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Old 07-04-2013, 05:53 PM   #1
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The Dramatic Supercharger Install and Final Review | Vortech, Perrin More

Americanizing the FR-S | S240
Forced Induction Installation, Testing and Review

VIDEO PART 1: Installing, testing and Dynos
Vortech Supercharger, Perrin Tune and More

Video Index:

0:00-4:30 Introductions
5:00-15:00 Exhaust Install, Dyno and Stock Dyno
15:00-25:00 Vortech Install Starts and ECU Flash
25:00-35:00 Vortech Install Drama and Dyno Results
35:00-40:00 Final Thoughts


VIDEO PART 2: Street Driving Impressions and Details of Supercharging effects and tuning.

Video Index:

0:00-2:00 ECUtek
2:00-5:00 Driving Impressions
3:00-4:00 MPG and Fuel Economy
5:00-6:00 Suspension
7:00-9:00 Oil Cooler and Radiator
10:00-14:00 Performance
14:50 Final Thoughts


VIDEO PART 3-4: Coming Soon Autox and Track

Testing the cars durability, drivability and whether or not keeping the kit installed is worth it long term. Final


After nearly a year of living with the FR-S I have explored its strengths and faults. The strengths have kept me signed on as a driver. The exceptional handling, steering along with overall practicality year round keep me satisfied behind the wheel. With a lifetime average of 29MPG there is little to dislike.

Well of course there is a deal breaker; the car is slow, compact car slow. On the track and on the street the car is unable to pull on anything from minivans to the family sedans in a straight line. Despite what we have been sold, straight line speed is an important part of the sports car formula. Taking a step back, one thing is for sure the FR-S is a sheep in wolfís clothing. It looks the part, and feels the part up to the point when the throttle is mashed down and nothing happens.

The other weakness comes from its B-Segment interior quality. Itís a marginal experience at best. To quote Harry Cash, ďThere is not a lot of quality, but it is functional.Ē So we have beaten the issue to death.

I wanted to approach this project with a mission, not just talk and back seat drive but to put my money where my mouth is.
  • ∑ Can we trust the aftermarket reliability?
  • ∑ Can you daily drive a forced induction FR-S/BRZ year around?
  • ∑ What is the real cost, in terms of time, parts and drama?
  • ∑ What type of support do we get from the prime vendors?
  • ∑ Was it all worth it?

Some of these are subjective, some are experienced based in the end whose word do you want to take? As things have evolved on this project one thing is for certain, most all of your ďtechnicalĒ information is provided by vendor accounts. Most of those providing the hard facts are those who want your business. The questions is with 10 different vendors trying to sell you the same service online how do you know you are choosing correctly. And more importantly, who is responsible to provide the support you need?


The choice to supercharge or turbocharge was easy for me. After driving an Atom 300 and Exige S there is something to be said about building a street car that is higher revving with linear power. In terms of track performance, supercharging was also ideal as most driving is done over 4000RPMs. In terms of development, Vortech had been working on their supercharger for 7 months or so, and most of the initial bugs were sorted out and tested. Since we had done testing on the stock model enough to know problem areas, we are also going to address them before the forced induction is installed.


We set out to build an FR-S almost indistinguishable from the OEM model called the ďS240Ē. We thought about what a performance model from Scion would look like and the cost constraints. We took a look at the market, the competition and decided based on present and past the car should not cost more than $33k if a customer were to buy it brand new. And for this amount it needed to be a car that could be driven year around. The S240 concept means supercharged 240HP, which works in two ways. With the Vortech tuner kit with ECU tuning from Perrin using an aggressive MAP the car makes 240 wheel horsepower on a dynojet. For the daily drive the car runs on map 1 of the Perrin tune which generates 240 HP at the crank or 210HP to the wheels.

Suspension and Brakes:

What is critical is slightly improving handling and braking without sacrificing ride height, stiffness or causing issues with year round drivability.


The car lacks features even B-Segment cars get so we are option to spice up the interior with some Alcantara pieces and Nexus 7 Tablet integration with a custom UI.


We want a car we can drive daily and not second guess if we will be stranded, or worried about. It may be a lofty goals.


This was a critical to our build as we are relying on remote support from all of these suppliers. Each vendor was chosen because of their direct involvement with the vehicle. We have had direct contact with all vendors listed and will provide detailed overview of how they performed at the end.

Perrin (Tuner and Parts Fabricator)

Perrin has been a top tuner in Oregon for Subaru and Mini. They were our primary choice for tuning our Vortech kit. On the internet and forums they have provided the some of the best transparency and insight to their testing methods for parts and tuning. As a tuner they have a good reputation and Jeff has a similar approach to working with cars as we do. Their parts and documentation are high quality.

Contact: Jeff P.

JPM Coachworks: (Interior)

We chose JPM because they are an American shop with great skill and pride built into their work. They do custom and semi-custom dash/trim pieces for the interior of the vehicle. They produce products that will give a car the subtle yet elegant interior design we are looking for.



They build some of the best and most proven Supercharger kits in the business, while we donít agree with some of the marketing techniques we feel most of their engineering is spent on the blower which is which is most important in this case.


Radium Engineering:

Radium is another small company from Oregon which used to focus on parts for Lotus, including catch cans, surge tanks and turbo parts. In terms of quality and engineering for the FR-S we will be using them to provide a dual catch can setup. With a supercharged car we cannot afford any PCV system leaks or pressure loss and the Radium can is designed to make sure we donít have issues while assuring no oil or fuel is blown by back into the intake manifold or intercooler.


Counterspace Garage:

We chose this small outfit because they have direct involvement in using a FR-S/BRZ for track testing. They have mastered what works in terms of brakes on the track and on the street. This experience is critical to choosing reliable parts for the street and track.


FT86 Speed Factory

One of the most comprehensive parts websites for the BRZ/FR-S on the internet not only that they have their own car for testing and building out parts. They have some of the best prices and service along with having a constant presence on the forums. We chose them for items such as brake rotors and cooling products.



As this segment approached I realized I had a strong anti-modder position as a former S2000 owner. I witnessed excess spending on so many parts people drooled over that virtually made no difference to the performance of the car. This carried over to Lotus ownership. These cars were mostly about driver talent. I feel the FR-S is similar but, of course this car was left half-baked in many ways to allow the owners and aftermarket to pick up where the designers left off. It is my belief the car can be made better without killing the character. And when I say better I mean faster in every measurable way regardless of driver.

Installation Part 2 and 3

We started our first modifications in Part 2 and 3 of this series which handled the following:

  • ∑ Alignment
  • ∑ Radiator
  • ∑ Fluids
  • ∑ Tires


We chose an aggressive street alignment using Whiteline/SPC front camber bolts which allowed us a maximum front camber of -1.4. Since the rear is non adjustable we used the Whiteline rear upper control arm eccentric bushings which gave us a similar -1.3 of camber and much more room on the table. However this is a street car we donít want to sacrifice tire wear for track levels of camber. Installation of the front bolts was a 45 minute affair. Installation of the rear kit was handled by a shop and is much longer as the old bushings need to be pressed out of the arms and the white lines pressed in. It is a 3 hour install. However the good thing about both alignment kits is the front and rear can now be adjusted on the alignment rack under load.


The radiator we chose was an OTS Koyo unit designed to be plug and play for the FR-S it is about 3x the thickness of the factory radiator. One of the main reasons for this addition was that we were very unhappy with factory cooling in even the stock car during idle situations. And when we did our first autox and dyno the car seemed to have temp spikes after hard runs which caused surges of 217-220F. The factory setting of the radiator fans is set for 212F before they kick on. Often the temps would surge well beyond that before the fans dropped the temps. Clearly this is bad if you are going to run any type of forced induction. The Koyo unit may not be the highest quality to meet cooling snob requirements however the surface area and core are much larger than OEM for a very reasonable cost which means, the radiator will cooler quicker and wonít heat soak as fast.

Install was a bit tedious and front bumper removal is required along with hood cable release and center support bracket had to be removed. Install took 4 hours including a radiator flush and burping of the system. We swapped the hoses for Perrin silicone pieces at the same time. Radiator fit perfectly however there was no place to re-clip the factory outside temp sensor to the new radiator so we had to zip tie it elsewhere.


For tires we chose Hankook RS3s as these have been one of the most proven and sticky street tire. They hold up to heat better than most any other comparable model including the BFG Rival, Dunlop Star Spec Z2 and Michelin Pilot Sports. They are extreme however and in some cases maybe a bit too sticky for some. They are an absolute gravel and rock magnet, which can get annoying fast and requires mudguard install to protect paint. Tire wear is good for around 10k miles for moderate driving. Their heat range is good from 55-120F. Above and below those temps they get a bit slippery. These tires do not respond to cold wet conditions, and can be downright dangerous. Rain performance is average at best and cold weather performance is downright non-existent.


Fluids were a priority right off the bat, we chose Redline 0w-20 for performance reasons. Pentosin manual transmission fluid and Motul Differential oil along with Project Mu DOT4 brake fluid.

PART 4 Modifications:

Radium Engineering Dual Catch Cans:

Packaging: 10
Quality of Pieces: 10
Support: 10
Documentation: 8
Hardware Included: 6
Warranty: 10
Mounting Brackets Universal: 9
Cost: 6

Catch cans are an often mis-understood modification. We have a detailed guide about them here:

In the case of forced induction, pressurizing air into the engine causes increased blow-by gases past the piston rings. These blow-by gases contain oil and mostly unspent fuel. Typically they are routed right back from the PCV system into the intake manifold to be recycled. The PCV line is under vacuum. The breather line is another vent to help with additional pressure that routes gasses back into the intake tube. The breather tube is not under vacuum. In a naturally aspirated car these gases can be minimal unless you are doing track level high RPM driving. Using a catch can on these lines catches the fluids and prevents them from going back into the intake where they can foul up the intake manifold over time or aid in carbon build up on intake valves which is much more prominent on direct injected vehicles.

On the Vortech application it becomes more important to use a quality system on the PCV side to avoid vacuum leaks which can cause poor MPG, idle and performance issues. On the breather side itís oddly more important on this car as the breather tube goes directly into the Vortech airbox un-filtered. This means the blow-by oil and gas gets sucked through the supercharger propeller and down into the intercooler where it will pool up over time. Itís an initial investment to do and an extra step for the install but for the health of the supercharger and intercooler system and engine it pays off in the long term. The Radium cans are basically the best in the market, the owners like Perrin are from Oregon and these cans were originally tested on Lotus Elise, Exige and Evora for track use. They are designed to hold vacuum and also flow tested not to impede PCV flow. Draining them is as easy and separating the can or using the plug on the bottom.

Radium is the only catch can to feature a dip stick to check oil level so you know when you drain them.

In terms of mounting these cans unfortunately as of yet, they are a universal mount which means you have to make your own bracket. While not difficult it would be excellent to have a true solution for the FR-S and BRZ so it is a plug and play affair. You will also need to purchase the correct barb sizes and PCV lines for the kit.

