For most people, the thought of a soccer mom minivan being fast, flashy, and loud is pretty laughable. But as our article on six insanely modified minivans illustrates, these machines can have merit, and with the right performance upgrades, some serious weight reduction, and one badass driver, anything is possible.
It’s a nutty notion, especially since it goes against everything the Toyota Sienna was designed to do in suburban sprawls and strip malls across America. But the SE version of the van has quietly grown sportier in recent years, and under the watchful eye of chief engineer Andy Lund, the eight-seater has evolved into something that borders on being a blast to drive.
I recently spent a week on the road with Lund and his vans (as well as the team that makes them so swift), where I was able to witness the trials and tribulations of racing something that was never designed to spend time on a track. Win or lose, Lund and the Toyota team were determined to test and showcase what the Sienna could do, which they did with great gusto. This van is a stiff middle finger to the notion that only sports cars haul ass, and completely smashes the stigma that all minivans are boring.
When Lund finally got Toyota to give in to his request for a track-prepped Sienna, famed Scion tuner DG-Spec was tapped to handle the building and care of what’s become commonly referred to as the “R-Tuned” Sienna. The entire van was gutted, caged, and outfitted with adjustable race suspension before receiving an intake/exhaust combo. After that came a few key upgrades, like a one-off Kaminari carbon hood and some lightweight 18×10 Enkei RPF1 wheels that had been wrapped in sticky Bridgestone rubber.
But outside of those updates along with an OS Giken differential, a set of racing brake pads, some race seats and harnesses, Motul fluids, a sprinkling of interior upgrades, and graphics that would make Darth Vader smile, this van is pretty damn close to being stock. The drivetrain remains untouched, and things like glass windows, air conditioning, and the center stack still are present in order to help make the drive from one track to the next tolerable. This was basically a giant R&D session that doubled as a major publicity push for what Toyota likes to call the “Swagger Wagon.”
But putting a lumbering minivan up against 800-horsepower Nissan Skyline GTRs and track-prepped Ariel Atoms still left the automaker at a strong disadvantage, so Toyota enlisted a secret weapon to level the playing field. Enter Grand-Am Rolex Series champion, seasoned instructor, and all around badass Craig Stanton. With a pro driver behind the wheel and almost 70 competitors in front of them, the black sheep of this year’s One Lap of America quickly got to work eating up the competition. Here are 10 cars that Stanton and his Swagger Wagon spanked, as Toyota reshapes our view of what a minivan can do.