2003 Hyundai Tiburon GT V6

What does a 25-year-old do to treat a premature mid-life crisis?  He buys a sporty red car.  Sure, I would prefer a Lamborghini Murcielago or even a modest Porsche 911 Twin Turbo, but I'm going to need a lot more disposable income.  So I settled.

But not by much.

$20k flat buys the top-of-the-line 2.7L V6 with 6-speed transmission, leather interior, sunroof (don't call it a moonroof unless you live at one of the poles), 17" alloy wheels with 215/45 low-profile Michelin Pilot Sports, sport-tuned suspension with MacPherson struts, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, and styling in spades.  They back it up with a 10yr / 100,000 mile powertrain and 5yr / 60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

The 2003 Tiburon is a beautiful car.  Hyundai did an amazing job with the body style.  A clean Tiburon with a coat of wax just commands attention.  Obviously, it's nowhere near the performance caliber of the aforementioned supercars, but it gets just as many crumpled-forehead stares.  I get a kick out of people craning their necks at it when I go by.  Others follow it with their eyes as they return to their car in the parking lot.  And better still, some veer off course, walk up to it, look in the window, walk around to the back and then to the front, and finally give a puzzled look to their partner.

I'm very happy with the car.  In the two years I've owned it, the only issues I've had are a bad door lock motor and a bad window motor.  Altogether not too bad for a first production year car.  But the best part is, even after two years, I still enjoy climbing behind the wheel.  Before getting the Tiburon, I could not have cared less about cars.

This page goes over some of the modifications I've done to the car.  Next on the list is a catback exhaust to free up a few more horsepower.

All photos are clickable for a higher resolution version.

Front View (1280x960, 536kB).  Clear corners, red bezels, silver flasher bulbs, Tuscani emblem, and mesh grille.  See ItaliaTib2k3's DIY for how to open up the headlights to do the clear corners and paint the bezels.  If you're feeling particularly adventurous, install angel eyes while you're in there.  You don't want to have to open them up again.

Back View.  Not much here except the short antenna and Tuscani emblem.  I've since painted the amber part of the tail lights red.  Check out Indafastln's DIY.  It turned out better than my expectations, and it doesn't attract dust like the vinyl covers many people are using.  He doesn't mention it, but there is a barbed pressure fitting that retains the light assembly after the three nuts have been removed.  You can see the rubber boot from inside the car.  Insert a broad flat metal object such as a putty knife between the light assembly and body and pull straight out.  Pull hard but do not pry against the body of the car or you may damage your paint.  And don't use a narrow object or you might crack the light housing.  Better safe than sorry.

Cold Air Intake (CAI) by Paul Haake (pahaake) from the Newtiburon forums.  Replaces the circuitous stock air box and piping, and adds a dyno-proven 14-16whp.  The butt dyno agrees.  The best performance mod both in terms of cost and effort to install...a must-have.  Gives a great sound from the throttle body with the gas pushed to the floor; it sounds down-right pissed off.  I don't believe Paul is making them anymore, but you can achieve the same kind of performance gains from other aftermarket CAI's.  I've converted a copy of Paul's installation instructions to PDF format since the installation steps are pretty universal, and his online copy has been known to go up and down.

Clutch Delay Valve RemovalRead about it here.  Makes shifting smoother and improves the feel of the clutch.  Just see the writeup for a description and you'll understand.  A very worthwhile modification for anyone with a manual Tiburon.

Electroluminescent GillsHere's how to do it.  Soft accent lighting behind the side gills.  Tasteful without being over-the-top.  This is a work in progress but the writeup is largely complete.  I'll upload pictures of the finished installation and perhaps expand a little as soon as it is finished.

Painted Brake CalipersHere's how to do it.  I used Plasti-Kote high-temperature caliper spray paint.  A lot of people swear by the more expensive epoxy paints such as G2.  I've read that I would soon regret using the "cheap" paint, but it is holding up great after 1½ years.  As with any paint job, surface preparation is key.

Interior Paint Job.  What a PITA.  I spent all of a weekend on this number, but it really helps break up the drab, all-black factory interior.  Definitely worth the effort.  Big thanks to Johns03Tib's DIY.  I may go back and do a few more pieces such as the tray in front of the shifter, the vents on the front of the dash, and the rear speaker grilles.  From what everyone says, it will be easier to install headers than paint the dash vents.

Wheel Hubs.  It's considered normal and most cars do it, but I got sick and tired of seeing the rust build up on the wheel hubs.  Sanding, naval jelly, more sanding, and rust-resistant paint took care of it.

Factory SubwooferRead about it.  Major kudos to Quitlife, Sick Shift, and many other bright individuals from the Newtiburon forums for finding and sharing a solution to the factory subwoofer's poor performance.  The culprit?  The subwoofer is wired in such a manner that puts it in opposite acoustical phase to the rest of the loudspeakers.  Reversing its polarity makes a remarkable improvement.  I thought it was simply another lackluster factory sub and would never have dreamed to do this.  A very small percentage have expressed that it made no difference for them or made it worse.  If the only evidence you have of a subwoofer being installed in your Tiburon is its presence each time you open the trunk, you owe it to yourself to try this quick and easy modification.

HID'sRead about it.  FAQ that answers some common questions about high intensity discharge (HID) headlights.  Improve your field of vision at night, and give your car the look of more expensive makes such as BMW and Lexus.  See also how to install an HID conversion kit into the Hyundai Tiburon.


DIY Links  (those not referenced with the mods above)

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Written by Jason M. Neal - Revised May 14, 2006
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