Project cars: 2009 Toyota iQ GRMN – Update 3

Nothing says project car like a new set of gauges.

In part one, we overhauled the braking system of our Toyota iQ GRMN, then inspected its underside for any hidden surprises.

In part two, we arranged for a set oddly-sized 185/55 R16 tyres to be fitted, then had it aligned by the fantastic team over at DNA Autosport.

In part three, we introduce something more fun – a set of gauges. Nothing says modified car like performance meters, however I wanted a purposeful set. After all, I plan to conduct light motorsport duties with the car, so their introduction must have somewhat of a function.

It also gave me an excuse to purchase something that 18-year old me always wanted. If you’re into Japanese cars and the culture that surrounds them, then you’ll understand the reason for picking this particular gauge array

If not, I’ll surmise briefly. Called Defi, the brand is the B2C motorsport-focused subsidiary of Nippon Seiki, one of the largest suppliers of vehicle instrumentation in the world.

Chances are, if you’ve driven a Japanese car, then you’ve stared at Defi’s products before. Nippon Seiki’s B2B side has supplied gauge clusters and head-up displays to countless brands for over half a century.

Steeped in Japanese car culture and history, Defi grew to prominence and popularity because of its accuracy, quality and functionality. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, every properly-modified Japanese performance car had a set, with Defi’s signature peak hold and record functions offering new levels of telemetry for the average punter.

So, after a quick email exchange with Jesse Streeter – an expat Aussie who procures new and used goods from Japan – I ordered a set, and waited patiently.

I specifically requested the 2021 “Style 21” single DIN gauge with white lettering and red needles. Defi is somewhat of a cottage industry brand still, so the wait times are long, and given the crunch on semiconductors and chips, longer than usual.

The reason for opting for ‘single DIN’ gauges is because they’re designed to fit in half of the ‘double DIN’ stereo slot found in 99 per cent of Japanese cars from the era. It also means they’ll be neatly integrated into the dashboard, and not aloof on the dashboard.

The reason for picking the colour configuration was purely to match my vehicle’s standard gauge cluster, as it also has white writing and red needles.

To keep things easy, I divided the install into two steps: First install the gauges, power them and pre-wire the sensors; and second, add the mechanical pressure and temperature switches to relay the data.

Given I am using a single DIN slot in a double DIN array, I have one DIN spare for a stereo.

I noticed on the Defi website and in numerous videos on Defi’s YouTube channel that its own demo car used this almost Bauhaus-inspired stereo (pictured above) that looked perfect under the same gauges I had just bought.

As someone who appreciates car audio, both aurally and aesthetically, I had to have it too. Ironically, after googling the part number visible on the facia, it turned out to be a run-of-the-bill $30 stereo, which made it even more appealing.

Sadly, it didn’t quite work with the Toyota iQ’s specific stereo facia kit, but I tried my best. I instead headed to my local Autobarn and bought whatever single DIN Bluetooth stereo was available, as again, 85 per cent of its offerings on the wall weren’t in stock.

Another benefit of the DIN gauge is simple installation. After removing the two stereo brackets from the car, I was able to build the setup, attach the car-specific facia kit, and integrate the power requirements of the gauges into an off-shelf stereo loom that connects directly to the Toyota.

As the pictures below show, it all fitted together nicely. Along the way, I cheekily repurposed a pre-existing LED as a warning light for peak oil temperature. It was left spinning in the wind after the Japanese stereo had been gutted, so I took the liberty of wiring it to the gauge’s peak illumination function, hoping it never lights up.

Thankfully the Toyota iQ’s interior is super simple to work with too, the whole array simply plugging into the factory loom I built on my desk, then covered with a single, large removable dash piece in less than five minutes.

However, I spent the next 45 minutes running cables for the oil pressure, oil temperature and water temperature sensors I plan to install in part two. At this rate, we might be on the race track by July 2022, as I’ve encountered quite the pickle with adding extra oil pressure sensors to the Toyota iQ GRMN’s 1.3-litre ‘1-NR’ engine.

Until that’s solved, I’ve included a visual step-by-step from start to finish in the gallery below.


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