Before we get into the real "meat and potatoes" of this story, we wanted to give you some basic facts (or Cliff's Notes for those who don't like to read) about this '13 Scion FR-S. The entire build came together in just two months. It definitely isn't your typical TRA Kyoto Rocket Bunny FR-S and, other than paint, this car was built entirely inside of a small garage in Long Beach, CA, suburbia. While many of you will offer up a simple "that's cool, nice job" type of response, you really need to have a better grasp of how the Rocket Bunny kit is designed to fully understand the difficulties that go with the install. The over-fenders of the kit aren't a simple paint and install; it not only requires quite a bit of measuring, it is also necessary to cut into and remove sections of the factory fenders/quarter-panels for the kit to work. These important skills are usually found in trained autobody specialists who have experience in the field--not in two brothers with literally no experience at all.
The willingness to cut into a brand-new car either comes from an absolute disregard for one's personal belongings, or you just have a big set of the proverbial balls. The owner of this FR-S, Noel Barnum, and his brother, Hubert, are not your conventional car enthusiasts. They have more of an "outside the box" style of thinking, and you see it in how they execute their builds. Noel is no stranger to custom car builds; this FR-S just happens to be the first car he's built that actually had any measure of aftermarket support. He previously spent a majority of his days tinkering with a supercharged '05 Toyota Corolla that was everything no one ever expected. When he was faced with the opportunity to create something new, the ideas and possibilities seemed limitless.
"I really wasn't looking to purchase an FR-S after I sold my Corolla," Noel says. "My main goal was to find a '03 [Volkswagen] GTI but after searching high and low, I couldn't find one. I started looking around the Internet for other cars, and randomly stumbled upon a rendering of the 6666 Customs [TRA Kyoto] Toyota 86/FR-S. Once I saw it I knew I needed to build one--but with my own flare."
From what Noel tells us, the most difficult part of the build wasn't actually the cutting of the factory panels, it was simply acquiring the Rocket Bunny kit itself. Once the kit made the rounds via the Internet and various social media outlets, it was highly sought after and everyone with an FR-S with a good chunk of extra change tried to get one. Luckily, he had some help from the guys over at Autofashion USA, and they were able to snag the last one from the first batch of kits imported to the United States. It proved to be a hefty investment for a 22-year-old student--these kits aren't exactly cheap. Noel still had to actually purchase the car, as he found himself ordering the kit before he even had the car in his possession. Once the first batch of Rocket Bunny kits hit American soil, it seemed like they were everywhere, particularly out here in the West Coast. Aftermarket tuning companies were also investing in the kit to promote their own products, so it was hard for a privateer builder to really stand out amongst some who seemed to have an endless amount of financial backing. Noel could either blend in with the crowd of other Rocket Bunny Scions, or he could reinvent the look, even when the look was still relatively new to the rest of the country.
Noel was pretty set on adding the aggressive rearend and wing to his brand-new FR-S, especially after integrating the over-fenders. What he could change was the face of the TRA Kyoto kit. Modifying the front would significantly alter the look and give others a new perspective on an über-popular kit. Noel came up with the idea to ditch the front lip and sides altogether. Instead, he would create an amalgamation of styles by incorporating a new, less common, front lip and side skirts from Japanese tuning specialist T&E Vertex. The only problem with his new plan was that it would only further delay his build because he had to wait for the pieces to come by boat freight from Japan.
"I think the biggest thing I learned with this build was to have patience. Things aren't always going to fit right and things certainly won't always get here on time. I just had to be patient in waiting for parts to come in and really work with them to get them to fit," Noel says.
The biggest question that remains was why he was so willing to cut into his brand-new FR-S. His answer, "People really thought I was crazy for cutting into a brand-new car just to fit a body kit, but I always told myself that if I was going to do anything drastic like cutting my brand-new fenders, it would be for a kit I really wanted. It was a very permanent modification as well, so I knew I wouldn't want to change it later on down the road. I already had the kit in my possession so, to put it simply, it was just necessary to cut."
