You’ve seen the name in over 90 percent of the feature car spec lists in this magazine, as well as a host of others. The name HaSport is synonymous with quality and function, and the company has rightfully earned its spot at the top of the motor swap food chain. Currently in the midst of possibly its biggest year ever, I stopped Brian Gillespie for just a few minutes to find out how the company started, where it’s at currently, and what’s next.
BG: Well, HaSport actually grew out of my brother Keith’s Honda salvage yard. He started Honda Auto Salvage around 1994 to support his SCCA racing. He was racing a Volkswagen Rabbit in ITC at the time, but saw the Hondas were doing very well in IT and Solo classes. In ’97, I came on board. My job at that time had me working a lot of evenings and weekends, and if I wanted to see my 4-year-old son grow up once he started school, I needed a day job. One of the deciding factors for going to work for my brother was that I could build a race car and Honda Auto Salvage would pay for my racing. Keith and I had raced motocross when were kids, so I thought that would be great.
I started bringing the road race cars to the dragstrip on the weekends, and the cars were moderately fast. We began to attract some attention since there were a lot more Honda fans at the drags than at road races. Keith had set up HAS (Honda Auto Salvage) Motorsports to purchase race car parts, so we started selling AEM, Autopower, ARP, Neuspeed, and other parts through that entity. Around the same time we started selling a lot of parts to locals who were doing engine swaps.
After some research into this engine swap craze, we decided to do our first engine swap; a ZC into a ’91 Si. The swap took a day, but the wiring took a week! I’d wired the crank angle sensor backward and lacked a manual to figure it out. After a local Honda tuner, Mark Basch of Basch Acura Service, found the problem, we began buying manuals of the cars we were working on. The owner of the car got a speeding ticket for doing over 100 mph on the freeway about a month later, but in spite of that, we decided engine swapping was a viable business.
I started looking for a name for the new company; I didn’t particularly like HAS Motorsports. It wasn’t catchy. Eventually I settled on HaSport because I was going to advertise the company as Honda + Acura + Motorsports = HASport. That was August or September of ’98. Things were happening fast in the engine swap world, and a couple of companies were coming out with parts to do engine swaps. Place Racing had some weld-in brackets, and HCP had the adapter brackets. Eventually, Place Racing came up with actual mounts for installing a B16 into the EF chassis, and we started to use those on our EF swaps.
HT: How was supply as compared to the demand? And when did HaSport officially jump into the motor mount business?
BG: It was hell getting those parts from Place Racing. It seemed like our mount orders would take months longer than promised, as we would never get as many as we had ordered. At about that time I had tried my hand at making my own mount kit: the B-series kit for the ’84–’87 Civic/CRX. The design process took a day and a half but went very smoothly. The initial kit was a little spindly, but it held the engine perfectly. It had one design difference compared to the Place Racing mounts that we thought was very important. The urethane was pushed in, instead of cast in. A couple of the Place Racing mounts we had used in swaps had the urethane separate under racing use, so I suggested to the owner of Place Racing that pressed in would be a good solution. After he declined I asked if he would sell me Place Racing mounts without the urethane cast in. He said he’d think about it.
After that it seemed even harder to get mount kits from Place Racing. I’m sure he was busy selling all he could make at retail to individual customers instead of at a discount to businesses like HaSport. Keith and I were getting frustrated at losing sales, so we decided to make our mounts. We needed to be unique, though, so we decided to design the mount kits from scratch, produce them in aluminum, and have pressed-in urethane, not cast. On August 19, 1999, we made our official announcement on the Hybrid Page.
We were still working on customer cars, and there were just two employees, me and James Rasmussen. The mount business took off huge, and we made the switch from shop to manufacturer. James left to work on cars at another shop, and Joe Sawyer (aka Locash Racing Joe) came in to do sales. I moved to developing new kits. We made the observation that many people were getting the engines in quickly but having a real struggle with wiring. A lot of people doing the wiring were doing complete chassis and dash wiring swaps to make things work. So in the evening at home, I started to make swap harnesses. There were a lot of small differences between models, which caused a lot of problems. Because we had a salvage yard, I could find the right year and model for a core harness, and it made it much easier to keep things correct.
HT: Were you farming some of the process out, in order to get the product completed? What about the process currently?
BG: At that time, the mounts were cut by a water jet company and welded by a fab shop. Over the years we’ve managed to bring almost all manufacturing in-house. We now have 12 employees, many of whom have been with us for more than five years. Also, my 18-year-old son has recently come on board as a full-time employee. HaSport has five CNC mills, Waterjet, CNC press brake, CNC lathe, CNC saw, TIG and MIG welders. The mills run between 16 and 24 hours a day making mounts. Last year was our best year ever, and this year looks like it may beat last year by a fair margin!
HT: When it comes to creating a new mount kit, what is the process before the actual hands-on work begins?