Perrin Headerback:

In this round of modifications we are going beyond the basics, however starting simple. Most people who do their modifications start with Intake or Exhaust. Since this car does not respond to many intakes all that well, we attempted the exhaust route first. Since we knew we were going to supercharge we chose the proven Perrin 2.5 header back exhaust with a resonator and catalyst.

Packaging: 10
Quality of Pieces: 9
Weight Savings: 5
Documentation: 9
Hardware Included: 10
Warranty: 10
Power Gains: 5
Sound: 9
7000RPM: 86db at 8 feet
1000RPM: 58db at 8 feet

Installation was excellent and very easy which was made simple by very good documentation. The only thing we could have used was color photos and or downloadable PDF. A video install would also be very helpful but not needed. Perrin also was very good about showing TQ numbers for tightening down all fasteners. For the cost these quality and finish of the pipes and welds were about as good as you can get. The V-Band clamps are a bit tricky to work with but are excellent for alignment of the exhaust. There were no rattles or movement of the system on the stock hangers.

The qualities of the fasteners were excellent, including the bolts and gaskets. There is no doubt this is a complete system and is packaged exactly the way every aftermarket product should be. This is one of the few parts there were literally zero issues with. The sound of the exhaust is mature and muted, very low pitch. The only time it can be a bit much is on initial cold start where holding idle at 1800RPM created a bass drone that can really annoy about 18db higher than stock. This only occurs on initial start up. At idle the exhaust is virtually identical on the db meter as the stock exhaust about 4 db higher. During cruising the exhaust generates a slight rumble and virtually no drone.

Our SPL meter showed cruising DB at 2200RPMS was within 4db of stock exhaust.

During shifts there is a bit of bass thump when you press the clutch as it maybe the throttle plate closing. The overall sound can be described as a subtle boxer rumble with near OEM sound levels. The tone at full throttle is about 10db higher than stock but it is again muted and deep. It has no raspyness or farty sound qualities.

Without an ECU tune and just bolting it on, it makes some difference in power. The immediate feeling was better power in the low to mid-range on our car. The high end felt virtually identical if not worse. Our baseline dyno confirmed this feeling, as we say around 5HP gains in the midrange and improved torque but, almost no improvement up top. Near the high end the ECU starting to add fuel which cut power.

In conclusion it appears the vehicle ECU is not all that adaptive to change. The power potential would be there with a tune for certain to smooth out air to fuel ratios. For us we were using this exhaust to help with forced induction later on. If a buyer is looking for a great exhaust this is it. However letís get real for a minute. This is $1200 investment and the bottom line is gains are marginal. Weight savings were modest roughly 10lbs. The sound is very conservative catered to the more adult owner.

But if you want performance from this exhaust you will need an ECU tune which now you are talking about a $2000 investment to make 10-12HP depending on your vehicle.

Great Build Quality Design
Mature Product fit and finish
Mature Sound OEM db levels
Great documentation
Great Warranty
Great Installation

Lack of Power without tune.
Too many license plate brackets!

Perrin Oil Cooler:

Packaging: 9
Quality of Oil Cooler: 8
Quality of Sandwich Plate: 9
Oil Cooler Lines: 6
Weight Savings: N/A
Documentation: 8
Hardware Included: 10
Warranty: 10
Performance Gains: 10

The Perrin oil cooler was designed for either a stock FR-S /BRZ or one with a Vortech Supercharger. After Perrin did their testing it was clear at least on the dyno that the car had a bit of trouble with controlling oil temperature. Once it starts to climb past 210F degrees it will keep climbing to terminal levels, namely if used on the track. The truth is the heart of the kit is the Mocal 110 13 Row cooler with -10AN fittings. Also included is the SP1T-FA20 Mocal sandwich plate with the integrated 185F thermostat and -10AN fittings for oil lines. Mocal clearly designed this kit so plenty of tuners can make and sell their own version. Perrin was the first to market and changed just one thing and that was they developed their own sandwich plate spacer which is black and slightly more porous. They also decided to include their own lines and mounting solution for the kit. The lines they chose were the Aeroquip Socketless brand of racing hose which they use for oil lines with -10AN barbs pre-installed.

Oddly enough they chose to install step less clamps on the actual hoses where the fittings attach as an apparent added security measure.

Installation instructions are very good, although the printed instructions donít have the best pictures. For a stock car without forced induction, installation would be very straight forward and routing the hoses much easier. Perrin includes a special rubberized Pyroshield hose protection to prevent abrasion or cuts into the hoses. The only problem is that this this cover does not extend the entire length of the hose, which in our case with the Vortech kit these hoses rub on not only on the Vortech airbox but also on the ABS module. The protection also falls short where the hoses run behind the bumper support where there can be metal on hose contact. In our case we had to cut our own hose protection and cover the metal bumper support and also cover the Aeroquip hose with under the hood to prevent abrasion.

The first attempt at installation was a failure as we did not realize you could twist the ends on the hose (barbs), or rather were afraid to. The fact is you will have to rotate the barbs on the end of the hose to get the lines runs and installed and properly oriented with the oil cooler barbs and plate barbs. This should be added into the documentation. The sandwich plate installation was straight forward, although we strongly suggest getting the plate positioned where you want it angled as close to the engine oil cap as possible without interfering and then slightly tightening down the 27mm bolt on the plate before attaching the hoses. If you leave it loose your hose installation will be pulling on the plate which could create a potential for cross threading the sandwich plate bolt down. This is much more of an issue with the Vortech kit. The largest amount of time spent was making sure the hoses were run properly without kinks and without anything rubbing on them.

