2010 Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenge
The Big Boys
Growing up subscribing to great magazines like Sport Compact Car religiously, I've read my fair share of street and specialty car shootouts and challenges. Always interesting, always entertaining, these modern day gladiator games would corral all types of combatants to step inside a competitive realm which, not surprisingly, was often dominated by supercars. Were they "street" cars? Sure. Were they realistic to the majority of the people who would be reading the story? Probably not. Let's be honest, not many people can afford to purchase a twin-turbo Supra, then spend 50-80 grand turning it into a world-beater. Even fewer have the means to pick up a Skyline and fit it with every high-end gadget and go-fast power mod ever created for the legendary flagship. Still, there is that small group of the population who can afford these exotic luxuries, and do have the ability to build them beyond comprehension. For myself, as I read about the outcome and the participant's experience, I was enthralled by the level of competition and every bit of intensity that the writer threw at me. I can recall sitting in my $7,000 (at the time) CRX thinking how cool it would be to compete, but quickly realizing that a B series CRX, though fast for its time, wouldn't stand a chance against that high dollar Supra, and dream-crushing Skyline.
Where Da Balla's At?
In 2009, Castrol put together an awesome street car challenge that pitted some of the most well known magazines in the industry against one another. It was during this time that I had stepped into the role of head editor, and along with being thrown into learning the inner workings of the magazine, I had to sort through a ton of applications for the Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenge. My job was to find a car that would compete for Honda Tuning. More important than trying to take down the top competitor at any cost, the car needed to represent the magazine with a build that any of our readers could take on. Once announced, I received some flack, especially from some well known forum monkeys that essentially contribute nothing to our community, but rather do their best to tear it down. Their gripe; why would we use a privateer Civic to compete, rather than a company-built and backed supercar like the NSX? We knew going into this that we'd face plenty of all-wheel drive and turbo power. Why not start off with a break-the-bank "big daddy" build from Honda's lineup? The answer is pretty simple: Honda Tuning has never been about that. This magazine, this community, this entire movement has always been geared more toward holding its own through efficiency, rather than buckets of money. Sure, we love to feature the occasional baller build, like the incredible NSX cover car that graces this month's cover, but for most of us, it's but a fantasy car. A $2,000 Civic CX with a K swap and plenty of suspension tuning managed a third place finish last year against some very stiff competition. There's no question we were expected to finish last, or close to it, especially with less than 300hp, and no power adders on tap. However, we muscled our way through and made a showing that every Honda owner should be proud of.
This year we were hoping to find an '06-'09 Si sedan to send into battle. Though we did receive quite a few four-door submissions, most were too mild for the challenge, or the owners couldn't commit to the necessary series of challenges. It came as no surprise that plenty of S2000 owners submitted their cars to represent Honda Tuning, and why not? The blossoming S2K community has never been stronger, with the slick roadster's sticker price falling steadily as it recently reached its tenth birthday. An affordable, reasonably lightweight chassis with rear wheel drive and nimble handling seemed like the perfect fit for 2010's challenge.
Ken Chitwood's 2006 AP2 is a true street car. That doesn't mean that he crosses his fingers and holds his breath every time he turns the ignition key, praying that he can limp the car down the street to his local 7-11 and, by the grace of God, tip-toe it back to his garage right after. No, Ken's car is what you would call a daily driver. It's not a fire-breathing, turbo-powered beast that rocks the dyno into submission. It's not a stripped-down skeleton of a chassis with no carpet or panels. It doesn't have an F1-level suspension setup that require he take out a second and third mortgage on his home. What it does have is a carefully chosen group of parts that equate to a very well balanced machine. Aero enhancements and slight power upgrades highlight the front engine, rear wheel drive convertible's notoriously stout handling characteristics. So in 2010, we find ourselves up against the same wall that towered overhead in 2009; a group of high performance killers itching to step on us as they make their way toward the top. With any luck we'll trip them up and make another strong showing in this year's Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenge. Stay tuned......