Brian Spiker's '94 Accord EX
The term "sleeper" has often been misused and misunderstood. Having gained popularity during the Hot Rod era, it was used to describe a vehicle with an unassuming exterior containing high performance upgrades that couldn't be seen by the casual observer. Hearing this seven-letter word will often bring a sinister grin to the face of any automotive fanatic. The mere idea of building a car that's unassuming on the outside, yet armed with a fire breathing heart under its skin is the stuff dreams are made of.
Today, as enthusiasts rarely bat an eye at engine swaps that appear in just about every type of Honda on the road, flying below the radar has never been tougher. As a matter of fact, spotting a lowered Honda on the freeway that isn't powered by an engine swap is becoming much less common. Even the muscle car crowd, easily duped by innocent looking Honda hatchbacks years ago, caught on to the "sand bagging" that took place. The initial shock upon seeing these small wonders raising hell down quarter mile industrial streets that doubled as makeshift racetracks in the early morning hours was almost comedic. Now, as the information superhighway eradicates any possible sneak attack and shares with the world every imaginable Honda motor swap available, it's apparent that the element of surprise is long gone.
When Brian Spiker emailed us about his Accord, we were a bit confused. He'd stated in his message that he'd love to see a picture of his car in Honda Tuning, but upon viewing the attached images, we saw nothing more than a bone-stock EX. Though his four-door sedan appeared to have cheated father time with its sixteen-year-old chassis looking pristine, we really couldn't understand what would motivate the Seattle, WA, resident into contacting us. That is, until we clicked on the last image labeled "enginebay.jpg." Like a slap in the face, what we saw completely blew us away.
In 2005, Spiker gave his friend a $3,000 handshake and drove home in this '94 EX sedan. "I was new to the Honda thing and I just really liked the body style and the color. The car already had wheels, coil-overs, and a header, but it didn't take long for me to get bored with the factory F22," he recalls. Rather than diving headfirst into a modification money pit, Spiker began combing the web, day and night, looking at possible turbo options. Soon enough, he ran across realhomemadeturbo.com, a "do-it-yourself" motivated forum that would serve as his second home. The countless pages of knowledge that he spent hours clicking through taught him an incredible amount about understanding and building a proper turbo setup. With his head full of ideas, the Accord owner moved forward with boosting the factory F series motor and had no problem breaching the 300hp barrier. "I surprised a lot of people; they just couldn't believe me when I told them it was the good ol' SOHC motor. They always thought it was a boosted H22." The swoosh of turbo power kept Spiker happy for a while, but after a year of abuse, the stock motor finally let go with a cracked ringland. His first thought was to piece together another F series and pick right back up where he left off, but after weighing his options....."I just decided to sleeve an H22 and go all out-fully built top to bottom!" Spiker immediately began stockpiling parts in anticipation of the swap just as fast as his wallet would allow. With the help of a few close friends, they built the bottom end, pieced together the now bionic H22, and the car was ready to roll. That is, until he ran into serious clearance issues. He states, "I'd got most of the kinks worked out with the new motor and everything was good, but due to a manufacturer error in piston-to-wall specs, I was forced to rebuild the motor." Never discouraged, Spiker and his buddies went right back to work and in no time they had the car up and running with a new heart. Dyno tuning on the simple CROME system resulted in a remarkable 615whp, with 444 ft-lbs of torque. One major issue with that kind of horsepower on a street car is successfully transferring the fury to the pavement. Spiker chuckles as he explains, "I went through about 14 different transmissions; no joke. I was splitting cases, breaking ring gears, and absolutely destroying second and fourth gear sets." Essentially the Achilles heel of the high-powered Accord, Spiker stumbled across a Saenz straight-cut and syncro'd setup that he knew would help with his breakage issues. Adding an OBX LSD, the tranny has held itself together with plenty of abuse, and this seems to be the magic combo. "It's solid now, but previously I'd beat on the car Friday night, break a tranny, limp it home, and remove it in about an hour and a half. I'd either put a new one in it, or have the original one fixed and back in the car. Sometimes I'd finish by the next day; other times I'd finish the same day."
While the H22 building and tuning was happening, Spiker decided to give his EX a plain vanilla makeover. Off came the aftermarket wheels in order to install factory rollers wrapped in M&H DRs and topped with standard Honda hub caps. The ride height was adjusted back to a near factory stance, and any remnants of performance upgrades on the exterior of the car were totally eliminated. Even the intercooler, once shining silver, was spray painted black, and lurks neatly beneath the shadows of the stock bumper. To add insult to injury during any "spirited stop light encounters," Spiker added a baby seat to the rear interior. "The look on people's faces when they get walked by a stock looking four-door Accord with hubcaps, a baby seat, and no real visible mods is priceless."
