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My BRZ 2012-2016

Also called "The Commuting Years".
During that time, I had to work far away from home and in what can only be described as a very unpleasant environment at best.

Since I absolutely needed my car to be my everyday companion, absolute reliability and availability were key. Since I'd had to do a lot of all-weather long-distance travel my modifications were all designed with this sort of driving profile in mind. 

Luckily I'd be able to change that, and move on to other driving profiles, after a lot of patience.


Most of the information in this section is directly transcribed, thus relatively unchanged, from a formerly public forum where I initially hosted this timeline. Unfortunately, as that platform became more and more unreliable and insecure, I had to look for a new solution which would end up becoming this website.

This car, in the sense that cars are a combination of various different systems, was probably my longest project yet. There were just so many different things to optimize!

Initially, this section was meant as a documentary on what I did to my car and when. Its main purpose was to remind myself, now that it's gone.
Because a lot of love, blood and sweat has gone into it and it'd be impossible for me to remember it all.

Why bother with such detail? Because I don't have a detailed history of what I did to my first car. As so many good memories are connected to it, much of that is now lost.

However, apart from this being a testament to changes in a car, my life requirements and myself, I think it's now fair to say that the split I've created in the timeline represent two different usage profiles:
Initially, I required a city and very-long range daily all-weather driver with fun dynamics.
In the last years, I could afford to use it as a fun-only soft racing car.

many specific upgrades reflect the changes made due to the different use and the more uncompromising attitude in later years. As such, it may be an interesting showcase on how to adjust a product to various niches and an interesting learning experience.

Please note that, in my modifications, I have tried my very best to follow what I understand to be the natural concept of the car and what fit me best as a person during various stages of my life.
It is explicitly NOT what many mainstream people like to do to their cars.
Whether you like my work or not, I'd kindly ask you to respect the amount of care and thought I've put into my work.


15.October 2012

Just delivered at the dealer, factory-fresh, one of the first 10 in Germany (and allegedly the first in that Forum back then)

It was a quite suprising and early delivery so I was not prepared. 
The excitement was immense and it should take another 4 weeks for me to sort out insurance, wheels, tires and payment (the car had had an announced delivery time of one year, came within 8 weeks).

Taking delivery in winter was not what I'd planned on but with this level of handling everything went perfectly well.


The  idea was that I'd get a basic setup with just a few accessories and good all-round summer tires worked out and get to know the car. 

I would only consider modifications once I had developed a feeling for the car and knew what it needed, all after careful consideration and thought. There's honestly not a lot this car needs so just thoughtlessly slapping stuff on will not do anything positive.x


03.November 2012

Still in the showroom. The accessory diffuser had been fitted and trunk logos cleaned off.

I would never drive the original tires. Instead, the OEM rims got equipped with decent winter tires and a set of accessory 18" tires with Yokohama S-Drive was prepared for summer.


12.November 2012

Due to the crappy parking garage in my house I had had to do some modifications to the parking spot.
Since the car arrived much earlier than expected, we were unprepared and the weeks between car arrival and me taking delivery were, in part, spent on this modification.

To be fair, it's not the car's fault. I had never had any clearance problems before except in this garage in which I lived. 
I'll spare you the story of exactly why but let's suffice it to say, I heard that the building contractor did a faulty (not the word I#d prefer) job.

In the end, only 3-4 of the 12 spots were actually ever used anyway as any normal car was either too long, high, wide or low for those narrow slots. One man even destroyed his car's entire side once and decided to park outside from then on.


16.November 2012

Pickup day!
Left the dealer 20 minutes of time before I hit the showroom to take over the car. Here are some first impressions:

-unfortunately, the headrest was not angle-adjustable (that wouldn't bother me for long)
-awesome seats
-great sound and good low-end power (I had to break the car in for a while first)
-amazing love for detail, such as the notches in the rev counter and many more
- awful 3rd brake light placement (you probably know what happened soon after)
-amazing cornering capability
-great suspension and stability

As I'd been driving a borrowed BMW before, which had the same general drivetrain layout and was the first RWD drive car I'd gained some experience with, I made some interesting observations.
Mainly that the BMW didn't even feel like a proper RWD at all! That car was rubbish! They had completely wasted any and all the potential of front-engine rear-wheel drive to deliver an absolutely neutral feel with no enjoyment or indeed emotion at all.

