Design Craft Fab ECS
You've no doubt heard the rumors, probably read more than a few posts, and if you're anything like me, your curiosity has been driving you crazy over the past year. I'm referring of course to Gary Castillo of Design Craft and his new ECS (Electronic Control Sprocket) system; a technical term that essentially arms the torque-shy F20C/22C with iVTEC technology. The idea had been running through Castillo's head for quite some time, but as you can imagine, it's not something you just toss together on a whim. He adds, "I'd thought about this for so long. When I wasn't working, I was playing around with the different components, constantly measuring and coming up with different theories. I've actually been working on this system since '08." The long-term research began to pay off, and once he felt he'd had a grasp of the inner workings and the supporting cast of components, he began testing and development on the BC/C West race car. The results on the turbo roadster served as a wake up call; 91.5hp, 122.1 lb-ft of torque! Amazing results, and proof that his theory was spot on.
Back in January of this year, Scott "seafood king" Tsuneishi of Import Tuner Magazine actually wrote a story on the ECS system. At that time, I was excited to see so much R&D going into the F series motor and must've bugged Scotty two or three times a week after the article went to print. I wanted to know when it would be released, how reliable it was, and everything else associated with this ground-breaking conversion. The initial kits were no doubt rough, but served as test beds to compile information, test reliability, and refine the system's aesthetics. If you compare the photos of the ECS kit back in January to today's much sleeker look, the difference is night and day.
With a head full of questions to throw at him, I sat down with Castillo to get some clarification on the details of the ECS kit, how its development has gone, and what we can expect.
Rodrez: Alright Gary, first off, what prompted the idea of adding iVTEC to the S2000?
Gary: Well I'd originally tried to put a K20 head on an F20, but after researching the process, I realized that custom parts were going to be way too much money. The idea of doing a full K20 swap was also an idea, but I just feel that the F20 is a superior motor. The K20 was designed after taking cues from the F series motor in the S2K. The F20 block is great, and I love the head, the only thing missing is the newer iVTEC technology. That's where Design Craft and the ECS come in.
Rodrez: Last year you laid out this entire system for an article, but everything was still very raw. You also posted a "feeler" thread on the S2000 forums and took a little heat.
Gary: Yeah, the prototype was just that; a prototype. It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't meant to be. When I made that thread on the forums, the members had no idea that I'd already been well into the testing phase. I figured having data and real world experience to back me up would be a good idea, especially a competition car like the BC/CWest S2000 that takes a lot of abuse. There were definitely some people who were quick to assure me this was completely impossible, and they presented their thoughts in detail, but I was confident in the system. The design was pretty basic, but as you can see, it's been refined quite a bit since then.
Rodrez: Other than the aesthetics of the prototype system, what else has changed?
Gary: With the BC/CWest car, I had to solve an oil pressure issue and take care of a few small leaks. Since it was the first prototype, serviceability wasn't really a concern, and there was just too much in the way. Something like a head gasket replacement would have been a nightmare back then. Now with everything cleaned up and simplified, doing a head gasket replacement would be the same as working on a stock motor. Also, there are absolutely no leaks, and much better hood clearance.
Rodrez: Now that you've had a chance to get more dyno tuning and testing done, everyone is going to be asking the same question; how much power does it make?
Gary: Twenty to thirty horsepower and twenty-five to thirty-five ft lbs torque has been the average with naturally aspirated setups we've tested. Turbo motors are a bit more unpredictable due to turbo sizing, manifold style, boost levels, and everything else, but our results have shown approximately double the naturally aspirated gains.
Rodrez: Can you elaborate at all on boosted applications? Are Supercharger owners able to use the ECS system, especially those kits that place parts directly in front of the valve cover?
Gary: I'm positive the kit will work on a Vortech-equipped S2000. I've taken measurements and it only requires a few extra pieces to fit everything perfectly. I haven't worked with a KraftWerks Rotrex system, or a Comptech charger, but looking at cars equipped with both, there's enough room to fit the external pieces that make up the kit. I'm excited about the potential with the ACS system and a supercharger; the gains are going to be incredible.
As far as turbo applications, the testing first took place on the turbo CWest S2000, and the gains were huge. The only concern I have with custom turbo kits are the "side-winder" style exhaust manifolds due to clearance. If you've got three eighths of an inch to move the VTEC solenoid away from the head, you're pretty much good to go.
