HOW IT ALL BEGAN
"Whenever I had access to a computer, I'd be looking at Erebuni and Wings West for ideas on what body kit I wanted for my future project car," began David Tran. David might be dating himself, but reveals he grew up in the "golden age" of America's import car scene. Many kids were hopping on the glitz and glamor of the Fast & Furious bandwagon; however, there were thousands of others that began emulating Japanese car culture. David eventually found his way after flipping through enough Turbo and Import Tuner magazines, which led to the ultimate decision that a Shogun-style body kit wasn't for him.
David bought his first project car in 2004; an EM1 Civic coupe upgraded with JDM and optional OEM goodies. He debated on turbocharging its highly tunable B16 DOHC engine, but regrettably moved up to an Infiniti G35, which didn't end up really being a "move up" at all. While it had more power on paper, he hated the car. It had no emotion or feeling. He even tried the popular "stance" thing for a quick minute but was only left with more regret for leaving the Honda community.
The gears in his head started turning again after he'd borrowed his friend's S2000 for a quick spin around the block. Instantly he was hooked. "Sure, it didn't have a ton of power, but it's a car that has just the essentials and the feedback between you and the road is something hard to explain unless you've driven one. It's one of Honda's last 'pure' cars in my opinion before technology took over." Being at the right place at the right time led David to swooping up this particular 2005 AP2, and right away, he was on his way to creating his greatest vision of a tastefully-done, home-built Honda project car.
Now before we get too far into this story, while David's S2000 looks like something you'd see at a car show in San Jose, he's in fact, 2,000 miles away. David hails from Winnipeg, Canada, and he didn't have the luxury of attending events every weekend, nor a Honda community that numbered into the tens of thousands. But he does reveal that there were some inspiring builders in his hometown that left a lasting impression on him. "We have a lot of passionate diehards and tons of up and coming builds to look out for. To put it geographically, quite a few mentionable builds have come out of here that have graced Honda Tuning and Super Street—Nathan Kowalski's K-swapped Honda Domani, Reynard Mauricio's K-swapped CRX and Danville's Midori EK Civic. These are the builds that everyone will remember and watching these guys do their thing inspired me to try to make my own way up there."
CLEAN STYLING, AUTHENIC PARTS, NO BS
A quick look at David's S2000 reveals that it's mega clean. He points out that there are no replica parts which says a lot when you consider how spendy and rare things are like the Mugen SS front bumper and MF10 wheels. "If I can't afford to do it, I'll wait until I can." Also notice the Mugen rear wing and side mirrors, but David doesn't want you to believe this is simply a catalog car. "The car is not a 'Mugen S2000'. It's combining selective parts that work together to create a more aggressive OEM+ theme. I want to look back ten years from now and say I wouldn't change a thing, and for it to last the test of time like other Honda builds." With that said, there's no fender flares or air ride which he believes will be a trend that comes and goes. The suspension he opted for are HKS coilovers while stopping duties are handled by Spoon Sports front calipers matched with aggressive EBC rotors and pads.
REPLACING AN IRREPLACABLE HOOD
Perhaps David's biggest headache is the Shift Sports hood. "Luckily no company makes a replica of it and only a handful of S2000 guys have it in North America. It added the much-needed aggression without compromising the OEM lines of the car. It did take over six months of waiting for this thing to show up, and when it finally did, and I unboxed it, my jaw dropped and felt sick to my stomach as the hood was destroyed. There was a big corner missing, stress marks everywhere. It looked like it was folded in half during shipping. Literally pieces of it floating around in the box..." Thankfully, David had a talented body shop on deck with Fleet Autobody to rebuild the hood and fix all its imperfections. The remaining highlights of the exterior include J's Racing carbon side skirts as well as a carbon rear diffuser from JDP.
