Whether you're talking about music, fashion, business, or lifestyle, there will always be trendsetters. These are the people who aren't afraid to step out of their comfort zone and take chances in their industry. The same type of people can be found in our very own car scene. These individuals are the innovators, the game changers, the Noel Barnums of the world.
The story of Noel's Scion starts in '12 when the FR-S and Subaru BRZ first entered the market and became the world's next hottest tuner car. Building a unique FR-S or BRZ quickly became as difficult as building a dope Honda Civic in its heyday. But Noel was up for the challenge, especially after he fell in love with TRA Kyoto's Rocket Bunny rendering. It was that moment when he knew he needed to get his hands on one.
As a hardworking student, he couldn't just walk up to his local dealer and drop some money on a fat down payment. After evaluating his funds, he eventually sold his current Toyota Corolla project and two Honda Ruckuses to afford a new FR-S. At the same time, he managed to get on the list for the first batch of Rocket Bunny kits, but with everyone and their mother trying to get their hands on the kit (our green FR-S included), it was only a matter of time until it was played out. So Noel devised his own mash-up exterior to set himself apart using Vertex parts. This inevitably made him stand out and landed him a feature in Import Tuner. But even then, he was already thinking about the next stage of his car, a stage that has now taken full form in '15.
"There were a lot of Rocket Bunny builds coming out," Noel began. "Joey Lee of The Chronicles brought up the idea of going Varis. It really wasn't an option I had thought about since I didn't know any distributors that could get me the kit. But Joey set up a meeting with Mastermind NA, and next thing I knew, I ordered a full Varis widebody with carbon accessories." Opting for a more rare body kit was only the first part of the equation; next the Rocket Bunny wing was substituted for a Legshort duck spoiler. A few additional changes included the Craftsquare carbon mirrors, carbon window visors, and Lexon taillights.
Updating the wheels and chassis came next. While the brakes and air ride remain the same, Noel coordinated with SSR and picked up one of the first sets of TF1s—a modern interpretation of the Super Fins. Improving the overall stiffness of the car came via a Safety 21 rollcage, Monster Sport, and TRD braces, plus Whiteline's entire catalog of arms and sway bars.
Inside the cabin, there's no shortage of top-shelf parts. The original front seats were ditched for a pair of Bride's edirb 23s—no cheap expense by any means. Instead of the Vertex steering wheel, Noel opted for a Key!s Racing semi-cone—much more aggressive if you ask us... FR-S aficionados will notice the JDM 86 cabin trim such as the door handles, sills, and buttons. The Touge Factory checkered floor mats round off the JDM-themed atmosphere while the trunk was rebuilt to house the air components within the spare tire well.
It's clear that Noel's FR-S is fitted with nothing but the best gear, and under the carbon hood is no different. "My favorite aspect of the build is the motor," he told us. "I spent a lot of time trying to find these Japanese parts that people weren't using in the States yet. From the TODA throttle body to the Monster Sport radiator hoses. I wanted something out of the ordinary and things that people weren't used to seeing and didn't think were available. I especially love the new Vortech unit. I wanted to keep the blower on the car, but I felt like it needed an update to set it apart. Neil Tjin at Vortech Superchargers came up with the idea of polishing the blower and the piping." The distinctive rumble comes from a Tomei unequal length header that eventually makes its way to an Arquray Schaferhund titanium exhaust. Power is transferred via an OS Giken Grand Touring clutch, which retains all the racing technology but incorporates a floating pressure system for a smoother and quieter operation—very important since Noel drives his car regularly on the weekends. The engine bay is styled with carbon-fiber pieces from the fuse box to the Zeek manifold covers.
Noel has managed to reinvent the FR-S for the second time and has done it with incredible swag and style. And even with the extensive list of rare JDM parts and his drive to always be evolving, what might impress us most is how Noel and his brother Hubert put the car together in their small garage in Long Beach, California—that includes the body cutting, the welding, and all the install work. "I always felt that it was cool to see these builds that were coming out of garages," he concluded. "It wasn't that I couldn't trust a shop—I just think it makes you appreciate your build more knowing that you played a part in each stage of the build."
Three biggest changes from Noel's '12 debut to today's look
Body: The biggest transformation of all was Noel's exterior. Noel wasn't sure if his version two using a Varis kit would match up to the Rocket Bunny style—luckily, it did and all was well in the world.
Wheels: If there's anything Noel excels in, it's his style. Before switching over to the brand-new SSR TF1, he was rolling in a set of discontinued Work VS-KF wheels—both look equally hot, but we think the TF1s take the win!
Interior: Noel changes the interior up but keeps it clean with a Key!s Racing steering wheel, Cusco five-point rollcage, and new edirb seats. He's also redone the trunk for a custom enclosure for the AirREX components—a very clean install.