Thursday, November 8, 2012

Off to the track!

Each year for the past eight years, Mach V Motorsports (that's my business) has sponsored a National Autosports Association (NASA) HPDE weekend at Summit Point Raceway.  We invite our staff, friends, customers, and other Mach V fans to come out, drive, hang out, and have a good time at the road course.

Silver Mach V Awesome wheels
It's also a chance to put our cars and parts to the test.  Track driving is hard on tires, brakes, engines, and suspensions, and really shows the nature of how the car handles at the limit.  You can learn things about the car on track that you could NEVER find out on the street -- at least not without being arrested.

In preparation for our track sessions, we fitted up a set of lightly-used 235/40R17 Dunlop D1 Direzza Star Spec tires that we picked up from a local customer.  The Star Specs are one of our favorite high-performance street tires.  They have terrific grip in the dry, and aren't bad in the wet as long as it doesn't get too cold.  The 235/40R17 is 0.9% smaller than stock -- close enough not to matter, but in the direction of better acceleration, which we could certainly use in this car.  We put those tires on a set of our Mach V Awesome wheels in satin black (on the right side) and silver (on the left).
In the paddock
We also fitted our single-outlet muffler delete.  Between the lighter wheels, ditching the muffler, tossing out the spare and other related stuff, the car weighed around 60 pounds lighter than stock.

We needed every ounce of that weight savings.  I was in the HPDE 3 run group, with experienced drivers, many of whom were in high-powered hardware the little BRZ could never keep up with.  I spent the weekend pointing by all manner of Corvettes, Porsche GT3s, track-prepped Mustangs, Evos, and STIs.  Not every car out there was a big-power brute, though.  I was also passed by a turbocharged Toyota Tercel, and various Mazda Miatas.
Anyway, adjustments to my ego notwithstanding, the car was a treat to drive.  It cornered flat and without drama, and the cornering attitude was nice and neutral.  It would step out a little under power out of the corner, but it never threatened to spin, and never did anything that surprised me.  This was my first time on the track with this car -- actually, my first time on track in any rear-drive car -- so I left the traction control in full nanny mode for the weekend.  The traction warning light was blinking pretty much at every corner exit, but it was less intrusive than I feared, so I just left it on and concentrated on learning how the car behaved.

It's on!
Our car sits on Mach V lowering springs.  I was really happy with how the car worked with the new springs.  Summit is a fairly bumpy road course, and some of those bumps happen under hard braking or acceleration.  The car never seemed unsettled by the uneven surface, and the ride to and from the track was perfectly comfortable.

Reviewers have praised the stock brakes, so I thought I'd see how the car did with just stock pads, rotors, and fluid.  The answer is...not so well.  The front brakes got very hot during every session, leading to a soft brake pedal.  As the pads wore down over the weekend, things got worse, and after a few sessions the pads were smoking.  By the end of the weekend -- we did about seven half-hour sessions in total -- the pads were pretty much gone, the pedal was mushy, and the rotors were badly scored.  So, next time, we'll at least install some pads intended for track use, if not a complete brake upgrade.

Overall, I really enjoyed driving the car.  The driving style for the rear-drive, low-powered BRZ is very different from the grunty WRX I'm used to driving, so I still have a lot to learn, but driving the car on track is fun and rewarding.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Brighter light; louder noise

You know the incandescent bulb is a dinosaur, right?  New technology give us better, brighter light, with less heat and less power consumption.  For automotive applications, the name of the game is LED.  Fancy cars come with LED lighting now, but the less-expensive ones still make do with the older (but cheaper) bulbs.

LED license plate bulbs
Good thing work at a shop here to bring that BRZ into the modern age.  We removed every standard bulb we could, and replaced it with an LED equivalent.  That ended up being the puddle lights (in the doors), the backup lights, the license plate lamps, the fog lamps, and the dome light.  Oh, and the trunk light!

LED puddle lamps
Installation was pretty easy -- For the interior bulbs the lenses just pop off, and the new LED bulbs install in place of the old ones.  The exterior bulbs (fog, backup) are a little more involved.  The backup lights are easy to reach from under the rear of the car.  The fog lamp bulbs are accessed by removing some of the push fasteners under the lower splash shields in the front bumper.  The fog lamp bulb LEDs weren't exactly right -- they are an H16 bulb, and there are apparently different variants.  We had to carve off some of the tabs on our LED bulbs to get them to fit.  One we finished customizing the bulbs, they clicked right into place.  H16's push directly into their socket, by the way -- they don't push-and-turn like most automotive bulbs do.
LED backup lamp on right; stock on left
In each case the light is at least as bright as stock, and MUCH whiter -- closer to sunlight than the yellow stock bulbs.  We like 'em because they are practical and also eye-catching, and they don't cost too much.  It's a fun modification, and you can do a little at a time, or do the whole car at once.