If you own an FR-S with the Vortech kit you will need to modify the air box bracket to move the airbox closer to the front of the car to prevent lines from getting pinched. Perrin ran their lines over the top, however the headlight design for the FR-S is different and you canít do that, so this orientation is the best but tight in a way I think will not be safe in the long term.

The 27mm sandwich plate nut Mocal includes is a pain to tighten. Tried several sockets and none quite fit properly. However we were able to get one on enough to torque it down to the rough spec they include. The oil cooler mounts directly to the bottom plastic shield or bumper support. Perrin did a great job of making this a plug and play kit. It will be ideal for those who want to just throw on a cooler and get on their way with basically no modification. The entire install took roughly 4 hours.

After the installation Perrin documentation explains to add an extra QT of oil and then provides procedure how to prime the new oil cooler then check for leaks then start car. After driving around we checked the setup and found no leaks. However adding one additional quart was too much and we had over filled by roughly .20 QTs and had to drain oil out. On the first oil change, we got smart only added 6.1 QTs. Which turned out to be not smart as it was still over filled. As the cooler is below the sandwich plate and lines all old oil is still there. We overfilled again which was a major pain in the ass. It seems you only need to add extra oil during the original install. Subsequent oil changes use close to the stock amount.

We talked to Jeff and the owner of BAT who imports Mocal, and the consensus was that there would be roughly .20QTs of oil in oil cooler at all times. However even on cold starts there will always be a trickle flow to the cooler, so you donít have to worry about old oil just sitting inside it until the thermostat on the sandwich plate opens. However, this means there will always be old oil inside. So if the owner has to do an oil change there will be no way to remove that amount of oil from the cooler and lines, so plan accordingly. A shorter oil change schedule maybe required. For those in cold weather areas like us we may need to monitor oil temps and make sure they are getting up to temperature for daily driving. If not Perrin may need to revise the mounting location or offer a block off kit as well.

Of course the question is does the oil cooler help, and the answer is simple, yes. We saw our temps go from 230F on a few hard runs on the street before the cooler to around 175-210F max after installation. On the dyno we saw the exact same results which more importantly showed oil temp recovery which was not possible without the cooler. What this also means less work on the cooling system and the oilís ability to remove contaminants and heat as well. According to Perrin the ECU starts to cut back on power after oil temp starts to Exceed 210F which we witnessed in the baseline dyno. It seems based on our testing the optimal oil temps seem to be about 180-230F for this motor. Anything higher and a cooler is definitely a safe guard.

Now since we know this kit is mostly Mocal why spend the extra money on the Perrin kit? The short answer is they are not making a lot of margin on this kit. To put this kit together yourself with stainless lines, all the fittings and mounting solution you are looking at about $600 shipped.

You may save yourself $60-100 but that means you have to assemble it all yourself and figure out mounting. Which leads to the last part of this install and that is placement of the cooler.

The center mounted location is highly efficient, however very risky for damage depending on your driving habits so this maybe something to consider as well. We are using a wire mesh around the cooler to help deflect any rocks or road debris.

  • Well packaged
  • Excellent documentation
  • Excellent price
  • Works as advertised
  • Plug and play
  • Warranty and Support

  • Documentation in regards to adding oil need updates.
  • Would prefer more abrasion resistant coating on lines.
  • Would prefer a stainless steel line package.
  • Lines are questionably tight on FR-S with Vortech Kit.
  • Location of oil cooler, potential hot spot for damage.
  • Cold weather climate oil temp issues unknown yet.

Vortech Super Charger w/ Perrin Tune

Packaging: 10
Quality of Pieces: 7
Weight Savings: 1
Documentation: 4
Hardware Included: 7
Warranty: Unknown
Gains: 8
Sound: 7
Installation: 5

Choosing to supercharge this car was a fundamental path we took following up on our reviews. The FR-S and BRZ have one monster weakness and that is straight line speed. Sure we can all talk about how easily we can get into the corners but the reality is on the street and on the track straight-line speed is one of the largest pieces of the sports car formula. In the USA we have every day family sedans like the Accord, Camry and Sonata pushing 300HP. In the world of daily drivers even our normal mass market cars can easily hand the FR-S/BRZ its humbling papers.

But this project was not just about adding power for the sake of it. Could we retain reliability and drivability, including year round performance? What about support from vendors? Clearly the idea of taking an unproven car and trashing its warranty is rolling Las Vegas odds.

After ordering from Perrin it took about a month to get everything needed to get started. Perrin shipped the ECUtek cable and 2.5 bar MAP sensor. And the Vortech Kit also shipped from Perrin. They do not ship the flash file with the kit, which was a variable I was un-aware of at first. The owner has to actually plug in the ECUtek cable and install the software on your laptop before the install to identify which ECU version the car has. This way the tuner knows which file to email you.

When the parts finally arrived, everything was packed extremely well. We decided to open the Vortech Box a week before install to make sure all the major components were included; however we did not unpack everything as we did not want damage when transporting it. After my inspection we reviewed the included install PDF. It seemed straight forward but that is what scared us.

Install time is advertised at 4-6 hours. So just in case we started at 10AM just to be safe. Even if it took us 12 hours we would still be done by 10PM. We unpacked the car, laid out all the parts on the alignment rack and setup the camera equipment. Before we even touched anything we decided to make sure we could flash the ECUtek tune from Perrin. We plugged set everything up and plugged in the ECUtek USB cable to the cars ECU, and the license key to the laptop. Did a quick query of the ECU to make sure we were communicating, and everything came up fine. After we started the cameras and selected the file, and low and behold we got an error message saying the software could not communicate.

