When we visited the Los Angeles stop of the 2015 Wekfest tour, we expected top-notch cars and a few surprise builds that we had yet to see. And just like their previous, wildly successful events, Wekfest once again delivered. Grazing the waterpark field, we stumbled upon a pair of well-built, boosted S2000s that we just couldn't walk away from. The Arizona-bred duos' showstopping appearance, unique engine bays, and raw turbo power had us wanting to know more.
Revamping the Formula
Capitalizing on the stout heart of Honda's high-revving roadster
For years, the formula was almost too simple: a set of coilovers followed by a "carbon-something" intake, grumbling exhaust, and—when possible—a hardtop. It was all one needed to take the newly released Honda convertible to a highly respectable level. In fact, 15 years ago, just seeing a modified S2000 in person wasn't all that common.
That all changed as the years began to stack and the entry-level price for used models dropped significantly. It was enough to nudge window shoppers and daydreamers into parting out their Civic and Integra builds in order to pick up a rear-wheel-drive, two-seater of their own. A blossoming aftermarket almost guaranteed individualism with what seemed like endless aero pieces, performance goods, and suspension options that appeared almost weekly. However, a little more than a decade later, and the clones seemed to have multiplied by the dozens, leaving many to scratch their heads and wonder how to separate their build from the masses.
Josue Tovar, owner of this well-rounded, beautiful gray AP2, isn't at all interested in blending in with the masses. On the hunt for the right foundation to build on, any thoughts of a simple drop and entry-level bolt-on changes were never part of the plan. He adds, "I'd started looking around for vehicles that I could buy and checked out Craigslist. There I saw an S2000 for sale through a dealer. I went in, test drove it, and quickly realized that yes, this was the car I wanted to build!"
With the keys to his new project, Tovar had a vision in mind, and in order to see it play out, the factory fenders simply weren't going to cut it. Up front, a pair of J's Racing Type S fenders replaced the stock versions, and in the rear, J's over-fenders were added to house the 18x9.5" TE37SLs at all four corners. Relying on Buddy Club coilovers to dial in his ideal ride height, Tovar respected the tire-to-pavement relationship, and his 255-series Nitto contact patch is all the better for it. Add in a set of Eibach antiroll bars and you've got all the makings of a smile-inducing roadster, but this car is much more than just a few suspension changes and some additional girth.
Satisfied with the suspension and initial body treatments, Tovar ordered a Spoon Sports front bumper and spent some time getting all of the aftermarket aero pieces to play nice with one another. Once a proper fit was finally achieved, the car was taken to Slick Shot Custom Paint and Body where it was sprayed in a subtle Moon Rock Metallic. A Voltex Type-1 wing and diffuser were used to make up the rear, while a carbon hardtop overrules any suggestion of topless cruising under the unforgiving Arizona sun.
When it was time to address the power equation, Tovar looked beyond the lackluster percentages he'd gain with basic upgrades and instead reached for forced induction. Honda's stout F20C and F22C are well documented as ideal candidates for boost, even in completely stock trim. Knowing this, Tovar opted for a Full Race manifold and Borg Warner T4 twin-scroll EFR turbo that peeks through the front vent of his carbon hood, while the rear vent houses a pair of TiAL/Full Race wastegate exits. Hondata's plug-and-play FlashPro system oversees 1,000cc injectors. With proper tuning, the result is more than 460 whp—more than double the factory output!
Producing that kind of power on a stock F-series block isn't at all uncommon or considered overkill, but throwing those horses at a stock clutch certainly is. To help transfer the power, a Competition Clutch was sourced, and with all of the tuning help from Black Market Racing, Tovar's S2000 has no problem traveling city streets like any other car. In fact, the Los Angeles photo shoot for this feature was Tovar's second drive from Arizona to SoCal within weeks of each other, without issue.
Like any build that sees significant street time, Tovar's interior upgrades needed to remain user-friendly. Bride Vios seats keep him and his passenger planted during high-boosted adventures as he grips a J's Racing wheel and shift knob, surrounded by a Cusco rollcage. Additional Bride fabric was stretched over the center console and other interior bits for a more cohesive appearance.
Having purchased his S2000 with the intention of turning it into a full-blown project, Tovar was able to see his vision through to completion. He closes with this, "Everything went like a typical build goes...with plenty of part delays and long nights trying to get things to fit properly. But in the end, it was worth it, because the car turned out just like I had pictured it in my head." Clear vision indeed...
The Iconic F-Series
When Honda introduced the S2000 in '99, it amazed car enthusiasts far and wide. The venerable 2.0L (F20C) mill was a high-rpm lover's dream come true and what it lacked in mid-range torque, it more than made up for with its lofty redline and crispy peak power. Furthermore, it carried the highest specific power-per-unit volume of any mass-produced, naturally aspirated powerplant in existence up until that time. With an engine so well tuned right from the factory, finding additional power was incredibly difficult and basic bolt-on performance dollar-per-horsepower figures were tough to justify. Fortunately, the F-series engine's (F20C/F22C) stock internals are more than happy to operate with forced induction abuse. Today, bolt-on supercharger and turbo kit options abound for those who seek moderate or extreme power output for Honda's iconic roadster.