Even upon the first few km I couldn't stop grinning at how well the BRZ cornered even at non-threatening speeds and how I could influence the normal cornering with both the steering wheel and the throttle. This was a great car.

After the initial test drive I immediately did something that seems like forbidden witchcraft to people online: read the manual and got to know my car's not-so-obvious features 


07.April 2013

I couldn't stand the wait anymore and pulled the summer tires on.
Back then, I did enjoy the massive looks and the silver contrast.

Here's a comparison picture.

The Yokohama S-Drive is a tire I'd been convinced by on my old car. It was indeed a very good choice on this one, too.
Plans were already being made to make the wheels more flush with the body.


Also, any and all orange blinker bulbs had to go.
That comes from my design philosophy that less colors is better,
In my opinion, a car needs one color and one contrasting color, period. 
Colors that are state-mandated (as are i.e. red tail lights) have to be tolerated so a small bit of tertiary color is fine.

But to me, personally, anything with 4+ colors is a clown car.

***I would later slightly revise my opionion about
one-main and one-contrast color schemes insofar that all-black worksm too***


I had wanted to make those pictures to show how the car looked before I laid much of a hand on it. Much of, anyway. Aside from the a/m things I had also fitted the first hood lifter kit, back then only available in the USA and as a special pre-order beta kit.
One of the best, albeit priciest, ones. But definitely worth it if you spend a lot of time in the engine bay (as, of course, I do).


24.May 2013

This must have been the first time I organized a groupbuy from Japan. All in all, during the next ~4 years, I did 6 of those for the entire German community. Also I did 2 from the USA.

That one saw a new Sharkfin Antenna, Gurney Flap (spoiler part) and Sound Changer (invisible) fitted.


The difference the Gurney Flap made was noticeable.
It started making a difference at ~110, at my usual cruising speeds of 160-170 you could feel quite a bit of downforce. However, this would start to raise issues as I couldn't get the front to create more downforce. A problem that I never solved with aero due to garage restrictions and later optical concerns.


I also taped an STi logo on the - relarively large - interior dash panel to liven it up a tiny bit. It may be in a picture later.

Around this time I also installed Schroth 3-point seat harnesses.
Racing seat belts are, in my opinion, one of the most important things to do to this car to make the seats and handling really work.
Let me point out that even generally disinterested people approve of that.


31.May 2013

Just a spontaneous wetlook shot, because it looked nice that day.


04.June 2013

A protective trunk liner, made out of a Japanese flag.
For protecting the trunk from dirt.

As such, it served well. The flag became quite dirty over the years which, I tink, is the right look for it.


26.August 2013

Just some quality pictures, freshly washed and waxed.


One thing that I noticed at the time was that this car really seems to swallow the light when properly cleaned. 

Some ideas were forming. But for the time being I stuck with the black/silver on the outside and wanted to introduce more blue accents on the inside, as suitable for a Subaru.


30.August 2013

Some lowering springs, I think 35mm. The suspension was just too new and good to throw completely and the amount of lowering perfect for those wheels.


03.September 2013

The first time I decided to do something about that HORRIBLE brake light.


I even wrote a whole guide on how to do the same.
But the way to do it was not easily replicable.
It was also not a good solution. I simply lacked the capabilities.
Also, I think by the time I had made the Brake Light Lowering Kit, the Solution you see here hat come slightly loose.

At that time, however, I was not as skilled as I am today. 
So, as a step of learning, that's OK for me.


Funny how it appears as if I'm always tinting my window right after.


05.September 2013

Finally some good, old-fashioned window tint.

It worked quite well in tandem with the window tint, too.


There are two elephants in the room to be addressed, though.

One is the cutout I had them make in the tint.
At the time I was so worried that I'd get in trouble with some especially over-obsessive policeman (as usual in Germany) that I insisted on this setup. 


The other is the hue of tint. While many pictures look fine, in some you can see that the angle of lighting makes the tint look sort of bronze-ish. 
That stayed a bother for me and I resolved to fix it later. After all, it was still an improvement as-was. There were more pressing points to improve.

