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MODIFIED SUBARU BRZ: NET GAINS

Posted by Glenn Rowswell on 3rd November 2020

This extravagantly cambered and modified Subaru BRZ is a fashion-forward build for a connected generation. Taking inspiration from social media and running it all through his own cerebral filter, Kieran Hope’s built the low-slung coupé of his dreams…

Feature taken from Fast Car. Words Joe Partridge Photos Matt Clifford

There used to be a time when car modifying existed in a microcosmic scale. Our modding reference points were primarily anchored in the local shows and meets we attended, with the glossy splendour of magazines showing us how these trends were playing out in a broader sense across the country. Any awareness of what people were doing in other countries was generally gleaned from the odd borrowed mag from a mate who’d been on holiday, or a late-night segment on some random documentary series. Not today, though. Social media has changed everything. That little device in your pocket opens you up to a whole world of modifying trends – as soon as you’ve seen a new idea in America or Japan or Sweden or Australia, so have countless other people and everyone’s racing to try it out with their own unique twists.

When Tim Berners-Lee first set about Sellotaping various ones and zeroes together to form some kind of rudimentary internet back in the late-eighties, he probably didn’t imagine the full ramifications of what he was about to unleash. In implementing communication over the pioneering Hypertext Transfer Protocol, he enabled easy and instant communication with computer users at various points across the globe, envisaging knowledge-sharing, business aids, military applications and scientific fellowship through the World Wide Web. But did he picture us, a couple of decades or so later, trawling his spangly internet for photos of cars, so that we can share a cheery ‘dude, where did you buy that ducktail?’, or ‘sick wheels, bro’? Er, no, possibly not. Nevertheless, this is where we find ourselves. And it’s this behaviour that makes Kieran Hope’s bagged BRZ build such a thoroughly modern affair. The whole thing can basically be blamed on Instagram.

“The BRZ is my second car; before that I had a 2014 Ford Fiesta Zetec 1.25,” he explains. “Within around three months of passing my driving test, the Fiesta was lowered on coilovers and had a set of 3SDM wheels. During this time, at age 18, I realised my passion for modifying cars and quickly started to follow builds on Instagram – that’s when I learned about the US car scene, and specifically the GT86 and BRZ. I quickly fell in love with the 86/BRZ platform and how they looked when lowered with crazy negative camber. I had to have one!” So the search began in early 2016, with the tasty bits from the Fiesta being sold off so he could start pooling some funds. Kieran opted to set his sights on a BRZ rather than a GT86 simply because the Subaru can be found in World Rally Blue, which is arguably cooler than any of the stock Toyota shades – and this is actually by far the more unusual choice as the GT86 massively outsells the BRZ in the UK, so you often get people peering at the Subaru badges in total confusion.

“When I eventually found the perfect BRZ that fitted my requirements, I got the train to Twyford after work in central London, and drove it back home. It was only just two years old, a 2014 model, and had 15k miles on the clock. And before I’d even bought it, I’d already started collecting parts for it…” Yep, this is truly a build of vision and forethought, as those endless evenings spent scrolling through Instagram for #baggedBRZ and what-have-you had given Kieran a very clear idea of what he wanted to achieve with this project.

“I had already shipped over the Valenti rear lights and lower light bar from the States,” he continues, “so within forty-eight hours of owning the BRZ, the lights were stripped and changed out for the Valentis. Over the rest of 2016 and ’17, the car received a Cobra cat-back exhaust system, Tein coilovers, and various different sets of wheels. Then, eventually, in 2018 I made the decision to pursue the dream and build a stanced and cambered BRZ.”