Some new cars don't get along with LED bulbs, because the resistance is different (lower) than incandescent bulbs.  Those cars have automated bulb-checking routines that test the bulbs even when they are not in use.  The BRZ belongs to a simpler time, though, and doesn't have any of that new-fangled bulb testing logic.  In any case, no warning lights lit up in the dash after I installed all those LED bulbs.

And for the second of the five senses in today's update, we built a prototype dual-outlet muffler delete.  This one has fully-polished double-walled tips, so it looks very presentable (as compared to our strictly-business single-outlet muffler delete).  It isn't what I'd call quiet, but I think it sounds great.  It's still much lighter than stock (I don't know the exact weight yet, but I'd guess it's around 18 pounds lighter than stock.)

We'll be manufacturing this one over the next few weeks.  When they're in stock I'll post a link.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Whiteline Com-C strut tops installed

From the factory, the BRZ comes with almost no front camber.  You can install eccentric bolts to get a little, but they don't help that much.  You can install solid aluminum upper mounts with spherical ("pillow ball") bearings, but those have their own issues, which include lots of noise.  Or...there's the Whiteline Com-C top mounts, which are a traditional rubber top hat, but with firmer rubber (like Group N parts), and with the center point relocated to one side.  It's not adjustable, but by installing it with the offset center pointing towards the center of the car, we can gain both caster and camber.  (See the photo above, showing one of the mounts on the passenger side of our car.)

Having extra camber helps the car to maintain grip in the corners.  Having more caster gives you more camber only while the wheels are turned, which (it turns out) is exactly when you need more camber.

The Whiteline top-mounts installed easily.  Mach V technician Tommy reports that they were no trouble to install; his only gripe was that the factory dust caps are slightly smaller than the holes they would go in, so he secured them with some urethane adhesive.

On the alignment rack, the car gained almost 1 degree of camber, ending up at -1.2 degrees left and right.  Caster also increased by a little over a degree, to 6.8 degrees.

On the street the car feels the same -- I didn't notice any additional harshness from the stiffer hats.  The car drives about the same, and I honestly could not feel the additional front grip -- the limits are so high that on the street it's hard to get the front end to wash out at all.  A few tail-out donut maneuvers in an empty parking lot showed that the rear is just as frisky as ever.

The big 255 tires fit under the front fenders a little better now, too -- before they were distinctly poking out of the front.  Now they're nestled in there nicely.

If you'd like to buy a set of these nifty top mounts, you can (as always) find them over at the Mach V web site.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Production muffler deletes are here!

We now have the production version of our Mach V muffler delete pipe in stock.  It's a simple, lightweight alternative to the heavy stock muffler setup.  Bolt this thing on and your car drops 23 pounds -- we can't think of another single modification that reduces weight by that much!  Plus, it sounds great.  (Check out our previous blog post for the video recording.)  It's all stainless steel, including the hanger, with a slash-cut tip that matches the bumper contour nicely.  Bolts up easily to any BRZ or FR-S.

You can purchase the Mach V muffler delete pipe HERE.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Radiator hoses, updates on previous posts

Cool hoses keep car cool
We installed some new silicone radiator hoses from Fuku Works.  (Fuku?  Sounds like...something from an Austin Powers movie?)  The hoses fit very nicely, and have an interesting webbed scale pattern on them.  The first color available is white, which matches our white car, but I think the other colors (blue, green, black) will be more practical in terms of not showing dirt.  It's a three-piece kit.  We installed them with special "cut-proof" clamps that we sell.

You can purchase the radiator hose kit from our web site, HERE.

So clean!  Of course, rain followed immediately
I washed the car by hand over the weekend, and was struck by how much less dirt accumulates on it compared to some of my other cars.  The rear doesn't have nearly as much soot stuck to it as the turbo cars, and the wheels barely have any brake dust.  Low weight + tiny brakes = low dust!  The small size means the wash doesn't take long, either.