Crazy, how many people asked me back then to make a HowTo on the Brake Light Lowering solution. No idea if anyone made it, though, as it was really not that brilliant a process.


02.December 2013

Likely after the second group buy.
What you see there is the TRD Aero Stabilizing Cover.
In hindsight, I must have helped over 70 people get one of these from Japan.

The  brilliant thing about this is that it closes a huge gap between rear window and trunk which allowed for a lot of leaves and dirt to collect in the (rather large) area underneath the trunk itself but before the gasket. Many drivers of this car know exactly what area I'm talking about and know the pain.

Probably one of the most useful upgrades to this car absolutely no matter what you do with it.

The Toyota Center Armrest must also have gotten in at around the same time.


18.April 2014

During the winter I'd installed the TRD door stabilizers of which I never took never actually took a picture.

Also, since this car has a very well known heat problem,
and I'm not an idiot, I installed an oil cooler as soon as possible.
This one is the hugely overpriced (but higly effective) first version of the HKS oil cooler kit. 
Took me a while to fit it, also, connecting it up was a hassle due to unreliable people in Baden-Württemberg.

Please also note that while the bumper was off I took the liberty of improving my intake by installing the first version HKS intake snorkel. To make that one go better I even cut out a part of the removable styrofoam.


29.April 2014

After finding someone who was actually useful and reliable, I had the oil cooler all connected up and working.


Yes, the cooler was way too big. I'd always been saying "maybe I'll install a supercharger in 3-4 years" but I always knew I wouldn't. 
Because the car is neither laid out for it nor does it need it. 
But the cooler was solid for even the roughest action I could put it through. 

***Very solidly mounted, too, as I oind out in July 2019***


11.June 2014

Radio switchout. 
The original radio in this car is very sports-oriented.
Sound quality was decent, too.
Meaning, it's probably the easiest to use in all radios I've ever experienced. It can be operated by using two-three buttons.
However, it's also horribly ugly. Looks like something from the 80's.

So out that went, in this one came.
With spacers from Japan to the left and right (most radios require them, the inbuilt slot not being up to DIN standard).
Most importantly this radio has GPS. That was the most important thing given my frequent drives in unknown areas and refusal to use those suction-cup universal GPS (I didn't want the "kiss marks" on my window like I had in my first car anymore)


06.July 2014

Exchanged the OEM airbox with the TRD Airbox from USA.
In order to make it less conspicuous, I removed the TRD badge and put a K&N sticker. 
Especially beneficial was the fact that the box looks so original, it's likely the only aftermarket intake around that looks original and, even as of 2020, one of the very few that actually gains any performance.

This box deletes the Sound Generator so the mot to said part was also removed.

Even though I don't overly care about color matching in the engine bay the bright red intake tube stub was still a big bother.


14.November 2014

TRD lightweight  flywheel. 
Thanks to my SEA-connection.
Not me in the picture, BTW.

Upon getting to know the car better and better, I was convinced that the one thing it needed the most was a lighter flywheel.
I was right.

3-4 years later, Subaru would covertly admit that they'd not really made an optimal decision in their drivetrain layout. 
Frankly, this was already known to anyone who'd studied the car's making for a bit. 
In the Facelift (2018+), they'd remedied that with a shortened final drive. I did this in advance. A shorter final drive would also have been quite detrimental to the driving profile I had at the time of this picture.

But I digress.
Flywheel. Best. Thing. Ever. For this car. Especially in combination with 17", which I only used in winter by then.
But the decision was already made to remedy it once my usage profile became a bit more suitable to the car.

More  importantly, I get asked "Why the TRD? Why not one of the lighter ones?" a lot.
Esoteric reasons, really. TRD is, to a degree, backed by the OEM.
So I believe there's a reason they set this flywheel up at this weight as it is. Back then, with my long-distance highway driving profile, I required absolute reliability first of all. Going for quality parts is always the way to go.
Learned that the hard way in my old car occasionally.

So I went for "OEM+" whenever and as long as I could.


03.January 2015

So that red intake hose was annoying. Fixed it by cutting the OEM hose to size during the Christmas/New Year holidays.