BG: There’s actually a big master list of mount kits with everything imaginable on the list. On a regular basis, we discuss what’s going to be next. Keith and I will poll the employees as to what people have been calling about and what is being discussed on the boards. Based on that, we make the decision (most of the time) mutually. Sometimes I try the engine in the car to see what the possible problems might be, and I may move the mount kit up or down the list. The CR-Z/K swap was chosen because Honda did not choose us for the 2012 Civic builds for SEMA. That, and Eibach thought it was time to make its CR-Z faster and more fun. We knew that would be a nice halo project. There was a universal cry from Honda enthusiasts for that car to get the K series when it came out, and we looked at it as a chance to right a huge wrong. When the CR-Z came out the year before, Honda had asked everyone that received a CR-Z for SEMA not to do an engine swap because of the Hybrid image—it was a no-brainer. (BTW, I still bristle at the use of the term Hybrid to mean anything except a Honda with an Acura motor. Call me old-school!)
HT: What are the most important aspects of the mount making process? What are you looking for, other than just getting the motor into the car?
BG: Engine swaps are a big-picture process. You need a decent knowledge of the different models so you can foresee problems like differences in ABS location, radiator outlets, AC, PS lines, suspension members, etc. Even knowing a lot about a car, you may find new things as the mount kit starts to sell in decent numbers and people use it. Many times small changes are made throughout the life of the kit.
The process has been developed over time to include these steps. The engine is fit into the car on a stand, so it can be moved around and raised or lowered. Clearances and measurements can be worked out for brackets and mounts. Measurements are made with a Faro Arm, which allows for very accurate measurements in 3-D space. The mounts are then designed and produced using a 3-D printer. The resulting piece can be put into the car and checked for proper fitment. If brackets need to be made, we can take new measurements with the Faro Arm and make them. If these fit properly, then we make the first production parts. And if those fit properly, they are test run on the car for a period of time to see if any problems arise. If all is well, then a production run is done.
HT: Regarding the CR-Z/K swap, HaSport wasn’t the first to complete the swap, but you were the first to offer an actual kit to the public that requires no cutting of the subframe or radiator support. How important was that to you in terms of the end-user avoiding any frame chopping? On a side note, how important is being “first” to a company like HaSport?
BG: Sometimes cutting is unavoidable, as in K series or J series into an EG or EF. It used to be a deal-breaker, too. But as people have become braver, it’s clear some will do whatever it takes for certain swaps. We’ve just decided to try to keep the cutting to a minimum. As for the CR-Z, having read the article in Honda Tuning Magazine on the swap some time ago, I fully expected to have to do some trimming. However, once we got in there, it was a different story. I put the engine in what I thought was the ideal place, and there was plenty of room for everything but the stock radiator fans. The stock ’06 Civic header and B-pipe almost fit. The car shipped to Eibach’s booth at SEMA like that, but after it came back, I decided to try to get the ’06 Civic header to work. To ship the mount kit that didn’t need a custom header would be a big plus. I was able to move the engine back farther, allowing use of the stock Civic Si exhaust manifold or a DC Sports header, which was a win. It also made room for the stock radiator with some slim line fans on the back—bonus. And finally, I wanted to make sure there was enough clearance for a K20 as well as a K24.
As for HaSport and being the first with a swap—first is cool, but best is what we’re really after.
HT: Everyone is looking for something different it seems, but only a small portion is willing to do the work and pay the money needed to make it happen. What do you think about all of the new swaps, like the F-series motor/K-series tranny, or K swap into the S2000 chassis? Are these swaps that you’d like to cater to?
BG: These are all on the master list of mounts and have been for a while. I’m definitely going to get to the K swap in the S2K as well as a J swap. My observation on the F2K is, maybe. We’ll just see how it pans out. There are some other tranny adapter swaps that I am exploring which I think have more potential. Enough on that though…
HT: Every time a quality part comes out, there’s at least a few knock-off versions floating around shortly after. Why should people buy the real-deal HaSport mounts?
BG: First off, I hate companies that copy directly. I hate being the R&D department for any company other than HaSport. I think these companies do nothing but harm to the industry. When we started, there were two other companies doing mounts. Over the years, I’ve been told we were just copying them. If you were part of the history of this company, you would realize we have always strived to do it our own way and to the best of our ability. Our strategy has been to innovate, release, and revise. The companies that are copying are usually just trying to make a quick buck on a trend. Without being users of the products, shortcuts are usually made in the name of profit, and the products are not really up to our users’ standards. We’ve been very lucky and I think I owe it all to our customers. They’ve been very supportive of us over the years, and I have seen many a knock-off shouted down on the forums. HaSport owes a lot to its end-users, and we try to pay them back with the best products we can make, along with a phone number that customers can always rely on for answers if problems arise with their swap.
HT: You have an extensive collection of cars, both street and track. What about you personally? What is your ideal swap?
BG: I want to do a J swap into an NSX. If I can find an NSX with a blown motor for a decent price, I’m going to do it. I know that’s blasphemy, but engine swaps are what I do!
HT: Will HaSport ever offer a swap kit for the following—V-6 into an S2000, CR-Z, or Prelude.
BG: Yes, maybe, probably.
HT: What’s next for HaSport? Is there anything you can reveal to our readers that you’re currently preparing for, or perhaps already working on?
BG: Oh yeah, I’ve got some stuff coming up, but it’s secret stuff. Also, V-6 swaps into everything, or at least several things. I’ve got some other projects on the burner, too, but I’m not sure how quickly we’ll get to them. I’m going to have to blame our incredible customers on this one—I haven’t been able to do hardly any new prototyping for the last year, we’ve just been extremely busy (which is good). I’m off—gotta get back to the Waterjet and make more brackets!