DAUGHTER DECIDES LAGUNA SECA BLUE
With all the additional aero and the work that needed to be done to repair the hood, a full repaint was in order. Picking the final color wasn't easy, but David had some help in the end. "Originally, I was dead set on using Ford's F150 Lithium Grey. It's a hot color for sure, but it seemed like everyone is doing their own version of a 'hotboi grey' paint or wrap these days. The other three colors I was thinking of was a custom purple/pastel grey, Honda Galapagos green and BMW's Laguna Seca blue. I annoyed pretty much anyone close to me to help me choose between the three. Ultimately, the person who chose the color was my daughter. She loved the blue spray card so much she cried when I asked if I could have it back. She even wanted to hold the card and sleep with it that night and would not release it from her little Kung fu death grip." After the daughter's final call, the car was painted days later, but not before the paint was slightly modified to make it a touch dimmer.
99% of people that hop into an S2000 understand it's a well-balanced car despite its not-so-glamorous power and torque numbers. David knew this all too well, but he had unfinished business that dated back to his high school project car. "I never got the chance to turbo my EM1 Civic, so I felt that was the direction for this car. Naturally aspirated, the S2000 is pretty tapped unless you really want to spend some big money for little gains. Turbo was the way for me to go over the more common supercharger setups most S2000 guys go with."
David sourced an off the shelf kit from Full-Race with front-mount intercooler, downpipe and a Garrett GTX3076R turbo. Other important add-ons include the ARC Labs dump tubes, Turbosmart blow-off valve, TiAL wastegates, ID injectors and AEM fuel pump. The turbo setup didn't require busting into the F-series' internals, but there were a bunch of other components added to ensure proper cooling, power transfer and overall reliability such as the Spoon Sports mounts, Samco hoses, ACT clutch, ceramic coated parts and heat insulated wiring. "The power delivery, potential and sounds associated with a great turbo setup is why I wanted to go this way. The car drives exactly like stock until boosts comes on, then it's an animal. I love it! The AEM ECU sees 1 psi by 2,300 RPM, then full boost by 4,500 RPM."
If you're curious about the final numbers, David threw the S2K on the dyno. Tuned using an equivalent 94-octane Ethanol blend, the powerplant made 436whp and 316 lb-ft of torque at 15psi. He mentions the motor is easily capable of 500-plus horsepower if he were to add water/methanol injection or use E85, but it's already a handful and the rear breaks loose easily on street tires. "I'm at a point in my life where I don't have the desire to prove who is faster on the street. The car has been tracked when it was naturally aspirated, but now I just enjoy it to work on nice summer days."
NO NEED TO GO OVERBOARD
So, what's next for David? Maybe more power, a shaved bay, and widebody, right? If you're a seasoned veteran in the Honda scene, then you know you don't need to go overboard on project cars when it already sits right. David explains, "Sometimes too much of something in excess is a bad thing. Less can be more if executed well. A wire tuck and deleting parts in the bay would be cool, but in the end, I don't want to go overboard. I feel like I've done everything I've ever dreamed about the day I purchased my S2000 which will be going on six years this May! I do have a few more things on the way to install on this car to cross off my bucket list, but it's been a blast piecing everything together and scouring the Internet for some of the harder to get parts."
Why haven't you most likely seen any photos or videos of David's car before? Well, he's actually not on social media nor does he compete at every car show. "As much as I am involved in parts distribution, I tend to stay in the shadow and avoid car meets and shows. I do show up and attend them to represent my workplace as well as to hang out and chat. I just prefer to go without my car. Seems like there's too much drama with the younger generation and social media these days. I don't have social media. I feel a build is less special if you're bombarded everyday by photos of a car over and over. To see a car in person versus online is a totally different experience that people seem to have forgotten about."
Lastly, I must apologize to David because ultimately he wanted his S2000 to get published in print like all the previous Honda legends that he had looked up to before. Hopefully this online feature will suffice for the time being and our readers can still appreciate the thought process that has led up to this beautiful turbocharged, Laguna Seca blue S2000.