Jeff and John 2018: What is This? A Car for Ants?

Team Mondor Yaris RS Road Car

The 2016 Lexpedition ended on a bit of a cliff hanger. What happened with that pizza? Are you dead? It’s been two years! WHERE ARE YOU?! Well, a lot has happened in those two years. While finishing that fateful road trip in the Lexus, I got accepted into university to complete an engineering degree (which I am now two years into!) and, we got sick. Joel got sick, I got sick, my unsuspecting girlfriend got sick; everyone got sick. I don’t know what caused any of it, but all I know is that seeing what was left of Joel’s half-digested pizza in the motel’s bathroom sink wasn’t my ideal way to start the last day of our trip. Thankfully I didn’t get sick until I was already back home, but it was pretty brutal I can assure you.

So, what now? Instead of taking a road trip last year, John and I decided to spend that time doing a proper build on his Toyota Supra Twin Turbo R (the subject of my 2015 blog). While that was a lot of fun, and we managed to really move the car forward in many ways, we didn’t finish it before I had to move away for my second year of university. Alas, that year is finished and there’s almost 2 weeks of time until my next semester starts. What can I possibly do with all that time?! Surely there must be more to see in my favourite theme park: Americaland.

During my first year of school, I decided I needed to save a bit on gas and so picked up a 2005 Toyota Echo RS hatchback. While these cars were sold in Europe and Japan, as the Yaris and Vitz respectively, in North America they were more or less exclusive to the Canadian market, and only sold for the 2004 and 2005 model year. While they are just a basic economy car here, in Japan particularly they are so much more. Modified spec versions are used to complete annually in the Netz Cup and other events, additionally Toyota Racing Development and Toyota Team Europe released various performance parts over the years. While this car had been my educational chariot for a year, the opportunity for it to become so much more was brewing.

So, for 2018, Team Mondor was tasked with building a proper Yaris RS Road Car, purpose built not only for an Americaland funtime adventure, but also to hold its own in other aspects following the trip. Also, the name Echo is lame, everyone knows Uncle Yaris is from Europe. Now, what started as “let’s put a new clutch and some shocks into the car before we go,” became its own sort of monster, needing to be tamed in time for my departure on April 24, 2018. Thankfully, it was.

Finding long discontinued parts and other cheap items locally and in Japan became a bit of a financial downward spiral as good deals here and low prices there ultimately led to a verifiable buttload of packages and shipments over the course of a couple of weeks in March and the beginning of April. Sorting happened, planning happened, and a car got assembled.

First things first, the badging was corrected using some European and Thai nameplates and a Japanese Vitz RS gauge cluster.

After fixing up what the car was called, some maintenance needed to be done, and so a new higher capacity clutch and lightweight flywheel was installed along with a new set of hatch shocks. Japan spec sunvisors replace the inferior export versions and a new shift boot was installed to match the TRD quick shifter.

Next, we looked for the TRD cup suspension, but unable to find what I was looking for and thinking it may be best to go a bit more street car, the decision was made to go with a set of used Largus Spec S coilovers, TRD control arm bushings, TRD front strut brace, and Tanabe front and rear lower under braces.

During the installation and testing of the suspension bushings, it was found that the steering rack had worn bushings as well, and it was replaced with a power steering rack from an older model, allowing for a longer rack stroke and improved steering angle at full lock. New tie rods and ball joints were also installed.

In order to give a more “hot hatch” look, sound, and feel; a TRD High Response Ver. S muffler was used, along with a TRD quick shifter and a set of Toyota’s often used aluminum sport pedals.

All that was left was to somehow control the unimaginable fury of the 108 horse ranch under the hood and so a set of larger front brakes with Endless SS-Y brake pads were installed along with converting the rear drum brakes to discs, with a matching set of Endless pads. The front calipers were remanufactured units and the rear calipers were overhauled before installation. Dunlop Direzza ZIII tires should hopefully keep the entire thing on the road long enough to enjoy it.

A mark of a bit of the over enthusiasm for this project is that Cusco brake master cylinder brace which, while obviously intended for a right hand drive car, was ordered for use on this very clearly left hand drive car. But with the parts on hand, the task of putting it all together began. Not only that, but during the installation process it was discovered that the larger front brakes (which aren’t really that much larger), wouldn’t clear the factory wheels and I had to get John to drop off another set of wheels before the car could make its way over to the alignment rack. I did not expect that, but take note fellow Echo/Yaris/Vitz owners: the factory 14-inch alloy wheels are extremely tight to the stock brake calipers!

Day 1 Destination: Missoula, MT

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