Unobtainable Toyota GR Yaris Wears Pandem Widebody Perfectly

Photography: Mike Crawat

  • The GR Yaris is the AWD hatchback from Toyota that was engineered and manufactured by Toyota and Gazoo Racing to meet WRC homologation rules.
  • Powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, the GR Yaris makes 257hp and 266 lb-ft of torque.
  • Unfortunately, the three-door hatchback will never be sold in the U.S.; however, it helped shape the GR Corolla.
  • Photographer Mike Crawat discovered this Pandem widebody GR Yaris on Volk Racing 21C wheels while on assignment for Pit+Paddock.

Before the North American-bound Toyota GR Corolla, there was the GR Yaris. Available only in places like Japan, Europe, and Australia, the GR Yaris was developed and manufactured to meet WRC homologation rules, which makes it oh-so-cool to any rally racing fan. All the three-door Yaris hatchbacks come with a six-speed manual, all-wheel-drive, and a 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that makes 257hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. The GR Yaris has been the dream hatch for many of us here in the States, and while we’ll be getting the GR Corolla that shares similar parts, the ‘Rolla will never be as cool as a smaller Yaris that was bred specifically from pro rally. This is why when popular photographer Mike Crawat sent us photos of Matias Mäenpää’s stunning Pandem widebody example from Finland, we just had to give it the Pit+Paddock spotlight it deserved.

INTERVIEW WITH GR YARIS OWNER MATIAS Mäenpää

When did you fall in love with cars?
I’ve been into cars since I was a little boy. I’m not sure where exactly it comes from because no one else in my family shares that passion. Then it started with mopeds and scooters and naturally evolved into cars.

What was your first car?
A MK4 Supra, which now that I think of it, was a pretty stupid first car! Then, the car that got me into the car scene properly was my ‘99 Miata. It had a static drop, Carline wheels, and Itasha wrap. Afterward, I picked up a Toyota Progrès which was my first widebody project car that received fender flares and air suspension. Learned a lot of lessons from that car. 

I got more into the Euro stuff after a visit to Wörthersee. A BMW M140i came next with carbon bits, Work wheels, Accuair suspension, and some power upgrades. Loved that car, but after about a year, my friend insisted on selling it to him. I had no idea what to buy next and that’s where the story of the GR Yaris begins…

What drew you to pick up the GR Yaris?
Three things really. First, I seem to have a fixation for hot hatches (and maybe for Toyotas as well). When I saw the Pandem body kit render on Instagram, I knew that I had to get one! Second, in this modern era where every performance car is becoming hybrid or electric, I really liked the spec of the GR Yaris. And third, the fact that the car’s development is heavily tied to Finnish rally experts and Finland, in general, is very cool. So, there’s some kind of national pride, I guess!

Did you have a theme for your build?
My favorite thing in the scene is race-inspired cars. For one, they don’t go out of fashion as some other trends might do. They also just look so sick and out of place sharing the road with normal, boring cars. So that’s what I wanted with this.

When did the modding begin?
I drove it 500 kilometers, then got it on jack stands and started drilling and cutting the body. Most of the work is done by my good friend Pekka Lehto and myself. He is a mad skilled welder and immensely talented when it comes to cars, boats, bikes, etc. The livery was designed by Janne Thusberg and painted by Niilo Hakala.

Has there been much work done under the hood?
The engine is pretty much stock. The only mods are a MST Performance intake kit and a Martelius cat-back exhaust.

How does it feel to drive?
It takes a certain amount of focus while driving. I do like it very much. Sitting in a full bucket seat attached to a six-point harness while cruising on highways with lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and Apple CarPlay is a pretty funny contrast.

Tell us about the color scheme and livery.
The factory shade of white can be seen around the car. The widebody kit has been painted to match, and the black outlines are made to look and feel like the flares you would find on OEM plastic fenders. The custom livery is wrapped on top of all of that. The car comes with silly carbon-look wrap fitted on the roof from the factory. So that obviously had to go while exposing the real carbon roof. The interior got painted black as well, and then fitted with a custom half cage.

Were there any issues fitting any of the parts?
None I would say. Everything went pretty smoothly. I guess the hardest part was to get everything organized and timed right. 

Nice choice in wheels. What made you choose Volks?
Because I wanted to go with something race-inspired that is not seen in too many builds. I wanted a wheel brand that is known for quality stuff. After some time, I spotted this new design from Volk Racing on Instagram. The Volk 21C used the older models as inspiration but added something fresh to it. I wanted some meaty tires with a bunch of grip, so naturally, I went with Toyo R888R – 295/30R18 all-around. It’s a fairly big size for a Yaris.

How has the feedback been from the car community?
I’ve gotten so many different reactions, but to my surprise around 95% of the feedback and reactions have been very positive. It was a nice moment when the car was photographed for GTI Magazine, and also when WRC driver Kalle Rovanperä asked a bunch about the car and signed the dashboard.


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