After playing around we could no longer communicate with the ECU. We tried the shops OBD2 scan tool and it immediately connected but flickered. It would randomly read the ECU state. We tried the laptop again and nothing. Scratching our heads we pulled out the backup laptop and started downloading the ECUtek software to it. Halfway through the download we lost connection to the server. Somehow not only could we not connect to the vehicles ECU now we lost connection to download the software we needed. We went back to our other laptop to check the Wifi connection to the shop and our phones. It now appeared we lost connection to the shops wireless. I suggested that Turbowski reset the modem.

After 5 minutes we tried again and nothing. And even the phones were dead. As it turns out there was an outage for the whole complex we were in, no phone or internet. So I tethered my Verizon phone internet connection so we could at least download what we needed. Finally we had the software downloaded onto the backup laptop and ran the needed updates. We crossed our fingers this would now connect to the car. Unplugged the cable and reconnected, pulled the battery on the car just to make sure, and also check fuses. After about an hour we were ready to try again. This time things went no different, we could not connect to the ECU to flash.

At this point we were joking that this maybe a sign to call it off. But we pushed ahead. Turbowski started playing with the OBDII connector and found any device we plug in flickers, either there was a short in the wiring or a bad connector. Either way we had to pull the OBDII port off the clip and re-route it so we could get to it easily. No problem except now we had to take the interior trim apart and unclip it. Turbowski struggled with the getting the connector unclipped but eventually we ran the cable so it would come out of the headunit/radio DIN spot so we could easily check wiring.

As it turns out the female pins in the OBD2 connector were stretched out. We were using the OBD2MX BT adapter for monitoring data with torque for Android and it appears the female connectors on the port are easily damaged. Unfortunately we had to take the connector apart to try and bend the connector pins tighter.

We did not have replacement OBD2 terminals available to replace the factory end. So we had basically rig the connector. After 3 hours of playing around, we finally got the ECUtek cable to communicate with the ECU to flash the car. We had to securely hold both cables in place with zip ties. This was risky as we did not want to lose communication while the flash was taking place. The flash started and completed within 10 minutes. We were relieved and decided to take a quick lunch break. This was not a good sign and we hoped this would not continue.

We returned to the shop to start the first couple of steps and for the most part everything was straight forward. The confusion began when we realized Vortech clearly did not spend much of their time simplifying their instructions and install procedures. One thing that annoyed me personally was having all the nuts, bolts and screws in different packaging without any labeling. To make things more confusing and frustrating, they gave you this massive parts list without any images to show exactly what all of it was. Now clearly we realized attaching images of every nut and bolt with description maybe overkill, but itís something that will help cut down on install time.

More importantly we expected these bags to be labeled or coded based on parts of the install which they were not. What would have made a big difference is something simple organizing and labeling the bags of bolts. For example, in BAG 1, all the bolts for the accessory belts, and brackets are included. In BAG 2, all the hose clamps for charge pipes. Thatís how we envisioned it should be. Instead all the hardware is randomly separated, so they donít have to spell any detail out in the instructions.

The issues with documentation continued from there. Searching through they donít even include instructions how to change the oil on the supercharger which is another glaring oversight. Also it was clear that many of the included documentation used photos from pre-production cars. Instead of taking pictures of the install step by step they just threw in whatever pictures they had after the fact.

For example in this step:
ďBehind each headlight assembly, the main electrical connector lays in a cradle extending from the assembly. Pull the connector from the assembly and place aside (do not disconnect the connector).Ē

Based on the wording and the picture we spent 10 minutes trying to find this connector behind the headlight. It turns out the connector was attached to the headlamp assembly but the wording made this ambiguous. The attached photo shows the connector gone after it had been grinded away. So we understood the after, but not the before. And why is this important? Well not everyone has installed this kit before, the instructions are presumptuous.

As we moved along to mounting the blower and brackets Turbowski asked me the torque figures. And I referred to the service manual, but after about 30 minutes I was downright aggravated that I had to do this at all. Why would they not provide the most basic of installation information for something as critical as the brackets for the supercharger and more? Vortech either was lazy here or had some legal reason why not to publish this information, either way it slowed down the entire install.

Turbowski constantly told me he felt stupid trying to install this, and he works on cars every day. It hit us that the instructions were written by engineers or Vortech assumes you are the Vortech Supercharger Installation Fairy. Many of the details and install steps you can get through but we will focus on the areas of difficulty:

The intercooler install, was probably the most frustrating as you had to get it centered properly with no template. This step took slightly over an hour. I donít see how anyone could do this on their own without help without running the risk of it being un-even or off center. The supplied self-tapping screws were horrible and we wound up using our own. We drilled the pilot holes, but these screws would not thread no matter how we finessed them.

The center support bracket is also tricky as you may get it lined up but it will pop out of the bracket if you are not careful.

Prior to the installation we used Eastwood radiator paint to spray over the Vortech logo as itís basically a giant billboard on the front of the car. While we understand branding, itís against what we wanted to accomplish with our build.

Next, Vortech provides you a washer bottle replacement kit for the OEM unit. Problem is you have to cut the factory tank filler neck to make it work which makes it difficult to return to stock if needed. The huge flaw of the fluid bottle design, is that the pump/connector is installed at the bottom which touches the under body plastic. The danger is any impact will destroy that connector, for example driving over a pile of snow in the winter which is very common in the Midwest, not so much where the kit was designed.

