Honda Tuning has taken heat in the past for our decidedly body kit-unfriendly stance. What can we say? We're race fans and performance geeks. While racecars generally rely on aero tweaks to achieve better traction, the truth is a lot of what's available to the public is junk. Don't believe us? Look at the kit companies that have gone the way of the dodo in the last few years; they didn't get there by offering quality product.
The most egregious of sins is the use of double-sided tape to secure parts. Whoever thought of that should be shot. Shoddy mounting techniques aside, we take umbrage with other practices of body kit makers, namely that the kits are mass-produced with little regard for a good fit. Hopefully companies like RonJon Sport Design will force the market to change its ways (see sidebar on page 81).
For this second part of Serenity Sound Performance's TL project, proprietor Thai Nguyen picked up a RonJon kit for the third-gen luxury sedan. The setup includes polyurethane front and rear bumpers and side skirts, some sheet-metal mesh for the openings, and unique hardware that works in conjunction with the O.E. mounting hardware and allows a certain level of adjustability to dial in the perfect fit. All of the parts come unfolded in what looks like a refrigerator box.
More importantly is how these parts fit, which amazed us. The seams look flawless, every piece feels solid, and even the design of the kit plays entirely off the natural lines of the TL. This is good stuff.
The brainchild of 26-year-old graphic designer Rondy Marji, RonJon Sport Design engineers all of its products exclusively for Hondas and Acuras. Marji named the business after his son and got the idea to start a wheel/aero company after previous experiences doing commercial art for some super-luxury brands in the wheel biz. In return for services rendered by these wheel sellers, Marji would typically get a set of wheels as part of his payment, but disappointingly none of the wheels ever fit his '01 CL Type-S well. The lug centric rollers would cause vibrations, the weird offsets would rub, in some applications luxo rims wouldn't clear big brakes-Marji was having no luck at all.
"They really don't care about fitment, they just care about chrome and selling quantities."
Inspired by companies that focused their aftermarket product line on one make, like AC Schnitzer for BMW, Brabus for Mercedes, and L Sportline for Lexus, and encouraged by his peers on the Acurazine.com message boards, Marji established a rapport with the same suppliers that work for his employers. Initially he was only going to design one set of hub-centric wheels for the CL, built to O.E. specs and to be sold primarily to his friends on Acurazine.com. The deal with the supplier was so good, though, Marji decided to design a second wheel. Over the next few months he added specs and different finishes and also moved into the body kit game. Currently RSD has three wheel designs and a couple of aero packages available.
Marji's affinity for the Honda brand began in '01 when his father promised a down payment toward a car as a gift for finishing school. Marji test drove the Lexus IS 300, BMW 3 Series, and the CL-S, which was in its first year of production. A stickler for quality and value, Marji naturally gravitated to the Acura.
"I thought, this is it; this is the car I like. It had the most horsepower; it was roomy and luxurious. Over [the next] three or four years I just developed a liking for Acuras; I decided that every car I got from then on would be an Acura."
This appreciation for quality is partly why the introduction of the TL body kit was delayed one month. In the R&D process, Marji and the engineers at the supplier went through 12 prototypes on the three TLs RSD had to test with, and each car had unique fitment issues. When all the problems seemed to have been been ironed out, