My addiction to YouTube flared up in a pretty big way in the spring of 2015. I had absolutely no desire to start my own channel back then, and I was perfectly happy sitting in front of my computer binge-watching mindless content for hours on end (when I should have been working instead).
It was right around that time that I discovered the TJ Hunt BRZ, and it was the combination of that kid and that car ignited an entrepreneurial spirit in me like nothing had in the past. If that goofy kid could create a successful YouTube channel about his life and his car, gosh dang it I could do it too. The DriveAndReview YouTube Channel was born.
I quickly realized how hard it was to create informative and entertaining automotive content for YouTube (I even wrote a post describing what it takes to be an automotive YouTuber), and I eventually reverted back to binge-watching TJ as he transformed his completely stock 2013 Subaru BRZ into the JDM beast of a show car that it is today. I can’t say that I completely agree with the way he built that car (it’s far too “ricer” and hacked together for my tastes), but it was a fascinating build to watch.
The history of the TJ Hunt BRZ
TJ’s first video about his BRZ was posted too his YouTube channel on March 13th, 2014. It was basically a quick introduction that didn’t go into very much detail, but we learned that it was a brand new purchase which completely replaced the BMW he had before. As a matter of fact, there had been very little automotive content posted to his channel prior to this. Here’s the BRZ introduction video, if you’re curious to see how it all started:
TJ has mentioned many times in the past that he had never been much of a car guy until he was in high school, so this BRZ represents the very beginnings of what has turned into a massive passion for cars. Anyway, it was in this video that he mentioned it was the reviews made by “subaruwrxfan” (now Matt Maran Motoring) that inspired him to buy the BRZ.
It should also be noted that TJ had very little experience with manual transmissions before owning this car, and you’ll notice him missing many shifts in videos he posted about this time.
The first mods
TJ Hunt personified the typical “ricer” mentality in the first few months of owning the BRZ. Like I said, he wasn’t into modifying cars up until this point, so the first mods were mostly cosmetic. Sticker-bombing the front bumper was the first idea he had, and not surprisingly, it wasn’t received well by his audience when he announced it in the following video:
An exhaust system (Invidia N1) was the first true modification, which came a few weeks after the sticker bomb idea. It was interesting to note that the installation video for this exhaust marked the first time that he ever did an automotive “how to” video. TJ Hunt fans of today will know how exactly much of an important turning point that was for his channel. He built his entire empire around filming these types of install videos, and it all started with his completely stock 2013 Subaru BRZ.
TJ Hunt has never been known for being smooth and suave on video, so it’s fun to look back and to see him struggling to make this first how-to video in the cramped confines of his buddy Calvin‘s garage. And just for the record, I’m not knocking TJ for being clumsy on camera, because we all know how much of a nerdy goofball I am in my videos. I’m hardly one to talk!
Struggling to break away from the ricer mentality
The next batch of mods to the BRZ were the very cheap “do it yourself” (DYI) kind. He Plasti-Dipped his stock wheels shortly after the the exhaust was installed, followed shortly thereafter by tinting his tail lights and wrapping the roof. Performance mods were definitely not his priority at that time, which was probably more about his inexperience working on cars than money.
On August 28 2014, he put a new set of really nice looking Ambit RS18 wheels on the car – which was really the first significant visual mod that started the whole chain of events that led to the insane build of this car. For those of you who are curious about the technical specs of those first wheels, they were 18×9.5 with a 38mm offset (same size on all four corners). He then put 235/40R Nitto INVO’s on them to complete the look. FYI, the 38mm offset is what you need to get that super-cool flush look on your BRZ.
Gradually attempting more complex modifications
The next several years were good for both TJ and his BRZ. His YouTube channel was experiencing tremendous growth as he continued making videos of he and his friends modifying the BRZ, and it wasn’t long before he was attempting more complex modifications such as suspension installs and the maintenance required with living with a supercharged car.
No, TJ didn’t attempt the supercharger install himself. That was something he publicly admitted that he wasn’t ready to try himself, so he let Edelbrock take care of it (which was likely a sponsored deal with TJ).
It was November 3rd 2014 when he posted his first thoughts about how the BRZ responded to boost, and it was easy to see the excitement in his face once he realized what was possible with this car.