The other annoyance was after including the washer bottle the silly thing leaks unless you use undocumented ways to either seal it with silicone or trim gaskets. Also ours still leaks from the top of the tank where you splice the rubber hose to the factory filler neck.

The next issue was with charge pipe documentation. Vortech included non-existent details on installing the discharge pipes. The fact is they are EXTREMELY close to the bumper support beams, the clearance is so small that under larger bumps and dips the pipes will contact them. I have taken the kit apart 3 times now to adjust them. Depending on the pavement you can still hear them knocking against the frame once in a while.

As mentioned we personally had the front end apart 3 different times to check things. None of this was ever mentioned, about clearance or alignment of pipes. Our MAF tube was also damaged out of the box, which was not a massive deal as we bent it back to get the install completed.

So can we assume pipe alignment is not important? Well thatís how we dealt with it. Except the last time we took the car apart the MAF tube was starting to get scored by the bumper beam. This would make it easy to wear a hole into the pipe or worse generate shaved metal which would blow into the intake. I have wrapped the MAF tube in rubber silicone near the bumper beam to avoid metal on metal contact. The throttle body tube is also obscenely close to the belt which makes adjusting the pipe in the silicone collar difficult. After about 12 hours these little things added up and confidence wore away.


I explained some issues with the install to Perrin, which they contacted Vortech support for me. I also contacted Brian on the forums from Vortech. Jamie the service manager shipped out the replacement parts I needed including missing hose clamps right away. But when I asked either of them to call me to discuss documentation issues, I never got a call. When I raised the questions in email I received the following answer:

ďSo far we really havenít seen or heard any issues with the installation of the FRS kits, in fact itís one of the easiest kits we have to install out of our entire product line.Ē

Well, I guess there is the answer.

When I asked Turbowski for his review of the install procedures his answer was simple:

The point is the documentation needs improvement. So if you are reading this or watching the video and want to go with the Vortech kit, be prepared. Vortech press material says 4-6 hours install time, maybe with a Vortech engineer next to us. But the reality there is too much left out of the install instructions and not enough detail about things that matter.

This all matters if you are installing it yourself or using a shop that has no experience with the FR-S. Our local Vortech Authorized installer is a head to tail Mustang shop. The guy is an expert and great tuner, with a history of successful racing. But he has zero experience with much anything else. He had no idea what an FR-S or BRZ was. The point being if you are going to choose this kit, we highly recommend being close to an experienced shop for install who can work with Vortech and has FA20 experience. If you donít and you are like us and chose to do it yourself make sure you have Vortech and your Tuner on speed dial.

Choosing a Tuner - Perrin

The most critical area is choosing a tuner. Absolutely buy it from a place who has a direct line with Vortech and a good relationship. One of the reasons Perrin was chosen was because they were one of the first testing/tuning this kit for the car. If you have problems they can and will get you help without any issue from Vortech. Jeff Perrin is also widely regarded as one of the best tuners thus far in the FA20 world and his philosophy in tuning is safety over power numbers.

Their tunes are designed around those who want an everyday driver and also include maps that cater to those who want a more aggressive tune. Since our goal was reliability, the base and least aggressive map was consistently making 50HP over stock without going nuts in timing advance. This is a map that can be run on most fuels with no worry. The other critical reason Perrin was chosen was they cater to this car, you can get a full solution of parts all designed to work together and were apart of tuning, from exhaust, oil cooler, and more. They are heavily invested in the BRZ and FR-S and not just a parts re-seller.

After about 60 emails to them, Chris Cone has been patient and very responsive. I only called when I needed more help or was freaking out. Even then Chris and Jeff were always respectful and patient. My initial tune sent from them had issues with long term fuel trim, which dictates how much fuel is delivered to keep the vehicle running as close to optimal air fuel ratios. The long term readings were high which meant during normal cruising the car was dumping fuel, or running very rich. Initial response from Perrin was very good.

I had to do plenty of back tracking on the install however because usually when your logs show high long term fuel trim it points to a vacuum leak. Based on that information I removed my catch can, re-hosed the PCV line and check-valve, re-connected my discharge tubes and other things to rule out any leaks. Luckily installation was not the problem, it appeared to be a bug in the tune or the fact that the final intake tubing had changed from the pre-production version of the kit Perrin tested for.

After checking the install follow up logs showed no change. Perrin corrected the tune in a few days, and about a week later a final tune was sent.

After this I realized just how little I knew about all of this and it made me feel extremely un-easy. I bought a few e-books watched videos and reviewed logs from other owners. The reality was tuning is complicated shit, sure you can fast track your way through the basics but really getting down to the nuts and bolts is not for the technically challenged. I plan on learning more and more but for now I have to trust Jeffís reputation and Perrin as a company. And for me that is a monster leap of faith.

The negatives with Perrin were their response times. After my last dyno response was on the slower side. They are a full service shop, their bread and butter is not just tuning my car online which I understand. After I sent them logs it took 2 weeks to get a reply. Now granted it was not critical but it sucks none the less. As more and more people start modifying their cars the less time tuners will have which worries me in the long run. Regardless of if you go Vortech or competitor, it boils down to one thing, your car is now at the mercy of your tuner.

At the end of the day the way the car performs depends on how your tuner programs the ECU. And remote support is just that remote support. If you need more than email and phone support, we donít suggest you attempt this kit on your own.

