Toyota automobiles have long been the target of hundreds of aftermarket modifications, both professionally built and homegrown. Many of them are, frankly, awful and transform the company's original design into an embarrassing vehicle most owners of reliable, simple cars would not want to drive.
The automobile was first built in 1885 and has been developed and refined for more than 130 years. Modern-day cars represent the work of thousands of highly skilled engineers, aerodynamicists, artists, technicians, model makers, clay workers, and testers. Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools and large testing facilities crank out next-generation designs. Powerful wind tunnels verify the fluid dynamics analysis of the car’s shape to reduce the drag coefficient and improve fuel economy. Expert automobile designers work with engineering teams to create a vehicle that is functionally efficient and attractive.
Not counting the historical development costs, the investment in materials and labor to design a new car is only growing and growing. And yet, some self-taught car hackers believe it is easy to take these marvels of modern engineering and make them better.
Car modifications fall into two broad categories: professional aftermarket products and DIY backyard mechanic mods. While some aftermarket products are quality-built, designed, and manufactured in a manner like the automobiles themselves—albeit on a much smaller scale—others are poorly designed and even more poorly made. Very few of them look professional nor do they work the way their designers intended.
Here are 20 modified Toyotas that their owners should be embarrassed to drive.
20 Toyota Prius Drop Top
Toyota’s objective in designing the Prius hybrid was to provide a car with excellent fuel economy without sacrificing too many features, such as interior comfort and performance. It gets an EPA estimated 50 miles per gallon, far superior to most conventional internal combustion engine-powered automobiles. Part of the fuel efficiency is attributed to the aerodynamics, which is indicated by body drag coefficient or resistance to movement through the air.
The Prius has one of the industry’s lowest drag coefficients. Convertibles have a higher drag coefficient than their hard-top counterparts, requiring more power to push the car through the air and therefore reducing fuel efficiency. While the Prius Drop Top is an attractive car and no doubt fun to drive, its increased fuel consumption is contradictory to Toyota’s original design philosophy.
19 Sporty-Looking Prius Fools No One
Japan's Kuhl racing went all out restyling this bland-looking Prius. The full body aerodynamic kit features widened wheel arches, spoilers, and aprons everywhere, 19-inch wheels with 235/35 19R tires and an air suspension system. To complete the overhaul, they added a race-spec steering wheel, carbon fiber trims, racing bucket seats, and a stainless-steel roll cage.
Although these mods resulted in a stylish, sporty car (except for the ridiculous cambered wheels) that seems high-performance, the powertrain is still a Prius hybrid. The concept is like the fiberglass VW-powered kits available with Lamborghini, Ferrari, Cobra, or a classic Speedster Porsche body. While they might fool some at first glance, as soon as the VW engine powers up, any observers lose interest.
18 Toyota MR2 with Two Jet Turbines
To add a lot more power to almost any vehicle, many car tuners (and hackers) remove the factory installed engine and drop in a powerhouse mill like a stock 426 Hemi that generates 470 horsepower without other enhancements. The tuners of this 1991 Toyota MR2 wanted much more, so they installed two GE T58 turboshaft converted jet engines that move the vehicle with exhaust thrust (like a jet airplane) instead of sending power to the wheels.
Equipped with power steering, power brakes, four fuel tanks, and security features like roll-over protection and fire suppression, the vehicle is capable of speeds of more than 225 km/h. However, the converted MR2 is not street legal so a quick trip to the grocery store is out of the question.
17 Toyota Prius Camper Mod
No doubt, the smooth, rounded form of this Prius Camper modification was driven by aerodynamic considerations but the result looks like a vehicle being consumed by an undulating blob that chased and captured the car while traveling down the highway.
The integration of the added camper body to the original Prius body is excellent, making it look like a factory option. The backdoor has a transparent window, large hinges, and an ample door handle and fits nicely on the backend but the huge taillights are an enigma. The red brake light piece is so small it is almost invisible. Perhaps the large, transparent lenses for the reverse lights are needed to illuminate potential obstacles when backing up because the “blob” limits visibility behind.
16 The Prius Limousine
Limousine rental companies report the top reason why people book an expensive luxury limo is for weddings. They can carry the entire wedding party and impress the guests. The second most common limo rental occasion is the high school prom. Everyone has seen movie scenes with rabble-rousing high school seniors standing in a limo, head and shoulders sticking out of the sunroof, yelling at everyone they pass on the street.
Other limo uses include sightseeing, nightlife, airport transportation, and the celebration of a special event like a birthday. People who rent limos want to be seen in a long, expensive, and prestigious vehicle—like a Cadillac, Mercedes, or Hummer. An economical Toyota Prius limo won’t turn any heads.
