You're not the only one out there if you've realized that virtually every new Honda feature we write starts out praising the longevity and versatility of the company's more tunable models. We've been doing it for years, as enthusiasts first dropped Integra, Prelude, RSX, Element, and Legend engines into their Civics, outran big-power RWD platforms at the strip and turbo/AWD chassis at the track, and sparked the trend for ultra-cleanliness among imports, among a slew of fads we'd just as soon forget spotlighting. And here we are again.
But the two white Hondas here represent more. They're front-runners on the road less traveled, each for completely different reasons. One, starting life as one of Honda's performance flops compared to its Si-badged predecessors and Type-S sister platforms (flame on, EP3 loyalists!), now boasts the power and reliability most Honda enthusiasts only dream of, all with its factory equipped engine still occupying its bay. The other is the polar opposite: an 8.1-second, drag-dedicated, badass bastardization of what was intended to be a mild-mannered, balanced handling machine, motivated today by a gigantic turbo, nitrous injection, and about 1,500 horses from an iron-block inline-six of another manufacture. Yet retaining all their interior amenities and street styling, and fine-tuned for reliability on the track and the street, each build just works.
This is Seua "Tiger" Chanthaphanij's first car. Well . . . make that his first real car. Like a lot of us, he grew up without the luxury of money. He drove an '88 Camry throughout high school, and learned to appreciate cars vicariously through his friends who were lucky enough to afford to tune more aftermarket-friendly platforms. When one friend who'd relocated to California moved back to their hometown of Murfreesboro, TN, with a built Civic in tow, the switch clicked for Tiger. He researched the tuning game, saved some money, and in 2002 took over payments on an EM1 Civic Si one of his friends could never get to run right. "It was a disaster," Tiger laughs. "It was built, tuned, and should've been fast on the bottle, but had wiring issues that I wasn't able to sort out back then. It just sat in my parents' garage and rotted away." His dad made him hawk it; a blessing in disguise. "He said that if I got a new car for a decent price, he'd help me out with the payments." The RSX Type-S, with its 200hp K20A2 and sleek coupe styling, wasn't in that range. Fortunately, the '03 Civic Si was.
"I remember when the EP Civic hatch first came out," recalls Tiger. "I hated it." But weighing in at less than the RSX, and dealer-equipped with a K20 underhood, he learned to appreciate its attributes. "I had an HFP lip kit, all the bolt-ons, wheels, and a suspension on it within a year," he says. In 2006, he got a good deal on a bolt-on Rev Hard turbo kit that he installed and ran at 10 psi with a Hondata reflash for 40K miles, before the transmission threw First gear. Like anyone getting their first taste of power, Tiger's hunger wasn't sated for long. He came up on a wrecked RSX for $800 with a cracked block and bellhousing, parted out undamaged components for the selling price, and got a K20A2 head and five-speed trans for free. A used, complete, Full-Race GT3082R kit was his next score, and the decision was made to build his stock block for high-boost power, freshen up the Type-S head, and retro-fit his stock trans with RSX internals and its comparatively lower final drive ratio. All of which held for another year, this time at about 450 whp on pump gas from 18 psi of boost, until the power took its toll on Third gear, shearing its teeth off completely. Tiger switched back to another EP3 transmission he found at a parts yard, which lasted only a few months; Fourth gear sheared off under throttle on the freeway. "That was it," he says. "I parked the car, saved some money, and called New Zealand."
Kiwi-bred Pfitzner Performance Gearbox (PPG) had just released their then soon-to-be-legendary gearboxes when Tiger was dealing with his transmission woes, and he became among their first East Coast customers to rock the upgrades in a street car, replacing his stock helical synchromesh First through Fourth gearsets with PPG straight-cut dog-engagement alternatives. "It whines like a supercharger on the street, and the shifts are kind of clunky at lower speeds," says Tiger, "but I've put nearly 20K miles on the car, racing and driving it for almost two years now with no problems."
"Come to think of it, I haven't had any problems with the car at all since I rebuilt it," Tiger attests. "It gets driven on the street regularly, and raced at the strip on slicks pretty hard. I even drove it seven hours to have it re-tuned and back before we shot." It's gone a best time of 12.1 sec @ 125 mph at the strip on street tires, but Tiger knows there's more potential. "It had a lean cut in First gear both times it ran, which messed up each run," he says. "And I could use more practice driving it. The setup and weight should be good for a mid 10-second pass once I get it dialed in." But he knows what he's faster than on the street. "I love running up on all the Mustangs around here," he laughs. "And I can outrun most 600cc production street bikes without a problem. I actually think this car gets better traction and drives more stable than the EGs and DC2s I've driven, and it's a lot more solid than the older models-quieter inside, with a stiffer chassis, and comes with a better stereo, too." Ten-second performance, about 630 hp at the crank, and all its stock comfort and reliability? Not bad for the Civic many claimed "missed the mark."
