Paul Cowland

Paul Cowland


Project Car Builds

Project BRZ Part 1 – Rear Lights

11 Nov , 2014  

Time to start a new project car – using the Subaru UK BRZ I have been developing for the last 12 months..

We’re very lucky in this job… we get to experience, drive and feature some absolutely corking motors. All of them leave an impression in one way or another, but occasionally, you come across a car that really resonates to the point where it actually gets your wallet twitching. As a serial car collector, I have to say, it seems to happen to me more than it does with most rational people, but that said, when I first sat behind the wheel of Subaru’s silver BRZ accessory hack… I knew that that this was one automotive love story that would ultimately lead to us driving off into the sunset together.

As I have written many times before, this really is a superb driver’s car that asks more of you than most over-cossetting or falsely flattering turbo-nutter-barges ever could. During my time in covering the build of the Pro-R BRZ, I got to know it intimately, and having done more than a few laps at various UK circuits in this car, we definitely bonded over copious opposite lock moments – up to the point that when the chance came to add it to my fleet for an extremely sensible sum, I simply couldn’t resist. This car really is that good!

Although Subaru had addressed many of the areas that I would have already done – and used many of the brands I would have also chosen – they were of course bound by the common sense and cost parameters that constrain all motor manufacturers. Everything they added needed to walk the fine line between warranty suitability and efficacy. Under my tenure, I’m simply only interested in the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to lose the fine balance or drivability of what the factory BRZ offers, but unencumbered by the same strict and sensible guidelines that Subaru’s technical team impose upon themselves, I think we can have a huge amount of modding fun with this car – and really make it into a fine GT.

I haven’t quite finalised my plans for this car yet, but expect upgrades for the wheels and tyres, a set of track-friendly brakes, perhaps new seating – and a plethora of performance mods to further awaken the superb NA 2.0 lump. It’s a fine and feisty thing in standard trim, but I think there’s a whole lot more to come from this powerplant.
For my first mod this time around I wanted to address the one and only thing about this car that I wasn’t madly in love with; namely, the rear lights. While I think that the BRZ has a delicacy of line and degree of styling that no car at this price point has a right to possess, I do wonder whether anyone shared this vision with the rear lighting design team, who created a beautifully shaped cluster, only to finish in what one can only call ‘Lexus’ style chrome. Very cool back in the early ‘noughties mind.. but not really my cup of tea now.

As with all things in J-Tin tuning, the answer was to be found on these hallowed pages. Those advertisers don’t just fill out the mag you know! Try clicking on a few of their sites and see what comes up! After trying a few domains, it was clear that the feature-friendly guys at Tarmac Sportz had exactly what I needed – a set of the far more aesthetically pleasing Valenti rear units. Not only do these look far more ‘factory’ than even the factory units do, they also tip their hat to the current crop of Maserati rear clusters, which has to be cooler than a Lexus! Best of all, thanks to mind-blowing levels of stock, they had them on the shelf and could get them to me by my second day of ownership. Now that’s top retail behaviour. They were also ridiculously helpful on the phone too, as well as clearly knowing these cars backwards… Suffice to say I have bookmarked that page for future visits. We’ll be back there in future, I’m sure.

As promised the lights came the very next day, and as soon as I opened the box I was bowled over. The quality is stunning, and these lights also carry an insurance-friendly ‘E’ mark, too. My long suffering workshop and TV sidekick Adz kindly volunteered to fit them while I snapped away, which took about 5 minutes a side, as these lights are true OEM quality, even using factory style plugs and resistor packs to fool the electronics systems into thinking that the lower current draw of the smart LEDs is the same draw as the old bulbs… so no ‘lights out’ dash warning issues. To say Adz and I were impressed is an understatement.


These truly are an upgrade in every respect. Especially when you see them at night and realise that the rear tail-light is now a sweeping LED-fired prism that wouldn’t look out of place on the back of a McLaren. At £300 they’re not cheap, but boy, this is a classic case of getting what you pay for. They even proved to be up to the job of the ten-million-PSI jetwash at the local hand car wash too, which is no mean feat! I’ve lost paint on lesser vehicles there before!

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All good then, with a final finishing flourish from a NOS Momo gearknob I’d been saving in my bits cupboard for a while, to match the cabin’s perforated leather, I was done. A good set of first mods I think!

Huge thanks to Adz obviously, and Tarmac Sportz particularly. Their impressive site is well worth a visit, whatever Jap car you run, so toddle off, have a look and treat yourself.. and tell ‘em I sent ya!


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