Project Scion FR-S: Meet Our Rebuilt-Title Twin

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Update by Tom Suddard to the Scion FR-S project car
Dec 21, 2018

Do you want to drive the latest “It” car, but can’t quite afford to buy one used from a dealer? Barring an amazing Craigslist deal, there’s really only one other avenue: Hit up an insurance salvage auction and hope you can find a car that’s easily repairable but not overpriced. We’ve written extensively about that before–check out Ran When Wrecked–so we won’t bore you by rehashing that tale.

We will tell you about our daily driver, though: A 2015 Scion FR-S. We badly wanted a BRZ/FR-S/Toyota 86 back in 2016, but couldn’t stomach the prices we saw on dealer lots. Instead, we bought this lightly damaged example from a Copart auction. Including the taxes and fees, we scored this one-year-old car for $13,718. It had 21,000 miles and some very minor damage. After replacing the right-rear hub and airbag module, we had a nearly perfect FR-S to drive to work. We didn’t do any body work, so aside from the rebuilt title the only signs our car was ever on a Copart lot are two small paint blemishes: One on the left rear wheel arch, and another on the rocker near the driver’s door. Why was our car on Copart? Part of the fun (and the risk) is that we’ll never really know the full story. Our best guess is that the insurance company declined the repair after weighing the risk of hidden damage against the relatively high auction value of our barely-damaged car. It’s also helpful to look at the damage the way a body shop would: We see a scuff on the front bumper cover as a minor issue, while they see repairing and repainting the entire piece. Because the accident gave our car four damaged panels by our count, it was most likely facing quite a bill at the body shop.

So where has our Scion been for the past two years? Driving, of course. We’ve put 35,000 additional miles on the car, adding only fuel and a set of 17x9” XXR wheels along the way. But now we’re ready for more: This won’t be a full-on GRM Project Car series, but rather a mission limited in time and scope: Without missing a single daily commute, can we turn our FR-S’s knobs to 11 on track? We’re betting that with some simple modifications (and a turbo), we’ll have the best of both worlds: A perfectly streetable daily driver that can embarrass a Porsche Cayman at a track day.

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z31maniac MegaDork
12/21/18 8:49 a.m.

I'd lean toward the Spec Twin class, to not only sell magazines and help the cars. 

But embarrass a Cayman at a track day? Can I get a shipment of what you're ingesting? :)

jfryjfry HalfDork
12/21/18 8:59 a.m.

Nice score! 

Xceler8x GRM+ Memberand UberDork
12/21/18 11:40 a.m.

z31maniac - You may be underestimating the emotional investment Porsche owners can sometimes make buying the car and then taking it to a track day. A Cayman pilot could be embarrassed if any car that isn't a Porsche or doesn't have double the power is able to hang with their chariot of choice at a track day. Not all P-car drivers are this way. It often depends on the amount of Porsche kool-aid they've ingested or how much of their manhood is represented by this upscale purchase. 

12/21/18 12:31 p.m.

Unless you are a real hot shoe, you will be embarrassed on track day.

Nicely prepared SCCA racers will tell you. One friend was passed by an instructor. Left him in the dust. The instructor was driving his stock Suburban. Heh!

Carsandbikes New Reader
12/21/18 2:23 p.m.

This car is one of many I have been looking at as my next car.  Prices and (relative) rarity makes the used price a tad bit steep on low mileage examples.  For some reason, the Subaru version is more expensive than the Toyota version. 

But, at least there is a fair amount of info on the internet about them and the cars themselves are attractive for no other reason than they aren't all grey or silver on dealer's lots. 

NOHOME UltimaDork
12/21/18 2:39 p.m.

I have six years on my FRS and can vouch for them being a good driver's car; just rolling tends to improve my mood.


My inclination based on what I have gleaned on the net is that I would not ask the Subaru engine to provide any more HP than what it left the factory with. The minimalist weight requirement includes the engine internals, and while they are up to the job for a DD, do not ask them to do more than that unless you like buying engines.


