Article by Robert Sixto. Feature Photography by Ryan Randels. Guest Photography by Corey Davis.
Anyone who has built a project car has come to learn that the process can be somewhat organic. For JJ Chen and his project Fast Autoworks Scion FR-S, the seeds were planted in 2009 when he decided to pursue his passion for things automotive. Leaving his home in Portland, OR, he set out for the Los Angeles area where he would take up training at UTI to be a Mercedes Benz technician. The next couple of years were spent learning the basics, only dabbling in what we call the Modified Lifestyle. In that time, he purchased a 93 Mazda RX-7, wrenched on it a little, got some seat time at the track, and did some more wrenching. Mechanical issues would eventually sideline the RX-7, but the seeds were already planted and beginning to take root. In 2012 he took on a job at the LA-based tuning shop Fast Autoworks, and this is where his passion for the modlife blossomed; he began to learn and see more of what modifying cars was all about. One of the early influences he remembers, a legendary Spoon Civic that graced the shop, opened his eyes to the level of detail and quality an excellent build can attain. So, armed with this new inspiration, he set his sights on a new project: his Scion FR-S.
JJ’s motivation was clear; he knew he wanted the FR-S and he knew it was going to be modified, heavily. Indeed, within the first two weeks of owning the car, he had his Rocket Bunny V1 kit, Hyper Blue Volk TE37SL wheels and Godspeed Project coilover suspension picked out and installed.
He eventually complimented the kit with a Voltex GT wing, Crzy Engineering custom rear diffuser, and Tamon Design front lip that all work so well together it looked like one fluid kit.
A set of Winjet headlights and Tom’s racing tail lights added a subtle touch of modern elegance to the package, and also happen to tie in the Avest Japan wing mirrors nicely. So the build started with a decidedly show car tilt, perhaps to no surprise, as the Rocket Bunny kit looked fantastic on the FR-S, mixing just the right amount of extreme flares, but somehow maintaining harmony with the car’s natural lines. JJ was content at first to take the car to various local shows to promote his sponsors and the shop he worked for, as well as show off the great-looking car he had put together. It also served to build and grow relationships that would enable much of the build to come together.
Soon, though, JJ wanted to get the FR-S where it belonged: out on the race track. This gave the build a new focus, which also changed the attitude of the project as, in JJ’s words, "You can’t just slap on parts that look good, now you have to make sure things worked right.” And he had to make sure they could take the abuse of track duty. Although he takes great pride in being one of the few guys to actually track the Rocket Bunny kit, there is more to this FR-S than just good looks!
JJ’s track preparation focuses strongly on safety, chassis rigidity and suspension. Keeping things safe, a Cusco four point roll cage surrounds the cockpit where the occupants are cradled by Bride Zeta III bucket seats and held snug by Takata MPH harnesses. Godspeed Project coilovers, and sway bars, both front and rear, add to the FR-S’s on-track agility, while a slew of Cusco braces keep the chassis rigid and responsive. Rounding out the footwork package is a set of Buddy Club front lower control arms that reduce unsprung weight, and provides better strength and rigidity as well. Finally, Megan Racing control arms and toe links at the back give more range of adjustment to fine-tune the alignment. Brakes were upgraded with Winmax W3 pads front and rear, along with StopTech® stainless steel braided brake lines, to keep the brakes biting hard and the pedal feel consistent. The excellent track-focused Falken Azenis RT-615K tires channel it all to the ground and keep it planted to the tarmac.
Under the hood, things are limited to a Taketa intake, a Cusco oil catch can and only the finest ENEOS synthetic oil coursing through the heart of this FR-S. There is a reason for this, perhaps drawn from lessons JJ learned after having to put his old RX-7 on the shelf for a while. But in reality we know that JJ wants to focus on dialing perhaps the most important mod--the driver mod.
The aim for JJ is more seat time on the track and growing his ability as a driver first. Keeping the car reliable and on-track is critical to that goal. That is perhaps what this build best embodies: the idea of growth. JJ’s intention is to grow as a driver and increase the power and performance mods as he grows. We think it is a wise approach and one that perhaps many of us learn too late. It’s a great display of patience and wisdom to refrain from building too much car for yourself, but he does get some of that repressed modding madness out on his project RX-7, which he promises to be the more extreme build. Perhaps we’ll hear more on that another day. In the meantime, JJ will enjoy tearing around the Streets of Willow, Buttonwillow and Chuckwalla, in one fantastic looking FR-S that still has room to grow. We can’t wait to see what it grows into.
JJ Chen would like to thank all his friends and family for their support throughout the build. He would also like to thank the many sponsors for their unparalleled support, without which much of this would not be possible: Fast Autoworks, NP Collision, Godspeed Project, Berk Technology, Cusco USA, Winmax Brakes, Mackin Industries, Falken Tires, Buddy Club, Megan Racing, Crzy Engineering, Winjet, and Beat-Sonic USA. Thanks to all!
Build at a Glance
Stock FA20 / 4U-GSE
Cusco Oil Catch Can
ENEOS Synthetic Oil
Godspeed Project Coilovers
Godspeed Project Front Sway Bar
Godspeed Project Rear Sway Bar
Cusco Suspension Braces
Buddy Club Front Lower Control Arms
Megan Racing Control Arms
Winmax W3 Pads Front & Rear
StopTech Stainless Steel Braided Brake Lines
Hyper Blue Volk TE-37SL Wheels
Falken Azenis RT-615K Tires
Rocket Bunny v1 Widebody Kit
Voltex GT Wing
Crzy Engineering Custom Rear Diffuser
Tamon Design Front Lip
Winjet HID Headlights
Tom’s Racing Taillights
Avest Japan Mirrors
Cusco 4-Point Roll Cage
Bride Zeta III Seat
Takata MPH Harness