15 Chassis Mounted Wing Mod
A spoiler is designed to reduce the turbulence (or drag) created when air passes across a car’s body in motion. While the device can have a significant effect on race cars that travel at high speeds, the impact on passenger cars is almost negligible. "The vast majority of spoilers out there don't do anything – you don't get any bang for your money," says Dr. Martin Agelin-Chaab, assistant professor in automotive engineering, University of Ontario Institute of Technology. "They only work if they're properly installed, and even then, they only work at speeds of at least 100 km/h or more." A spoiler on a Toyota is merely decorative. The monster chassis-mounted wing on this Toyota only serves to block access to the trunk.
Although a rather novel idea inspired this mod, the execution fell somewhat short of expectations. Why not create a limo with a pickup truck cargo area in the back? One never knows when hauling a group of people might also require moving some dirt. Although the Prius hybrid drivetrain was selected to assure good fuel economy, the limo loaded with passengers and two cubic yards of gravel may impact it significantly.
Insufficient power for such a heavy load could also be a problem. While these performance characteristics are important, they may not be an issue for the creator of this combo vehicle. The obvious “homemade” appearance includes a sagging middle section that should be more than enough to discourage potential customers.
13 Custom Toyota Vios With 8 Wheels
Perhaps the owner of this modified eight-wheel Toyota Vios believed a six- or eight-wheel car is more efficient than a four-wheel sedan. After all, semi-trucks use more than four wheels. However, experts say otherwise. According to the Physics Stack Exchange, “It would be easier to pull the car with four wheels because you would need less energy to make only four wheels move (less angular momentum). The reason large trucks which travel on hard surfaces have more than four wheels is so that the axles don't break. The weight is distributed over 3+ axles rather than just two.” Tests on this modified Toyota confirmed that the extra weight reduced fuel efficiency and the six-wheels on the ground produced unstable cornering and less efficient braking.
12 The Toyota Pruck
Disappointed with the lack of a low-emissions hybrid in the pickup truck market, Ruud Hartog, a retired engineer in Florida, decided to make his own. Hartog created what he calls a Pruck from a wrecked 2005 Prius, spending roughly $5,300 and hundreds of hours in his garage. The bed of the truck is made of two layers of high-strength plywood and steel, causing the vehicle to weigh only 46 pounds more than the original.
The Prius transformation was a challenge mainly because the unibody hybrid was not designed for heavy hauling. The structure was reinforced by welding cross members into place and the rear doors shut. The result is a low-capacity pickup with no rear tailgate that averages 43 mpg but at least it attracts attention no matter where it goes.
11 Star Wars Battleship-Inspired Toyota Celica
The owner of this modified Toyota claims his inspiration came from the Star Wars battleships. Perhaps the best known is the worn-out junker, Millennium Falcon. Despite humble origins and a shabby appearance, the Falcon didn’t lack high-performance. Han Solo described it in a conversation with Obi-Wan Kenobi. "You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon?"
"Should I have?"
"It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. I've outrun Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers mind you, I'm talking about the big Corellian ships now. She's fast enough for you, old man."
While the modified exterior of this Toyota would not be described as shabby, the Star Wars battleship replica can probably make the fast-food run in less than twelve parsecs (or hours).
10 Toyota Prius Motorhome
James Lawler, a landscaper from Australia who enjoys camping, modified his Toyota Prius into a motorhome. He built the mini-house complete with a pitched tin roof, stained glass window, a chimney, and even a wind chime—all using salvaged materials in less than a week. The entire project cost Lawler less than $150 but water leaks suggest he should have spent a bit more to seal the gaps.
However, a leaky roof wasn’t the only problem with Lawler’s modified Prius. The local police felt the modifications violated vehicle equipment regulations and issued him a fine. Regardless, Lawler was encouraged by his design, “I would like to build a caravan along the same style but a bit more watertight.”
9 Toyota Supra with Motorized Doors
The custom green Kandy-color paint alone is enough to discourage any potential buyer from making an offer on this Supra recently put up for sale. The all-metal wide-body kit, motorized rear-hinging doors, deep dish chrome wheels, and custom sound system complete the ridiculous conversion of this modified Toyota.
But perhaps the worst features are the green headlights. The owner first put this green aberration on the market for sale at $80,000 and reduced it to $66,000 when he received no offers. With these mods, the car is probably worth less than a used stock 1993 Supra TT, which is typically valued at about $17,000.
8 Toyota Celica And Cardboard Body Kit
Most likely, this cardboard modified Toyota Celica is a joke, perhaps some fun had by college students with their roommate’s car. If so, the owner may not be too pleased when the duct tape is removed and some of the car’s paint comes off with it. Another possibility is the temporary body kit was added to show the local body shop what mods the owner has in mind.
