The laughs were no doubt still ringing in his head as Tim Lilley, owner and builder of this one-of-a-kind del Sol, fired up his project for the very first time. Months prior, he'd purchased the shell from Tim Carter, a friend who had crashed the car and removed the engine. Thinking out loud during the transaction, Lilley told those within earshot of his plan to completely rework the two-seater for a mid-ship, RWD conversion. He adds, "They laughed and said, 'Yeah, right!' The next day I was cutting the back out and sending pics to show them I wasn't kidding."
If you automatically conjured up thoughts of Top Fuel of Japan's RR del Sol (CR-X in Japan) from about 15 years ago, you're not alone. Powered by a 500hp turbo B-series, the mid-engine-converted RR sent shockwaves through a drag-centric Honda community that was drooling at the very thought (the car even graced the cover of Super Street in June '01!). Though that particular car never catapulted itself to the front of the import drag racing pecking order of that era, it was, and still is, a technological marvel. A handful of homemade versions have surfaced over the years, but few match the quality and craftsmanship that Lilley has achieved.
Once he transported the shell home, Lilley spent every free moment he had tending to the intricate process of completely altering the intentions of Honda's engineers in order to create something truly one-off. He recalls, "I had a K20 to use as a mock-up motor. It stayed in the car to get all the wiring and fabrication done. I had it all done, up and running in about six months." The first and most obvious challenge is hanging the engine over the rear wheels. For this, Lilley had to design custom engine mounts. Once the engine sat properly, the transmission, in this case a K-series unit with PPG 1st and 2nd straight-cut gears, had to be situated with proper axle geometry in mind. Custom mounts were again required and upon completion, placed the Insane Shafts axles at the right angle to make this all work.
To increase the complexity of an already daunting task, Lilley chose to boost the K24 using a custom exhaust manifold with a Garrett GT35R and Tial wastegate and blow-off valve combo. Inside the bottom end of the 2.4L you'll find 10.5:1 Wiseco slugs and Blueprint/Eagle rods, while Supertech valvesprings and retainers secure the top end. ID1000cc injectors and a Walbro fuel pump help light the fire, and the entire orchestra is directed by Hondata's K-Pro with boost solenoid. The combination of parts and boost equates to more than 500 hp at the rear wheels, while a liquid-to-air intercooler with 3-inch piping helps to keep temperatures in check. It sounds like quite a bit to stuff into a non-existent engine compartment, but the finished product is shockingly well thought out. Organized and concise, every component has its own path, resulting in a space that looks much bigger than it actually is.
Moving the engine and its components to the belly of a FWD car's anatomy required relocating the factory fuel tank. And since there was some vacant property available under the hood of the newly converted Sol, Lilley conducted a relocation of sorts not only in the name of packaging, but to help achieve a favorable front-to-rear balance as well. Not surprisingly, the space swap makes for some interesting reactions from those not familiar with the build. He adds, "I remember the first couple of times I took it to car meets out of town. People would ask what's under the hood and friends were like, 'Yeah, show them under your hood.' People were shocked to see what I had done." From what we understand, people are also shocked at the car's performance during impromptu meetings on the road-especially those with modified, high-horsepower Corvettes...allegedly.
As wild as the engine and its abundance of power appear to be, the exterior of the del Sol is the polar opposite. A fresh coat of white paint and aftermarket headlights are the only noticeable changes. No carbon-fiber accents, massive rear wing, or 5-figure Japanese aero. Even the wheels, which most would expect to be high-dollar, JDM rarities, are quite the opposite. The intent of Lilley's creation was never to be thrown into that group but rather to step away from the norm entirely. Clean and tidy with no overt clues as to what's going on behind the driver's head, other than the mysterious inlet bulge that now resides where the gas filler cover once was.
Setting out to completely re-engineer Honda's FWD two-seater and finding absolute success in the end is a feat in and of itself. To do it all in a mere six months is completely unheard of. However, don't think that just because he reached his initial goal, Tim Lilley is anywhere near being finished. "I'm planning to turn up the boost and tune on race gas here soon. I think the car will go 9s in the quarter-mile. That's my goal anyway."