New Front Brakes

It’s been too long since my last update.  I think I have sensationalized being “first” to do things in a new chassis.  The reality is being first is frustrating.  Being first shockingly means no one has done it before. I know it’s obvious when I say it like that, but it wasn’t so obvious when I was thinking about how cool it is to be “first”.  It also means there are very few companies out there that can actually help you accomplish what ever it is you are trying to accomplish “first”.  I haven’t posted much as unless you are doing something completely custom, there isn’t a ton available for these cars that I think is of a high quality that improves the overall performance package.

In my last post, I put up a baseline dyno.  I’ve since added a Berk midpipe, but for a myriad of reasons, I haven’t gotten the updated dyno, but I will.  This update will focuses on what you should be working on before you add power anyway – brakes.

What was hidden under all the packing peanuts: Rotors, 2 sets of pads, calipers, brake lines, and brackets.

Essex Parts is in NASCAR country.  Based in North Carolina, they supply equipment to pro teams and grassroots ones alike.  They have developed 2 front axle brake systems for the FT86 of varying sizes leveraging the AP Racing parts bin.

rotor size is almost identical

Their Endurance kit is a significantly larger J hook rotor that requires a 18” wheel.  While the mammoth rotor looks cool, I have yet to see a FR-S in development that needs this much heat dissipation. The smaller of the two kits is the Sprint system.  Its rotor is only 11.75” in diameter – only a hair bigger than stock.

The difference in vane size and rotor width is obvious. Bigger vanes of this design with pump more cool air through the brakes at speed.

The significant upgrade from OEM comes from the width of the rotor and the sophistication of the cooling vanes.  The stock system with Carbotech XP10s handled the track fine.  The pedal feel wasn’t great after a couple laps on 100 degree days, but that was likely related to tread squirm on the Hankook RS3s.  After a single day, however, the outer edges of the stock rotors were white.  This suggests they got extremely hot which usually leads to shorter rotor life and cracking.  Replacement rotors however only cost ~$50 a corner, so you could go through a lot of them before the Essex brakes become the smart financial decision based simply on longevity.

Ignore the AP Racing 4 piston calipers and the high end rotors, the Sprint kit should be attractive to performance junkies for one reason.  They shave 10 pounds of unsprung weight off each corner of the car.   The loss of this weight gives better steering feel, even on the street.  For performance calculations, every pound of unsprung weight is the equivalent to about 7 sprung pounds.  So the loss of 20 lbs off the braking system is the same performance differential of ditching a passenger from the cabin.

Every other silver painted caliper I’ve ever had has turned brown with heat. I look forward to trying to do the same thing to these.

The installation of this kit requires only a basic tool set that includes metric crescent wrenches and sockets with the exception of a torque wrench, a 10mm hex key, and the bizarre requirement of a unibit. My intention was to provide step by step instructions on how to install the system, but I was really impressed with what Essex included.  They were very detailed and explained everything step by step.  Consequently, I won’t make redundant their work.  The only real issues not anticipated by the instructions were the following:

  1. You can see the buggered nut on the OEM solid brake line

    This particular car had undercoating or a rubberized sealer sprayed on the brake hardline threaded connector.  Consequently, the threads were gummed up and these 10mm flare fittings stripped when just using a crescent wrench.  I ended up soaking the fittings with brake cleaner and using channel locks to get them to brake free.  An annoying complication, but this issue potentially wouldn’t exist in other chassis if the undercoating or sealer wasn’t applied in this manner.

female brake fitting doesn’t fit into stock bracket

2.  When the new steel braided line was being installed, I discovered that the female fitting that attaches to the OEM hardline does not fit through the stamped steel bracket designed to secure the brake lines to the chassis.  As you can see from the picture, the hole size is close to the same, but unfortunately, not close enough.  The fix was to unbolt the bracket from the car and use a unibit to drill it out.  To be clear, I don’t really see this as an Essex issue as much as one of the supplier of their brake lines.  When I raised this issue to Essex, they quickly looked into it and are making adjustments to the future kits that get shipped to customers.  So I suspect this won’t happen to other buyers.

