So I have a rather nice Subaru BRZ that the lovely people at Subaru UK are letting me play with. As well as writing about it in Banzai magazine I will be sharing it up here too. I hope you enjoy it. It’s already got a few choice mods on… But I hope to add a few more!
I know I’m stating the obvious here, but wheels really make or break a build, don’t they? Think of all the great cars that have been ruined by poor rim choice, or indeed the fairly average ones which have been saved by an inspired set of hoops. After the choice of the project itself, I think it’s fair to say that, along with stance, your wheel choice is one of the most important decisions you make on any motor.
Luckily, the BRZ came with a pretty decent set of wheels when I got it. A set of custom-offset Team Dynamic Pro-Race alloys, complete with an OEM centre cap conversion, were not to be sniffed at. At a diminutive 7×17” and 35mm offset, they suited the car well, and their light weight, particularly when compared to the heavy OEM wheels, was a real bonus. Also, during its time as the Subaru UK project car, these wheels had been specifically chosen to allow owners to retain the original OE Michelin Energy tyres – a decision that I was in two minds about, if I’m honest.
Like Mazda had done with the MX5, Subaru’s talented engineers had deliberately engineered grip out of the BRZ’s chassis, allowing the car to move about under relatively low cornering speeds, injecting a lot more fun into proceedings. Both manufacturers appreciated that sometimes, less can be more, and in the case of the BRZ, it means you can hang the tail out on a roundabout at about 25mph – and therefore drive like an idiot in total safety. It’s genius, really, but it was a design aspect that was getting to be less fun on track, where the BRZ superb chassis and revvy NA lump meant it soon reached cornering speeds that meant the Michelins were crying ‘Enough!’ Factor in two years of wear and hardening rubber, and their propensity to move at speed was less than ideal. Don’t get me wrong; if you leave the TCS system fully switched on, the car will save itself from anything too lairy, no matter what you try and provoke it into, but I couldn’t help thinking that now was the time to upgrade the entire rolling stock package for both dynamic and aesthetic reasons.
I had decided on the wheels I wanted from the first second I saw them on the car – and they’re a true Subaru scene classic; the Speedline 2120. I have simply lost count how many of these timeless wheels I sold to customers and friends during my time at TSL Motorsport in the early ‘noughties and this wheel still looks utterly brilliant today. It’s hard to argue against Speedline’s impeccable motorsport lineage either, and the 2120 with its innovative ‘flow formed’ casting technology, where the cast is spun at high RPM whilst the molten alloy is fed into it, offers a much stronger grain structure for the alloy molecules than a simple ‘poured’ casting. This additional strength also means that the wheel can be cast to an optimum mass without affecting its structural integrity… or, put more simply, you can make an incredibly strong wheel that doesn’t weigh all that much!
This was a factor that was really important to me as the BRZ’s calling card is its fleet-footed handling and nimble road manners. Sticking a set of large, heavy wheels and tyres onto this car would have simply ruined its demeanour, so the 2120 seemed like the ideal solution. I also wanted to address what I felt was the visual problem with the stock wheel set up; namely, that it was a little too small. For my car, I’ve opted for the 18” version of the Speedlines, which to my eye at least, really suit the proportions of the car much more. At 8” wide, they also fill the arches beautifully, giving the BRZ a much more purposeful stance in the process.
So that left tyres, which was another easy decision for me, to be honest – and another tip of the hat to a brand that I fitted many sets of back in those heady days at the sharp end of Subaru tuning; Toyo! Chatting to my good friend Alan Meaker, Toyo’s top technical guru, he recommended that I tried a set of their much-loved Toyo T1 Sports in 225/40/18 flavour. Much more dry and wet weather grip than the Michelins offered, but with a compound that would still allow a little fun when I was really pressing on, and the traction control was firmly ‘off’. They seemed ideal to me, with a tiny bit more meat on the bone than the factory 215/45/17s, but not so much it would hamper the car, rather than improve it. The BRZ is all about sensible tuning increments, I think.
The wheels and tyres arrived separately, which meant I needed another trusted name to bring them together. Luckily, another good mate, Ronny Demera, owns a superb wheel and tyre place called Treadmark, just down the road. So while he and I chatted nonsense about cars for an hour, he carefully fitted up my precious new boots with his usual mix of speed, style and skill. Ronny’s been doing this a long, long time now and it’s always comforting to know when you’ve got a significant amount of cash tied up in a new set of wheels, that your fitter isn’t going to mark, chip or scratch them! Needless to say, Ronny did each one perfectly, balancing it ‘just so’ with hidden weights for the perfect finishing touch. Much appreciated sir!
To celebrate, and in a rare moment of manual labour, I even broke out the trolley jack and popped them on the car myself, swiftly followed by a fairly ‘press on’ road test to see what was what. Even before I had taken the releasing agent off the top of the tyres, it was blindingly obvious how much better this set-up was working. The new Speedlines weren’t drastically heavier than the original wheels, and the lower sidewall profile, combined with the much stickier tread compound were conspiring to give the Subaru some serious cornering prowess. Long, flat sweepers could now be taken at full tilt with total confidence and roundabouts were an absolute hoot, with much higher cornering speeds now being available. I can’t wait to get this thing back on track!
But never mind that… how much better does it look now? The 2120 may not be a new design, but like the BBS RS, or the RS 7 Spoke, some wheel designs truly stand the test of time. Now… how to get it sitting right…