How to Modify a GR86/BRZ

Levi and Lego collaborated once to make a jacket that you could put legos on and people were like “Sweet, but why?” In 2019, Harry potter fans would see their favorite movie they watch annually right before winter get put on a bunch of vans shoes. 

Lego jacket? Cool. Harry Potter Shoes, kinda okay, but i’ll accept it. 

“Then you’re free to check the king” No, Ron No. “

But then there was a collab that felt a little out of left field, and that was Toyota / onlyfans sister Scion & Subaru. What came out of it, was the Subaru FRS and Scion BRZ, I mean Subaru BRZ and Scion FRS, Or GT86, I mean Gr86, I mean toyota gt86. Christ. This was a car that finally gave some diversity to the playing field of entry level sports cars. A 2 door coupe that wasn’t a Nissan Z, a car that provided looks that to this day STILL look good. A car that spawned an entire community of automotive enthusiasts to say “you know, the engine may be on the brink of detonation, but Pandem just released a new kit and it looks sick” Ladies and gentlemen there was a time where you wanted to know about the car, but now we’re here to talk about How to modify a Scion FRS / Subaru BRZ / Toyota GR86.
GR86 MartiniWorks

The Birth of FRS/BRZ/GT86

Why was the FRS/BRZ birthed into this world? Great question, Toyota and Subaru officially launched the collaboration in 2005 after finding an opportunity to develop a joint car that could share resources from both brands. This was coming off the crush of sport car demand in the early 200s and right at the impending failure of the market; the 2007 recession hurt, and the partnership was not only one that would help make a sports car, but allow both companies to drive revenue to a younger market without having to invest all the cash themselves. 

What we saw was Toyota invest its resources in the cars exterior, interior and suspension, while Subaru prioritized suspension design, chassis, and powertrain. Tetsuya Tada & Toshio Masuda would work together on the design, both powerhouses in their respective field and had one goal; make an affordable sports car using a low center of gravity engine, rwd layout that carried the energy and excitement of past sports cars like the Mazda Miata. 

We know the boxer engine that’s present in the first gen as a slightly temperamental engine, but at the time, the designation of a 2l boxer engine with a low center of gravity and had an excellent weight distribution. It was compact, it was free-revving and allowed the driver to experience the road, vs. the weight underneath it. 

The Heart of the Beast

Central to the FRS/BRZ/GR86’s appeal is its boxer engine – a 2-liter powerhouse with a low center of gravity and impeccable weight distribution. Though known for its occasional temperamental nature, this engine offers a thrilling driving experience, emphasizing road connection over brute force.

The Modification Odyssey

These cars are FAMOUS for being modified to oblivion and it looks fucking sick. Widebody kits of every brand exist for these cars. 3 piece wheels and carbon fiber everything will make you, a new frs/brz owner a bit overwhelmed with thinking that to stand out you’ll need to do the same to your car. Big communities typically = big risks to stand out. It’s going to be hard to do that with this platform, so instead, stand out by using it as much as you can. 

The greatest mod for this car, is the recall. Not all partnerships work perfectly, and that was seen back when the early gens were recalled for faulty engine valve springs causing an entire engine failure. Problem was Toyota techs had no idea on how to work on Subarus and as a results, techs would use too much sealant causing the engines to fail; again. It wasn’t a small recall; over 400,000 cars had the issue and our favorite 2 door coupe was one of the many models impacted. The follow up issues on these cars can and should leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Alex Martini GR86 MartiniWorks

The Modder’s Toolkit

Let’s start with the exhaust. Tomei sounds lovely. Perrin and Invidia are also solid options. I love the sound of these cars and even without forced induction, a proper exhaust can make these cars so much more fun to rev out. 

While you’re under there, I’d advise taking a look at your inevitable leaks and repair as needed. 

I’d jump into a basic perrin or injen intake system.

Show cars can do anything. If you’re not modifying the engine much, which you won’t, a rocket bunny kit, Underglow, clear blacked headlight. Most people do the unequal length header with an open flash to get rid of the torque dip you experience in the BRZ / FRS first gens. If you want to keep a stock body, you can put the V1 Rocket bunny diffuser and it will fit the stock body as well. 

If you buy show parts, buy them from MartiniWorks.

If you plan to drift your car, that’s where you can have some good ol’ fun. Find yourself some shit wheels, buy some Nexen tires, get yourself some racing seats to keep your plantation; planted, throw a short throw shifter in there, bump up the power with the headers, intake and tune and absolutely thrash it. 

Don’t do anything else. 

Unless you wanna run a ASD hydro of some kind with an inline rear brake, the cars act as a great start to drifting; they just don’t have the perfect engine for it. Honestly, and as scary as it sounds, i’ve heard lots of people who run these cars for drifting end up throwing either a ls of some kind for affordability OR if you want to be a big baller, will put a 1j/2j in it and transform the car over into a Supra pretty much, but that’s likely a bit past what you’re looking to do here. 

What I can say is the need to power up for the drift even or the track day on your oem engine will need forced induction in time. 

The car does feel underwhelming and you can grow out of it quickly. It’s a bit like a Miata, but the Miata has so many racing classes where when you tap out its potential, you get into wheel to wheel racing and that’s what makes up for the lack of excitement in the cars potential. With the BRZ/FRS, you don’t.

I’ve seen track cars opt for a Treadstone Performance engineering turbo kit or something similar BUT it’ll cost you about $5K for just the parts. 

If I were to rate why you’d modify this car, i’d say it’s best off as a street car with some show car use if you want to. It makes for a fun autox car where you spend more time in maneuverability, and it can drift it or start your track path with this car, but it’s value starts to sag as you become a better driver, so we’d recommend going with the unequal length header, grimmspeed intake, ecu tech tune with delicious and some openflash goodness. Get some solid aero, Fortune auto coilovers or BC’s, and tires can be dependent on what you use them for. We love Conti’s for daily use, Michelin for track use, and Nexen or something similar for drift use. 

I see people say “I want to do widebody, 700hp, sequential transmission and …

Bah bah bah

Pump your brakes, what you need to do first is understand why you wanted the platform to begin with. It helps you know if it’s worth sinking the money into. If you’re going to invest in the car, invest in things that make your engine happier and the car more planted, that’s how you get the most out of these odd little coupes.

So how do you modify a Mazda Miata? Easy baby, go take a loan out for $20,000, buy a brz or frs with 80k miles, and immediately realize that you bought the future Ka24 240sx, but the times of now. You’ll find your limitations quick if you aim to drive the crap out of it, but you’ll love it anyway. You’ll peak at Enkei or Gram Lights for wheels from martiniworks.com, then go into coilovers and grip mods. By the time you’re all said and done focusing on driver feedback, you’ll realistically spend $5K; wheels, tires, sway bars, coilovers, keeping as much of a budget as you can. 

With the other $7K you’ll have the option to buy some racing seats, a quick release steering wheel, and short throw shifter. I’d save the last of the $30K total budget for track days, drift days, autocross, and tires. Comparing that to other cars in the market the only other thing you can really get that could do the same, is a Nissan 350Z. 

martiniworks GR86 Drift


But most importantly if you’re looking to modify your first gen frs or brz, and you want to see how others have built their, be sure to check out martini works.com where we’re bringing back build threads and making it easy to build your car by learning how others built their car.

Dakota Stone

I like to slappa da wheel. Also, I drive a 2020 Toyota Supra. No, its not manual. The engine is from BMW.