The suspension setup is the real big-ticket item of this project – in Kieran’s words, “it’s where the detail is” – and in May 2018 he booked it in to have a full Air Lift Performance setup installed, complete with 3P management. Naturally it would never be enough to fulfil those long-held (and social media-fuelled) aspirations to simply buy an off-the-shelf kit and have his BRZ sitting precisely like every other bagged hachi-roku on the scene; no, he’d put too much thought into the finished result to settle for mainstream, even if it was an already skewed version of what the term might represent. “I imported the Racer X camber arms from the States,” he explains. “The full setup, which was completed earlier this year, includes Racer X front lower control arms, Racer X front tie rod ends, Racer X rear upper control arms, Racer X rear toe links, and PBM rear lower control arms. With all of this set up, I’m now running -10° of negative camber at the front, and -14° at the rear.”

While all this was going on, Kieran had also been putting serious thought into which wheels would be ideally placed to edge out at such extreme angles; having been through a variety of sets, in December last year he bought himself a set of 16-inch BBS RS faces and sent them off to Dan at Wheel Unique to reimagine them as something spectacular. Stepping up to 18-inch in diameter, they now weigh in at 9-inch wide at the front and an extra inch out back, properly filling those arches when the Scoob airs out.

“I then went direct to Subaru to get the 2017-spec facelift front bumper,” he goes on, “and once I’d collected together all the necessary parts I sent the car to TUK Customs in May to have the front end, roof and rear bumper freshly painted. Mark at TUK did an amazing job.” That facelift nose has enjoyed a foglight and headlamp washer delete, while also being treated to a set of DRLs that are only available on JDM facelift models. The tidy VLand headlights have a HID kit hiding inside, and the aforementioned Valenti lower light bar at the rear has been custom-wired to illuminate along with the taillights.

“I was really pushing myself to ensure the car was ready for the 2019 Players Classic at Goodwood,” says Kieran. “Within a week of collecting it from TUK Customs, I’d stripped all the factory suspension arms and started installing the new camber arms. This took a number of weeks to perfect the fitment on each corner – specifically the front. The rear camber is fairly easy to achieve, however the fronts take a lot more time and precision to optimise the fitment. To get it spot-on at the front involves a lot of problems, such as the wheel rubbing the bag, the bag rubbing on the strut tower and so on – not an easy task! I slotted the front struts and fabricated the strut towers to allow more room for the airbags, allowing more negative camber, and eventually got it just where I wanted it.”

Just as Kieran hoped, the BRZ received thunderous approval when it belly-shimmied its way onto the venerable tarmac of the Goodwood paddock, his Instagram going nuts as people swarmed around the car brandishing their phones and grabbing mad scenes for the ’Gram. “A lot of people recognised that my BRZ was the first 86/BRZ in the UK to have front fitment, and this meant a lot to me because of all the time and effort it took to get it right,” he grins. And with that, the job was done. His very own social media celebrity, lovingly crafted by his own hands with a little help from the right people, and smashing the scene wide open with its obscene approach to camber. There’s levels to this shit, you see. Seeing this BRZ in motion is akin to observing the Crazy Frog and the dancing baby Rickrolling Leeroy Jenkins while Keyboard Cat fights Nyan Cat and Homer Simpson slides slowly backwards into a hedge. We’re not in the real world any more, not by a long way. But we’re cool with that.

TECH SPEC: SUBARU BRZ

Styling:
World Rally Blue, 2017-facelift front bumper with foglight and headlight washer delete, JDM Subaru DRLs, VLand headlights with HID kit, Valenti LED smoked side repeaters, Valenti taillights, Valenti rear lower light bar, OEM 2015 shark fin antenna, resprayed front end, roof and rear bumper

Tuning:
FA20D 2.0-litre flat-four, Cobra non-resonated cat-back exhaust system, 6-speed manual

Chassis:
9x18in (front) and 10x18in (rear) BBS RS, Air Lift Performance struts with 3P management, Racer X front lower control arms, Racer X front tie rod ends, Racer X rear upper control arms, Racer X rear toe links, PBM rear lower control arms

Interior:
Stock BRZ

Thanks:
“Thanks to Martin at 07 Autocare for the outstanding detail and ceramic coating. Thank also to Mark at TUK Customs for the amazing respray on the BRZ, and to Dan at Wheel Unique for building the wheels to perfection.”