“My two-liter soda bottle has more torque than your B16” —Internet cool guy
Power-to-weight ratio—arguably the most important aspect of building and tuning a Honda for competition. Long known for placing large, tame motorcycle engines under the hood, what Honda lacks in the area of torque, it more than makes up for in the P:W department. That’s probably why this is typically the first tool used in an argument with the anti-Honda crowd in terms of power and performance.
In the realm of competition, lighter is almost always better. The less weight your motor has to pull down the track, the faster you’ll go, whether it be a straight trip down the 1320 or a gut-wrenching blast through multiple twists and turns. The question I have is, how much of this realistically translates to the average guy’s daily driven street car? Realistically, how light does his car really need to be?
A Newer, Fatter America
There’s no debate necessary—newer Hondas are a bit portly. The era of the featherweight CRX handily replaced by a fatty by the name of CR-Z. The once scantily clad Civic, void of any frills like power windows and multiple airbags, is now in the older Accord weight class. The trade-off? Well, beyond being safer and meeting much more stringent impact guidelines, compare the current K20 or K24 factory powerplant to the little 1.6 SOHC stocker of yesteryear and you’ll see a vast improvement in power and technology.
Staying on Track…or Not
Let’s be completely honest here, most average Honda enthusiasts aren’t getting their car set up for the track (regardless of how many times they mention it on the forums). They use their car to drive to and from school and/or work, or maybe they use it as a platform for personalization and only bring it out of the garage for special events. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, as the “street and meet” market is probably the largest draw for Honda enthusiasm as of late. On the flip side, there are those who spend their weekends on a road course or at the drag strip and go through the motions of stripping unwanted weight from the chassis of their workhorse. This is an age-old practice and is all but mandatory for those looking to yield a faster time. Conversely, the “Hollywood diet” that surrounds Honda street cars, if you step back and take a look, has become a bit ridiculous.
The Value of a Pound
Stranded on the side of the road in the pitch-black darkness because your tire blew and you were “smart” enough to eliminate that 20 pounds of “excess” spare tire/jack weight might make you rethink your automotive dieting blueprint. But it doesn’t stop there—rear seats and plastic panels, carpeting, even audio entertainment, all removed in search of a lighter car, right? Maybe.
The “look” of a competitive race car has always played a big part in offering styling cues to the street masses. This is why daily drivers sport aggressive splitters and carefully placed canards, along with precision-cut towhooks. These items don’t really affect safety to yourself or others around you, other than the possible “shin bite” from clipping one of those pesky towhooks while washing your car. The trade-off is, of course, the decibel level inside the cabin and a loss of people-moving power, as you’ve transformed your car into a two-seater tin can. Oh, and there’s that best friend who will no doubt curse you out as he makes his way to wherever you are at some ridiculous hour with a stock wheel and jack to swap that flat for you. (This is guaranteed to happen at the most inopportune time. Trust me.)
Then there’s the deletion of A/C, power steering, windshield wiper motors, and anything else that will cause clutter under the hood. This is actually a tough one because as much as I like the creature comforts, I also appreciate a really nice, clean engine bay. There should definitely be a line drawn between a weekend cruiser and a daily driver when it comes to items like a wiper motor that will affect your ability to, you know, see other cars and people in front of you!
We all give our cars a thorough wringing every once in a while just to make sure the feeling is still there, but is the weight reduction really worth it? Many are quick to argue that by taking only 5 or 10 pounds off of their project car, it now pulls like a bat out of hell. I call those people delusional. There’s an old saying: “Add a nickel to a nickel and before you know it, you’ve got a quarter.” Yeah I butchered it, but it means that if you lose a little weight here and a little there, eventually you’ll have a large amount removed, and I agree with that…for a competition or weekend track car. If you laugh at that local guy who motors through the city streets with a massive wing and racing stripe on his automatic Paseo, remember you’re basically in that same boat—scooting around your town in a fake “race car.” Is it really worth it?