The First Rule of Fight Club.

Today, I took the car to 949 Racing in Lake Forest, CA.  From my deep roots in the miata community, I’ve known Emilio Cervantes, owner of 949 for a long time.  He has developed a reputation as a racer, manufacture, and curious mind.  He is the miata community’s Tyler Durden from Fight Club.

Tyler Durdan himself

The first rule of 949 is you don’t talk about 949.  So while we took a ton of measurements, and Emilio filled up a pad of paper with notes and took pictures, he won’t talk about his plans for the chassis. But he clearly is fascinated with this new car.  I appreciate the way he approaches product development, and look forward to whatever he ends up releasing. But because of rule #1, I’ll strictly be discussing our findings and measurement with wheels/tires/and brakes, and very little about 949’s plans.

Wheel & Tire fitment

949 made a small run of a 17×9 +48 wheels in a 5×100 bolt pattern.  They had one on the shelf with a 255/40/17 Nitto NT01 mounted on it.  This tire has a 10.35” section width on a 9” wide rim.

949 wheel mounted with a 255/40/17 Nitto NT01

Not all 255’s are really the same size – an important point to remember when you are cramming so much tire under the front fender of these cars.  This combination initially hit the spring on the +48 offset.  We added 2 3mm spacers, essentially creating a +42mm offset wheel.  This was enough to allow the 255 tire to clear with all stock components in their stock location.

checking stock camber

Stock camber will make this a tight fit on the wheel well. Stock, our front camber is -.4° on the driver side front while -.2° on the passenger front.

The 255s would hit the fender at this setting as the strut doesn’t camber in under compression like other geometry configurations.

Stock crash bolt vs the one available from Subaru

By replacing the front crash bolts in the upright with Subaru crash bolt part # 901000394 you can pick up another degree of camber making the tire tuck under compression.  For reference the Subaru bolt is a M14x60. All it is is a slightly smaller diameter bolt to allow some slop in the upright.  Not the most eloquent solution, but for $5 each, they should get the job done.

Only problem with this configuration is that by leaning the upright in closer to the strut, a tire this big would rub against the stock spring and perch.  So the real long term solution is either run skinnier tires, or run an aftermarket coilover with a thinner diameter spring coil. If you do this yourself, remember you will need to reset the toe in the alignment as that will change if you re-angle the upright.

clearance of +42 17×9 with a 255 on stock camber. You can see the bolt that is replaced with the subaru unit at the top of the upright in this photo. If you lean the upright in toward the spring to get more camber, they’ll hit. So answer is smaller diameter springs or thinner tires.

255/40/17 clearance on a 17×9 with +42mm offset and .2 degree of camber.

Same wheel/tire combo on driver’s front as photo above. With a practical front camber number, this will move from hellaflush to hellafunctional.

We then test fit the wheel in the rear.  There is definitely plenty of room here.  I assume the car will like the square set up more, but if for some reason it oversteers, we can add more wheel in the back pretty easy.  The challenge in the rear will be adjusting for camber.  There doesn’t appear to be room for offset ball joints.

Sorry for publishing a blurry picture. I didn’t realize it would come out this way when I took it. You can see a little of the cast upper control arm here, and the stamped lower one.

Unless there is another solution already on the market for another Subaru, the best way to get camber to adjust looks to be an aftermarket control arm.  The upper one is cast and scalloped for clearance, and not one I’d try and replicate, but the lower stamped piece looks easily copy-able.  A quick modification to the toe link would then give us adjustable toe.  If there are already solutions that translate from other chassis for this, please reply in the comments section.

Brakes

I have had great experiences with Carbotech pads on my miata, So I’ll be using them again on this chassis as well.  I wanted to test fit pads before the first time the car went to the track as I wasn’t completely sure the info we were finding online was correct.  The FR-S will wear XP10s in the front, and XP8s in the rear.  This is a common S2k setup, so I expect it will be a good place to start.  The operating temp range starts at 200°F and goes all the way to 1650°F for the XP10 and 1350°F for the XP8.  They don’t chew up rotors, even when cold.  And while they do dust a lot, it isn’t corrosive dust like other pads that eat the finish on wheels or paint.  I’ll likely keep these pads on for the street as I am too lazy to change them over for the street.  They will make noise and dusty, but I don’t think it will bother me.

