the way, I have too many cars! The BRZ is now for sale. See my for sale post over here on the FT86 forums.

So long. See you over on the Mach V Focus RS blog!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Clutch ACTing Up

Some time in the fall, as the temperature started to get cooler, I noticed some strange behavior from the BRZ when I would apply the gas. The revs would climb, but the car didn't speed up at the same rate. On a really brisk evening in October, it was no longer a question -- the power was just too much for the stock clutch, and I couldn't get hard on the gas without the clutch completely slipping. Time for an upgrade.

I got on the phone with Dirk Starksen at Advanced Clutch Technology.  He has been in this business maybe even longer than I have, so I trust his judgment. He suggested I try the company's heavy duty clutch and flywheel combo. Soon enough we had the car on the lift and the transmission out, and in went the ACT parts.

While we were under there, we replaced the leaking factory cam plate with the lovely Raceseng billet replacement cam plate.  That got rid of that pesky oil-drip burning smell we were getting.  (If you are not familiar with this issue, the problem is a seam on the block that is improperly sealed from the factory, and oil drips out of it onto the exhaust manifold.)  The Raceseng piece is so nice looking, it's a shame nobody but my mechanics will ever see the thing.

The new clutch solved my slipping issues.  The lighter flywheel made the engine feel zippy and willing to rev.  Since the new flywheel is a single-mass part, there is a good bit more drivetrain noise under certain situations, like in-gear coasting at high RPMs.  But it's not like this car is a quiet luxury car in any case, so I don't mind.

Getting the car back to full strength happened just in time, as the snow came and we swapped on the Blizzak snow tires (on Subaru Legacy GT wheels).  The car worked great through the cold weather, and the supercharged power just gets better and better as the thermometer drops.

Next time I'll talk about some more lighting enhancements on the car, both interior and exterior.

Products mentioned in this post: ACT BRZ heavy duty clutch/flywheel combo, Raceseng cam plate.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trying on new shoes: Rota RKR

We got in some new wheels from our friends at Rota, and immediately installed them on our BRZ.  The Rota RKR has looks that remind me of the old-school RS Watanabe wheels from Japan, but the size is a thoroughly-modern 18" diameter, staggered with an 8.5" width in front and a 9.5" width for the back wheels.

We installed a take-off set of tires from my BMW 335i.  Those happen to be sizes 225/40R18 and 255/35R18.  They fit the car easily, without any rubbing.  If I was buying a brand-new set I'd probably go a bit wider, to a 265/35R18 in the back and a 245/35R18 in front.  I think those would fit without clearance problems.  The rear I'm sure is an easy fit.  The front might be a little tight to the strut -- the spring perch sometimes gets close to the tire when you start going to a wider size.  Nothing a small wheel spacer wouldn't take care of.

In fact, I am thinking I might try some slim spacers just to space this set out a few more millimeters.  There looks to be plenty of room to the fenders.  The +44 offset is a good bit more than most aftermarket wheels for this car, although I definite prefer higher offset to lower.  You can always space a wheel out using spacers.  There's no way to push a wheel in if the offset is too low.

As usual, we secured the wheels to the car with McGard SplineDrive lug nuts.

Weight on the wheels is 21.2 and 22.1 pounds for the 8.5" and 9.5" widths, respectively.  That's only a couple of pounds heavier than the stock 17x7" wheels (at 20.1 pounds).

The RKR comes in other colors, including black and "Hyper Blue," which is a very vivid deep blue color.  I thought the Hyper Black looked classy without being too loud, but I confess I'm curious to see what the blue wheel would look like on our car.
I think the BRZ with the RKR on it looks very nice.  The spoke design is simple and tasteful.  The wheels give it a little bit of a toy car look, which to me suits the fun character of the car.

Products mentioned in this post: Rota RKR wheels, McGard SplineDrive lug nuts.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"No Power" No More

For a while now I've been fielding questions about the Mach V BRZ's vanity plates, which have spelled out "NO POWER" since the car was new.  It started out as sort of an inside joke about the public reaction to the car's low engine output back when the BRZ/FR-S were first released.  But now the car is supercharged, and it seemed to make less and less sense over time, so we just got some new plates -- see the photo.  It's not super-creative, but Virginia has some of the cheapest vanity plate fees in the country, so if you have any better ideas, let us know and we'll change them up again.

That license plate is mounted on a new, revised Platypus tow hook mount from Craven Speed.  The new mount has a couple of improvements over the older one, including an angled plate to better match the bumper, and a full-size backing plate for the license plate.

I don't have many new modifications to report on the car, save for some very nice Superpro sway bars and Kartboy rear end links.  The Superpro bars installed easily, and the fatter diameter (I went with 20mm front and 18mm rear, compared with 19mm front and 14mm rear for the stock car) keeps the car flatter under cornering.  The Kartboy end links are easy to install and we know from experience on other Subaru applications that they are trouble-free over the long haul.  At this point we don't know of an aftermarket front end link for the BRZ/FR-S.

