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86/BRZ/FR-S

    We’ve been saying all along that the new Toyota 86 (and it’s Subaru twin the BRZ) will lead to the rebirth of the performance car in the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM), as well as the revitalization of the JDM performance aftermarket. Bread and butter cars, cars which were designed to be affordable by the largest segment of the enthusiast market, are represented by the original AE86, pocket rockets such as the Mitsubishi Colt Turbo and the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R, and at the slightly higher end by the Silvia and Celica. These are all straightforward cars, built on pedestrian chassis, enhanced with heavy duty or AWD parts borrowed from other models in the lineup, and given a degree of factory tuning. Most importantly, they are straightforward and affordable and therefore provide an easy platform for modification by enthusiasts. And the sheer volume of cars like these enable the incredible JDM performance aftermarket. The 86 and BRZ are targeted directly at this market.

    When you spend some time in Japan, follow their products thru Best Motoring videos, or see your first example of the famous Hyper Rev books, you’ll note that there aren’t just a few vendors providing parts – there are hundreds. Case in point: open Hyper Rev #46 for the S2000 and you’ll find an incredible catalog of hundreds of parts for the S2000 from a hundred different vendors. You can spend an entire weekend reading thru this book and you’ll find every possible modification from a dozen different camshafts to a couple of optimized rear subframes. In North America, you’ll find these sold by vendors such as More-Japan or HyperRevUSA. They are such interesting reading that you may buy one of them even if you don’t own the particular car (we have a dozen in our own library for cars we don’t own). The incredible breadth and enthusiasm these books exemplify is what the Japanese aftermarket is all about.

    In our opinion, the new Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are the best thing that has happened in the JDM market in years. Yes, there are the incredible pinnacles such as the Supras, GT-Rs, IS-Fs and LFAs. We’re glad they are here but they are at the very top of the price range and out of reach for most of the market. The middle market is the superb Skyline (aka Infiniti G), Fairlady (Z), and Lancer Evolution and those are cars that the bread and butter market will grow into.

    Then there is the Miata, still selling well, but from a performance standpoint rather milquetoast and uninteresting in its stock form (where, Mazda, is the Mazdaspeed turbo engine that was promised and all but announced?). We won’t forget that on any given weekend there are more modified Miatas on racetracks than anything else. But the 86 and the BRZ are the cars that nearly everyone can afford to own and modify.

    In the Tokyo auto show this past week, we saw the first examples of JDM performance vendors modifying the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. We even saw one with an intercooler (!) hiding behind the lower grill. And we also saw the Subaru BRZ GT300 racecar, the first full-race version of the twins – and certainly not the last. We believe this will be one of the most popular cars for the JDM Super GT race series, and we expect it to be just as popular here in North America in SCCA autocrossing right up to the showroom stock classes. We hope to see it eventually in the Continental Tire series, although we realize that it will only occur of Toyota, er, Scion, provides some sponsorship money.