"My other car is an NSX..."
How do we know Tovar is a hard-core Honda head? His S2000 isn't the only Honda in his garage. His other baby is a '93 Acura NSX, which we featured last month. The red beauty is slammed on air-ride on a set of re-barreled Sprint Hart wheels. Hot damn!
That S2K, Tho!
From window shopper to trendsetting showstopper
One look at Tho Ly's '01 S2000 and the mental math skills begin kicking in almost immediately. Tally the high-end wheels, rare body pieces, and—as if to add to your mathematical frustration—the jaw-dropping engine bay, and it's clear that he put some serious dollars into his project. And anytime money is brought into the equation, especially for a young guy like Tho, assumptions are quick to follow.
The truth is, Tho didn't start his journey into the enthusiast circle with this car and he definitely didn't get a free ride with a blank check. His fascination with the Honda/Acura brand was almost non-existent and in fact, he didn't even know how to operate a manual transmission when he picked up his first car. He states, "My first car was a base, automatic Acura RSX. I had no intentions of modding it or even being in the car scene. It was just, in my opinion, a decent looking car that is somewhat sporty to accommodate my age. And it had great fuel economy."
It certainly wasn't the thrill of robotic, automatic shifts and mundane base model performance that lit the fire, but rather Tho's close friends that seemed to be relishing in the ever-growing import movement of Phoenix, Arizona. He adds, "I was influenced by my friends whose cars were a lot cooler than mine. I started subscribing to Super Street, Honda Tuning and Import Tuner. Before I knew it, I added all of the basics to my car." The intake, header and exhaust combo, accompanied by a set of springs and a lip kit spiced things up a bit. Tho was reasonably satisfied. That is, until he got up close and personal with Honda's roadster. "I started to work at a Honda dealership as a lot attendant, washing cars and moving them around the dealership. You know, one of those cars where you first see it and you just have to have it? Well, the S2000 was that car for me. Since that day, I worked my ass off to pay off the RSX and started saving up for the S2000." A few years flew by and after landing a better paying job, the RSX became his daily driver and a newly acquired AP1 got the weekend nod.
The high-revving F20C was a night and day difference when compared to his daily commute in his slushbox-equipped RSX, but the feeling began to fade. He adds, "I didn't waste much time in piecing together a turbo kit. As a matter of fact, I was already piecing one together even before I bought the car because that was my plan for it." The pre-planned forced induction combination resulted in over 450whp and kept Tho on his toes. "To me, it was insanely fast, but it didn't take long to get used to the power. I was having the time of my life with the car!" Still completely stock on the outside, the fun lasted well beyond the weekend as Tho piloted his AP1 almost every day until his factory oil pump decided to call it quits.
As the car sat idle for the next year, the engine was completely torn down and reworked with LA sleeves, CP pistons and Pauter rods on the bottom end, and a Supertech head package up top. Once it was reassembled, a return visit to the dyno produced over 500whp and a huge smile on Tho's face. Content with the power he'd achieved, he began planning a complete makeover to accompany the power numbers. He adds, "It was going to sport mostly J's Racing aero parts, including their wide fenders. Eventually I acquired all of the body parts." However, a change of heart halted progress, and Tho was right back to square one. He explains, "S2000s were popping up with the same style I had in mind. J's Racing is pretty popular and I'm not the only customer, but I didn't expect it to happen so fast." All of the aero he'd waited so long for was promptly sold off and a new direction was to be established.
If the front fenders on Tho's S2K look a bit uncommon, that's a sure sign of success as that was his intention. "Matt from ICB Motorsport introduced me to the Amuse Legalo kit and I fell in love! If I remember correctly, it's still only one of two full kits in North America." Rather than paint-matching and bolting the new aero pieces on, Tho decided on a complete color change to Acura's Aspen Pearl White. And since the car was to be repainted inside and out, he thought it would be the ideal time to shave any unused factory engine bay holes, relocate the ABS unit and delete any other unnecessary eyesores. The path of the turbo kit along with the placement of the custom catch can and naked flanks don't allow for wandering eyes but instead, forces onlookers to concentrate solely on the boosted F-series mill.
If you've got a dollar total in your head and think that Tho might be crazy for dropping so much coin on his build, you're not alone. He states, "There were times I didn't want to finish and I just felt like parting everything out. I know a lot of car guys go through that so they know what I'm talking about. Thanks to my car family, Stoopidlow, for motivating me to not give up and to finish what I started. At the end of the day, this car is one of the main things in my life that makes me happy." Try as you will, you simply can't put a price tag on that.
A guy that can get things...
When it comes to finding and importing rare or uncommon JDM Honda goods, Matthew Ye of ICB Motorsport has been the "go-to guy" for years. Nestled within the business park confines of Chandler, AZ, ICB is the vital link between that random front lip you saw on a Japanese website that you couldn't read and actually purchasing that part for your front bumper. An encyclopedia of JDM parts knowledge, Ye is as much an enthusiast and collector as he is businessman. Know him long enough and you might be privy to his vast collection of impossibly rare Japanese doo-dads that carry some rich history and are unabashedly not for sale. icbmotorsport.com