The slight inconvenience of these pads is you can’t swap back and forth with the stock units as the transfer layer of brake material from the carbotechs isn’t compatible with that of the stock pads.  So you either need 2 sets of rotors, or you need to turn them every time you want to change pads. If I find a cheap source for rotors in the next couple days I’ll just have 2 sets.

front pads on the left fit the car. the pads on the right don’t.

Short version of our findings are as follows: Front pad is properly listed on Carbotech’s website as the CT929.  If you are looking at other brands of pads, just look for what fits the ’04 WRX as these cars share pad design. There is some info out there that says the rear WRX pads fit this car as well.  They don’t.

The shape is right, but the tab that slides into the caliper is shaped differently.  They would fit, but the pad would slide around.

You can see if you look closely at the difference between the stock pad on the right and the one ordered. A quick call to Carbotech has corrected the issue.

The proper pad, while I have not personally fit it, comes from the 2010 Legacy GT.  This is the CT1124 on the Carbotech site.

The Coming Test

The next stop is the track. This is the test procedure we plan to use.  If there are any other suggestions on things you want to see, drop me a note:

  1. 100% stock
  2. Upgraded pads and rotors
  3. Legacy front crash bolts for added front camber and realignment

I suspect that will be all we can cover in that day.  Depending on the wheel/tire combo I end up with, maybe we will test that as well.  But I am a little worried that a 17×9 with a wide tire won’t be accommodated by the change in crash bolts, so that may need to wait for dampers.

The Arms Race

A couple shops in SoCal have gotten FT86’s.  And I’ve talked to more than one that is quietly targeting the 2 minute mark at Buttonwillow Raceway in config 13 clockwise.  It might not be the brightest thing to do considering I don’t even have a baseline stock lap time for the car, but I am publicly stating that is my goal.  I want to be the first person to pilot a naturally aspirated FR-S to the 2 minute mark on this track.  Not sure yet what it will take to get there, but that is the goal. Let the race begin.

Premature Delivery

New car at home

This blog entry isn’t like most will be.  It’s less about suspension geometry, performance driving, and tuning, and more about the process of buying the car and first impressions.  If you don’t care about that stuff, then here are the cliff notes:  For an enthusiast’s car, the FR-S appears to be an amazing daily driver – which likely means on the track, it’s a step above a butter knife as far as aggression goes.  Long term goal will be to turn this into more of a prison shank on lapping days, which you won’t have to wear ear plugs and complain of spine compression when you drive it on the street.

Since the beginning of the year, my wife has been accusing me of “nesting” in the garage.  I had been planning on the arrival of a new toy, even though I didn’t know exactly what it would be or when I would get it.  I insulated the space, put in new GFI electrical circuits, dry walled, taped, mudded, sanded, and painted over the period of a month.  I won’t detail the process, but I learned a lot.  Mostly, that next time, I’m paying someone to do it.  I then purchased new shelving units to organize all my tools, track side equipment, plus the stuff normal people keep in their garage that is always in the way when you have a car spread out in pieces across the floor.   I then decided on the FR-S.  I was pregnant with anticipation – only thing missing was the crib mobile to hang next to the garage door opener.

On Friday, I got a call from Jeff Chang, my sales rep at Longo Toyota.  He said my allocation was on a truck, headed to Longo Scion in El Monte, and I could pick it up the following day.  This is a lot sooner than I was expecting, and I hadn’t really made final preparations to become an owner.  I spent the next couple hours putting lipstick on the pig of a trade in I have – a 2004 Chevy Tahoe.  I hate this truck, yet I have owned it longer than any other car I’ve ever had.  It has towed race cars around the country for me for almost 5 years.  It burns petrol so inefficiently that every time I start it, dinosaurs cry.  It’s never had any major issues, so in reality, after 130,000mi, it’s likely the most reliable car I’ve ever owned.  It’s like the smelly, ugly dog that is extremely loyal, even if you wish it would just run away.  At the end of the day, I decided that the FR-S, while a daily driver for now, will likely require a tow vehicle at some point, and if the car is used for part development, I’ll need something else to drive.  So while my neighbors are likely happy that the Tahoe they stare at out their windows has had its annual bath, unfortunately, it’s not being shoved off a cliff – its sticking around.

