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Kakimoto Racing NSX - Legendary Status

The story behind a world-famous JDM Honda

Tatsu Tsuchida
Jan 27, 2015
Photographer: Christopher Jue

Japan is a place that is struggling with the elderly population. The declining birthrate is an indication that there aren't enough young people around to replenish the old. In fact, when I lived in Osaka City between 2006-2008, there were attractive tax incentives in place to have children! The declining population has an impact on many levels of Japanese society, including its industry. For example, finding the "Made in Japan" stamp on products is much harder to find than decades ago. The race to pass skills down to the next generation is constantly in the subconscious of the Japanese psyche.

1990 honda NSX kakimoto racing diffuser 02 Photo 2/12   |   Kakimoto Racing NSX is powered by a 401.6whp naturally aspirated C30A!

If you take into account this perspective and way of life, then you'll realize the Kakimoto Racing Honda NSX in here is a triumph of such complexities. As if by decree of a deity, old man Yoshiyuki Kakimoto, a man with a god-like storied racing legacy, set out to challenge his young staff. Like many of his generation, Kakimoto knew his days of working were limited, and that naming a successor was eminent.

2018 Acura NSX
$156,000 Base Model (MSRP) 21/22 MPG Fuel Economy
1990 honda NSX MOMO steering wheel 03 Photo 3/12   |   Kakimoto Racing NSX - Legendary Status

Norio Onishi and the young staffers at Kakimoto responded with this NSX. In a moment of "look, ma, no hands!" a smile comes to Onishi's face when he talks about just how far he and the other teammates had come with this NA1. Old-man Kakimoto wasn't going to hold their hands—victory or defeat was to be their own doing.

1990 honda NSX custom ITB carbon housing 08 Photo 4/12   |   Custom carbon housing…

The aura of pride is especially felt in Onishi's explanation of the vehicle, in particular the front end. Before work even began on the car, we learned this project was picked up after a terrible front-end collision. Norio smiles at me, reaches to unlatch the hood and puffs his chest as he lifts the hood. I'm quickly in awe of a tube-frame front end that integrates to the rollcage. He goes on to tell me that they used the knuckles from an S15 Silvia and developed one-off lower control arms, tie-rod ends and adjustable upper shock mounts. Further chassis development included the magnificent rollcage that had to be riveted onto the A- and B-pillars due to welding restrictions—the rollcage being DOM steel and the chassis being aluminum.

1990 honda NSX individual throttle bodies 09 Photo 5/12   |   …to hide those beautiful ITBs!

Onishi continues to explain the other go-fast bits, which are standard issue on a build of this caliber. But what sets the NSX apart is the attention to detail, the craftsmanship and the competence of execution. Take for instance the engine... Many shops would have outsourced the job, but Onishi and team really wanted to show Mr. Kakimoto what they were capable of. Ripping into the internals, the bore was increased from 90 to 92mm, high-compression 13:1 forged aluminum pistons and an open deck spacer were installed before the balanced and blueprinted block was fitted with a C32B gasket and torqued down. As for the breathability, the head was fitted with aggressive Toda VTEC Killer cams. OEM intake valves were kept while larger C32B exhaust valves were installed. The team also ported the head and port-matched the individual throttle bodies. Keeping consistent with the increased breathability, they also shortened the valve guides so they wouldn't protrude into the ports.

1990 honda NSX rollcage 04 Photo 6/12   |   Kakimoto Racing NSX - Legendary Status

Rotating bits, including adjustable cams, were kept in check via a timing belt—both by Toda. Other external engine upgrades include a carbon intake box that houses the six aforementioned 48mm ITBs—also fabricated in-house. Fuel delivery was accomplished via 370cc injectors and two pumps—a Nissan Skyline R34 in-tank pump and NISMO R33 in-line.

1990 honda NSX ARC radiator 05 Photo 7/12   |   Kakimoto Racing NSX - Legendary Status

If you follow the JDM scene, then you know Kakimoto's claim to fame is its exhaust systems. That being said, the rollcage, tube frame and flawless bending of metal are good examples of an extension of that skill set. But back to the exhaust, the headers resemble octopus tentacles and are beautiful works of art (Tako-ashi as the Japanese call it). It gives us the feeling of staring at an old pipe organ in a grand European Cathedral. Such instrumental design continues the short distance back (mid-engine car, remember?) to the exit pipes.

