The Honda Fit outsold the Toyota Corolla in Japan last year to take the coveted "Best-Selling Car" title. Thanks to Spoon Sports, the Fit is also a candidate for "Cheapest and Most Likely to Kick Ass in a Japanese Enduro" crown. Best Motoring International's Taro Koki queries Spoon prez Ichishima-san.
Spoon president Tatsuru Ichishima is actually the kind of the guy who throws you off guard whenever you think you understand him. It scares me to imagine what it's like for non-Japanese-speaking folks to even have conversations with him. It's not rare for me to walk out of meetings with him and have no idea what went on for the last 90 minutes. And I'm fluent in Japanese!
I actually think it's one of his ploys to cover up his image in a mysterious cape so you never know what's really going on inside Spoon. Then again, how dull would Spoon be if everything were laid out in front of us for all to see?
The whole idea of Spoon fixing up the Honda Fit (aka the Honda Jazz in certain areas of the world) was another one of those "Huh?" things that Ichishima-san threw at me from way out there. The Spoon Sports I know doesn't modify grocery-getters. It mods up real racers like the Type-R and S2000. It's Spoon, one of the baddest, hardcore Honda tuners in Japan! Its yellow/blue Civics eat Toyota MR-Ss for breakfast. Its S2Ks rule the Super Taikyu Series. What's the deal? Why the Fit? Only one way to find out.
Honda Tuning: Why customize the Fit?
Tatsuru Ichishima: Mass production models made by car manufacturers are largely divided into two types; the first type being the multi-cylinder, high-emissions, high power value-added automobile, and the latter being the environment-friendly, low-emission, fuel-efficient compact car. Spoon believes the Fit has high potential in becoming a sports car that can contend in endurance races. What Spoon does best is take mass production compact cars and turn them into touring car racers. In this case, we were able to prepare a five-speed manual transmission, new limited slip and a suspension system in a short period of time to make this happen.
HT: What kind of performance potential does this car have?
TI: Unlimited potential! First of all, the base car comes very cheap, so it makes it relatively easy for shops, tuners and racing fans to compete and race with this car. The tires and wheels are small, so they're easy to replace cheaply. Being small and light is an advantage when racing. For example, stripping a 55-pound A/C unit from a Fit that only weighs a ton will award more positive results than just doing the same to a heavy NSX. The Fit is a fun and cheap car to tune. HT: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the factory Fit?
TI: The Fit is very stable and extremely easy to control. This makes it simple for us to tune. The weakness would be its lack of power. But a simple engine swap could solve that problem.
HT: Will the Fit become one of Honda's best-loved cult cars like the CRX?
TI: I believe so. It won't be hard not to recognize the raw potential of the car. It will also become the ultimate poor man's racer.
HT: What was the Fit's stock horsepower and what is it now after the Spoon upgrades?
TI: The stock 1500cc engine has 110 hp. We're still testing now, but we have achieved 125 hp already.
HT: How has this car performed in testing? What exceeded expectations?
TI: At Motegi circuit last weekend, our Fit ran for three hours on 40 liters of gasoline and finished with the same time as a stock NSX. It wasn't necessary to replace any parts after the race. [It] proved its high endurance capabilities. The secret to the success is its great mileage and modest tire wear. We're very satisfied with the results. Our next scheduled race is a seven-hour endurance race at Motegi again. We hope to win this one.
HT: What are the Fit's limitations and what can be done to improve on them?
TI: Basically, modifying the Fit and the Civic are the same. We know that smaller and lighter cars are faster. The only limitation the Fit has is power, so I would like to install a K-type 220-hp engine and see how that goes.
HT: Do you think a car like the Fit would sell in the States?
TI: I don't know if the Fit would sell in the States.
HT: Why did this car outsell the Toyota Corolla? Why was it Japan's most popular compact car last year?
TI: I'm not so sure why it was Japan's most popular compact car and frankly, Spoon is not concerned about the competition with the Corolla. Where did all those sales numbers come from anyway? (The Asahi News, actually. -DF)
Wheel: Spoon 388.6, 5x15-inch
Tire: Yokohama/ADVAN 185/50-15
Suspension: Spoon dampers
Engine: 1.5-liter VTEC L15A