Audio system update!  I really enjoy the Pioneer head unit (full name: AVH-P8400BH).  I have not been using any of the App Radio features -- I never need nav on the commute to or from work anyway -- but I have been plugging an iPod Classic in.  Then I can control the ipod from the head unit.  It works well, and the graphics are great -- cover art shows up nice and large.  The sound is very clear, too.  Actual buttons (as opposed to touch-screen virtual buttons) for track forward/back are very handy.  Answering and hanging up the phone works fine, too -- those are touch screen functions, but they are large enough that I don't have trouble hitting them, like I did with the OEM head unit.

The only thing that I'm missing is bass.  I bought the amp intending to add a sub, but to save time and money on the initial install I left the subwoofer for later.  Now I find that I really notice the lack of deep bass, and I'm pondering how best to address it.  I really don't want to use up a ton of precious rear space, nor do I want to add a bunch of weight.  Hmm.  Sub in place of the spare tire?  Inside of the spare tire?  Tiny sub under the passenger seat?  Custom sub in the rear corner of the hatch?  I'll do some brainstorming and check back here.

We've added a few more parts to our web catalog.  We now offer BC coilovers for the car, as well as Deatschwerks fuel injectors.  (You'll probably want those if you're planning to add a turbo or supercharger to the car.)  We also have the Injen intake in stock.  More parts are coming in all the time!

Friday, August 17, 2012

More driving impressions, and prototype parts

I've been commuting back and forth to work in the BRZ, and the more I drive it, the more I just love this car.  I am afraid I'm turning into a less-polite driver, because every time I'm in the car I just want to grab it by the scruff of the neck and toss it around.  I find myself using full throttle more than in my other cars, and challenging myself to see if I can get past slow cars in traffic.  I feel like I'm reverting to a teenager.  On the plus side, full-throttle driving doesn't actually make the car go very fast, nor does it make much noise with the stock exhaust, so a lot of times I think I'm the only one who knows I'm flogging the car.  The rest of the world just cruises along in their tall, sound-isolated, luxury barges.  Which happen to be faster than my car, but that just makes it all the more challenging to keep up.

The car is very, very low.  It was low to start with, and the Mach V springs have lowered it about another inch.  Either way, I noticed that a lot of drivers don't even see the car -- I've had a couple of somewhat close calls with bigger vehicles changing lanes and not seeing me.  Maybe I need a little orange flag to stick up off the top like on a bicycle.

Getting in the car and driving it, I have these weird flashbacks to other cars I've owned or driven in my past. Today I had a memory of driving a 1988 Honda CRX Si, back when that car was new.  The Subaru has some of the same sensory triggers: Short-throw gearbox, taut handling, naturally-aspirated engine that only makes power up top, and light weight.  I remember revving that CRX to redline at any and every opportunity, and I'm driving the BRZ that way, too.  It's refreshing and pleasant to be able to use every bit of the car's performance, and not have to worry so much about breaking the sound barrier (or my driver's license).

The handling is forgiving and exploitable in the same way.  Other cars I have, or have had recently, have such high limits, I could never, ever approach the limits on any public road.  It just wouldn't be safe or sane.  The BRZ has pretty good grip, but the limits are very progressive and approachable.  I feel comfortable playing around with the car in a corner, exploring a little bit of oversteer or understeer, and I don't have to be going 100 mph to do it.  A simple cloverleaf becomes my own little section of race track banking, and I'm only going 35 mph.

In other news, parts development for the car continues.  Our muffler delete pipes are in production now and should be ready in a couple of weeks.  We recently test-fit a prototype front license plate mount that bolts into the tow hook location (so you don't have to screw it directly into the bumper), and we should have those in 2-3 weeks as well.  Our Mach V rear differential cover, billet aluminum with big cooling fins, is also in development.

We also got in some aftermarket silicone radiator hoses from Fuku Works, and we'll be test-fitting those sometime soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

First dyno numbers

Now that the painful 1000-mile break-in is done, I feel comfortable wringing the car out, so that means a trip to our Dynojet dyno.  I did runs with the car in all-stock configuration, and then I also removed the rear muffler section and replaced it with a little stubby pipe that we fabricated.  We observed the same horsepower with and without that muffler section.  The power is about on par with other BRZ / FR-S dyno results we've seen.  The weird semi-circle of low torque between 3000 and 4000 RPM is common across every dyno graph.

I tried one run where we removed the intake filer completely.  That resulted in no benefit.

