It was all about balance and affordable sophistication. Call it an exercise in one-upmanship that threw a virtual jab at those pretentious, overpriced exotics of the late '80s/early '90s—Honda's NSX was everything a sports car wasn't supposed to be. From the low price point in its early years to the advanced technology and, most importantly, its painless ownership. Well documented as being reliable and daily-driver friendly, even today, after more than two decades, the NSX still commands a premium.
If you're lucky enough to get your hands on one of Honda's flagships, most would advise you to avoid heavily modifying it and to keep it as true to form as possible. With that being said, why in the hell would someone forego the 270hp, 3.0L, 24-valve, DOHC V-6 to make room for a four-cylinder mill? Well, most wouldn't, but Brandon Wilbur certainly has. His unapologetic answer to that burning question is the almost 1,000 whp he currently makes with an engine that weighs less, offers more engine compartment space for all of those "extras," and relies on a replacement parts list that equates to about a third of what OEM C-series parts cost, not to mention that they're readily available just about anywhere. And trust us when we say replacement parts are a factor here, because Brandon's car doesn't just come out of the garage for a peaceful cruise; it gets abused on the regular.
While your purist blood is still boiling, we should give you a little history on how this all came about. This isn't Brandon's first build and, in fact, it's not even his first mid-engine, K-powered monster. He previously owned a Toyota MR2 that relied on the same exact engine setup. Looking to get into something different, the MR2 body was sold to pay for this NSX. However, it wasn't the pristine, time capsule-kept version you dream about. He adds, "The car was purchased as just a shell from California and arrived in hundreds of pieces. All of the wire harnesses were in boxes in the car and it was missing thousands of dollars in parts. Even the doors were just shells without windows or even window tracks." Certainly not the ideal collector car, which made the turbo inline-four swap all the more practical and intriguing, especially since the donor engine was already well-sorted and making incredible power.
The heart of Brandon's NSX starts with a K20A fitted with a CNC Worx Cylinder Support System (CSS), a set of 10:1 JE pistons, Manley Turbo Tuff rods, and a micro-polished OEM crank. Up top, Supertech valvesprings and retainers help control a set of Prayoonto Stage II cams, and a 90mm throttle body connected to a Pro Jay intake manifold handles the cold side. The main ingredient to making so much power is the Precision Gen II 6870 T4 mounted to a custom manifold, along with a total of eight ID 1,300cc injectors, fed by a Magnafuel 4303 pump. To properly anchor the K20 in place, Brandon built his own mounts based on a set of mount flanges from K20/MR2 solution specialist Hux Racing.
With the engine and all of its components properly set in place, Brandon tore it all down in an effort to make the car look the part. A fresh coat of Berlina Black rid the NSX of its mismatched body panels, dents, and dings, and the moment it dried, everything went right back in. The entire K20-swap process, performed by someone with plenty of mid-engine chassis experience mind you, was as straightforward as it sounds. However, like any other high-power build, things can sometimes go awry. In Brandon's case, a turbo manifold issue caused a head gasket problem and everything had to come back out. A blessing in disguise really, as Jeff of CNC Werx set Brandon up with the latest race version CSS block, and the reassembly and install process was done in no time.
On the dyno, everything looked great, until a freak accident, possibly related to sound frequency or excessive vibration, caused the car's engine cover window to shatter. Being so close to the engine, some of that broken glass was inhaled by the turbo and wreaked internal havoc. Brandon adds, "After a new set of pistons, rings, redoing the copper O-rings in the block, disassembling the head for cleaning, new bearings, and reassembly, it was ready for a few more pulls...and I decided to get a Lexan hatch window this time." With everything reinstalled for the third time, a rematch with the dyno resulted in 972 whp. Now imagine that power with a curb weight of just 2,250 pounds and you understand there isn't a whole lot on the road that can match performance.
For all the work, dedication, and balls required to pull off this whole build, you'd think it would get the "thumbs up" from everyone. The truth is, many are angered by the mid-ship four-banger, but Brandon doesn't pay them much mind. Besides, it's tough to hear any of that with 900-plus hp screaming just inches behind you.