From the outside, there's nothing particularly appealing about A to B commuter-friendly cars like a 2010 Toyota Yaris. Their main purpose is to appeal to the masses in search of good gas mileage, dependability and a low sticker price. Much like base model Civics, Sentras and Tercels of yesteryear, they serve as an excellent first car or daily driver for those with a project car they want to avoid stacking up a mountain of miles on.
The Lil' Sidepiece
Nolan Huynh, this Yaris's owner and builder, falls into that second category, having purchased his four-door hatchback to deal with his two-hour daily commute to work as a Toyota dealer Technician. His '93 RX-7 made the five-day journey an expensive one being that the FD is in no way a gas sipper. He adds, "Turns out that a family member I visited had a Yaris and I drove it for about a day and fell in love with it. Zippy, nimble and quirky, I was like 'Yup I'm buying one.' It's different. It's an egg and its practical!" The car served its purpose without issue, as expected, but the urge to make a few changes were constantly on Nolan's mind, and with the 3-year/36K mile warranty coming to a close, he decided to challenge himself with the unloved platform.
Farewell, Mr. Piston
You're not going to find pages of aftermarket parts online for this chassis, though some items can be adapted from other Toyota platforms, and maybe that's what pushed Nolan to keep going. His dive into the 110hp, 1.5L power plant came about in incremental stages, each of which generated more power. Initially, 150hp was achieved, then 200hp, then a little further, all the while wondering how much the factory mill could actually take. "Surprisingly, the stock motor was able to handle about 225whp! I was really impressed and decided to go all out and pretty much built a motor." The demise of the untouched factory block ultimately came at the hands of anti-lag on a cold start and at which point the no. 3 piston took a leave of absence.
Nolan got to work tearing into another Toyota NZ-FE engine and the specs are fairly simple. The original block and crankshaft remain, and the bottom end is a basic "rods and pistons" affair based on CP Pistons' 9:01 compression, 75mm slugs teamed up with MAXPEEDING's H-beam rods, and a custom press-in block guard added for additional strength. Up top, an in-house port and polish took place before BC valve springs and retainers were loaded in to support a set of custom JUN Auto high-lift cams, and the head was torqued down using ARP hardware. That's it. The intake and exhaust valves are stock, and the mild combo is able to hold everything together.
The engine build was put together to support the jam produced by a Garrett GTX3071R dual ceramic ball bearing turbo that's been fitted with a TiAL compact turbine V-band housing, which hangs off of a custom ram horn style turbo manifold with spent gases routed through a one-off stainless steel down pipe that ends with a center-exit exhaust. As you might expect, the intercooler and associated piping is all custom, as is the intake manifold that relies on internal velocity stacks and is fed by a Skunk2 70mm Honda throttle body. ID1000s and a Walbro 255lph pump are in charge of bringing in standard 93 octane pump gas and Nolan added an AEM water/methanol injection kit to bump things up a few notches. Overall, the setup is not unlike any other boosted 4-cylinder you've encountered in more popular chassis, though due to a severe lack of aftermarket support Nolan had to take matters into his own hands and fabricate the missing links. Some might ask, "Why bother? Pick something more common?" But what fun is that, especially when you've got the ability to create something incredibly unique with your own two hands.
Juice Was Worth the Squeeze
On the dyno, the Haltech Platinum Sport 1000 was tweaked and the 1NZ prodded, with the result of all of his hard work paying off in the form of almost 39psi reached, which resulted in 508whp and 387lb.-ft. of torque - an absolutely ridiculous number for the tiny Yaris (tap here for IG video making just under 500 while tuning). Making almost five times the amount of power that Toyota intended, of course, has some drawbacks. Nolan notes, "To be safe, I run it at about 23-25psi which nets about 355whp, in order to save transmission from grenading third gear all the time." This realization came after leaving a trio of factory transmissions in the dust while enjoying the fruits of his labor.
While the car would be a nasty sleeper if the outside remained entirely factory-like, Nolan wanted a complete build, and with that much power on tap, even at low boost some significant upgrades were in order. Lowered on Tanabe springs with Tokico HP shocks and fitted with Whiteline bushings and Ultra Racing chassis support bars, the car handles light years beyond its original commuter status. Behind 17-inch Work Emotion WFT rollers is a K-Sport 6-piston big brake conversion and a Runstop 2-piston caliper rear disc conversion with Wilwood's proportioning valve allowing for fine tuning.
A Little More Glitz from a JDM Vitz
Rather than tacking on some aftermarket, universal body additions, Nolan imported JDM Vitz RS model pieces like the front/rear bumpers, side skirts, HID front and rear lights and enough badging to confuse the hell out of people he passes on his daily commute. The original, almost flat factory seats were trashed to make room for more supportive Evo 8 Recaros that also make a huge visual impact compared to stock. What you won't notice is the custom accelerator pedal required to convert the car from DBW to cable action.
The process of building something very few others have before can be as frustrating as it is fun, and Nolan seems to have genuinely had a good time diving into his daily driver and applying his skills to realize some serious power from the car you'd least expect to find it. He's taken a break from modding it recently, but don't think he's moving on - he's got big plans for the little Yaris. He adds, "I have a completely new sleeved engine build in the works with high compression pistons and more than likely, a set of dog gears and LSD."