Several years ago, Florida appeared to be a gateway for all things "JDM." Enthusiasts seemed to be able to acquire rare parts and even cars from Japan, in part due to the state's heavy military influence and international shipping ports. This helped their tuner community thrive and many builders were putting together cars with the stuff most of us had never even seen before. However, for whatever reason, as time went on Florida just sort of stopped being Florida. The scene slowly died down and progression halted. Theft ran rampant in major cities and many people stopped building cars in fear of their hard work being taken from them. The guys who stuck around tucked their cars away into hiding. Many known builders faded away into obscurity, focusing on other important aspects of life, hoping that one day the community would thrive as it once did. This resulted in a generational gap over the years. Older car guys stayed away and communication was seemingly cut off from the new crop of tuners. The Internet and social media dictated how they built their cars and the results were of the more entry-level variety, where a set of wheels and air-ride suspension were the norm. The days of quality and detail had appeared to be lost; however, lurking in a state once known for its great JDM car builds was an elite group of veterans like Matt Hamilton, who owned this Audi Nardo Grey-painted Honda S2000.
His build started out pretty typical, with a simple coilover setup to get the car lower, a set of three-piece forged wheels from Florida-based wheel manufacturer CCW, and some minor aesthetic upgrades. Hamilton enjoyed his AP1 but always had bigger plans for it. He wanted to put together his vision of the ultimate S2000 utilizing some of the most revered tuning products from Japan. It would be easy to just collect a catalog of parts from one aftermarket tuning company, but he sought pieces from various shops. The difficulty came in trying to get them all to flow together seamlessly.
First on the list was getting the aero setup right. S2000s are quite popular; so many aftermarket companies provide a myriad of stylish, functional aero parts for it. The most sought-after front fascia is undoubtedly the "Street" version of the Voltex bumper. Voltex of Suzuka, Japan, is one of the most respected producers of aero in the entire world as its components have been proven not only in wind tunnel testing, but also on the track. The company even produced the 1700mm GT wing that Matt later acquired from J's Racing. He wanted to give his roadster a wider overall track to support even wider wheels, so he ordered a set of rear over-fenders and a matching rear bumper from Autobacs ASM of Yokohama, Japan. Up front, his Voltex bumper was matched with J's Racing front fenders. The J's pieces are so wide that it afforded Hamilton the ability to run an equal 18x9.5" Volk Racing TE37 wheel front and back! Not only that, but he also managed to stuff 255-wide Toyo R888 rubber all the way around. Carshop GLOW L.E.D. taillights, which are all hand-assembled and customized in Japan, were special-ordered by Matt just to add some more style to his AP1, as if it really needed anymore points in that department.
Not to be outshined by the classic white spokes of the concave TE37s are massive J's Racing brakes peeking out from all four corners. The brakes cost more than most average late-'90s Hondas, but they help to get the most stopping power out of Hamilton's S2000. We'd be lying if we said they weren't also installed for extra "car show points," but the brute stopping power is needed because of the 400-plus horsepower the 2.0L F20C makes. Serving as the centerpiece of his build is an HKS GT Supercharger kit. The blower creates the added horsepower with a 15-psi pulley, 800cc injectors, bigger fuel pump, and a Hytech header. Attached to the beautiful Hytech piece is an equally art-like titanium J's Racing 70mm exhaust. All of these components are tied together electronically via an AEM engine management system, housed inside of an engine bay that has also been cleaned up and color-matched.
The cockpit is where many S2000 builds falter. Most are satisfied with just the basic replica seats and steering wheel, but Hamilton devoted equal time to every section of his S2K project. Surrounding the two-seated interior is a classic Cusco seven-point rollcage. Replacing the factory leather seats are two Bride Japan seats, a VIOS III Low Max for Hamilton, and a ZETA III for his passenger. A Mugen steering wheel comes off of the vehicle easily as a theft-deterrent thanks to a Works Bell Rapfix II quick release. Ever the one for details, Hamilton added titanium hardware to his Mugen wheel assembly to match the J's Racing shift knob made of the same lightweight material.
It's hard to say if the state of Florida will ever recapture the shine it once had when it was home to one of the nation's most thriving car communities. We could blame 2 Fast 2 Furious for being a terrible representation of what their scene represented, or we can simply just accept that times have changed. Things often come and go, but they ultimately come full circle. People like Hamilton are what Florida needs. He has a great understanding of how to put together an exceptional Honda and serves as an example for newer generations to learn from. Many factors contributed to the generational gap that was created in that area, but real car enthusiasts live on. If you really love this hobby, you will find a way. Matt Hamilton knows.