Rodrez: How difficult is tuning with the ECS system? And are we talking rocket science to wire it up?
Gary: Not difficult at all. I'm actually providing an iVTEC program for AEM users, and there's a base map included for a stock S2000 with iVTEC. With the wiring, it just requires moving three wires around, and cutting a resister, but it's very straightforward. Everything you need to get going is included in the kit.
Rodrez: To support the conversion, what additional upgrades do you recommend?
Gary: You can take a bone-stock S2000 and use the kit as is, but there are always things you can improve. I noticed right away that the factory injectors are worked pretty hard with the kit, so I would definitely recommend upgraded injectors. We're using factory injectors currently, but the fact that a 20-30 percent fuel increase is necessary during tuning is hard proof that the kit is making real power. A larger injector setup would be a good first step. There aren't too many power-producing headers on the market for the S2000, so we're developing our own now. Regarding exhaust flow, I'm a firm believer in F and K series cars needing more flow, so I'd suggest something three-inch if you want to make maximum power. It's not mandatory, just something I would do to squeeze every bit of power possible.
As for cams, the kit includes an ECS specific grind for naturally aspirated (Blox Racing) or forced induction (BC Inc) motors, and both have been proven reliable and performed extremely well. Anything beyond that would have to be a custom order.
Engine management requires a stand-alone system. I'd been working with AEM from the very beginning and their unit works great. Greddy is also interested in trying a V-manage system on an ECS-equipped car that has E-Manage for further testing. I've also been talking with Doug Macmillan of Hondata, and I'm pretty close to figuring out a way to make it work with K-Pro.
Rodrez: If we were to install the ECS iVTEC system on a bone-stock S2000, what are the chances it passes smog by the numbers?
Gary: I'm confident it would emit much lower numbers during a smog test. The lobe center on the intake cam is retarded so much (even more than an OEM S2000 cam), that it should run quite a bit cleaner than a stock F20/22. Visually however, you might run into problems.
Rodrez: Is the kit reversible?
Gary: Absolutely. I was thinking that you'd need to pull off the ECS, and then run a stock valve cover instead of the extended version, but after we reversed one of our own test vehicles, I threw the extended valve cover back on just to try it out, and it ran just fine with it.
Rodrez: If a customer pulled into your shop and wanted the iVTEC system installed, tuned, and ready to drive; what's the wait time on average?
Gary: Approximately two days. We'd use the first day to install the kit, and the second day to dyno-tune the car for them. But if you can take out your own oil pan/oil pump, remove your timing chain, and install a set of cams, you can really do this yourself. There's a little cutting/grinding involved, but an instruction manual is included to walk you through everything. The great thing about the ECS system is that you don't have to remove your motor to install it. You don't even have to remove the head.
Rodrez: Was there any help along the way to make all of this happen?
Gary: Mitch from MP Tuning helped me out with the ECU stuff, as well as Henry Shelley from AEM. Mike from Autowave helped with being the first guinea pig tuner without any support. Len Higa and Ben Schwartz jumped in plenty of times to give me a hand when I couldn't figure something out.
Rodrez: How can someone get their hands on the ECS kit?
Gary: www.designcraftfab.com is the website, but I'm also currently offering the kit through a group buy on www.s2ki.com at a reduced rate for a very limited time.
There you have it, the next generation of tuning for the S2000 is now available, and it's vicious. The ECS system adds real-world torque and horsepower that can be felt on a regular daily driver or a track monster; N/A or boosted.
A breakdown of the Design Craft Fab ECS system
A. Cylinder head extension-for thicker iVTEC cams sprockets
B. VTEC sandwich plate-makes room for larger cam sprocket cover
C. Oil pump chain guide offset pin
D. Cylinder head extension towers-offers additional clearance
E. VTC manifold-holds VTEC solenoid, set to be remote
F. Oil retard cam bolt-oil pressure holds cam gear at zero
G. Oil advance cam bolt-dual purpose, holds cylinder head extension piece and allows oil passage to advance sprocket
H. iVTEC cam journal
I. Tensioner button-allows for the new "ratcheting style" chain tensioner
J. Oil feed, retard, and advance lines