Taking delivery at Longo Scion

I wasn’t planning on talking about my purchase experience, but after dealing with Jeff and the folks at Longo, I thought I needed to.  I drove by 7 dealers to get to Longo.  I did so because I was doing business with someone who is an enthusiast, knows his product, and deals with his customers in a straight forward, honest manner.  He also happens to work for the dealer in SoCal that is getting the most FR-S’. I got what I asked for with no surprises.  Jeff communicated with me throughout the entire process; he was a good steward of both of our time.  Jeff has more deposits for cars than most dealers get in their annual allocation of FR-S.  (North of 30 I believe) This means he knew everything about the car, including details on available interest rates, lease terms, and likely lead times on colors.  He gave me all the information I needed to make intelligent decisions on how to pay for the car, and moved me through the process.  If anyone in Southern California is considering putting a car on order, I would encourage you to contact him.  Jeff is a professional, and you’ll leave very satisfied.  Jeffrey.Chang@longoscion.com

If you want a FR-S, go see Jeff Chang

During delivery, Jeff pointed out that this car does have some of the minor issues I have heard about from others – the trunk lid gaps aren’t exactly even, the tail lights apparently get condensation inside them when washed, and the tow hook bumper plug appears to be a different shade of white than the rest of the car.  None of these are a huge deal, and I don’t think I would have noticed if Jeff hadn’t proactively shown these things to me.

The stock seats have great lateral support.  They would be comfortable for long drives.  I wonder how the material will wear overtime.  It seems like a cheaper felt.  I admittedly haven’t been in many cloth interior cars recently, so maybe it will be fine.  The stereo appears to be something out of the 90’s and looks like the head unit from my old Supra.  But I was pleasantly surprised that while it may look retro, it has all the modern features we’ve become accustomed to.  It has bluetooth for hands free as well as to stream music from your iPhone or similar device wirelessly.  It also can activate the hands free features of your phone directly from the head unit.  The steering wheel has no controls on it, which is a plus to me, and it moves on a 2 dimensional plane.  The overall wheel diameter is relatively small and the grip is thick and feels good in your hands.  I got the seat setup, and then the steering wheel moved far enough forward and down so I had the eerie feeling I was in my racing simulator in my office.  I really appreciate how minimalist the rest of the interior is.  It has everything I want, and nothing else – with the minor exception of a built in garage door opener.  I thought all cars had these now days.  Kind of a bummer the FR-S doesn’t.  The traction control isn’t my speed.  I wish there was a way for it to be defeated by default, instead of having to turn it off every time you get in the car.  I guess that is a reminder of how I should be driving, not how this car wants to be driven.

I’m a lot more domesticated now than I used to be.  Before purchasing, I was curious if I would actually be able to take my 2 racecar-drivers-to-be for a ride in the backseat.  A full size human wouldn’t fit back there.  And actually, it is a challenge to even get the car seat through the door opening.  The rear seats do have anchors to properly attach kid seats, but if you have big people in the front seats, your kids can’t have legs.  I did however use it this weekend with the 2 kids, and the seating position for those in the front is a little unnatural, and I didn’t let the kids have their shoes on, but we were able to manage for 20 mile rides.  For perspective, I’m 6’1” and 175 lbs and my wife is 5’6” and slim.

To give you a perspective on passenger size, this is my 4 year old in his Recaro booster seat

This is his legroom with the front passenger seat in place

In the next couple days, I am hoping to make some decisions about running gear for the car.  There has already been a car posted with 17×9” Rotas with a 245/40/17 Hankook RS3 fitted.  On stock suspension, there appears to still be a little room for a wider wheel.  And while I am very conscious of unsprung rotating mass, I’ve usually found that the more rubber you can put on the ground the faster the car will be around the track.  I am betting that a 17×9.5” wheel can be run with a 255/40/17 tire on all four corners as long as a coilover with a smaller diameter spring is used.

a little room to spare with the stock spring. An aftermarket coilover spring will have a thinner diameter allowing more room.