159 horsepower to the rear wheels is pretty low.  We usually see a 15% loss from the engine to the dyno, so we'd expect 170 rear-wheel horsepower from a 200-hp-rated car.  159 at the wheels would indicate more like 187 at the engine.  Perhaps the power will go up after the car has been run in some more.  We'll check back.

The modest result on the dyno brings to mind our current vanity plate for the car, pictured at right.  (Vanity plates cost next to nothing in Virginia, so we'll probably end up changing these a few times.)

We got some decent video footage of the dyno runs with the muffler on:

I also did a little bit of outside recording of the sound with the muffler delete installed.  To my surprise, the noise was pretty moderate -- I wouldn't really mind living with that on a daily basis.  Although there's no increase in horsepower, taking off the muffler does drop about 25 pounds from the car -- almost 1% - so that's a plus.  We haven't decided yet if we're going to mass-produce the muffler delete.  Let us know if you'd be interested in purchasing one.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Window tint and lowering springs

We got some more changes made to the car, both minor and major.  The first was the addition of window tint.  Matt at TNT Tint applied it, and did a great job, as always.  (He's tinted every car I've had in the last...bunch of years.)  Tint level is 35% on the side and rear windows.

Matt showed me a cool trick relating to the windows.  Like many modern cars, the BRZ rolls its windows up and down when you open and close the door, to get a good seal when the door closes.  When you apply window tint, though, you don't want the windows to move while the tint is drying.  The solution is to remove the single 10mm bolt that retains the rubber button (inside the door sill) that detects the open door.  That button is grounded through the bolt, so removing the bolt makes the car think the door is always closed.  Use a piece of masking tape to temporarily hold the button in place, so it doesn't fall loose and get crushed.

Next up was a set of our new Mach V lowering springs for BRZ and FR-S.  I designed these to be 28% stiffer than stock in the front, 30% stiffer in the rear.  They brought the car down by about 3/4" in the front, and about 1" in the rear.  I think it looks great.  The ride feels the same on most surfaces; it's a little harsher on small bumps, but in most cases I don't notice the difference.  Body roll wasn't really an issue before, but the car feels even lower and flatter-handling than before.  It's a lot of fun!

I was worried the slightly-too-large tires would rub with the car lowered, but so far I have not been able to get it to contact.  I'll see if I can do some more aggressive cornering sometime this week.

The production version of the springs should be in stock around the beginning of September.  In the mean time, you can pre-order them if you'd like.

 In other news, this magic number appeared on the odometer this morning, so the Mach V BRZ is officially broken in.  On the dyno it goes...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wheel swapping and more

We had a good customer allow us to test fit his Rota D wheels (18x8.5") on our BRZ.  We think it looks very nice.  Tires are 235/40R18.  These won't be on the car for the long term, but we did get some nice pictures and established that they'll fit up well.  We'd probably go down a little on the tire diameter -- these are 3.2% larger than stock.  A 235/35R18 would be a better match for the stock diameter.

The BRZ has 850 miles on it now.  Break-in is almost complete!  I plan to put it on the dyno as soon as it cracks 1000 miles, and we'll swap our prototype stubby no-muffler rear section on and off to see how much power (if any) muffler removal is worth.

We popped in some LED turn signal bulbs, and a different turn signal blinker module.  (Without the proper blinker modules, the LED bulbs will blink extra-fast.)  The LED bulbs are clean and white looking when they're off.  We like the style.  They also come on faster than incandescent bulbs, which could be some kind of safety advantage, I suppose.

We sell the bulbs as a kit, HERE.  You get four LED bulbs and one blinker module.  These will PROBABLY work on the FR-S, too, but I haven't verified that yet.

In up-coming posts I hope to be able to write about some of the parts we have in the prototype phase.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Audio Upgrades, 3M VentureShield

Hello?  Yes, this is dog.
The interior of the car is apart and the guys at CAS Design are mid-way through the audio upgrade process.  The dash and doors are disassembled, and the head unit is out.  Looks like our amplifier (a JL Audio 500/3) is going to fit under the driver's seat, which keeps the weight (although it's only 4.8 pounds) low and central in the car.  The amp delivers 60 watts to each front channel at 4 ohms, and 180 watts to the sub channel.  (360 watts to a 2-ohm sub, if we chose to do that.)  I figure that'll be plenty of power for the car's small interior volume.

