For those who remember growing up before the reign of the Internet, text messaging, or Lindsey Lohan, you no doubt encountered that one neighborhood kid who at some point took on the role as your devilish mentor. His goal: Teach everyone on the block how to rip out sprinkler pipes from the mean neighbor’s yard, fasten a used cigarette butt to one of Nana’s sewing needles, and create an archaic homemade blow dart gun. Well, contrary to Charles Darwin’s theories, these kids managed to grow up, somehow obtain a driver’s license around the time they became automotive enthusiasts, and have since gone on to spearhead quite a few unique cross-platform builds.
A superior segment of these Frankenstein creators have focused on reaping the benefits of Honda’s high-revving, ultra efficient power-per-liter powerplants. Eternally Honda’s mainstay, the H-badged mills have no doubt lent a hand to the carmaker’s legendary status amongst the automotive market year after year. From an economical standpoint, Honda engines are relatively inexpensive and widely available. The culmination of these benefits has led many a gearhead, as well as various performance-based companies, to swap Honda powerplants into non-Honda platforms. Here are some of our favorites.
These examples are but a mere handful of the endless, insane cross-platform builds out there. Take for example Chapulin Performance’s Toyota Starlet, jam-packed with a turbocharged K-series engine, or Ontario, Canada’s Kevin “Crash” Corrigan and his ’71 Ford Escort MK1 powered by an AP2 engine. Then there is Gabe Agana of ASC Speed Metal in Lakeside, California, who takes pride in stuffing B- and K-series engines into custom built sandrails. The possibilities are essentially endless.
Automotive enthusiasts and companies will continue to build creative setups using Honda engines in non-Honda platforms. Right now, someone, somewhere, is tooling away in their garage, figuring out how to stuff a Honda powerplant into their cross-platform build. Be careful the next time that ragtag beater revs up at the stoplight—they might just have a H-badged beast under that rusted hood.
Car: Ariel Atom
Location: Alton, Virginia
Engine: K20A and K20Z3
We start with the legendary Ariel Atom, having been offered to enthusiasts for over 10 years now. The highly sought after K20 engine just so happens to be the exclusive engine of choice for the Ariel Atom 3. Mark Swain, VP of TMI AutoTech, the North American distributor for U.K.-based Ariel Motor Company, explained that the Ariel Atom uses the K-series engine because of its incredible performance and reliability. “We utilize the entire Honda drivetrain, which has a very nice close-ratio gearbox that comes equipped with an LSD right from the factory,” he states.
The company offers different packages for the Ariel Atom, including a K20A in either stock form at 219 hp or one modified up to 245 hp (still normally aspirated). Even in stock form, the K20 is beastly, as the Ariel Atom 3 tips the scales at a scant 1,375 pounds. TMI AutoTech also offers customers the choice of upgrading to a Jackson Racing supercharger that is specifically designed for the race machine to produce a massive 300 hp. The Spec Atom race cars are stuffed with K20Z3 engines and produce approximately 200 hp in stock trim. Like a Honda enthusiasts dream, the company routinely receives truckloads of K-series engines for duty. The Ariel Atom has enjoyed much success being paired with a Honda powerplant, and the manufacturer plans to continue using Honda's K-series for their race-bred concoctions.
Car: Midlana (custom ground-up creation)
Owner: Kurt Bilinski
Location: San Diego, California Engine: K24A1
Kurt Bilinski is well-known for a previous outrageous build—an old-school Mini with a Honda Prelude engine nicknamed “The Kimini.” He is a fabricating genius and comes from a mechanically inclined family. After selling the Mini project, Kurt set out to build another awesome race car—one with an emphasis on race.
Midlana is the name Kurt has coined for his custom-built, mid-engine machine. “Mid” for mid-engine, and “Lana” for his granddaughter’s name. Kurt had no name for his creation because it had yet to ever exist. Building this project from scratch, Kurt took roughly a year to construct Midlana. Tracking the beast was the main goal, but he also wanted to be able to drive the car legally on public roads. Kurt’s going over the track warrior’s many details meticulously and carefully planning for long-term use is evident in the complex structural design. If you don’t factor in Kurts obviously advanced skills, the prized centerpiece of Midlana is a turbocharged K24A1 powerplant. He opted for an ATP GT3071 twin-scroll turbo with twin 44mm wastegates. He also built the engine to withstand heavy loads of boost. I installed a PPG dog-engagement gearset to deal with the glass transmission that the RSX is known for, he says. With a Hondata K-Pro ECU controlling the engines movements, the Midlana produced a staggering 409 hp at Church Automotive Testing in Wilmington, California not to mention the power-to-weight ratio is a ludicrous 3.6:1!
