Project Scion FR-S Part One - An Introduction

By Mike Kojima


27 years ago I bought the first new car in my whole life, a red Toyota AE86 GTS Corolla hatch.  It was in 1985, I was in my last semester of College and I was working as an intern at TRD.  A whole new world was ahead of me.  It was perhaps the most exciting period in my life and the AE86 was the car for those days, it probably influenced who I eventually became as much as anything else.  The AE86 was inexpensive, economical, good looking and its twin cam 16 valve 4AG engine was quite advanced for the time.  What ended up making the AE86 an iconic car was that it (and the Nissan S chassis) was one of the last RWD compacts made.  I had a lot of fun with that car and wish I had never sold it.

Fast forward to the present day.  The small car market has turned into a dreary morass of economy car crap piles.  Toyota, Honda and Nissan had seemingly abandoned the small performance car market in the 90's and each successive generation of their once beloved compact car nameplates became more and more boring and economical with a capitol E.  Gone were the sporty GTS Corollas and the new generations of Civic Si and Sentra SE-R became further and further away from their once appealing and sporty roots.   A lack of an affordable and desirable compact cars for young and young at heart people is probably one of the biggest reasons for the decline in the Compact Car performance market.

So far it seems like only one manufacturer saw that there was a pent up demand for something entirely new in this market.  They saw that young people cherished their ancient AE86's and Nissan S chassis.  They saw that many cars on the Formula Drift circuit were these older cars and that the cars themselves had many fans.  They understood that many people still want and appreciate the driving dynamics of a RWD platform.  The manufacturer was Scion, Toyota's youth brand and they formed a consortium with Subaru to bring a new radically different compact car to market, the Scion FR-S and its sister, the Subaru BR-Z.

We feel that this is a landmark car that will breathe a breath of fresh air into our stagnant market.  Of course we had to get one.  Follow us in our adventures with this car starting now!


For our FR-S road test click here!


Here is my old AE86.  Unfortunately I don't have many pictures of it as I was not really into taking them and an old girlfriend who took all of my car pictures at that time took the pictures with her when she dumped me.  My AE86 was a GTS model with a 5 speed T50 transmission and a limited slip differential.  As you can see I had some JDM Weds wheels in this picture with Yokohama A008 tires.  Later I replaced these with Hayashi 504's with Yokohama AVS Intermediate tires.  I also had full TRD GT suspension, Trueno side skirts and OG Hella fog lights which were the shit back in the day.  I painted the mirrors and rear wing to match the body which I thought was cool.  Later I replaced the bumpers with Trueno parts which saved about 50 lbs.  I sold the bumpers separately when I sold the car years later.  I had bought the car for $8500 brand new and sold it 7 years later for $9700.  At the time I needed money for my Z32TT but I wish I hadn't done it now.


I had the JDM Sprinter taillights and an HKS exhaust.  I was pretty JDM back then even though the term JDM was ten years from being coined. Later I swapped the quiet HKS exhaust for a louder Trust (Greddy).  Man I miss this car! This photo was taken in the back of TRD's original office in Gardena.  Now it's the used car department of Gardena Toyota.


My engine.  The 4AG was modded by me and had TRD Group N 272 cams and timing gears with the lobe centers screwed down to 98/100.  The thing hardly idled.  It had a TRD header that I designed (when I became an engineer there).  I built a ram air system to pressurize the stock air box at speed and tweaked with the flapper air flow meter to get it to idle and open farther at WOT.  It had TRD spark plug wires and a TRD Group N ECU.  I also ran the injectors from the 22RET Turbo truck which were a gigantic 250cc.  Check out the TRD factory Group N strut tower braces.  This was before any company made anything like that!  I also had a hidden nitrous system.  The car ran 14.7@ 92 mph in the quarter on the motor and 13.9@ 100 mph on the bottle.  I bet it made 120 whp on the motor and 165 whp with NOS.  In a 2400 lb car it was not too shabby and deadly at the street races back then, a sleeper that won a lot of low dollar races and frequently paid for our food at Carrows.