The flared, fire-belching, four-figure-horsepower monster you see here is the joint creation of Andres Barriga and the RAW Racing crew in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and vehicle owner Charles Walker. And this ain't the first disco for either of them.
Though he'd never brag about it, Charles has been into the scene longer than most, and has been fast all the while. It was during the build of Charles' red, 660whp, 10.20-second Integra street car in the late '90s that the two first worked together. "Charles came to me wanting to build the fastest FWD in the Southeast," says Andres. "It was a learning process for both of us, but we accomplished our goal." After that, Charles built a 725whp E85-fueled '96 hatch, raced it to a 10.00 @ 145 down the quarter, and embarked on a few equally crazy projects yet to be completed. Not only is this S2K faster than anything he's owned, it's also the most controversial.
As Charles tells us, he bought this S2K specifically to swap in a 2JZ-GTE and boost the hell out of it. In case you're thinking that ditching the native lightweight, high-revving F22C for an elongated chunk of iron and a 75-pound turbo and manifold setup is sacrilegious, Charles doesn't care. He wanted to go fast, and knew the S2K's small stature and light weight would give him the advantage. "It's a lot lighter and more rigid than the Supra or a 240SX or something," he says. "And the S2's engine bay offers more than enough room to accommodate the swap-the entire engine fit between the firewall and front strut towers."
Immediately after picking up the new chassis, Andres and the crew were tearing into it in the RAW facility, fabricating mounts for the 2JZ-GTE engine, Getrag six-speed trans, and 8.8-inch Ford independent rearend; modifying the firewall, transmission, and tunnel to make it all fit; and fabricating intake and exhaust manifolds, a front-mount intercooler and piping system, full turbo-back exhaust, oil and power steering cooler, custom wiring harness and brake lines, and bolting up miscellaneous parts. A donor engine was sourced locally, and completely rebuilt top and bottom by Big Daddy Performance to produce right around 900 whp from a custom-spec GT45R turbocharger and single fogger Nitrous Express system-good enough for street reliability and 9-second quarter-mile E.T.s at the strip.
It wasn't the first project for either of the duo, but it was the first of its kind they'd undertaken. But here's the kicker: They completed it, start to finish, in five months. "I bought the car in late July of '08," says Charles, "and four hours before roll-in at HIN Miami in December, we were tuning and wet-sanding it on the dyno." Their hard work paid off. Four hours after roll-in, the crew rolled home with "Best of Show," "Best Engine Bay," and "Wildest Honda" trophies riding shotgun.
Since successfully completing the S2000, Andres and RAW Racing have developed a reputation for crazy fabrication projects. "We just finished a 2JZ-powered '93 Isuzu pickup and an '83 GMC Shortbed with an 800whp three-speed Turbo trans," Andres tells, "along with a few Starlets and Starions with all different engines." What he won't mention unless asked is his personal project: an AE86 Toyota Corolla swapped with the original F22C from Charles' monster S2K. Look for more of that one soon.
In the short time since we've shot Charles and Andres' creation, the pair haven't stopped improving it. "We were breaking axles with the manual transmission, and shifting the gears was really slowing us down," says Andres, "so we decided to move up to a Bullseye 88mm turbocharger and direct-port nitrous system, swap in a built Powerglide transmission with custom axles and hubs, add even more rubber, and switch to a Strange drag-specific suspension." It's an estimated 1,500 hp that Charles has driven to a best time of 8.1 @ 181 down the 1,320, and the crew agrees it's got plenty more. "If I gutted the thing and replaced the glass with Lexan, I could probably hit 7s," says Charles. "But I'd rather do it as is. It's still a street car. I drive it like this all the time."
Seua Tiger Chanthaphanij
Cars, video games, racing
"To build a reliable, high-hp Honda with all the amenities."
