Tae Min Chang wants you to know something right away: He isn't rich, nobody in his family is either, and he grinds it out six days a week at a dry cleaners just to build the sort of S2000 you wish you had.
Pressing dudes' pinstriped shirts isn't glamorous and it won't get you laid, but for Tae, it's enough to give him the sort of Honda roadster he'd always wanted. It just took a little time. "When the S2000 showed up on the market, I was amazed," he says about the AP1 chassis that was introduced in '99. "I went to the dealership to find out how much one would cost, and it came out to $800 a month and [another] $700 for insurance." No amount of wool pants waiting to have Diet Coke stains cleaned off of them was gonna cover that, which meant Tae would have to wait.
It took seven years, but by the time Honda's AP2 roadster with its slightly larger engine was already in full swing, Tae was able to afford his own—and a brand-new one, too, mind you. For three years, the car remained bone stock—a sharp contrast to the fourth-generation Accord he'd owned previously that'd been stuffed with a twin-cam Prelude engine and just about every bolt-on you can think of. It'd take a bonehead behind him and a little bit of body damage by way of the car's front and rear ends to change Tae's mind-set on all of this, though. "The damages were minor and only the bumpers were replaced, but I wasn't happy [knowing] that my car wasn't perfect," he says. "And so it began."
And by "it," Tae means the process of building up that S2000 for a Honda Tuning spread and then a few years later ripping it all apart and going for it again. Some of the parts survived the overhaul, like the staggered TE37s, and some weren't so lucky, like the Password:JDM intake that was tossed for the Vortech supercharger. "I wish I was smarter back then," Tae says about his old H-swapped Accord and the Vortech blower he's got now, "because I would've just boosted it instead." As far as the S2000 goes, it's a mod that's proven to be a smart move for Tae, a guy who performs much of the work himself. But things like remedying a bent rod or a melted piston—both of which aren't likely to occur by way of that supercharger and its moderate amount of boost—quickly overstep the bounds in which he's comfortable. "I can do anything bolt-on and maintenance-related, but when I can't do a job, I always turn to Dan Kang at Zen Motors," he admits.
Tae's DIY attitude's gotten him pretty far, though, handling most of what you can see himself this side of any body mods and tuning. Speaking of body mods, Tae's S2000 began shedding its low-key demeanor once boost was applied. "Now that I had the power," he says, "my exterior didn't really balance it out." That's when Tae found out about the Circuit Garage rear over-fenders, an addition that he says he didn't want, but needed, and is what he says led to what he calls "stage two." Call it whatever you want, but this second phase started with those widened fenders permanently grafted onto the body and ended with a darker-yellow exterior, a Sorcery front bumper, Spoon Sports fenders up front, and a massive Voltex wing out back.
"I love the race car look, but I still try to [remain] simple yet aggressive with my car," Tae says about the approach he took. He also wants you to know that he's no show car weenie and that this AP2 racks up the miles. "My car is never on a trailer unless it's broken. I drive it whenever I can, even to Walmart to get groceries," he says. "I don't believe in building a car that can't be enjoyed on a mountain run or a track, either."
It's a solid approach and one that Tae's continually trying to perfect. "I'm always at home trying to get the perfect wheel gap but maintain good driveability and without sacrificing performance," he says. "I try to make my car look good but at the same time perform just as well if not better. It's all about balance. My car isn't the fastest or the best handling; I built it for longevity, and I think that's the key to moving forward."
Tae still doesn't have loads of money and it still doesn't matter. "I'm not some rich kid who has this awesome rich family. I work six days a week to save up for what I enjoy," he says. "I like to think that if you work and pay for [things] yourself, it means more than being powered by mom and dad."
Before boost and with less aggressive aero, Tae was featured in our beloved sister mag Honda Tuning. It's encouraging to see that he's continued to take his build to another level four years later!