 The interior had a JDM TRD steering wheel and short shifter (probably the first ever marketed) and old school billet RAZO pedals.  Look at the supportive stock seats with adjustable bolsters and the squeeze bulb blood pressure thingie that adjusted the lumbar support.  This was trick stuff before Nike Air.  I was rocking a Stereo out of a MA70 Supra, double DIN with a big amp and EQ built right in.  It fit in perfect, I just had to get rid of the cubby below the radio.  The knob on the lower left of the dash was a resistor in the coolant temp sensor line.  With old school ECU's you could fine tune the mixture like this.  Adding resistance richened the mixture and advanced the base timing.  Since there were no chassis dynos that were good for tuning back then (Claytons were crap), I tuned by noting MPH to distance.  I would mark off a couple of light poles distance, drive into my speed trap at a consistent rpm, floor it and note my mph at the end of a pull.  I twiddled the knob to get the best results.  It really worked!  Later my friend who was an electronic tech at Hughes Aircraft came up with a stealth version that used the radio tuner to adjust the mixture.  Then it was tune to the right channel for power.  I had the first channel preset button in the exact right place!  I am not kidding.  This was useful for both street racing and SCCA showroom stock!  We never got caught in either.


So here we are 27 years later!  Rick Burgess, the Fleet Manager of Norwalk Toyota/Scion was the only dealer that was willing to both: Sell us a car for MSRP and help us find one with a six speed manual transmission.  The FR-S is in such high demand in our area most dealers are asking for $5000-7000 over MSRP by stacking them full of dealer installed options.  Rick was super friendly and helpful and more than willing to work with us where the other dealers we spoke to blew us off.  If you want a new Toyota/Scion we highly recommend him!


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Monday, October 22, 2012 3:39 AM
I'm looking forward to the MotoIQ license plate frame. Credit card is at the ready!

I would love one of these cars if it was a hatch. I've had two Integras and a 240SX, and having that hatchback trunk is what makes cars like these so great. Yes the pass through is helpful, but if you can't get your item through the trunk opening, it's kind of a waste.

I am also not impressed with Toyota's build quality. Even looking at the picture of the shift knob (page 4, just above the pic of the pedals), it looks like the top of it is already coming off. My dad's Matrix had a seat belt installed backwards the day we bought it. There are also a number of design features that are pretty stupid (like window switches right where your knee goes, and storage cubbies that are inaccessible when you have a drink in the cup holder).

That said, I am fan enough of this car to give it the benefit of the doubt. I just hope Toyota has turned around their QA department in the last 7 years. Oh and I hope someone at Toyota gets smart and okays a fastback version of this car.
Monday, October 22, 2012 5:19 AM
1. Why the FR-S, as opposed to the BR-Z? Just curious. I haven't looked at them both in detail myself, but I'm just curious what reasons you had for choosing the Scion over the Subaru.

2. The huge space you get when folding the seats down reminds me of my S13 hatch. I miss that car, and I definitely think an FR-S or BRZ is in my future! I'm leaning towards the BRZ, based on what I have read in car magazine comparos. They say the BRZ is less prone to oversteer, and has a higher quality feel to the interior (but comes in at a slightly higher price point). That is why I was wondering what influenced your decision.

3. Accelerated Performance has already boosted the car to 400 hp on stock internals! I'm excited to see what MotoIQ develops for the car. Mine will of course see boost in its lifetime, and, as with my 240SX, I will probably opt to piece together my own setup to suit my needs, rather than buy a kit (unless there is one that is close enough to what I want)...

Anyway, Needless to say, I'm excited to see where MotoIQ takes this project!
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, October 22, 2012 5:54 AM
The main reason why we have an FR-S over the BR-Z is that Scion helped us get the car.
Monday, October 22, 2012 6:24 AM
Aside from a few typo's, a generally enjoyable and in-depth article! 'oversite' and 'does pretty well' are two I noticed, and just thought you might like to know, But otherwise, keep up the great work!