So cute!
The stock amp is about the size of a pound of butter, and weighs only a little more (1.6 pounds with its mounting bracket).  It's so small it fits in my hand.   (If you had to order a new one from Subaru, though, it'd cost you nearly $300!)  I have no idea how many watts of power it makes.  Five?

The stock speakers are pretty decent-looking for an OEM part.  The cones are plastic, not paper, and the tweeter is a metal inverted dome design.  Curiously, the whole OEM system (front speakers and the tiny stock amplifier) are rated at 2 ohms.  A lot of OEM Toyota systems are two-ohm; I'm not sure if that is for weight or cost reasons.

The new speakers are a two-way setup (KR-165) from Focal.  I will eventually add a rear sub, but for now we're just changing out the head unit and the front speakers, and adding amplification.  The amp is a three-channel -- two of the channels will drive the front speakers, and the third will be for the future subwoofer in the back.  The Focal speakers have cones made of aramid fiber -- think Kevlar and Nomex.  Aramids are very strong, light, and heat resistant. 

Dash explosion
We used a Metra kit to fit the double-DIN Pioneer head unit in the dash.  (The Metra part# is 95-8202.)

We put a layer of Dynamat in the doors, and replaced the stock plastic vapor barrier with Dynamat as well.  That's a total of about five pounds of Dynamat, but the solid "thunk" when the doors close, not to mention the tighter response from the door speakers, is worth it to me.

The other thing we're having done is the installation of 3M VentureShield on the front end of the car.  VentureShield and products like it are a clear adhesive that sticks to the car, and prevents stone chips.  We generally do it on all our new cars.  On this car we had Dave at Proshield cover the front bumper, the headlights, side mirrors, and sections of the front fenders and hood.

When are you going to start?'s done?
The VentureShield is custom cut by a CNC plotter to conform perfectly to the car, and is nearly invisible, especially when it is new.  As it ages, it will yellow a little, especially if it sees a lot of sun, but I'd rather a slight yellowing rather than the blast of sand and stone chips I would get from driving in this area.

The picture to the left is AFTER the installation of the VentureShield.  I couldn't see it at first look, and it was almost impossible to capture the seam on camera.  Dave did a really nice job, so call him to protect your car.

Stay tuned for more updates on the audio system.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hero Car

The BRZ turns out to be a great way to make friends. 

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of performing the break-in on a Nissan GT-R we were planning to work on at my shop.  The owner had it delivered to us directly from the dealership.  He didn't want us to run the car hard on the dyno with zero miles, so for a few weeks I drove the car back and forth to work, dropped the kid off at school, and ran errands in it, all the while varying my RPM as instructed in the owner's manual.

The most interesting thing about driving the GT-R during that time was the response from my fellow drivers.  People would pull along-side, wave, give "thumbs up" gestures.  Sometimes I would see people repeatedly looking in their rear-view mirrors.  One guy almost ran a stop sign while craning his neck to look at the car.  A mom at the grade-school morning kid drop-off said, "Is that the new Nissan GT-R?  I used to drive that car in Forza!"

Driving the BRZ around is like that experience all over again.  Every day I get stopped by people wanting to talk about the car.  There is a LOT of awareness of this car.  Driving out to Summit Point for HyperFest a couple of weeks ago, a couple in a Golf GTI (or Golf R, maybe?) both flashed the thumbs-up on their way past.  The other night I was taking some photos of the car and a jogger turned around and stopped to talk to me about it, still dripping sweat.  Today no fewer than three different people approached me, including one guy who pulled over in traffic to the side of the road to look at the parked BRZ.

Almost everyone who comes to ask about the car knows the basics -- that it's got a boxer engine, that's it's a joint venture with Toyota, that it's rear-wheel-drive.  They often ask if it's turbocharged, if there's going to be a higher-performance version, and if there is, if they should wait for that one.  (There probably will be a higher-performance version, but I suggest they not wait.) Sometimes they are surprised there are actually back seats, and then they laugh when they see how the front seats slide back to touch the rears.  They always comment on how good the car looks, and often they bring up the BRZ's spiritual ancestors, the Honda S2000 and the Mazda Miata.  One gentleman I spoke to today is in the process of selling his Miata, and is looking to buy a BRZ or FR-S.

