FEATURE – BULLETPROOF AUTOMOTIVE “CONCEPT-1” FR-S

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Good friend and fellow JDM fanatic, Ben Schaffer, owner of Bulletproof Automotive, set out to do something very special with an FR-S. But the aim wasn’t to just slap a Rocket Bunny kit on it, a nice set of wheels and maybe some other simple upgrades and call it a day. Not even close…

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With a streak of audacity, a ton of planning and a lot of money, Schaffer set out to create his very own version of a super-car. An FR-S that was brimming with intent and purpose, a car with a power to weight ratio that rivals super cars ten times it’s price. A car that was appointed inside and out with some of the best materials he could get his hands on.

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And so, the Concept-One was born. Is it a super car in the true sense of the word? Not really, since the car will always be a Scion but that isn’t the point here. Rather, the Concept-One is the embodiment of everything BulletProof stands for; automotive excellence.

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And so it comes as no surprise to learn that Ben enlisted some of the biggest names in the American and Japanese industries to help him turn his dreams into reality. The result is an FR-S chock full of upgrades on every level and when I finally got to see it at the Tokyo Auto salon last year, I had to admit I was impressed.

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Here was a car that was obviously built with borderline obsessive compulsiveness, displaying extreme levels of attention to detail, packaged and presented beautifully in Lamborghini balloon white and dressed in the most aggressive aero Varis have made for the platform. And then I opened the door to the car and the first thing that popped into my head was…Iron Man. It’s obvious to you now, right?

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It’s funny to consider it because the Mark. IV Iron Man suit is state of the art, packing futuristic technology that a lot of people want to get their hands on. Tony Stark’s a clever man and knows how to build a decent suit. Ben Schaffer in a similar way knows a thing or two about building cars and this is proof. I could see Stark agreeing with the Concept-One!

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Scion America provided the donor car and from there the party began. Ben’s vision for the C-1 was to create a machine that was streetable, comfortable and daily driven. He had to build it with compromise in mind but it also had to be uncompromising. It had to embody a super car. That’s a tricky balance to get right even for the best of tuners. While I don’t see the C-1 as a super car, it definitely is a purist’s wet dream.

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It retains the FA20 direct injected Subaru engine but has been fettled to produce a whopping 500hp in high boost configuration. That’s from a capacity of a little over 2 liters and almost on par with a twin turbo R35. I’ve never understood why naysayers keep insisting these engines can’t make power or can’t be tuned. It’s just bullshit. HKS is managing to get over 700hp from them and that’s really impressive stuff.

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That said, you won’t find an HKS snail under the bonnet here. Instead, Borg Warner have been brought in to provide an EFR 5768 turbo mounted to a Powerhouse Amuse turbo kit that was specifically chosen and built with engine response in mind. Internals have been beefed up with what Bulletproof call their “Race-Spec” upgrade package consisting of 86.5mm oversized pistons, strengthened connecting rods and ACL big end bearings. The whole package was fixed to upgraded Cusco engine mounts.

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The Concept-One had to be as lag free as possible and this all presents an ideal compromise. Powerhouse Amuse features prominently on the exhaust side of the car adding their R1000 STTI titanium straight pipe, turbo down pipe and complete titanium exhaust system through to the twin polished tips at the rear of the car. Supporting the delivery of fuel is a set of 900cc Deatchwerks injectors and DW65C fuel pump. The brains of the operation are again provided by Powerhouse Amuse courtesy of their Hi-Tech ROM ECU. The Concept-One still throws through the factory 6 speed but transferring power to the wheels has been made a lot easier with a Cusco Metal clutch assembly and RS Spec-F 1.5 way LSD.

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This all adds up to not only a robust package but also an amazing sounding one; there’s an intense build up of boost accompanying the turbine whine and then the Concept-One slingshots into the distance, a cacophony of wailing exhaust noise following in its wake. It definitely has the bite to accompany it’s menacing bark.

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Runduce is a relatively new name in the tuning game but they appear to have some very interesting products. For example, the Concept-One benefits from their Race Spec caliper upgrade with 6 pots at the front and 4 pots at the rear clamping down onto ventilated and slotted 356mm discs at the front with 330mm discs following suit at the rear. The stopping power is suspended on Runduce racing suspension dampers complete with springs wound to 12kg’s on all four corners. This compromise gives the Concept-One abilities for both the street and circuit, a fact I will get to later in the piece. Underneath, Cusco were employed to strengthen the chassis and Ben decided on their rear lateral arms, front and rear tower braces and engine brace, all coated in a signature gold paint.