GT3071 twin-scroll turbo with twin 44mm wastegates. He also built the engine to withstand heavy loads of boost. “I installed a PPG dog-engagement gearset to deal with the glass transmission that the RSX is known for,” he says. With a Hondata K-Pro ECU controlling the engine’s movements, the Midlana produced a staggering 409 hp at Church Automotive Testing in Wilmington, California—not to mention the power-to-weight ratio is a ludicrous 3.6:1!
Kurt is almost finished with the build, and the next phase will be paint. With his current creation nearly complete, his mind has already shifted gears, and he is working on a new project in the meantime. “I don’t want to give too many details, but I’m aiming for very high mileage numbers; not the namby-pamby figures the Prius has,” he says. Given his previous projects, both The Kimini and Midlana, his next build is guaranteed to be beyond incredible.
Car: ’90 Rover Mini
Owner: Darwin Angeles
Location: Manila, Philippines
Darwin grew up a bonafide Mini lover; his particular infatuation revolving around the Mini’s small appetite and oversized agility. Now don’t get things twisted, he doesn’t love just any Mini, he likes the classic Mini for its sex appeal. Darwin realized that for this build he wanted to create a throttle-responsive street car, but also wanted it to be dependable. He quickly decided that he did not want to install an older, low-horsepower engine. “I opted for a B16A because there is no question about their reliability and there are so many aftermarket parts available,” he says. Darwin also ordered Honda OEM front and rear brakes to ensure he has enough stopping power to bring the green machine to a halt between intense, spirited driving sessions. In general, the build went smooth, as B-series–powered Minis aren’t completely unheard of.
Darwin and his friends performed the
majority of the work on the swap, and he was able to order a direct bolt-in subframe from Mini Tec, a company that specializes in Honda-powered Minis. Darwins only real complaint about his build is that he spent money more than he would have liked. Then again, for the performance and reliability that he enjoys, the price is certainly justifiable.
Car: Toyota Corolla
Owner: JSP Fab
Location: Vista, California
JSP Fab, located in Vista, California, is owned and operated by John Russakoff. An automotive custom fabrication and performance garage, John is a fabricator by day, and a professional drifter for the Megan Racing team in the Formula D drift series by night. The shop specializes in swapping S2000 engines into the legendary AE86 Toyota chassis. Drifters rave about the high-revving power of the F20/F22 powerplants, and the swap has become much more common in recent years. Although John’s customers are prone to ordering other cross-platform builds utilizing the AP1 or AP2 powerplant, such as older Datsuns, the AE86 swap is one of the more frequently requested. The notoriously tall S2K powerplant has to be installed down low in the Toyota’s engine bay, and because the Honda steering rack is located in front of the engine, it requires some custom work to be done to the donor’s subframe and the S2K oil pan. With years of experience under his belt, John designed a complete S2K engine swap kit to make the process easier and less expensive.
These examples are but a mere handful of the endless, insane cross-platform builds out there. Take for example Chapulin Performances Toyota Starlet, jam-packed with a turbocharged K-series engine, or Ontario, Canadas Kevin Crash Corrigan and his 71 Ford Escort MK1 powered by an AP2 engine. Then there is Gabe Agana of ASC Speed Metal in Lakeside, California, who takes pride in stuffing B- and K-series engines into custom built sandrails. The possibilities are essentially endless.
Automotive enthusiasts and companies will continue to build creative setups using Honda engines in non-Honda platforms. Right now, someone, somewhere, is tooling away in their garage, figuring out how to stuff a Honda powerplant into their cross-platform build. Be careful the next time that ragtag beater revs up at the stoplight they might just have a H-badged beast under that rusted hood.