Fortunately for Noel, he had an older brother who could lend a helping, and steady, hand. This would not only ensure a higher probability of it being done correctly, but Noel would also have someone to blame in the event that it didn't. The fact that you see it featured here in the pages of Import Tuner is proof that the leap of faith worked out in the Barnum brothers' favor. Everything after that feat came pretty smoothly for his build, including the acquisition of a brand-new set of discontinued Work VS-KF wheels in the specs perfectly suited for the widened body of his Scion coupe. The 18x9.5/11 set of Work wheels just seemed to fall onto his lap and while some have argued that it's not the right wheel for his car, Noel thinks otherwise. "Everybody gets so caught up in what I do with my car. Just like the AirRex digital air suspension system I have; everyone acted like it was a sin to 'bag a sports car or something, but I didn't really care what people had to say," Noel says.
Though the FR-S is considered a sports car, Noel has always found more of a connection with the style aspect of car modification rather than the pure motorsports side of things. It should be plainly obvious to you that his Vertex/Rocket Bunny FR-S screams style, especially in Firestorm Red paint. Aesthetics are a big deal to him, but he hasn't let it hinder him from being able to build a complete car with his bare hands. Everything from the AirRex air suspension, to the custom audio setup in his trunk, and even the Vortech supercharger kit has all been meticulously installed by Noel himself. Just because he caters to a particular style doesn't mean that he isn't mechanically inclined.
The future is bright for Noel, a young and knowledgeable enthusiast in our tuning community. His Scion FR-S mash-up has garnered a ton of attention on the Interwebs and steals the collective attention of the masses every time he pulls up to an event and lays the car on the ground. He did it his way by his own hands and has very little care for what his doubters have to say. "The goal of the build was to have a car that flowed well," he says. "From wheels to the widebody kit to the interior, I just wanted everything to have a good feel and flow to it. Nothing was overdone in an attempt to please anyone else. If you have an idea and you want to push the limits of the scene's cookie-cutter tendencies, don't be afraid to go for it. Your build will be your own, so make sure you build it how you want."
Behind the Build
Long Beach, CA
Student & photographer for Canibeat.com
Photography, shoe collecting, and anything automotive
"All of my friends who always pushed me to go past the limits and not follow the cookie-cutter tendencies of the automotive scene."
2013 Scion FR-S
Output: 265 whp (Estimated)
Engine 2.0L Toyota 4U-GSE; Milltek up-pipe; ARK test pipe; Evolution Industries crank pulley; Vortech V-3 H67BC supercharger kit; Bolt Boys engine dress-up kit
Suspension AirRex Digital Air Suspension System, front camber plates; Hotchkis 25.4mm front sway bar, 19mm rear sway bar, endlinks, front strut bar; GTSpec rear lower control arms; TRD member brace
Brakes AP Racing AP6100 front big brake kit, AP6150 rear big brake kit; Goodridge front/rear SS brake lines
Wheels/Tires front: 18x9.5 -20 Work VS-KF, 215/40-18 Falken Azenis FK453; rear: 18x11 -35 Work VS-KF; 245/40-18 Falken Azenis FK453; Project KICS R40 Neochrome lug nuts
Exterior T&E Vertex front lip, side skirts; TRA Kyoto Rocket Bunny rear diffuser, rear spoiler, front/rear over-fenders; Beat-Sonic roof spoiler; JDM OEM FT-86 headlights, taillights; OEM Firestorm Red paint; vinyl graphics by Stickyicons
Interior T&E Vertex steering wheel; Works Bell steering hub, quick release; Lathework shift knob; reupholstered front seats; Cusco five-point rollcage
Electronics Pioneer BeSpoke head unit; OEM Audio+ SL Series front speakers, rear speakers, dual subwoofers, amplifiers, stereo wiring; EcuTek ECU reflash; engine tuning by Visconti Tuned
Gratitude "My Phaze2 family for always making me push the limits of what would flow with the car; FRS86 for helping out in every aspect of the build; my brother, Hubert, for helping me knock out all the body and motor work in our garage; OEM Audio Plus for creating such an excellent audio system that not only looked amazing, but also performed amazing; and Freddie at AutoFashion for being able to land the Rocket Bunny kit when it was in such high demand. I would also like to thank everyone at Canibeat and Style Over Comfort for all the inspiration. Thanks, everyone!"