Such a thing always had to be done on vacation, when I was not working far away but visiting home.
So bigger mods were quite impossible due to my working situation.

An Open Flash Tablet (OFT) was also procured, albeit I only used it to runn the standard offf-the-shelf maps at the time.


09.March 2015

Small upgrade to the oil cooler vent. 
The intake to the cooler was, at the time, realized by removing a channeling sheet behind the front bumper.
Ventilation had been realized by a self-bent piece of plastic which was imperfect.
What I did there was use good, black-coated screws and a cutout from a Mitsubishi Galant (best donor car for a variety of things i.e. shift knob) which Ibolted to the original wheelhouse liner. I'm using it to this day.


23.March 2015

Installed the rear fins of the original STi bodykit. I had also ordered the other parts of the kit but my garage didn't allow me to mount it. Also, there are other issues I had with the kit.


13.May 2015

Small trunk upgrade.

Unfortunately, I can not pinpoint the exact date but by mid-2015 my trunk had received a number of upgrades.

One of them was the folding rear seats. In the European and Asian versions, they fold from the passenger compartment.
In the American version they fold from the rear.
Using the mechanisms from the USDM market, I modified the passenger area mechanism in order to enable a hybrid solution allowing for the seats to fold down both from the front and trunk. 
A truly unique solution worldwide. You can see the unlocking straps in the picture.

In the foreground you can see the homemade lighting solution.
As customary for many Japanese vehicles, the trunk is made very light and simple but not very aesthetically pleasing. 
One thing I did to ammeliorate that was to "clean" the wiring which had been installed right in sight. All I had to do was lay the cables through the metal framework of the body and done, it was.

Only problem was the trunk light which had been slapped on some crossmember quite lovelessly. I used my turning machine and quite a few elaborate processes to install these nice, inconspicuous and very reliable LED lights. The 20mm mountings fit right into a few of the body cutouts of a crossmember on the top of the trunk, if you know where to look. I never bothered bringing this into a serial production, although I probably could today.


01.July 2015

A milestone.
As far as I can tell there may be one more person in the world who's changed the interior illumination of this car before me, from the USA.

Please forgive me for ranting but I would like to stress that this took about 9 months.
The idea had been around for a while but as I required my car every day, I was not able to make do without it for an extended amount of time.
So, as the community was still quite pleasant at the time, I found someone who'd already had the luxury of using his car only for the summer season. 
After asking around, I found a "very competent and quick electronics builder" in Baden-Württemberg who assured me that resoldering all that stuff was a piece of cake. He could do it in a few days.

Having found a donor who could live without his car for the winter months, I got the interior parts to the solderer. 
Who, being from Baden-Württenberg, had naturally boasted his abilities without actually being capable of anything.
I'm going to spare the rant at this point but that person, who allegedly made a living from such stuff, was absolutely useless and had done one SMD in 6 months. Yes, one. It was too difficult for him.


Now I considered myself not very apt at soldering at the time.
Certainly not capable enough to do this for someone else.
But after kissing some Baden-Württemberg guy's butt for over half a year I'd had enough. 
My fear of breaking something was not as strong as the exasperation I'd felt so I ordered a flat soldering tip, filed it to size, bought a temperature-controlled soldering iron and did the damn mod myself.

And I really considered myself to be horrible at soldering.
Took me about one hour to finish.
I did all the SMD's exactly as I wanted and was finished within one hour - pure soldering time.


The idea is that any warning light is purposely left the color it was.
Because that stuff is not supposed to light up during driving.
If it does,  I want to see it immediately.

This is how it's looked like ever since,
once the ignition-on self-check was done.

***There was not a single bad contact or problem since. Ever.***

But yes, as is obvious, the interior stitching was still red.


02.July 2015

Finally some track plates to make the wheels flush.

The front got pushed out by 40mm in front, 50mm in the rear.


Now people who know me have said that this is not exactly something that people like me are usually prone to do.
That's right.
But I was not going to get rid of either summer or winter tires during the time I had to work in Baden-Württemberg. 
This was a good stopgap to suit both wheel/tire sets which generally improved handling overall, even taking into account some detrimental effects from less direct steering.

Just loved the flush look. And the car was driving like on rails.