By the way, Boxer engines are almost dumb enough to make me want a rotary! Is there actually a rationale or mitigating reasoning for the boxer design?



12/21/18 5:10 p.m.

I recently traded in my 2016 MX-5 Club (soft top) for a new ride.  I strongly considered the improved 2019 MX-5 RF, but ultimately decided on a 2018 Subaru BRZ with about 2,500 miles on it.  I have always been interested and involved in cars and trucks and aftermarket improvements to them.  That's another story - my current plan for the BRZ includes sourcing a relatively new FA24 turbocharged boxer engine from a totaled 2019 Subaru Ascent.  I am relatively sure that engine will not be limited to the Ascent for too much longer.

z31maniac MegaDork
12/21/18 5:28 p.m.

Catless header + E85 tune is worth 25-30whp and a bunch of midrange. The engine is not a problem.

Edelbrock will even do a 3/36k warranty with their supercharger. on the drivetrain. The 2013-2014 cars have different valve retainers, so don't raise the redline. And the transmissions don't like much more than 250wtq with hard use. 

Turbo engines from other Subaru's don't fit without entirely new exhaust setups. JDL and Full Race make the best options available for FI on these cars. 

You can also stuff 265/35/18s under the stock fenders. 

Furious_E GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
12/21/18 6:49 p.m.

I dig your style dude.

I've had mine since late January. It's a 2015 FR-S, had 46k on the clock at time of purchase and it's up to like 63.5k now. So far just routine maintenance, although the car is currently overdue for plugs since I have been procrastinating on that job. Bone stock aside from the Sparco winter wheels seen above and Rally Armor mudflaps. 

I love it as a four season daily, does fine in the snow with Blizzaks. Not the quietest inside in terms of road noise, but it rides well and the ergonomics are just about perfect for me. Handling is great, it's the quickest I've ever been able to get comfortable with driving a car fast. I've autocrossed it twice so far and turned times on all seasons embarassingly close to what my RX7 primary auto x rig would run. It's just much more forgiving to drive, though to be fair the Mazda still needs sorting.

My only serious complaint isn't so much the power, or suppossed lack thereof, but more so the way it is delivered (of course more never hurts.) The torque dip is well known, and it is super annoying. I pretty much just find myself winding it out to 5k+ all the time. Some day I'll do a tune and headers, and that help in the midrange should make it a much more enjoyable powertrain, I think.

Opiewho None
12/21/18 7:56 p.m.

I did a similar thing for a track toy...picked up a 2013 BRZ with only 25,000 miles for $3,500, put $5,000 into it (doing all the work but paint myself) to get it safe, street legal and titled in Florida. Then came the modifications (brakes, coilovers, safety equipment, full exhaust and a ECUtek tune) and now it is a super reliable and quick track car. Definitely the best way to go, much better financially than buying one the regular way. Currently has almost 30,000 miles and spends most of it's time buzzing around Sebring, AMP and Road Atlanta. I'd highly recommend going this route for those who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. Full blog including the rebuild and track adventures (and some misadventures) is here:

GTwannaB GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
12/21/18 9:38 p.m.

So you paid $13k for a salvage car you could have bought for $15k with a clean title? When you resell it next year you might get $8k for it?  I don’t think the math works with the salvage title. 

chandler PowerDork
12/22/18 5:42 a.m.
GTwannaB said:

So you paid $13k for a salvage car you could have bought for $15k with a clean title? When you resell it next year you might get $8k for it?  I don’t think the math works with the salvage title. 

If you re-read the article they have owned it for more than a year already. You would not have been able to buy a used one year old twin for 15,000.


Nice daily but I would leave it as that, although I look forward to seeing how you modify it.

yupididit GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
12/22/18 9:22 a.m.

In reply to Furious_E :

What's with the picture? Are you trying to sell the car on craigslist or something? 