1990 honda NSX kakimoto racing diffuser 07 Photo 8/12   |   Kakimoto Racing NSX - Legendary Status

Link: 642hp Acura NSX - Pikes Peak Powered

For a naturally aspirated powerplant, this NSX boasts impressive power; 276.8 lb-ft of torque and 401.6whp are liberated via a NA2 six-speed manual, which is transferred via an Exedy clutch. Forged gears are mated to an ATS 4.643 final drive before axle shafts spin the hubs where the Volk CE28Ns reside. Underneath those 18-inch bronze beauties are Brembo six- and four-pot rears with race-ready Performance Friction pads, controlled by AP Racing master cylinder/pedals and Tilton brake bias control—in the unlikely event the car gets twitchy, a panic brake is necessary. But the real reason such large brakes and the sticky Yokohamas exist is the ability to stop late into a corner and carry high speeds exiting.

1990 honda NSX volk CE28N wheel 12 Photo 9/12   |   1990 Honda NSX Volk CE28N Wheel 12

Power and speed are no good if you can't control and monitor the heat. To dissipate heat, the Kakimoto team fabricated a one-off oil pan and a dry-sump system, which utilizes a Setrab 25-fin oil cooler. A thick ARC radiator backed by SPAL high-performance fans were also installed. The team went to some lengths to create a custom differential and transmission cooler.

Quick tangent: Some may not know this, but a dry-sump system was developed in war planes so that under large loads, such as in aerobatic flying, the engine isn't starved of oil. Now while the boys at Kakimoto aren't building a Zero fighter, the system does add power by reducing oil windage and protect against oil starvation in high corner loads.

1990 honda NSX kakimoto racing diffuser 11 Photo 10/12   |   1990 Honda NSX Kakimoto Racing Diffuser 11

Onishi concludes by bragging about the suspension. Nissan S-chassis coilovers are used up front, while the rear uses a similar kit to the one engineered by their shop—all with custom spring rates, of course.

Onishi and the rest of the staff at Kakimoto Racing have done the old man proud. Seems the Kakimoto legacy will live on!

1990 honda NSX front end tube frame 06 Photo 11/12   |   Front-end tube frame is integrated into rollcage. It’s a stiffy!
1990 honda NSX kakimoto racing side skirts 10 Photo 12/12   |   1990 Honda NSX Kakimoto Racing Side Skirts 10
By Tatsu Tsuchida
4 Articles
Kakimoto Racing NSX - Legendary Status
Tuning Menu
Owner: Yoshiyuki Kakimoto
Hometown: City of Sakai, Osaka, Japan
Occupation: Seven-speed single-clutch automatic transmission
Power: 401.6whp; 276.8 lb-ft of torque
Engine: C30A bored to 92mm; Kakimoto Racing ported and polished head, engine mounts, aluminum crank pulley, 48mm ITBs in carbon housing, header, exhaust, semi-dry sump-based oil pan, high-tension valve springs, 13:1 forged aluminum pistons, fuel rail, differential/transmission cooler; Toda Racing 295? intake with 12.5mm lift, 285? exhaust with 12mm lift cams, cam gears, timing belt; C32B exhaust valves and head gasket; modified valve guides; NISMO R33 fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator; Nissan R34 wet pump; 370cc injectors; NGK Race plugs; Setrab oil cooler; ARC radiator; SPAL cooling fans
Drivetrain NA2 six-speed manual transmission with ATS differential, limited-slip and 4.643 final drive; Exedy lightened flywheel and twin metallic clutch
Engine Management: MoTeC standalone
Footwork & Chassis: Kakimoto Racing proprietary coilovers with Eibach and Hyperco springs, control arms, upper mounts, trailing arms, camber plates, brake rotor hats, front tube-frame-based suspension utilizing S-chassis components; AP Racing air jacks
Brakes: six-piston front, four-piston Brembo brakes; Tilton brake bias selector; AP Racing pedal/master cylinder kit; Performance Friction pads
Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5" front, 18x10.5" rear Volk Racing CE28N wheels; 245/40R18 front, 295/35R18 rear Yokohama AD050 tires
Exterior: Kakimoto Racing diffusers, canards, side skirts, splitters, widebody fenders and wing mounts; OE Porsche carbon-fiber rear wing
Interior: front-tube frame chassis integrated into rollcage; Recaro seat; MOMO steering wheel; Defi and Auto Meter gauges

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