Just curious, what direction are you planing on taking this project? With that CoD and engine, you could even hyper-mile a car like this! I see so many extreme builds around, I think it might be pleasent to see a group with the expertise and resources that the team here has turn a car into a tasteful, high-quality build. Just a few ideas :)
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, October 22, 2012 6:55 AM
Fire the copy editor! :)
Monday, October 22, 2012 7:20 AM
Post the article before the copy editor goes to bed :)

Good stuff Mike, I know I'm going to enjoy seeing what you can do with an FR-S.
Nyborg Garage
Nyborg Garagelink
Monday, October 22, 2012 8:58 AM
"The knob like all interfaces that the driver uses has a high quality feel to it."

To bed it's all ready fall a part..lol :p

On a more serious note, I'll defiantly buy the licensplate frame, and I sure hope to put my hands on one these cars and engines, sooner rather than later.. :D
Nyborg Garage
Nyborg Garagelink
Monday, October 22, 2012 8:59 AM
Now i wish there was an editing feature here :p
Monday, October 22, 2012 9:15 AM
<----------- license plate frame in full effect here in Las Vegas!! And I was at LVMS friday night doing a little Midnight Meyham representin' ! Maybe one day I might grow out of my SR20 phase.... and want to drive a FA20/4U-GSE. Hmmmm.... wheels in head are doing a burn out....and still no traction....
Monday, October 22, 2012 9:23 AM
Is that the oil filter next to the filer cap? If it is, that's a much better place that on the EJ
Monday, October 22, 2012 9:27 AM
Do I see KW coilovers in the last 2 pics on page 3? Given Mike's affinity for that brand I think so. :D Looking forward to see where this one goes guys.
Monday, October 22, 2012 9:45 AM
As a current AE86 owner and a fan of the new GT86, I was wondering how do they compare in driving feel and response Mike?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, October 22, 2012 9:56 AM
I had taken off the knob to see the thread pitch and shifter diameter and probably dislodged the shifter bezel at the same time.The car did not come like that!

The car with KW's is Ken Gushi's Team Greddy Formula D car in a very early stage of construction.

The AE86 is a much older car so you can't compare directly to the FR-S. It is much slower and way more tinny and cheap feeling. It is way less refined and sophisticated as the FR-S but you have to remember it was designed about 30 years ago.

Both cars have the same light, fun tossable personality but the AE86 like all older cars is much more raw.

The FR-S is a modern analogy of an old classic.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, October 22, 2012 10:11 AM
I added some stuff about my ghetto ECU resistor tuning and street dyno method on the first page.
Monday, October 22, 2012 10:27 AM
Hmmm I see, I guess that's why I love the older cars compared to most of the new cars released today. I prefer the raw feeling and connection to the car. I guess you could also say the GT86 is the grown up AE lol
Monday, October 22, 2012 10:38 AM
I love the addition you made with the ECU tuning :) But I'm also curious to see which direction you guys go with this. I'm assuming it will be a simple straight forward build addressing any weak spots the car has. My guess is wider tires, a few HP, and some suspension tuning. I don't foresee a turbo or track build here. Can you fill us in at all?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, October 22, 2012 10:45 AM
Tuning was tough in the days before accurate chassis dynos and consumer wideband A/F monitors and cheap datalogging!

The Project is actually going fast but if you want to read about it you have to be patient. We are pounding to ready the car for SEMA where it will be in the Achilles tire booth and we are too busy working to write. For the most part the progress will probably go slowly from a street car to a race car over the next few years.

We are going to be testing or have already tested a lot of the latest and greatest parts so stay tuned.

Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Monday, October 22, 2012 11:41 AM
Hey Knob adjustments are easier than just working with changing out carb jets and rotating a distributor! Excited to follow this build and thinking, unless you go NA, you won't need to worry about an intake if you go boost ;-) In goes boost, out come smiles :p

Since you brought up SE-Rs, whatever happened to project B15? It was looking to be a sick TA build.

PS Just a thought, maybe we could start backwards with project FR-S as in hearing about power mods first!? Oh and any thoughts on partially boxing-in those rear lower control arms?
Wes Dumalski
Wes Dumalskilink
Monday, October 22, 2012 12:16 PM
Love the intro. I actually fixed a typo. in the summary to try and keep people from bitchin... but oh well! Like Mike I give a rip about spelling and typo's as the content is far superior. You cannot eat your cake and still have it for later.