Warranty and Long Term

So what happens if you have a major problem, letís say like direct injector failure or trans failure. We have two options, remove everything off car bring to dealer and let it rot there until they get parts. Then have to deal with re-installing everything when done. Or order parts yourself and eat the cost. Either way the stark realization is that when and if you have a problem it's going to cost you time and money.

There is virtually no long term data, there are about maybe 20 owners on the forum with the kit. The vendors and tuners will tell you go for it, the car can take it, but what specifically does that mean? How many real world miles, how much adverse weather testing was done? We can tell you less than 8 months, with cold weather and winter testing close to non-existent.

There are still bugs, and ECUtek does not have all the throttle mapping unlocked according to Perrin. I found a bug after shifting from 1st to 2nd where the ECU cuts timing down to nothing that cannot be corrected. I get some minor but annoying 2800-3000RPM surging. Can it be tuned out? Don't know have to log it and send it to the tuner and wait for them to get back to you. As mentioned itís a gamble and only time will tell what will happen.

The Vortech Supercharger uses Vortech branded oil which must be changed every 7500 miles. This adds an additional step and maintenance routine which was unknown at time of purchase. Vortech also claims you need to replace your spark plugs every 30k miles which was also an unknown, but a major inconvenience as doing spark plugs on the FR-S and BRZ is not exactly a 10 minute project.


Well we learned enough from our stock dynos, exhaust dyno and finally Vortech dyno to know one thing. We take dyno numbers with a grain of salt as they are absolutely inconsistent based on conditions. The ECU pulls timing, limits power if intake air temps get too high, oil temps get too high or low, coolant temps get too high, barometric pressure is off, ambient temperature is too high. Basically the ECU has a major case of PMS all the time. With that said IF you catch the right conditions the car will make a few good passes.

On our stock dyno we got lucky and pulled 158HP after letting it sit for 20 minutes. But after that run we were getting 148, 150, 155 and several 155HP readings and back down. The exhaust dyno was worse, as we actually saw a few runs loosing peak HP over stock, and then gaining as much as 7HP in the midrange. Basically it was all over the map. The Vortech runs were similar.

We had MAP1 runs down to almost 202HP at one point. For no real reason based on logs other than intake air temps went up about 10 degrees. What is more troubling is glancing online and seeing people posting up these unicorn dyno numbers. I have asked plenty of these people and tuners for logs to see exactly how they got their numbers, some sent them others did not. Many of them donít have true baseline dyno numbers either. And at the end of the day it is my belief that most of these dyno charts supplied with no logs or more data should be treated with skepticism. The repeatability in the real world is likely very difficult based on conditions.

The ďlook at meĒ posts on the forums showing impressive dyno charts and nothing else are a trend.

Final Numbers


156.96 HP | 131.07 TQ (+7HP @ 4700RPM No ECUtek)



MAP 1: 212 HP | 176.69 TQ (+45-57HP)
MAP 2: 224 HP | 178.65 TQ (+50-69HP)
MAP 4: 235 HP | 184.65 TQ ( +65-80HP)

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Vortech with Headerback, Oil Cooler and Radiator MAP 1-4

This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 929x726.

Driving Impressions:

If I was handed this car and said go beat on it and give my opinion, it would be much different. Since I have done all the work, dealt with the issues, and have been logging and constantly re-checking everything I can no longer give that objective review on how the car behaves. Itís partly because now I know all the issues and potential problems.

However without question at least on the surface the Vortech kit and Perrin tune along with supporting mods does EXACTLY what it advertises. It transforms the car from slow, to moderately quick. No longer will the car be embarrassed in a straight line by mini-vans, SUVs and midsized V6 mass market sedans. Taking my jaded experience out of the mix, this is how the car should have come right from the factory.

So letís answer the questions we started with:

Can we trust the aftermarket reliability?

The answer unfortunately is mixed. So far we can trust the vendors will support their products and stand behind them. The question is will they fix the issues and problems and how long with that take? In many ways most of these products are first generation and there will be improvements, will the early adopters get the upgraded parts or software when the time comes? We wonít know until that time.

Can you daily drive a forced induction FR-S/BRZ year around?

This is another un-known, so far the vehicle seems to tolerate the heat. But can it function in the extreme cold? Vortech has not been forth coming in regards to the supercharger oil heat range. If I leave my vehicle outside in the winter while at work, will the oil hold up to cold starts without destroying the bearings? Running this oil cooler will also require block off to get oil up to temps in the winter or re-location. Oil temps take 15 minutes to go from 80F to 185F in 80 degree weather doing normal driving, without high RPM or boost. This will definitely be an issue as temps plunge down to freezing.

What is the real cost, in terms of time, parts and drama?

The amount of time, stress and headache not having an experienced local shop or support on this cannot be measured. That is what took the piss out of it for me.


Vortech Tuner Kit: $4200 (Perrin)
Perrin Tune and ECUtek $950 (Perrin)
Perrin Oil Cooler $620 (Perrin)
Perrin Headerback Exhaust: $1200 (Perrin)
Koyo Radiator: $300 (ft86speedfactory)
Dyno Time: $250
MISC Parts: $100

TOTAL: $7570

BRAKES $900 (Counterspace Garage)

What type of support do we get from the prime vendors?

Support has been good from all vendors, just be prepared to wait for parts for a few days if you need something. As far as tuning you are at the complete mercy of your tuner to make sure the car is working properly. Knowing about the logging process and what the warning signs are of problems would greatly help reduce any worries.

Was it all worth it?

