It was a problematic turbo kit that caused an untimely death for the stock engine in his MR2 Spyder. None of us would have blamed Mike Ngo for packing up shop and moving on, but instead his remedy for the situation was to swap in a 2ZZ-GE engine out of a late model Celica. He then turbocharged his car after being accepted into the second American Touge challenge, (an event held earlier this year by Best Motoring Japan, which also placed Japanese D1 driver, Yasuyuki Kazama into the driver's seat for evaluation on a closed-road circuit). Not long after American Touge 2 passed, Mike sold the turbo kit and engine. He had another plan of action he was ready to take, and its name begins with K--that is, K for K20.
"I was ultimately tired of my cars running like sh--," says Mike. "Neither of my [Toyota] engines or the turbo kits I used ever ran right, so I looked to Half Way out of Japan for inspiration." Half Way--if you didn't know--debuted a pair of MR2 Spyders at this year's Tokyo Auto Salon that, for just $35K, would get you a turn-key deal of a K20 swap, body kit and suspension. But seeing how it would be difficult to just ship his car over to Japan, Mike had to find a more economical way of making the K20 work--after all, this particular swap has proven successful (not to mention reliable) in many Hondas, so why couldn't it work here?
Mike had the car shipped to R Crew, located in the San Francisco Bay Area of California where they got the first K20-powered MR2 Spyder in the US up and running. The engine dropped in perfectly of course, after fabricating engine mounts that weren't far off from the factory mounting points. R Crew also figured out how to use a complete factory Integra Type R drivetrain by adding a Hasport transmission mount, whereas the Half Way conversion uses a custom bell-housing to get it working.
Since the K20 sees great support from the aftermarket, performance wouldn't be a problem. So R Crew fabricated its own custom three-inch intake, header and exhaust, but also installed a Walbro fuel pump and a Hondata intake manifold gasket. The Spyder also benefits from the limited slip differential included in the transmission from factory, but has a new clutch from ACT that is perfect for road racing. Church Automotive tuned a Hondata K-Pro ECU to allow the K20 to make 238hp at 168lb-ft; Mike estimates it's good for low to mid-12s on a drag strip.
With most of his money spent on the engine conversion, Mike, as a struggling student, had little else to splurge, but took what he had and made it work. To the chassis, he added a simple BRS front lip along with TRD side skirts and a rear lip. A front emblem from a first-generation MR2 was tagged to the front bumper and a JDM hard top gives the Spyder a much tougher look. Mike also installed a set of FLT-A2 coilovers from JIC, but added TRD strut bars, TTE sway bars and Energy Suspension bushings before West End Alignment corner-balanced the body for track racing. A set of black 15x7 and 16x8, uh, Black Racing Pro N1 wheels were used with Hankook R82 tires and have obviously served Mike's Spyder well, considering Kazama gave him a final score of 100 at the touge championship.
In a side by side comparison, Mike says the difference "is amazing. There's so much more power coming out of a K20 stock than the 2ZZ, even when the 2ZZ was turbocharged. My roommate drives a RSX Type S, but because this is rear-wheel drive, it just blows his car away. It's deceptively fast. I can hang with STis and Evos without having to build a car that's been done a thousand times over." And while Mike's Spyder did place extremely well at American Touge, he says that a naturally-aspirated RWD class just isn't as hyped as the other classes. He hopes that with more power, he'll be able to change everyone's minds. Until then, Mike's completing an internship for school, which will keep him far from home for nearly six months. When we asked who would be driving it while he was away, he said, "Just my mom. It's going to sit in the garage, but she's going to turn it on once a week for me." You better check the mileage when you return, Mike, as this Spyder may even be too tempting for mom to resist.
OWNER Mike Ngo
POWER 238hp at 168lb-ft
UNDER THE HOOD '04 Honda Integra Type R K20, installed by R Crew; Hondata intake manifold gasket; Walbro fuel pump; R Crew intake, header and exhaust; Borla muffler
DRIVETRAIN '04 Honda Integra Type R transmission with factory LSD; custom R Crew axles and shifter adapter; B&M shifter; ACT XTSS clutch; Hasport transmission mount
BRAINS Hondata K-Pro tuned by Church Automotive
STIFF STUFF JIC Magic FLT-A2 coilovers; TTE sway bars; TRD strut bars; Energy Suspension bushings; Corky skid plate; corner balancing by West End Alignment
ROLLERS 15x7 and 16x8 Black Racing Pro N1 wheels; Hankook R82 205/50R15 and 225/45R16 tires
OUTSIDE BRS front lip; TRD side skirts and rear lip; first-gen MR2 emblem; JDM hard top
ICE Sony M-630 head unit