I've learned that there are real car enthusiasts everywhere you go.  Sometimes it just takes a little something special to bring them out of the woodwork.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Navi Love/Hate

No, I'm not talking about James Cameron's Avatar movie.  I'm talking about the OEM navigation/audio system in the BRZ.  There's a lot I like about it, and a lot I hate about it.  I like the looks, the sound, and all the things it can do.  I hate the ergonomics and user interface.

Let's get down to the specifics.  I do like the way the head unit looks.  It's a handsome head unit that is simple and uncluttered, and integrates nicely with the interior.  The screen is pretty bright, and has a non-glare coating.

For an factory sound system, the sound is pretty good.  Thanks in part to a small outboard amplifier that lives back by the spare tire, there's decent bass despite the lack of a subwoofer (Subaru will be offering a hatch-mounted Kicker sub in the future, but it's not available yet).  The highs sound fine to my ear, and there's good separation in the stereo channels.

The head unit does have a lot of features.  It can play just about any music source under the sun, including CD, MP3 on disc, USB memory stick, iPod, SD card, Bluetooth audio from your phone, satellite radio, and HD radio.  This is the first head unit I've had that can receive FM radio in HD, and it does sound very nice.  The head unit has a big DIVX logo, so it should also play ripped DVD video files, if a person knew how to do that.  It doesn't play DVDs, but I never really thought a car was a good place in which to watch movies anyway.

If you eject the SD card that carries the navigation maps, you can poke in a card with image files, and you can see the images on the head unit.  You can also select one to be your splash screen on startup.  I confess that seeing the Mach V logo every time I start the car gives me a little happy feeling.

Okay, so now let me grouse about what I DON'T like.  First, although there is voice control, it's awful.  I've had a couple different kind of systems like this, and I usually get along with them fine.  This system never seems to clearly understand my voice, and I keep having to yell "Cancel!  CANCEL!" before it dials random people in my phone book.  So, I've given up on that feature.

I do like having the physical volume knob, but otherwise almost every function on the head unit requires the touch screen, and usually it's a little teeny rectangular sector of the screen.  This makes me crazy.  Say there's an incoming phone call.  There's a little teeny green answer button on the screen, maybe the size of a dime.  You're supposed to hit that with your finger, while driving the car and looking at the road.  Same if you want to hang up.  Heaven forbid you want to change radio stations.  I know it doesn't have to be this way -- I've seen other touch-screen systems that were pretty easy to live with.  This isn't one.

Descriptions of functions within the device are cryptic and confusing.  SVC?  What is that?  (Open manual, find "Source Volume Control."  Oh...I still don't really know what that means.)  There's a setting for selecting who is sitting where in the car -- Ha!  Like people would ever really sit in the back, and if they did, listening to music would be the last thing on their minds...

I had a hard time with the navigation function, too.  I ended up pressing the screen the wrong way, and it got into some mode that stuck it in place, and I didn't know how to get it back to center on where I was.  Actually, in that sense it strikes me as no better or worse than most other factory-issue car nav systems, but in this day and age, I expect something a lot easier to use.   Like, say, the Google Maps app on my smart phone.

I know, I'm probably not using it right.  I confess I did not read through the (huge) manual for this thing in its entirety.  (If I had, I would have read the "NEVER eject the nav data SD card without touching Eject Card button first!" warning...before I ejected the card without doing that.  Ooops!  It still works.  Whew.)  It just doesn't seem like this device should be so complicated and hard to use.

So...I've ordered up a Pioneer head unit that I'm going to try swapping in.  This thing will have all the audio features of the OEM head unit, but the nav is going to be left to the smart phone.  I'll check back in a few weeks, and we'll see if I am happier, or if it all will just be a waste of time and money.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mach V Awesome Wheels

One of the first modifications we made to the car was the change out the factory wheels and tires.  The stock wheel is a 17x7 cast aluminum design, with a 215/45R17 tire.  We swapped on our own Mach V Awesome wheel, which is a 17x9, and fitted up a 255/40R17.  With the car at full height, it doesn't seem to rub the tires, but it looks like it would come close.  Once we lower it, we will add some camber (especially in the front), which will probably get us enough clearance to avoid rubbing.  A 245/40R17 should fit without rubbing in any case.

I worried that the MUCH wider wheels and tires would detract from the overall "frisky" feel of the car, but after mounting everything up and driving the car, I really didn't notice any difference.  That probably has something to do with weight.  The stock wheel and tire weighed 41.4 pounds.  The Mach V Awesome with a Pirelli 255/40R17 weighed in at only 37.3 pounds!

