Monday, May 31, 2010

Bitten by the Bug

Over the past couple years, subcompacts have been making a comeback. These tiny cars with tiny engines are popping up all over. And I love it. There's something about a zippy little hatchback that makes me drool, and this week's feature is an excellent example.

This week's feature comes from Nashville, although the car and its owner will soon be moving to my local area of operations, in the beautiful State of Maryland. Randy, the owner, is a studio recording engineer who originally purchased the car for the most practical of reasons. His old Isuzu Trooper wasn't exactly an economical ride when gas was hovering around $4 a gallon.

Randy credits for inspiring him to move his "Tuna Can" up from beater status. Once he decided to go ahead with the work, he turned to Garm Beale, the owner of Micro Image to provide him with the parts to make his Yaris shine.

Tuna Can's interior has been spruced up to more properly accommodate Randy's tastes. For a man who loves music, A quality sound system is mandatory. A Dynamat insulation, a JVC head, Memphis Car Audio speakers and amp, along with an Infinity subwoofer, ensure that Randy doesn't have to do without great sound no matter where he goes. LED lights coming from the ceiling, console, ignition, and floor illuminate the cabin to provide the right mood for driving. For a touch of sport, an NRG e-brake lever, sport pedal covers, Redline shift and e-brake boots, and a TRD shift knob connected to an SST short shifter complete the look.

On the outside, the first thing Toyota aficionados will notice is the JDM Toyota Vitz badge and foglights prominently displayed up front. (For those not in the know, the Vitz is the Japan-market Yaris). In the rear, a pair of TYC taillights accent shaved badges and stubby antenna for a smooth body. Under the hood, Tuna Can sports a couple choice TRD bits, namely a fusebox cover and oil cap, complementing the ground kit, Tanabe strut brace, NST underdrive pulleys, AFE Pro-Dry intake, and DC Sports header.

If you were to drop down and take a look underneath the car, you'd find there's still more to be seen. Tanabe springs and TRD shocks keep Tuna Can's body only barely above the Hankook-wrapped 17" MSR rims. Stuffed inside those rims, a full disc brake conversion is completed with R1 Concepts rotors up front, Carbotech pads all around and Agency-Power stainless brake lines tying the whole setup together. Peer under the rear if you want a look at the Tanabe Medallion Touring exhaust system and the TRD rear sway bar.

At this point, I usually try to wrap up the article with a summary on why the car I'm featuring appeals to me. This time, I'm going to let Randy speak for himself.

"I found other Yaris owners that shared what upgrades they had done to their rides. It started with wheels, lowering springs, TRD shocks. Soon I was skipping meals so I could afford led lights for my instrument cluster. When my wife started to feel the differences in the handling and acceleration from the mods I was doing, I knew I was hooked ! Modding my Yaris gives me a sense of individuality. Knowing that nobody else has a Yaris set up like mine makes me feel good when I drive it and I enjoy driving my "Tuna Can" !"

Randy goes on to say...

"What I like most about my Yaris is it’s look and handling. It’s never gonna’ be fast, but it’s quick and rides curves like a glove. I love hearing comments like, “Randy, I’ve seen other Yaris’s but none look as cool as yours.” And since I’ve taken off the badges that tell you what model it is, I get, “What kind of car is that? It’s got a European plate, Did ya’ have it shipped over here?” "

Sounds like a classic case of "bitten by the bug" to me.

Until next week, keep it Clean.

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