Project cars: 2009 Toyota iQ GRMN – Part one

project-cars:-2009-toyota-iq-grmn-–-part-one 
2009 Toyota IQ GRMN
My 2009 Toyota iQ GR Tuned by MN project car

I can’t pinpoint exactly why I love my “2009 Toyota iQ GR tuned by MN”.

It could be the sub-900kg kerb weight, go-kart inspired wheelbase, or simply its rarity. Just 100 examples were ever hand-built by Toyota’s skunkworks, with mine being the only one exported to Australia to-date.

It’s definitely not the silly name that grabbed me, even as the first car to ever wear a Gazoo Racing badge. If you want to learn more about the origins of these handbuilt ‘GRMN’ Toyotas, be sure to check out the backstory.



Whatever the reason, it’s inspired me to hold onto it, and make it my own. Before we get to that, let’s answer another question you’re probably wondering: “What’s a Toyota iQ?”

Well, it’s the smallest four-seater car in the world. Measuring up at just 2.98m long by 1.68m wide, the Toyota iQ took five years to develop.

To quote Toyota chief engineer Hiroki Nakajima, “We wanted to create the world’s first, sophisticated four-seat car, less than three metres long, using ultra-effectively packaging, unique design, ultra-low fuel consumpsion and high safety performance.”

A huge ask, then. Toyota claimed the pint-sized iQ was “one of the most important cars” it ever produced. Back in 2008, upon its global debut, its press material was littered with concerns around global warming and emissions levels, hence the desire for a small-yet-premium car.

As expected then, it was not sold new in Australia, but rather throughout Europe, Japan and North America, where it was called the Scion iQ. Most garden variety versions feature a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and CVT transmission, or 1.4-litre diesel with six-speed manual.

A year later, Toyota introduced 1.3-litre petrol four-cylinder, but its take-up was slim. What it did succeed at however was laying the groundwork for a limited-run and hotted-up “Toyota iQ GR Tuned By MN model”, or Toyota iQ GRMN for short.



It’s understood the Toyota Gazoo Racing team was quite fond of the iQ, given its unique proportions and equally unique driving experience. Aside from the ‘big block’ 1.3-litre motor, plenty of one-off parts were produced for the limited run of 100 cars.

Extras included unique suspension uprights and arms, disc brake rear end, 16-inch RAYS engineering wheels, and a cool “monster tacho” on the dashboard. In fact, the car now has two tachometers, which I find quite funny.

Despite the good intent and also inspiring Aston Martin to make its own, the Toyota iQ was discontinued in 2015 after a seven-year product life. Given its high asking price and the segment it played in, budget-conscious folk naturally opted for the cheaper and inferior Toyota Aygo instead.

However, my vision is to not buzz about the tight inner streets of Sydney. Instead, I’d like a fun-to-drive weekender with the potential to double as a cheap, effective and fun track toy. In turn, this has dictated my approach on “what to do”.

Step one is to make sure it actually stops. You’d think that finding brakes for a rare, imported vehicle has its challenges, but thankfully not. Some cross-referencing via the free, genuine and online Toyota parts catalogue revealed that engineers indeed pilfered from the parts bin to upgrade my car’s stoppers, as expected.

I called around and discovered ZF Australia had stock on-hand. I also learned that the Australian subsidiary of everybody’s favourite transmission manufacturer has also begun rolling out its tier-one grade of automotive consumables in Australia under the ‘TRW’ banner.



Fun fact – TRW is a major supplier of replacement airbags for defective Takata units. I’ve never used TRW’s braking components before, but the prices are affordable, and my car isn’t hard on the brakes; so cash was exchanged and the parts ordered.

Assuming the hard part was over, trying to find tyres ironically became more of a challenge. My car still wears its factory-fitted 16×5.5-inch RAYS engineering wheels, wearing equally laughable 175/60 R16 tyres. Finding any brand of rubber in this size locally felt impossible, let alone the good, sticky stuff.

I debated buying a set of 15-inch wheels to unlock better tyre availability, but i’ll have to keep saving my pennies for that. The cost-effective solution for now is a set of slightly-wider 185/55 R16 tyres, as Hankook offer its performance-oriented ‘V2 Concept2’ tyre in this size. This time eBay delivered the cheapest price, with a set of four costing me $498 delivered to my door.

With the parts procured and my resident Toyota technician on hand (that’s Dad, by the way), we stripped the old brakes, and assessed the bearings, joints and bushes, to see if anything else needed repairing. As the photos reveal, it’s still original underneath, with its GRMN-branded red suspension dampers standing proud.

Everything turned out to be in fantastic condition, with no play or slop in the crucial parts. Passing with flying colours, the brakes were swapped, fluid replaced with Castrol SUPER DOT4, and wheels taken to Tony’s Tyre and Auto Care to be fitted with new rubber.

Another side note, those cool green two-piece ramps you see are made by Japanese brand Silk Road and sold by JDMparts.Rupewrecht here in Australia. Aside from getting a low car off the ground, they also separate, allowing you to get a jack on the sill – how clever!



Once we’d finished, I decided to fit a shark-fin antenna as you see on late-model Toyotas. I felt the original aerial made the car look even-more like a Remote Control (RC) toy, plus I already had delivery coming from Japan with goodies for part two, so why not add in a few extra things?

I’ve thrown in a few photos of what’s to come in the second installment in the gallery below.

After more than a decade working in the product planning and marketing departments of brands like Kia, Subaru and Peugeot, Justin Narayan returned to being a motoring writer – the very first job he held in the industry.

Read more about Justin Narayan