The problem is that the bolt pattern of 5×100 makes wheels hard to come by.  In a 9 or 9.5” wide wheel, the only options I can find are heavy, or cost over 10% of the value of the car.  The car will be on a lift this week as we consider our options to potentially swap the car to 5×114 bolt pattern.  If we can make this happen simply, we’ll have better choice of wheels.  But then, we’ll also have to address brake rotors.  (Does anyone else see the slippery slope of no return approaching fast?) I think we could use STi rotors, and STi brake calipers will fit. It looks like even though the calipers if unchanged would have the bleeder valve on the bottom, there is a simple plug to be replaced with a bleeder that would correct this problem and make this a relatively easy swap.  My understanding is the front hubs are unique to this car and not shared with any other chassis.  The rear ones are supposedly shared with 2008+ STi’s.  Or maybe I’ll do the smart thing and just find a good compromise of the wheels that are available and avoid some of these complications.  More to come here for sure.

Realistically, the next stop is track brake pads, a quick suspension nut and bolt, and then let’s put the thing on track stock.  I would like to find a well priced data acquisition device so I can get people that are interested quantifiable data on performance and the effect of future modifications.  All of my experience up to this point has been with Motec and AIM stuff.  If anyone reading has ideas on the data acquisition or the wheel bolt pattern conundrum, let me know.

Project Time Attack Miata is dead. Long live project FR-S

It seems fitting as I struggle to figure out how to start this blog and I become slightly introspective and begin to wax on philosophically.  The quota above is very similar to the one that opened the very first article I wrote about my miata for Sport Compact Car Magazine many years ago.  That was an extremely rewarding experience as I met lots of friends, blazed new trails, campaigned a car competitively in a national series, and learned a lot about chassis set up and drive train development.

At Super Lap Battle, 2010

Those that know me know I have had a long love affair with the first generation Mazda Miata.  I have owned 4, and they have strung together a story in my life for over a decade.  There have been BMW’s, Porsche’s, and Ferrari’s in between, but no other platform has captured my attention like that one did.  I’ve bought them from people that became close friends,I’ve had one stolen and stripped bare, and built what was for a long time the fastest miata in the country for one flying lap at a time.  I imagine I’ll own one again.  But for the next couple years, I will be occupied with the first new car I have ever owned.  At the end of this month I am expecting the arrival of a whiteout Scion FR-S from Longo Scion in Southern California.

A Blue FR-S on SSR Type F wheels

Life has changed a lot since I first started working on Miatas.  I have 2 kids, little tolerance or space for a trailer, and enough responsibilities to keep me from laying under cars chasing electrical issues at 2am before a track day.  But some things don’t seem to change – I still love simple, light, rear wheel drive cars, and I like to drive them hard. I view my cars more as a tool than as a piece of art.  Historically, for me to be completely comfortable with owning a car, I need to be able to hit it with a hammer in order to make it work.  Hopefully the FR-S will avoid the hammer for a couple months, but my wife doubts I can avoid the urge that long.

This blogspot will largely focus on the development of the Fair Enough Competition Scion FR-S.  It is scheduled to be delivered end of June from Longo Scion in Southern California.  This car caught my attention when I was looking at other light weight rwd sports cars.  Not the miata, but Porsche 918s and Porsche 356 C’s.  A couple friends with more exposure to the new hot things convinced me this was the way to go, and I’m excited to explore this new chassis.

Here is my last miata.  I hope the FR-S doesn’t approach this level of modification for quite a while…

http://www.modified.com/projectcars/0611sccp_project_mazda_miata/index.html

And featured on Mazda’s website:

http://www.mazdausa.com/MusaWeb/displayPage.action?pageParameter=mazdaSpeedTuningPersonal&sectionParameter=tunerProfile56

Purpose of the Blog:

My goal is to make it a fun street car, and a fast weekend track rat that can be driven to and from the events on the weekend.  I will document the modifications on this blog.  I plan to test individual modifications at the track and document their impact on the chassis.  Pretty quickly the car will get upgraded brake pads, wheels, tires, and coilovers, but we hope to get a stock baseline first.  There is going to be a lot of shops making parts for this car, and I hope to help people decern what works, and what doesn’t.

I’m very pleased to have the car title sponsored by Igloo Case, the case that turns your iPhone into an action sports camera. Available summer 2012. http://www.igloocase.com

Use your iPhone as an video camera.

More to come.

Matt Andrews