Other than that change, not much is new.  I drive the car two or three times a week, including lots of plain old commuting with lots of stop-and-go driving.  I continue to enjoy driving it -- the fun handling never gets old, and the Innovate supercharger has delivered reliable and trouble-free power for the past year.

In a previous blog post from last year I mentioned condensation on one of the rear tail lamps.  That lamp was replaced under warranty, but we hear that Subaru has stopped doing that since then.  Our lamps haven't taken on any water in the interim, so with any luck we won't have to worry about it again.

We do have some new Rota RK-R wheels waiting to be mounted up on the car, so when that's done and I've taken some photos I will post up again.

Products referenced in this post: Platypus tow hook license plate mount, Innovate supercharger kit, Superpro sway bars, Kartboy rear end links.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter 2014 Update

A couple of our fans have reminded me that it's been almost six months since I updated this blog, so here's a little run-down of what's new.

Bring it on
After running 255/40R17 Sumitomo HTR-Z tires through the warm months, I swapped back to the 215/45R17 Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 tires for the cold -- and boy has it been cold this winter!  With the winter tires, the BRZ has been a solid winter partner, with very good grip in the cold (sub-40 F temps) and wet.  On actual packed snow, the tires don't perform miracles -- this is a light rear-wheel-drive car, after all -- but we never worried about getting stuck or sliding off the road.  After experiencing the scary slithery feeling of driving this car with the stock Primacy tires in the snowy stuff, the winter tires are such a revelation.  I highly recommend them to anyone who lives in a place where it snows.

I had promised an update about tire sizes and different wheel fitment, so I'll get into that now.  First off, I am NOT in favor tire fitment solely for the purpose of appearance.  You might see this called "stance" or "stretch & poke" or other terms that basically imply pushing the wheels and tires out to as far (or farther) as they can go for the sake of looks.  What I am in favor of is larger tires for higher levels of grip.  More grip gives higher cornering speeds, better braking, and better control in all kinds of transitional maneuvers -- planned or otherwise.  I'm definitely not in favor of getting the tire to a point where it will damage the body (or worse) at full suspension compression.  If you can't use the car for its original purpose, what's the point of the whole exercise?

17x9" Mach V Awesome with 255/40R17
Note that for snow, you actually do NOT want wide tires.  Skinny tires will bite harder into the snow, whereas wider tires will tend to plane up on top and not grip.  What I'm talking about from here on out is warm-weather performance.

As I mentioned above, we've been running a 255/40R17 tire on a 17x9" +42 Mach V Awesome wheel at all four corners.  We also run Whiteline Com-C upper strut mounts, which give us extra camber by moving the entire top of the strut, rather than by moving the tire/wheel relative to the knuckle, lke eccentric bolts would do.  I mention this because a lot of BRZ/FR-S guys seem to run the eccentric bolts (or "crash bolts") to gain front camber, and this can lead to clearance problems as a wide wheel and tire can start to run into the spring perch on the OEM shock.

18x9.5" Mach V Wicked Awesome with 265/35R18
I also test fit some 18x9.5" +42 Wicked Awesome wheels with 265/35R18 tires.  This actually did fit okay in the back, but in the front the tire contacted the strut, so we had to use a 5mm spacer to get it to work.  With the 5mm spacer, the front tire was sticking out of the front body work, so without more camber I wouldn't advise running that size on the front of the car.

I could have put a 255/35R18 or 245/35R18 tire on the front 18x9.5" wheel, but those tire sizes would not be as wide as the wheel, and I'm really a big fan of having the right size tire for the wheel, and vice versa.  But if you DID want to run the 18x9.5" Wicked Awesome wheel on all four corners of your BRZ or FR-S, I'd probably do a 265/35R18 in back, and a 245/35R18 in front.

17" Awesome in front, 18" Wicked Awesome in back
Anyway, back to our fitment experiments:  Knowing that our slightly narrower 255/40R17 tire fit the front, I thought I might put the 17" wheels on the front with the 255/40R17, and the 18" with the 265/35R18 on the back.  Some sports cars (Acura NSX, Chevy Corvette) run a staggered front-back setup from the factory.  Why shouldn't we try it?  That actually fit pretty well, and the wheel size matched the tire size nicely.

Plenty of people run different tire widths on these cars front-to-back, but I haven't seen anyone else do two different wheel diameters.

