Photo Retouch: Ryan Lugo
If I had school, I would have failed my classes. If I had a girlfriend, we would have broken up. If I had a dog, he would have run away. Many have asked me about the 2014 Scion Tuner Challenge and I always respond the same way: "It was one of the most stressful times of my life!"
With three months and $15,000 to play with, you would think there's plenty of time and budget to finish the car; but time and money quickly run out, and your health and relationships are put to the test. Building a car to grace the main stage at SEMA requires hard work, a good team, and ultimately, the determination to do your best.
In the end, was it worth the headaches, sleepless nights, and overspending our budget? You're damn right it was! And it is my pleasure to present the full story on our Scion Tuner Challenge FR-S.
1. 90-Day Challenge
For the last 10 years, Scion has invited enthusiasts to participate in a spirited competition. Three builders have three months to finish their project, which would be judged at SEMA. We've seen every Scion model customized, from the xB to the tC and iQ. In '12, the sporty rear-wheel drive FR-S was chosen, and for '14, Scion brought back its popular coupe for the challenge with a twist. Instead of enthusiasts, media outlets would battle it out—yours truly Super Street and our competition Speedhunters and GT Channel.
#1 - Release Series 1.0
Scion doesn't have many rules, but this year they asked builders to incorporate an item from its Release Series 1.0 (RS1). What's that you might ask? The RS1 is a limited-edition model that features an exclusive yellow paint, TRD goodies (springs, quad exhaust, steering wheel, body kit), and a few other accessories. With only 1,500 cars produced, it's the shiz if you're a Toyota geek. But instead of simply taking one RS1 item for our build, I thought, "This car is already pretty cool. Let's just make an even more badass version of it!"
#2 - Ratchet Bunny
Yes, you read that right... RATCHET Bunny! I'm talking about the FR-S we built in conjunction with Import Tuner and Modified. Painted Aston Martin British Racing green, supercharged by HKS, and rocking one of the first Rocket Bunny kits, it graced the SEMA show floors in '12. Since then, we've been hammering the car on rally events like Targa Trophy. Case in point, with an already sexy and proven FR-S project under our belt, it gave me more motivation to go over the top with the Tuner Challenge build.
3. The Dream Team
It was time to put all my ideas onto paper, so I hit up my good friend Jon Sibal. He's a man of many talents, but he's most known for being a renowned automotive illustrator and also a past Scion Tuner Challenge winner. After a casual lunch, it took a few solid weeks to perfect the rendering. Once finished, I sat down with my lead builder of the project, Long Tran of LTMW.
I've known Long for a long time (see what I did there?). Since my days at eurotuner, I featured a countless number of his project cars. Most recently, he's been responsible for putting together the Liberty Walk cars with impeccable quality. And since he worked in our own backyard, his shop was an easy choice. With LTMW responsible for the body, paint, and final assembly, Long put us in touch with Gearheinz Rios for the fabrication side of things, while I contacted Ryan Basseri of Rywire to help with a custom engine harness.
4. Rocket Bunny Release Series
The exterior is where it all starts, and if it wasn't going to grab your attention right away, I've already lost the battle. I knew we had to hit a home run with the exterior but also not get too crazy, as we were still limited on time and money. Using both the RS1 and Ratchet Bunny as our inspiration, we sourced TRD bumpers, side skirts, and fender garnish. From there, GReddy supplied us with the Version 1 front and Version 2 rear Rocket Bunny fenders for the exact look we were going for. LTMW installed all the body pieces; however, the fenders were shaved of their rivet holes and molded to the body while still keeping the separation lines. Pretty slick stuff! To follow the rendering, Aeroflow Dynamics created additional side skirt add-ons, a front splitter, foglight deletes, and canards to give our coupe an even more aggressive and unique appearance. A Seibon carbon-fiber vented hood and trunk were added, and lastly, Bulletproof Automotive imported a set of all-red Crystal Eyes taillights from Japan. When all was said and done, the car was sprayed Porsche Speed yellow, just a tad darker than the factory Toyota RS1 color, but still sexy as hell!
5. We Like 'Em Shaved
I've always been a fan of shaved engine bays. The idea of making the engine look like it's floating is simply mind blowing, even if you don't know what you're looking at. So with Gearheinz as our lead fabricator, he dove straight into the project. He didn't just bondo a bunch of holes, but took it to the next level by creating metal plates to cover the firewall. Next, he made custom inner wheel arches by constructing additional bars to improve the structural rigidity. Plates were then built around the bars to give the bay its extremely smooth look. From there, we decided to get even wilder by deleting everything possible, from the brake and clutch master cylinders, to the air condition, heater, A/C tension pulley, and brake booster. Basically, if you're looking at the engine, there's virtually nothing else that could have been shaved or deleted.