As with any boost addict, too much is never enough. Spiker upgraded his maxed-out 61mm turbo to a T04Z unit, built a custom exhaust manifold and four-inch downpipe, added an additional wastegate, and incorporated eCTUNE's engine management for further tuning. The changes netted 650whp and 460 ft-lbs of torque at 29 PSI (still on stock cams). The tuning session was cut short due to the lack of a four BAR MAP sensor, but he's already replaced it, and plans to crank the boost up to 35PSI. As far as reliability, Spiker comments, "It has over 12,000 miles on it, pulls 21.5 inches of vacuum at idle, has perfect compression, and runs like a raped ape!"
So there you have it, a simple sedan that you probably wouldn't take a second glance at in traffic that packs over 600 lethal ponies under its hood; a picture-perfect example of a true sleeper.
"Being an old MOPAR V8 kid, and piloting a powerful A-body back in the days, if someone told me I'd end up with the car I have now, I would have just laughed. But this car is too much fun...it really, really, makes people question what the hell just happened." Priceless.
Golden Eagle sleeves
CP pistons (9:1)
Kaizenspeed balance shaft eliminator kit
Tial T04Zr 67mm ball bearing turbo
Tial 50mm blow-off valve
Tial 44mm wastegate x 2
Home brewed sch 40 SS exhaust manifold
4-inch stainless steel downpipe
4-inch Magnaflow race core muffler and piping
3-inch custom built charge & intercooler piping
BDL 68mm throttle body
Skunk2 Pro Series intake manifold
PB Tuning plenum spacer
Mild port and polish
JDM H22 cams
Ferrea 6000 valves
Supertech titanium retainers
Bosch FIC 1100 injectors
Walbro 255lph in-tank
Bosch 044 inline with dedicated relays
Trick flow billet fuel filter
SX Automotive fuel pressure regulator
Golden Eagle Pro fuel rail
MSD Blaster coil
Explicitspeedperformance/HaSport engine mounts/brackets
Forged straight-cut Saenz gearset
Competition Clutch twin disk
Competition Clutch flywheel
eCTUNE engine management
Moates eCTUNE data-logger
PWM controlled MAC solenoid boost controller
Skunk2 coil-over sleeves
Tokico Illumina shocks
Ingalls camber kit
ExplicitspeedPerformance traction bar
Brembo VTEC Prelude discs
'98 ITR calipers
Hawk HP+ pads
V6 Accord master cylinder
Wheels & Tires
Stock steel wheels with '98 Accord hubcaps
235/50-15 M&H Racemaster "DOT" up front
A.P. Brooks bodywork
Josh, Mike, Mitch, Marcus, Joel, Alex, Justin and all my boys at REALHOMADETURBO.COM. Dave Lee for the tuning, special thanks to Reid and crew at Kaizenspeed.com, John and his old man at Explicitspeedperformance.net, Chris at Polarbear Tuning, Matt at Speedfactory, Tommy at 8 Velocity
Screen name or nickname
Building Hondas for how long
Your dream car
'68 Hemi Dart
What's playing in your iPod/CD/MP3 player right now
Stealthmode Tre-West and MCP - "Homemade joint"
Greatest movie of all time
In 1971, director Monte Hellman released Two-Lane Blacktop, a story depicting two nomadic drag racers who travel across Route 66 in a '55 Chevy One-fifty, searching for locals to race against both on and off the track. Their winnings serve as their only source of income. While the premise appealed to car fanatics of all ages, the movie journeyed into strange waters at times, and used odd metaphors to depict current events. Before the film's release, Esquire Magazine named Two-Lane Blacktop "film of the year," and expectations and general buzz were at an all-time high. When the movie opened in New York on Fourth of July weekend, there was no newspaper or media attention, and the film's studio executives despised the movie so much, they never bothered to promote it. Not surprising, the box office numbers were dismal. Nevertheless, the movie appealed to enthusiasts and film buffs of that era, and has since become a cult classic.
The Chevy featured in the film reflects the same ideals that surround Brian Spikers Accord. From the outside, the Chevy was primered and didn't appear to pose a threat, but under the hood lurked a powerful 454 that the owners (only identified as "driver" and "mechanic" in the movie) used to out-muscle the competition. Sleepers, they come in all shapes and sizes.