Experience cannot be measured sometimes; in this case this was a lifelong lesson in patience. The overall learning experience has been vast, from understanding, timing, basics in tuning, electronics, and so many other systems including additional mechanical understanding. This was something that could not have been obtained otherwise. However, unfortunately the financial costs exceed the perceived gains of losing a warranty on an un-proven platform. This is exacerbated by POOR OEM parts availability from Subaru and Toyota for critical engine and supporting parts for repair. Availability is poor. 30+ day lead on even simple items. Not only is the owner out of pocket if and when issues rise, the costs for OEM parts are considerably higher than most cars.

The truth is, you canít just bolt on forced induction on this car without installing other support mods. This FR-S cooling system, brakes, and lubrication system was not designed for 50+ extra HP and it is clear from logs and testing itís something that should be done. Vendors who tell you not to worry is the equivalent of a stubborn teenager running outside in winter without hat and gloves, eventually they will get frost bite. In the end it depends on if you are ok with risking your carís health to make more HP.


Primary Vendor: Perrin
Vortech Supercharger Tuner Kit
ECUTek / Perrin Tuned Rev. 9
Radium Engineering Dual Catch Can
Koyo Radiator and Perrin Silicone Hose Assembly
Oil Cooler Mocal / Perrin
Oil Cooler Protection / Mikeís Grilles
Perrin 2.5 Header Back, Catted and Resonated (59db Idle)

Primary Vendor: Amazon/Other
Redline 0W20 Engine Oil
Pentosin Manual Trans Fluid
Motul Differential Oil
Project Mu DOT4 Brake Fluid

Primary Vendor: Counter Space Garage
Project Mu 800HC (Street)
Carbotech XP10 (Track)
DBA 4000 Front Rotors
Spreigler Front Lines
StopTech Rear Rotors

Primary Vendor: JPM Coachworks
JPM Coachworks Panels and Alacantara Fabric
Lathewerks Stainless Gunmetal Shift Knob
Android Tablet Integration / Headunit
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Old 07-04-2013, 05:55 PM   #2
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This shows different approaches in terms of timing and AFRs for the base maps for each tuner:



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Old 07-04-2013, 05:56 PM   #3
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In this section you will find mini-videos about the products we chose and blurbs about our experience with the vendors. (Good or Bad there will be no BS.)

Interior Changes


[ame=""]FR-S BRZ Vortech Pulley and Intake Tube Problem - YouTube[/ame]


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Old 07-04-2013, 06:05 PM   #4
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and the most detailed review ever award goes to... that guy.
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:17 PM   #5
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Impressive review and informative.

WRB MT BRZ Sport Tech Delivered March 21 2013 Its mine now!!
Paid for Mar 2018
and its gone... Sept '18 tho I am sure I will miss it
Replaced with 18 50th edition ND
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:33 PM   #6
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holy cow what a review...very nice
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:41 PM   #7
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I agree. Amazing post!
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:57 PM   #8
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Good work - question: If the Innovate kit was available when you started this project, would you have considered that over the Vortech? Based on what we know of the Innovate kit now that it's out, I think it would have saved you some of the drama. May not reach the 240WHP given current experiences, but it looks like it hits all of your other requirements.

By the way, I just realized I recognized some of the roads you were on - I used to live around Randall & Huntley Roads in the early 2000's! Thanks for the flashbacks

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Old 07-04-2013, 07:07 PM   #9
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Tonight I'm doing my vortech install (and probably tomorrow and longer if needed)

We'll see how I feel once its done but I think I'll be in the same boat. Happy if the car was handed to me, but already dealing with just getting things has taken the wind out of the sails
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Old 07-04-2013, 07:16 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by pheoxs View Post

Tonight I'm doing my vortech install (and probably tomorrow and longer if needed)

We'll see how I feel once its done but I think I'll be in the same boat. Happy if the car was handed to me, but already dealing with just getting things has taken the wind out of the sails
My advise is to fill your washer tank once you install it, so if/when it leaks you don't have to remove the bumper again to get access to it

Also, try to install the washer bottle as high as possible so that the pump connector on the bottom clears the plastic under-tray you have to reinstall later

I would also ditch the screws that came with the kit for bolting the intercooler bracket to the bumper support, and opt for self-tapping screws with a cutting head. Center punch where you want it to be, and drive the self tapper in with a cordless drill. Using the supplied bolts are tricky and will just make the install take longer
2013 FRS
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Old 07-04-2013, 07:33 PM   #11
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Absolute great post. Glad we could be of service as well.

We're installing the Vortech on our silver car next week, maybe we can document the un-documented portions of the install and pass those along to our clients as well.
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Old 07-04-2013, 08:41 PM   #12
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Just realized how similar your car and my car are. Very nice video and information.
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Old 07-04-2013, 09:02 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by DJCarbine View Post
My advise is to fill your washer tank once you install it, so if/when it leaks you don't have to remove the bumper again to get access to it

Also, try to install the washer bottle as high as possible so that the pump connector on the bottom clears the plastic under-tray you have to reinstall later

I would also ditch the screws that came with the kit for bolting the intercooler bracket to the bumper support, and opt for self-tapping screws with a cutting head. Center punch where you want it to be, and drive the self tapper in with a cordless drill. Using the supplied bolts are tricky and will just make the install take longer

I also opted for the self tapping screws. im going to fill my washer bottle this winter. its the only time I use it.

what a wonderful video you made @Dezoris
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Old 07-05-2013, 12:24 AM   #14
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This is possibly the best post I have ever seen on this forum ... Major props man ...
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