6. Sound the Trumpets
Going into this challenge, I knew the car wouldn't be able to be tested on the track, nor was it going to be able to be legally driven on the street. With this in mind, I wanted to do something extremely different, especially since the obvious choice would be bolting on a turbo or supercharger kit. With a shaved bay in the works, nothing would stand out more than having a set of individual throttle bodies poking out of the motor!
The purpose of ITBs is to improve flow characteristics and throttle response using a seperate throttle body per cylinder, as opposed to one throttle body for the engine. But we couldn't find many people who have tried them on the FA20 motor, so we had to start from scratch. Borla delivered its dual runner throttle bodies to us. Gearheinz then cut some manifold plates for both the head and the Borla throttle body, and also designed the adapter to allow the universal ITBs to fit. Next, the fuel system was redesigned. AN fittings were added to deliver fuel to the factory direct injection, while 1,000cc injectors upgraded the fuel delivery for the port injection. The last piece of the puzzle was retaining the drive by wire system. Gearheinz developed a custom linkage system using a leading and trailing throttle design. The master servo operates one side of the throttle and the linkage system pulls the other side. This was done simply because our MoTeC M1 was designed to be a plug-and-play ECU for the factory single throttle body.
7. Through the Wire
An important task was cleaning out all the clutter under the hood and removing the headlight/chassis harness that's wrapped around the whole bay. This was relocated to the interior of the firewall. The team at Rywire knows their shit and they came to our rescue with the tire tuck. The wiring for accessories like the headlights and fans was run through the fenders in order to retain the shaved bay look.
The second part of the equation was a new engine wiring harness, and the Rywire team built a new one from scratch that worked specifically with the MoTeC ECU. Take a closer look at it and you'll notice it uses only high-end motorsport techniques and a Mil Spec connector-stuff you'd normally see on airplanes or a Formula One car!
8. Wheels Make the Car
I'm a wheel snob, and there's a reason I always go back to classic mesh designs and reputable brands. For our Ratchet Bunny, we imported BBS Motorsport E88 wheels from Germany-too expensive for this build but I wanted the next best thing with BBS LMs. LTMW hired Floss Design to rebarrel a set of sandwich-mounted LMs specifically for our FR-S. With the perfect offsets and widths, the wheels sit flush within the Rocket Bunny fenders without any spacers. Floss polished the lips, and the faces were given a tinted brushed finish, making the wheels its flawless look.
9. The Whole Nine Yards With the tough stuff done, the rest of the car fell into place starting with the chassis. You'll notice the FR-S has KW Clubsport coilovers and the entire Whiteline catalog-no joke! Behind the BBS are massive Wilwood big brakes. Checking all the boxes was important for the Tuner Challenge, so we ensured the audio was addressed as well. The Car Shop in nearby Alhambra, California, built one kick-ass subwoofer enclosure using all Pioneer gear. Open the doors and you'll see nothing but the best, too-a Personal steering wheel, Recaro Sportster seats, and a color-matched rollcage. The seats, steering wheel, door panels, and shift boot were also restitched in yellow to tie the color together-it's all in the details!
10. The Finish Line
If you saw our FR-S the day before it was delivered to Scion, you would have thought we were easily screwed. But with a diet of Red Bull and cold pizza, and our unmatched dedication, the car was finished just in the nick of time. Given the three-month time frame and all the custom work, my team and sponsors deserve all the praise in the world. Our goal was never to build the fastest FR-S, but to wow enthusiasts of all kinds at the world's biggest show, which we certainly did!
Occupation founder of LTMW
Role lead builder; body and paintwork; assembly
Two Cents "We do work like this all the time, but doing a project for a manufacturer's booth at SEMA where millions of people are going to see it is different versus a regular customer. Overall, I'm happy with it and wouldn't change anything about it. It's a complete tuner challenge build that even has full audio, and it's close to the rendering."
Occupation founder of Gearheinz Power Service
Role lead fabricator; shaved engine bay; ITB setup
Two Cents "The best part of the project was making the ITB setup from scratch and having them work the first time. We started the car two days before it had to be picked up. If it didn't work, the car wouldn't run by the deadline. The same goes with a lot of the custom one-off parts. If it didn't work, there was no time to go back and make stuff."
Occupation founder of Rywire Motorsports Electronics
Role engine harness; wire tuck; designed fuel and brake lines
Two Cents "I think the Rywire team pulled off something great. I'm extremely pleased of the final outcome. It's a chassis we've never worked with before but an engine management we have. It just took a little bit more time and research."
Jon Sibal (not pictured)
Occupation illustrator of all things awesome
Role build consultant; rendering
Two Cents "With only a 90-day build schedule, the design needed to be sensible while keeping it unique. We also wanted it to be a well-balanced build, so all areas of the car are addressed. Considering the challengers and limitations, the car turned out great. There were a few areas of the car that even exceeded my expectations."