Grip seems significantly higher with the wider rubber, but it's not like you can't break the thing loose.  And it looks pretty tough, too, although it's even more obvious how tall the stock ride height is.

We'll report back on whether we can keep this much tire on the car without rubbing on the bodywork, once we get it lowered down a little bit.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Thoughtful Design on the BRZ

This little car abounds with clever touches that I like.  Here are some that come to mind:
  • The rear seats fold to make a completely flat load floor.
  • There's a little rubber-lined cubby in the dash that's perfect for an iPod or cell phone.  The cubby is conveniently located next to the USB/Aux input for the stereo.
  • The battery is snugged all the way back next to the firewall, for best weight distribution.
  • There's a 12-volt power outlet in the center console.

I wish I could say the same about the standard-issue navigation/audio system.  It's better than many OEM systems I've seen, but it's still difficult to use, and you can't do ANYTHING except change the volume without using the touch screen.  Want to answer the phone?  Want to change radio stations?  That means taking your eyes off the road.  I think that head unit is going to have to go.  (I hate saying that, because I already paid for it...)  Maybe I can find a wireless remote I can stick to the back of the steering wheel...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Future Classic

The BRZ (and its twin sister, the Scion FR-S) fits in a price/power/handling slot that few other cars occupy -- at least cars that are sold today.  The MINI Cooper S specs out similarly, but is taller and more luxury-oriented.  The Mazda Miata is closer in spirit, but is a roadster only.  The BRZ harkens back to a time when small and light sports coupes were popular -- think 240SX, Honda Prelude, Toyota Celica, and early Mazda RX-7.  But the BRZ would drive circles around most of those.  This car is destined to be a classic.

" keys!"
We picked up our Mach V BRZ from Dulles Motorcars in Leesburg, Virginia.  The buying experience was pleasant -- thanks, Gary! -- and we didn't feel beat up on the price.  (We hear some dealerships are charging a "market adjustment" because of the high demand for this car.)  We wanted a Limited model, which comes with leather/alcantara seating and a rear wing, and we wanted a white car.  We like white cars because they are easy to keep clean, they photograph well, and the color goes nicely with any wheels, decals, or other cosmetic mods we want to do.  By now it's become a tradition at Mach V -- nearly all our shop cars have been white.

We were expecting to wait several months for our car, but we got a call a couple of weeks ago that a customer had backed out on a pre-order car, and it matched our specs.  It was getting several port-installed options that we didn't really want -- we sell wheel locks here at the shop, so it doesn't make sense for us to buy them with our new car -- but we could have the car much sooner, so we took it.

Over the next few days I drove the car a couple hundred miles, including freeway driving, stop-and-go commuting, and a pleasant country drive out to Summit Point Raceway.  It was enough time to fall in love.  This is a GREAT car.  The handling is like nothing I've driven recently.  I'm taken back to the first time I drove a Miata.  I also think of the second-generation Honda CRX.  Those cars were just so perfect as a package -- light, nimble, confidence-inspiring.  This car has that quality.  You feel like you could place it perfectly at any apex.  The willingness to change direction is a breath of fresh air.  It's really hard to overstate how good it feels.  I've driven lots of modern sporty cars, and most all of them feel dull and numb compared to this.  After finishing one section of twisty road, I wanted to go back and drive it again.

A lot of our customers have expressed dismay about how little power the car has.  It's true, 200 hp (and even more so, 150 lb-ft of torque) is pretty low these days.  This car is no stoplight warrior.  But it feels like plenty of motivation when the roads get twisty, and the back end WILL step out, especially in low-speed corners.

We were a little surprised to see the OEM tire choice was a Michelin Primacy HP.  Haven't we seen that tire somewhere before?  Oh yes, it was on our friend's Toyota Prius.  So, yeah, not the grippiest tire in the world.  That's okay, though.  We took them off the car with less than 30 miles on them.  More on the wheel/tire swap in our next blog post.

There's a saying on some of the car forums, that "Miata" is the answer to any question relating to "What car should I get?" With the debut of the BRZ, I think that is going to change.  This car is absolutely made for road race and autocross use.  (Heck, you can fit a full set of race tires in the back, as some of the press guys have pointed out.)  And after a few years go by and the cars get cheap, I will guarantee they will be a preferred platform for drifters.

Some day in the future, I'll be telling my grandkids about the time I got to own and drive the legendary BRZ -- a classic for all time.