One of the benefits I probably wouldn’t have paid for, but really appreciate is how easy pad swaps are.  By removing the single dowel pin with a hex key, you simply slide the old pads out, and put the new pads in.  I’ve been too lazy to swap pads on the stock calipers, so I’ve been running around with loud and dusty race pads on the street.  These calipers will make the swap to street pads a snap, so I’ll be more likely to do it.

quick swap brake pads

one last glamour shot before they get dirty on the track tomorrow

Igloo Case for iPhone 4

Next stop is the race track.  Sunday the 7th at AutoClub Speedway in Fontana is a track day where we will put these through their paces.  At the same time is “86 Fest”.  I’m not a car show guy, but I do appreciate vendors and others supporting a car I’m interested in.  During this event we will also be the releasing  the IglooCase (  This case encloses your iPhone and adds a lens and camera mount. Prototype versions have been around for a season, but we just received our first 300 production pieces this week.  The cases will be order-able off the website in the week of 10/7/12.  At $59 plus a mount, it’s a cost effective alternative to a contour or go pro if you already own an iPhone.  I’ve called this product the title sponsor of this car, but the reality is its way more personal than that as I’m one of its creators.  Come by and check it out if you are at the track Sunday.  I’ll be under the 949Racing tent.

Get more updates at:


Waiting for track time

It’s been two weeks since my last update.  A lot of planning has taken place, but not a lot of activity on the car. I refuse to change anything until we’ve had it on track to understand how it works stock.  The end of the month is the first track day I can find at Buttonwillow running clockwise configuration 13. In this entry I’ll highlight the way I made my wheel choice for the car.  Admittedly not a lot of analytical information this time, but progress is progress, right?

From my previous entries, it should be relatively self-evident that my requirements for a wheel for the FR-S are:

  1. 17×9 – wide as we can get without risking the wheels ordered not fitting
  2. Light weight – call this under 19 lbs for the size – unsprung weight is the enemy
  3. Good fitment – hellafunction, not hellaflush
  4. Good price – No wheels that cost 18% of the value of the car

What is the age old adage for race car fabrication? “Fast, Cheap, reliable – choose two”  I think the same applies to wheel options for the FR-S.  combine the 5×100 bolt pattern and my list of requirements made for few choices.  And apparently to make things worse, in Japan, all the track oriented consumers are looking for 18’s, so the the supply of 9” wide 17’s isn’t likely to change.  The only options I could find without going with a custom made wheel were:

  1. Rotas –There are a couple styles that are the right size, but luckily, as they don’t fit criteria #2, I don’t have to face the “rota debate”.
  2. Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2 – they come in 40mm and 45mm  offsets, but are also about 20 lbs/ corner.  Not to mention they are not available in country right now so they are special order from Europe.  A rock solid wheel, but heavier than I want, even though the price is fair.
  3. Mach V Motorsports “Awesome” wheel. – 17×9, 17.8lbs, 42mm offset, $250/corner.  They come with a center cap, but no valve stems. Bingo.

Mach V Motorsports “Awesome” Wheel

The Mach V Motorsports wheel is specifically made for Subarus.  Its hubcentric for the FT86 chassis, and comes drilled for both 5×100 and 5×114.3 bolt patterns.  So if we ever do end up doing a hub conversion on this car, we can continue to use the wheels.  The Mach V wheel is a form flow cast 5 spoke design wheel.  While forged wheels are generally deemed to be lighter and more rigid, they also are way more expensive.  Dan at Mach V talked me through their design process as I am concerned about damaging wheels on track.  I wasn’t as concerned about “if” they would fail, as all wheels will with the proper FUBAR’d corner entry, but I was concerned “how” they would fail.  Cast wheels have a reputation for cracking, not bending like forged ones do. Dan assured me that during their design process, they actually added material to the spokes to increase the sheer strength and ensure safety when in use, and the form flow casting process is more reliable than the simpler casting ones used in the past. I just wanted to make sure that when damage occurs, that the barrel doesn’t leave the hub leaving me to 3 wheel the car to a stop.  These wheels fit the bill for that.  All of this, and at a price of $249 a corner, I don’t really see anything else remotely close to the performance per dollar ratio on the market.

I ordered them in flat black, but they come in a couple other finishes you can see here:

Mag Blue on the right, Brilliant Blue on the left.

I don’t do much for aesthetics for my cars, but I am considering having these wheels powder coated.  I am pretty dead set on some shade of blue.  Somewhere between Volk’s “Magnesium Blue” and “Hyper Blue”.

Here are a couple sample colors I picked up locally.  Not sure any of these are right.  I also considered a bright color, like Porsche’s Mexico Blue, but not sure.  Vote on the poll, or leave a comment.

what do you think of these color choices? Not sure if any of these are right.

Like FE Competition on Facebook! The blog will likely stay very focused on car development, but the Facebook page will cover automotive interests a little more broad than the car itself.  It’s also a good way to get notified when there is a new blog entry.

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.


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.

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…

And featured on Mazda’s website:

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.

Use your iPhone as an video camera.

More to come.

Matt Andrews