Fitzauto Dork
12/22/18 9:42 a.m.

This thread is not helping my want for one of these at all. Please keep posting cool pictures.

Old_BRZer New Reader
12/22/18 10:54 a.m.

Speaking for myself, I have no motivation to make anyone want a BRZ, FR-S, or 86.  That is unless they share ways in which a good car (AKA mine) can be made even better - for whatever purpose they intend.  I am already picking up ideas from your projects and shared plans (all of you, not just Fitzauto) to add to my own.  I enjoy driving and working on cars and trucks; right now my focus is on the BRZ, so I hope this thread continues to build (literally).

bcp2011 Reader
12/22/18 5:51 p.m.

In reply to Rob357 :

I have one so I’m biased. But this happens with any car. I’ve passed Porsche turbos but that’s all driver. Doesn’t prove a thing about the capabilities of a car...

bcp2011 Reader
12/22/18 5:52 p.m.

In reply to Old_BRZer :

That would be an awesome build. Make a build thread on ft86!

Furious_E GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
12/22/18 6:26 p.m.

In reply to yupididit :

Lol, it is pretty awful blush. I just happened to be sitting in my garage with the car right in front of me as I clicked on the article, so I snapped a pic. Here's a couple better ones:

Takumi788 None
12/26/18 7:30 a.m.

I was excited about this build until I read the word 'turbo'. I hope you are also planning a built engine and trans or else this build will soon turn into another "We blew up the FRS FA20" situation. 

If your goal is a daily driver and a track day car, remove the weight and keep it NA. Someone already posted it but a more impressive build would be one for the lowest class of 86cup.

I don't mean to be negative. Just stating what I have seen over and over on forums and at the track.

I embarrass all sorts of cars that should be faster. NA with a full exhaust and tune, 17x9 wheels, coilovers and some alignment correcting bits.


Wiscocrashtest New Reader
1/2/19 3:51 p.m.

I've been loving my BRZ. I did the header+tune and it feels just-right now. I am resisting the urge to add boost as I had my WRX blow up and the word on the street is the FA20 is happy to do hard miles if kept NA and well maintained.

It's fun on the track and off:


Byron Motorcross park


turtl631 HalfDork
1/2/19 5:11 p.m.
Furious_E said:

In reply to yupididit :

Lol, it is pretty awful blush. I just happened to be sitting in my garage with the car right in front of me as I clicked on the article, so I snapped a pic. Here's a couple better ones:

Cool wheels brah!! Wife's car parked behind a WRX with the snow setup.  I had to snap the pic...


Shaun Dork
1/5/19 10:26 p.m.

In reply to turtl631 :

I was interested in those wheels.  I asked tirerack 3-4 times over the course of a year what they weighed and they had no idea and I could not find the info anywhere.  What do they weigh in whatever size you purchased?!!!

gencollon New Reader
1/5/19 11:17 p.m.

In reply to NOHOME :

I can think of a couple good things that help offset the complicated nastiness associated with having multiple heads on merely 4 cylinders:

1) theoretically, you can lower the CG of the engine, which lowers the CG of the vehicle which reduces the vehicle's load transfer under accelerations which increases the amount of force available at the tires ;)   The car will stop, and turn better namely... And the f86rsz does claim to have a very low CG. To be fair, I really don't know if a production car, wet sump boxer has a lower CG than an inline 4 or a rotary....Maybe someone can chime in who has experience in these matters.

2) They are very short, and have very short crankshafts, and have a perfect primary balance. Basically the cranks are less flexible than those in inline motors, and they vibrate less than inline motors. Potentially, they could turn higher RPM and pump out more power than an inline motor before vibrations threaten to break stuff? ... In the real world though, I'm unaware of any boxers spinning faster than inline motors, or making more power so this may be a moot point.


Cousin_Eddie HalfDork
1/6/19 7:56 a.m.

In reply to Opiewho :

I'm enjoying reading your build thread.

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