Cannot wait to see the car next week!
Monday, October 22, 2012 12:51 PM
Ugh, more comments about typos? If this was a $9 magazine, ok, complain. But its FREE!! Blah, great article. Honestly, every morning before work, I check for new articles. And when there is a new one, it feels like Christmas morning when I was a kid. Haha, maybe thats a bit extreme, but I cant get enough of the articles here.

On a side note, put me down for a couple of those license plate frames!!
Monday, October 22, 2012 1:31 PM
I didn't complain, I said it was a great article, I personally like correcting typo's in my own works. I mean, there really isn't any good reason not to fix typos that I can think of. Its like a dent or ding in an otherwise immaculate car- sure, it doesn't really affect the car's performance, but why leave it in?
Monday, October 22, 2012 4:36 PM
I also check everyday. The magazine form isn't dead it just changed venues. I did notice another 'typo'. My BRZ has dual piston calipers on the front. Maybe its a Subaru thing?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, October 22, 2012 10:46 PM
You are right it is a dual piston sliding caliper in the front.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 1:46 PM
How much parts bin commonality is there between these things and the Subaru stuff? I remember way back in the preview you guys have linked, the Greddy one running OEM Brembo stuff; so does that work out to accepting GR Impreza calipers/brakes? I wonder too if the struts are common in shape to the GR, since there's stuff like the RCE Bilsteins and the like. Would need different valving, likely, but still.

The more I look at these things, the more tempting they're seeming. Tradeoffs are a bit different in a place that snows though, I suppose, and I like my GD chassis WRX... and for that matter, have a bunch of AE86-vintage RX-7s sitting around waiting for me to finish one to street use.
ma67 lover
ma67 loverlink
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 4:26 PM
So something I noticed is the rear suspension kind of looks like it has coils already? One other thing the title totally got me locked in and I was expecting a couple mods, but none at all :( it is all good though I know you guys probably cant wait to tear into this! Cant wait for the next update!
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 3:52 AM
Thanks for the interesting read. A couple minor corrections:

The Michelin Primacy HP in your photo is a Summer tire (my BRZ also has Primacy HPs, though I've read that some FT86es are coming with all-seasons).

The FRS and BRZ Premium have a CoD of 0.29. My BRZ Limited has a CoD of 0.28. To get to 0.27, the FT86 needs both the rear spoiler and underbody panels, with aren't available USDM for either the FRS or BRZ (though they can be imported).
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 6:46 AM
I actually find the info. about the AE86 radio tuner more interesting than the FT86 info. :)Love these old school stories.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 10:20 AM
I am not an expert on every tire made but those stock tires look and grip like all weather tires, not summer UHP tires!

The CoD numbers came straight from Scion USA. Do you have a link to someplace that is bringing the underbody panels in? That's something we would like to get to compliment the aero stuff we are doing to the car.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Thursday, October 25, 2012 2:03 PM
Doesn't BRZ-parts.com have some of that stuff? If you're talking about the underbody panels I saw, it seems like it would be WAY cheaper to buy Alex and Coleman some beverages, cut some 1/4" plywood to the specs you want as your template and let them go to town with home made Carbon Fiber undertrays! Could be a new Motoiq product to add to these elusive ones I've been waiting YEARS to buy ;-)
Friday, October 26, 2012 2:21 AM
Hi Mike,

The Primacy HP is a low rolling resistance Summer tire.

With the underbody kit, the GT86 and BRZ are rated at 0.27 with the spoiler and 0.28 without the spoiler.

Without the underbody kit, the GT86 and BRZ are rated at 0.28 with the spoiler and 0.29 without the spoiler. That includes the USDM BRZ.

Given that there's no difference between the GT86 and BRZ in other markets, it doesn't make sense for the FRS to have a 0.02 CoD advantage vs the USDM BRZ Premium. It wouldn't be the first time that Scion's website was wrong.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Friday, October 26, 2012 9:30 AM
The long lead press kit is wrong but that's an easy mistake I guess.
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