A flex-fuel kit (allowing the ability to run E-85 came shortly theresafter. And If you’re curious, here’s a video he posted on January 19, 2015 which outlines all of the mods he had done to the BRZ up until this point:
The moment where the BRZ build became serious
It was March 2015 when TJ crossed over 30,000 miles in Miley (the odd nickname he chose for his BRZ). It had been a relatively mild build up to this point with nothing but bolt-ons and stickers, but it wasn’t difficult to notice that he was he was getting anxious to take the BRZ build to the next level. He may not have had the time or money to act on that ambition (the fact that this was his daily driver didn’t help either), but he was itching to do something big with this car. His second mod list video was posted on May 6, 2015:
The minor modifications went on over the next few months (nothing big had happened yet), and he posted yet another BRZ mod list update:
It wasn’t until May 26th 2016 when TJ decided to wrap the BRZ red, which was the first major visual modification he made to the car since he bought it. I personally remember this as being a very big deal, because whenever someone said “TJ Hunt BRZ”, I (and many other people who commented on his videos) thought of a white car. Any other color seemed completely wrong.
This wrap was the turning point for the BRZ. No longer was it a simple project car that he added bolt-ons to whenever he had the time or money. His channel was growing fast, and suddenly he had the money to mod. Big time.
Wide body kits and rolled fenders. RIP BRZ.
The day TJ posted the video of him and Calvin trying to figure out how to attach hideous-looking wide body fenders to the front of his BRZ was the day I stopped watching every upload. I didn’t agree at all with the direction he was taking on this car, as it seemed to me that he was doing mods just for the sake of doing mods.
As far as I was concerned, it was the BRZ which helped him to grow that channel, and to see him hacking it up with seemingly no concern for what it represented rubbed me the wrong way. I know. It’s just a car. But it’s not too far fetched to think that car guys get attached to the vehicles that had even a small part in their lives. Heck, I don’t even know TJ personally and I’ve never even seen this car in real life – but it was a part of my daily YouTube routine and I was crushed to see what he was doing to it.
The TJ Hunt BRZ mod list as of early 2018:
As TJs channel grew and he purchased more project cars, it became difficult to keep up with its progress. To be honest there wasn’t much progress being made to it at all after he purchased the 350Z (as a drift build) and then the junkyard RX-7 after. As best as I can find, here’s the latest mod list for his mighty BRZ (be sure to check out TJ’s Wheelwell page for the latest information):
Wheels & Tires
- Ambit RS18 Wheels (38mm offset)
- Nitto Invo’s Tires
- OEM Audio + Reference kit Sub + speakers
- Edelbrock E-Force Supercharger
- Delicious Tuning Stage 2 Tune Tune
- Delicious Tuning E85 Flex Fuel module
- Berk Front Pipe Front pipe
- Invidia N1 Catback Exhaust
- Tomei Header UEL Header
- 3M Vinyl Gloss Black Roof Wrap
- SD Tint Window Tint 4% Tint
- Flossy Heavy weight Shift Knob
- Tom’s Red Light Tail lights
An all new livery for 2019
In March of 2019 (just as he was getting started on his Mustang build), TJ announced that he was going on tour. Long story short, he partnered up with Meguiar’s to take his BRZ on tour to a handful of locations all across the US, and before doing so, the BRZ was given an all new wrap – which was essentially an FD-style livery. With Meguiar’s branding of course…
Personally, I think it looks fantastic and it fits the car perfectly. And if I’m being completely honest, this is probably the only mod that TJ has done to his BRZ that I was actually excited about after seeing it for the first time. Huge props to TJ, Meguiar’s, Jon Sibal (the guy who designed it).
TJ Hunt’s BRZ has lived a very hard (but useful) life
As much as I disagree with the way TJ cut and hacked into his BRZ over the years, I realize that it was an amazing investment that helped to propel him and his YouTube channel into the stratosphere. I’m not exactly sure what it was about TJ that drew me into his content, but I do know that at least part of it was that it felt like I was looking into a window of my past. He reminds me a lot of how I used to be at that age, which is definitely something that kept me coming back.
Maybe TJ is a lot smarter than I’m giving him credit for. Maybe he knew that hacking up his BRZ was what he needed to do in order to take his YouTube channel to the next level. Maybe he knew that his audience was eating that content up and were begging for more. I don’t know.
It’s really easy for me to sit here from the safety of the internet and be a critic. He’s certainly become far more successful than I’ll ever be, and for that I have to give him massive amounts of respect. I just which he would have had a touch more respect for the car that launched him to success. He might not understand that right now being so young and inexperienced in life, but I’m willing to bet anything he’ll grow even more and more attached to his BRZ as the years go on…