Hopefully, the auto body repair and painting technician will select a spoiler mounting system shaped differently than the cubic boxes that currently support the floppy cardboard wing. In any case, the text written on the boxes used for this mod adds a nice touch, “Twice as Strong” on the spoiler and “Keep Refrigerated” near the exhaust.
7 Lifted Monster Prius
Most likely, the only part of this Monster truck that remains Prius is the stock body. Should this vehicle—built for overcoming obstacles with huge tires and a specialized suspension—still be powered by the anemic Prius hybrid powertrain, it would not have enough horsepower or torque to climb over a small pebble, much less a mound of dirt or another vehicle.
Many of the racing monster trucks that compete in the USHRA Monster Jam series are equipped with supercharged engines mounted just behind the driver. They typically have a displacement of up to 575 cubic inches and run on a methanol-alcohol and corn-based-oil fuel. While many Monster trucks strike fear in the hearts of their competitors just with their appearance, this Prius would have the opposite effect.
6 2020 Toyota Highlander Spied
Although this 2020 Toyota Highlander is not owner-modified, but instead a camouflaged test vehicle, it demonstrates how much better a cardboard mod can look if grocery store boxes are not used to create the body panels. Upon close inspection, the cardboard kit home modifier can learn some techniques from this covered Highlander.
First, each of the door panels has a rectangular-shaped hole cut in the middle allowing the adhesive tape to attach to the car’s body and prevent the panel from flying off when the vehicle is moving. Second, the door handles are covered with hinged flaps that hide the design but allow driver and passengers to open the doors by merely raising the covers. It seems likely this wasn't the model Toyota used for aerodynamic testing.
5 Prius With Aerodynamic Hemorrhoids
With three large windows, this unique mod appears to be extra passenger space instead of additional cargo area. The cantilevered bulb looks like a World War II airplane turret without the arms. The shape and position on the backend mean the mod could also act as a spoiler, keeping the rear wheels on the ground at high speeds.
However, it’s impractical as a wing since the Prius cannot achieve speeds fast enough to take advantage of the spoiler downdraft effect. Despite its awkward appearance, the owner kept the cost lower by sandwiching the mod between the original taillights, making it unnecessary to install new ones.
4 Toyota Celica with Duct-Tape Fenders
To keep this Celica street legal, the owner was required to add fenders covering the cambered wheels with deep-dish rims that extend beyond the stock body. From a distance the grey (silver) fender additions appear professional. However, upon close inspection, the difference in color and texture of the cardboard or plastic fenders from the original body paint are obvious.
And while the wrinkles in the duct tape are also visible, at least the color is a close match (sort of). The gap between the front wheels and fenders is so small it is difficult to believe they don’t make contact during turns. With some refinements to the fenders, this Celica could be a “cool-looking” car.
3 Yellow Toyota Celica With Lambo doors
Although Lambo doors, often referred to as “vertical doors” or “scissor doors,” are well-known worldwide for their exotic styling, they were initially designed by Lamborghini for a functional purpose. Before 1974, during the design and development stage of the LP 400 Countach, engineers realized traditional swing-open doors would not work well. They made climbing out of the vehicle over high door sills difficult and blocked rearward visibility making backing up nearly impossible.
The scissor door design became a feature on exotic supercars including the Diablo, Murcielago, Aventador, and others. Ferrari even installed them on their Enzo model. However, Lambo doors on a Toyota Celica?
2 Toyota with 23.6 Degrees of Camber
Although it may not be obvious, negative cambered wheels can have a positive effect on a car’s handling. While cornering, the slanted tires can maximize the contact patch area and therefore improve traction. The design concept was even used by the two-stroke racecar, Milliken MX1, built during the 1960s.
While some car enthusiasts like the extreme cambered look, it is a practical nightmare. On most cars with negative camber, the wheels ride very close to the fenders, making contact when the car goes over bumps or makes turns. The cars are also lowered to ride just centimeters above the pavement, making it impossible to pull into a driveway without scraping the bottom.
1 Toyota Pickup With Lambo Doors
There is an endless number of aftermarket products made for pickup trucks. Many of them focus on upgrades to the cargo area, like bed liners and tailgate assists. Other enhancements improve the off-road capabilities, including lift kits and special tires. But very few of these accessories are designed to make a pickup truck look like a Lamborghini.
On a supercar, Lambo doors not only serve a purpose, but they give the luxury high-performance vehicle an even more exotic appearance. Observers marvel when a Lamborghini Murcielago pulls up to the valet at an expensive restaurant, the scissor doors raise over the top, and the driver climbs out. Lambo doors on a pickup truck don’t have nearly the same effect—if anyone is even watching!
Sources: Inhabitat, autoevolution, CNET, and Shifting Lanes.