It's a week before the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) trade show in Las Vegas, Nev. Every year around this time we frantically prepare our project vehicles that will be displayed at the show. The manufacturers, too, are getting ready to unveil their latest creations. This year the biggest buzz is about the new Scion Bbx and the latest line of vehicles to be released by Toyota.

The Scion (pronounced sigh-on) Bbx is Toyota's latest Japanese-model car to hit stateside. The Bb, as it is affectionately known in Japan, has been available for several years overseas and has generated a cult-like following. There are Bb auto clubs, Bb tuners, Bb magazines and, of course, loads of aftermarket products for the choosing: body kits, coil-over systems, engine hop up and even forced induction kits. Scion hopes this fanfare will continue in the United States when the car is released. You can almost bet the aftermarket products available overseas will make it stateside.

Scion is notably courting the youth and performance enthusiast. With a buy-in price of about $15,000, the Bbx is extremely affordable. More and more car companies are finally recognizing the buying power of sport compact automotive enthusiasts. Scion hopes this fun-looking boxy vehicle can take on competitors like the new Honda Element and Mini Cooper crowd.

The car boasts major cargo and comfort room. Surprisingly roomy for a Japanese car, it's ready to roll on a long road trip. The Bbx is also loaded with cool, electronic control panel gadgets. You can't knock the DVD, CD and Mini Disc players with a rotating flat panel screen. The car also comes stock with smoked headlights, which give it a midnight stealth look. This isn't your mom's Astro van.

To assess the wants and needs of the automotive enthusiast market, Scion released five precious Bbx pre-production models to different U.S. performance groups to see what they could do. These five lucky souls were the first to take a stab at the potential of the Bbx. Scion is interested in both performance and exterior aesthetic upgrades for the Bbx, so it's a no-holds competition between these five Bbx guinea pigs. (Word on the street has it these five vehicles will compete against each other at the end-but you didn't hear it from us. Hush-hush, it's on the DL. If it does happen, however, Turbo will cover the event.)

Without a doubt, the Japanese-based aftermarket companies' U.S. divisions are ecstatic about the release of the Bbx. They are quickly trying to convert their Japanese-spec Bb products to get them ready for the U.S.-spec Bbx production vehicles. Hopefully, there will be a wide selection of performance products available to you as soon as the vehicles roll onto dealer lots. Turbo magazine will be sure to cover this new line of vehicles every step of the way, so stay posted, boys and girls. For more information on the Scion Bbx, check out www.scion.com.

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