Car modification has been a long enjoyed hobby for decades and has evolved into a culture of it’s own. Modifying your car can be a slippery slope, especially once you start to reap the benefits at your first few track days. However, you don’t have to go “all in” to improve your cars performance or to make it more track orientated. It’s often done in small steps, only spending a few dollars here and there and it’s during the initial process that you get to enjoy some of the best bang-for-buck improvements. We’ve taken one of the most popular track cars available today, the Toyota 86, and looked into what modifications people tend to make during the first stages, working our way up to the more serious changes you can make in later installations.
Beyond the basic checks of ensuring your car is full of quality lubricants and fluids, your brakes are in good condition and everything is working as it should, the best thing to do is to head to the track with your Toyota 86 in “as delivered” condition. Not only does it give you a good opportunity to learn the track and get into the groove of the running’s of a track day, but it’s also the best way to bring to light the immediate weak points of the car. Perhaps you find you only get a lap or two before running into brake fade, or maybe you can’t seem to find the grip you require. Nothing will make these points more obvious than a track day in a standard car.
Spares Box Pro Tip: Be sure to take a second set of track tyres to your track day incase you ruin your only set!
The first modifications most people make are ones that remedy the compromises manufacturers are forced to make when mass producing road cars.
Performance Brake Pads and Rotors
Factory equipped brake pads and rotors on the Toyota 86 usually leave a lot to be desired. The pads are designed to operate at the relatively low temperatures seen on street vehicles, and they perform in a quiet and consistent manner. An upgrade to track orientated brake pads like the Project Mu HC800s or Ferodo DS, and quality slotted rotors will see immediate benefits. You may have to deal with a bit of squealing at low temps and less-than-amazing cold performance, but on the track they will see you through lap after lap with a solid pedal feel and firm bite even at high temperatures. If you’re looking into doing a few track days, make sure your brake fluid is clean, properly bled and good quality. I usually give the brakes a quick bleed after each session for that extra bit of confidence.
Performance Springs, Shocks and Sway Bars
Another aspect frequently compromised by manufacturers are the basic suspension components. Manufacturers have to strike a medium between providing responsive and balanced handling with a good quality ride over almost any surface. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about pot holes or poorly repaired roads (excluding Bathurst’s Griffin’s Bend last year) which means we can look for shock absorbers that are going to offer us improved rebound rates, lower ride heights and a more direct feel. These are often available as complete sets. Bilstein and Koni have rebound adjustable options for the Toyota GT86, allowing you to adjust the shock absorbers resistance and compression to suit your driving style. If the car is still seeing regular road use, I always prefer to fit thicker sway bars with rose jointed link pins or SuperPro link pin bushes first, this leaves the ride quality very similar to factory, while providing the mid corner stability your looking for. There are exceptions to the rule, but if your vehicle is front wheel drive, we generally recommend changing the rear bar first, and the opposite on a rear driven car like the GT86.
As James, our resident 86 owner and expert advises, the tyres Toyota provide are quite simply rubbish for any sort of track work. It can be a little costly to get a set of good R-compound semi slicks or performance tyres on your car, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. The tyres maketh the car on the track. Your brakes and suspension are only as good as the tyres they contact the road through, and it’s no use having all the power in the world if you can’t put it onto the asphalt. Almost all performance tyres will wear quicker than an economy/road tyre but if it’s a consistent and predictable car you want, this is one of the best Bang-for-Buck upgrades you can possibly do, with the differences being immediately obvious.