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No doubt one of the bigger highlights of the balance between form and function are Rays’ brand new ZE40 alloys, released in time for the Auto Salon in January. Not only are they beautiful to look at but they’re actually Rays strongest ever forged wheels. Measuring 18 x 9.5J on all corners with a +22 offset, they provide the Concept-One with a menacing, track oriented look. Rays loved the look so much that they used the car in their advertising pieces for Japanese publication. The ZE40’s were then wrapped in Toyo Proxes RR tires measuring 275/35R18 on all four paws.

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The mechanical aspects to the car are just one side to the story. It is as much visually menacing as it is mechanically potent. That all comes to a head when you take a look at the bodywork, which in this instance has been provided by BulletProof’s partners, Varis. There are acres and acres of carbon fiber, moulded into swooping and purposeful lines that give the Concept-One a serious look of intent.

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This particular kit is Varis’ widebody Spec-D Semi Dry carbon fiber kit which really bulges out on all four corners of the car. Adding to this, Ben installed a Varis carbon hood with added NACA ducts, a lightweight carbon fiber boot with added reinforcement which is then topped with that huge “Euro Edition”, center mounted Varis GT wing. The roof is adorned with a carbon replacement skin courtesy of track specialists, Esprit. Ben is particularly proud of the one off dual-HID projector headlights installed on the Concept-One and they come across as very BMW-esque when the halos are lit up. Rounding out the exterior changes are BulletProof’s own custom front bumper and door mirror add-ons as well as the Crystal Eye LED tail lights.

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For me though the best part of the car, is its interior. It’s futuristic on one hand, comfortable on the other but has managed to retain a sporty and simple appearance, dripping with exotic materials like carbon fiber and custom red Alacantara. In fact, virtually everything in the interior was modified and there are a total of thirty six different interior surfaces that have been replaced with gloss coated carbon fiber items. The stuff is absolutely everywhere. The ideal was not only to give the Concept-One super car performance but also super car appointments.

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The color scheme of “Iron Man” red and gold won’t appeal to everyone and I admit that when I first saw it, I was in two minds about whether I liked it or not but spend a little bit of time poring over the details and the craftsmanship will leave you in no doubt that it has been built to extremely high standards. The Recaro RS-G buckets are beautifully stitched, as is the custom dash and BulletProof’s custom steering wheel and carbon fiber gear shifter.

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The money that has gone into the interior alone would make your head spin but cutting corners on this build was never going to happen.

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In fact, Ben pointed out that his favorite part of the interior were the doors and it’s easy to see why. They are gorgeous in their new carbon fiber skin with the intricate cross stitched door rests an added visual treat. Contrasting against the sea of red and woven fibers is the 8 point Cusco roll cage painted in the same gold color adorning many of the parts on the Concept-One and although the back seat has been re-trimmed in the same materials, you’d have to be David Blaine to even consider getting in and out!

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In the end, there was a very good reason the Concept-One was in Japan in the first place; a reason that also afforded me the opportunity to shoot it. That reason was Tsukuba. Nob Taniguchi was drafted in to put the Concept-One through its paces under the intense gaze of the Option Magazine crew who were there to report on the cars capabilities. Despite concerns that the gearbox wouldn’t be able to handle the strain on the track, the Concept-One performed far better that expected. A 1:03 second lap on its first official shakedown is nothing short of impressive; a time that was achieved even with the power reduced to 400hp to ensure reliability. The goal is to hit a sub 1 minute lap time which, with a fully laden car complete with luxury trimmings and interior appointments will be a truly remarkable achievement.

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And I don’t doubt the car is capable of that. Ben Schaffer is already one of the proudest men in the industry at the moment after taking a far-fetched dream and turning it into a tangible reality. The crowning moment of realization that his creation was actually in Japan, being seen by adoring fans and driven by the best in the industry was something almost spiritual for him.

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But Schaffer is not the type of person to rest on his laurels though and already has other projects in the mix, demonstrating once again the type of industriousness that has seen BulletProof take a front row seat on Japanese tuning for a global audience.

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It’s the type of industriousness that even Tony Stark would definitely applaud…

7Tune – The Ultimate JDM Experience Since 2005.

Words and Photos – Adam Zillin

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