One final question the fans asked me to address is gas mileage after installation of the Innovate supercharger kit.  On my daily commute, which is mixed driving, with a good amount of stop-and-go, I used to get as much as 28.5 mpg pre-supercharger.  Since the supercharger install, I have seen 26.5 mpg when I stayed out of boost as much as possible.  If I drive like a hooligan and flat-foot it every time I leave a stop light, I see more like 20 mpg.  (Of course, when I drove like a nut before the supercharger I would take a pretty big MPG hit, too.)  So basically, figure a 2 mpg penalty from the supercharger install -- a small price to pay for a 37% increase in horsepower!

Links: Mach V Awesome wheels, Mach V Wicked Awesome wheels, Innovate supercharger.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Super. Charge.

It's been a while since I posted, but I've this is a pretty big update.  "NO POWER" now has a bit more power, courtesy of an Innovate supercharger kit we installed.  This is a constant-displacement twin-scroll supercharger that makes a maximum of about 9 psi.  It bolts directly on the top of the engine using a custom intake manifold.  The setup we went with is called the "Tuner" kit, meaning the ECU tuning is up to you.  I did the tuning on our car and came up with a maximum of 218 horsepower at the rear wheels on our Dynojet dyno, up from 160 when the car was bone stock.  For the production tune packages I would expect around 210 rear-wheel horsepower.

 I chose the Innovate setup over one of the centrifugal supercharger or turbocharger options mostly because I liked the idea of a constant displacement supercharger -- for every turn of the engine, a constant-displacement unit also turns and compresses air.  Although it can be more limited in terms of top-end power, it's hard to beat the response.  In addition to having a twin-screw compressor, the manifold design and the finish details of the Innovate package are top-notch.

Installation of the supercharger is surprisingly simple.  You remove the stock intake manifold, then remove the port fuel injectors and throttle body from the manifold and transfer them to the new manifold.  Bolt the new manifold and supercharger assembly to the block, hook up a few hoses, and you're set.  It took us less than half a day.  We'd charge $400 for the install.

I spent a couple of weeks and many, many dyno runs developing our ECU calibration for the car.  I tried for stock-like smoothness and driveability, I think I managed that.  A few customers and friends that have driven the car have given us a lot of positive feedback.

This version of the kit is NON-intercooled, so horsepower gains are limited compared to a more elaborate intercooled system.  The Innovate manifold DOES have hose fittings for a future water-to-air intercooler circuit, so that is an option once that intercooler is complete and available to sell.  I have other plans, though...I'm thinking I will use water/methanol injection to perform the same function as the intercooler.  But we'll see.

So how does the car feel with the supercharger on it?  Like stock, but more.  The power delivery is instant -- you step on the throttle and you immediately have boost, so there's never a sense of any kind of lag or delay.  The torque comes on strong and carries all the way out to red line, so although the top-end power isn't massive, the car picks up speed very nicely.  The biggest difference to me is the throttle response.  Previously I felt like there was very little difference in part throttle and full throttle -- the torque was so low it just never felt like it was pulling very hard, even when you gave it the boot. Now it surges forward.  It's really fun.

Rear-end traction is more of an issue now.  Punching the throttle in a corner will slew the car sideways and get you a bunch of flashing orange tranction control warning lights.  If you happen to have the traction control all the way off, you can get yourself into trouble easily.  I'm still working on feeling out the limits of lateral grip while on-throttle.  I may have to take the car to a track for some play time in a safe environment.

To keep track of manifold pressure, we also installed a new Prosport Premium EVO boost gauge, in a vent pod from ATI.  I'll give some details about that install in my next post.

Products referenced in this post: Innovate Supercharger kit.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shifter shortening, for sure!

The stock BRZ shifter is one of the tightest and most direct-feeling I've experienced, so I was kind of skeptical about putting a short shifter in it.  Does it really need to be any shorter?  Still, my friend Tom at Kartboy assured me that his short shifter would be an improvement.  I figured I could always take it back out if I didn't like it, so why not?

The Kartboy shifter is beautifully made.  Almost every part is a custom-machined of metal.  It's hefty and solid in the hand.  All the moving parts are pre-greased, and an additional syringe of grease is included for the install.

Installation was straightforward.  (There's a nice do-it-yourself guide over on the FT86club forms.)  We did install the included rear shifter stay.  We had previously installed Kartboy's transmission mount bushing, too.  The stock shift knob fits right on, or you can use any other knob that fits the stock shifter.  We already had a black Kartboy Delrin knob on there, so we transferred that one over.

I hopped in the car after it came down on the lift, and put it in reverse, then drove out into the neighborhood around the shop.  Hey, what do you know?  The feel is tighter, click-ier, more precise feeling.  I know it's a cliche, but it feels like a bolt-action rifle.  No slop, no give, just a tight, mechanical, direct connection to the gearbox.  The slightly (0.35") lower shift knob height feels just perfect to me.  The reduced throws make the shifting feel quick and sure.

So, to sum up, I'm sold!  It's an improvement over the stock shifter.  Good job, Kartboy.

Kartboy short shifter for FR-S/BRZ