30.July 2015

I'd finally done it. After all, I'd fitted a different exhaust.
This is one of two, all singing, all dancing, fully legally imported and approved of by German inspection agencies early model Dezod Catbacks.

The exhaust flow design took precedence over any other concerns. 
It was a bit loud for my tastes but more on that later.

At the same time, differential mount and gearbox mount bushings (=strenghteners) went in. 


20.September 2015

Blue. Finally, the steering wheel was blue.
It's worth mentioning that, by 2015, the German community was still as qualitatively meritous that a few people, me included, could just swap around steering wheels for the sake of helping each other out. That way, about 4-5 people could have their steering wheels reupholstered without having to live without a steering wheel or having to pay outrageous amounts for a steering wheel they'd only need for a few weeks.

This would set the tone for what would happen to my interior next:
Out with the low-quality original stuff, in with thick, high-quality leather hand-stitched by my trusted upholsterer.

From this  time on, I'd have the luxury of not using the car all-year around anymore but only during the "warm" season.


25.June 2016

After driving without very many interior trim pieces for much of spring, this is the result.

The idea is that any part that the human body gets into contact with received holed leather. Any other parts received OEM-patterned but much more high-grade leather.


Please note that the trim pieces have not merely seen a change in leathers but also received more padding.

We're talking about 3mm thicker on the window edge trim piece, 5 mm on the armrest and speaker panel as well as 8mm on the center armrest (that one is so unbelievably nice).


Please note that by this time I'd also, in an effort to lighten up the quite oppressive silver impression the dashboard trim piece had, fitted a matte black rising sun style vinyl on the dash panel.

It's hard to see in this picture but must have come on during that previous winter.


A problem I have *SPOILER ALERT* never gotten around to addressing is the seat upholstery.
You can see it here.

The seat upholstery is so nice and was really befitting the car for most of its life that I simply saw no point changing it with providing a significant improvement. 

***As of 2020, I do see a way now but there is no point anymore***


One thing I did not bother changing into leather for fitment concerns were the center panels. I just had the OEM red stitching on the plastic retraced with blue and a secondary optical seam added.

I do like the double stitching...


02.August 2016

... saw an interesting array of performance mods.

The exhaust system saw a header upgrade using a HJS metal catalyst while the catalyst in the frontpipe was stealthily omitted.

Also, I fitted a TRD member brace kit - a chassis stiffening kit.
This kit is normally red but I had it powder-coated black first.
Although I hope no one will ever see that as it would require me to run over said person which would be sad, as it'd damage the poor car.


To address yet another elephant in the room, the (in this car frankly useless) fog lights had come out.


The air inlets were taken from what was in Germany available as the BRZ Active. A cheap entry-level version that I don't much care about.

However, those inlets were never "open" as seen in the pictures above. I cut those open using a dremel and fixed a protective mesh behind them to protect the oil cooler.

Needless to say, the previously-removed air funneling plastic sheed I'd had to remove to feed the oil cooler air could now back in.


07.September 2016

Special update.
I can safely say that I am the first person in the world to do this.
And this had been 3 years in the making.
not because it was that difficult but because I had wanted parts to become cheap enough for this mod to become economical.
This is a height adjustable passenger seat.

The problem is that this car only ever gets a height adjustable driver's seat.
However, as I sometimes took my grandparents along when they'd visit me, we noted the usual issues with the back seats.
As I'm not the tiniest person around, sitting behind me is quite impossible.
Sitting behind the passenger is problematic as there's nowhere to put one's toes. The ~40mm of space gained by raising the seat up as far as it'll go would really go a long way as far as backseat comfort was concerned. 
So, by end of 2016, it was time. I'd gotten a LHD drivers' seat from the UK and scavenged it for all the relevant parts to transplant into my passengers' seat.

Ironically enough, grandpa didn't get to use it anymore.
Actually, no. Not ironic.

You'll notice the absence of red stitching. That's because of textile marker. Not a permanent solution but it got me along.

That was really all I'd had time for in 2016. And I was glad. I was finally getting out of the place I'd had to work in. From that last mod on, I was busy moving. More interesting things would continue, however, in 2017.

And that's when things really got big.

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