'03 Honda Civic Si
Output: 538 whp / 395 lb-ft of torque
Engine Honda '02 K20A2 cylinder head, '03 K20A3 block, RBC intake manifold; 86.5mm 9.0:1-compression Wiseco pistons, rings; Eagle H-beam connecting rods; ARP rod bolts, head studs; Hytech oil pan baffle; Hybrid Racing timing chain tensioner; Glow Shift oil sandwich adapter; Supertech valvesprings, retainers; Karcepts manifold adapter; Hondata Heatshield; Greddy EVO TT exhaust; Full Race catalytic converter, turbo manifold, front-mount intercooler, piping; Golden Eagle vacuum manifold; Garrett T3/60-1 0.82 turbocharger; HPC turbine/compressor coating; Thermo-Tec heat shielding, turbo blanket; Tial 50mm blow-off valve, 44mm wastegate; NGK BKR8E-IX plugs; RC Engineering 1,000cc injectors; Aeromotive A1000 fuel pressure regulator; Walbro 255lph fuel pump; Arizona Forced Induction fuel rail; Corsport MAC boost control solenoid; Hondata K Pro ECU, tuned by Mike of Top Dead Center Performance; Xstatic 800 slim battery
Driveline Bullhead/PPG straight-cut dog-engagement gearset, input shaft, output shaft; Wavetrac limited-slip differential (LSD); Stage 4 Competition Clutch; Exedy flywheel; Corsport metal shifter bushings, stainless clutch line
Suspension H&R Race springs; Tokico HP dampers; Comptech 22mm rear sway bar; Megan Racing front under brace; Beaks rear lower tie bar; Ingalls rear camber kit; Energy Suspension motor mount inserts; Innovate 75A motor mounts; Hardrace roll center adjusters; D2 Racing rear lower control arms
Wheels/Tires 17x7 +42mm Buddy Club P1 SF challenge street wheels; 225/45-17 General Exclaim UHP street tires; 15x8 +35mm Rota Slipstream front race wheels; 14.5x8.5 M&H Racemaster front race tires; Nippon Racing lug nuts
Brakes EBC 3GD rotors, Red Stuff pads; Corsport stainless steel brake lines
Exterior HFP front lip spoiler, side skirts, rear lip, roof wing; Seibon carbon-fiber hood
Interior Bride Vios II front seats; Wedge Engineering seat brackets; Corsport steering wheel
Electronics Auto Meter Cobalt-series boost gauge, carbon-fiber mounting cup; NGK AFX wideband; Phase Linear 7-inch in-dash monitor
Gratitude Chanthaphanij family; Sunny Side Crew; DJ Phonatik; Squirk; Lil Roper; John Garrett; TurboDav; Premium Garage Krew; Don Napier; James Evins; Zac Carter; Astr0not; Jeff Creech; Geoff Raicer; Elmo of Yazoo City
Fort Lauderdale, FL
"I wanted to own the world's fastest 2JZ-powered S2000. Mission accomplished."
Output (est): 1,500 whp / 950 lb-ft of torque
Engine Toyota 2JZ-GTE; Crower 280 camshafts; 87mm 9.5:1-compression CP Pistons, rings, aluminum connecting rods; Big Daddy Performance cylinder head porting; Ferrea +1mm titanium valves, double valvesprings, retainers; RAW Racing intake manifold, turbo manifold, radiator hoses, oil cooler, custom Moroso oil catch system; Koyo radiator; 95mm throttle body; Titan Motorsports adjustable cam gears; Bullseye 88mm turbocharger; Tial 44mm wastegates (x2); Nitrous Express nitrous injection; 1,600cc/min fuel injectors; Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator; Weldon Magna Flow fuel pump; Titan Motorsports fuel rail; Haltech 2000 ECU, tuned by Chrisspeed at AWD Motorsports
Drivetrain Powerglide transmission, straight-cut gears, upgraded clutches; RAW Racing shift kit; Pro Torque torque converter; Drive Shaft Shop axles; custom 8.8-inch Ford rearend
Suspension Strange suspension; Cusco bolt-in rollcage
Wheels/Tires 19x10 Volk Racing Gram Lights street wheels; Falken Azenis street tires (255/35-19 front, 285/30-19 rear); CCW Holeshot drag wheels (17x4 front, 17x10 rear); Mickey Thompson ET Drag tires (4-inch skinny front, 355-series rear)
Brakes RAW Racing stainless steel brake lines
Exterior Tracy Sports front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, front canards, carbon-fiber rear wing; J's Racing carbon-fiber hood; Mugen carbon-fiber hardtop; custom pearl white paint, applied by Neil of South Florida Collision
Interior Bride Vorga seats; Takata harnesses
Electronics Defi gauges (oil pressure, oil temperature, water temperature, volt), Link; AEM air/fuel ratio gauge
Gratitude Richard, Junior, Andres, Chino, and Moose from RAW Racing; Chrisspeed from AWD Motorsports; VJ, Jason, and John from Big Daddy Performance Center; South Florida Collision; S2Kparts.com; Bullet Proof Automotive; TD Autowerks, AD Turbo, STP Dyno, Speed Injected, and Santos from the Ft. Lauderdale area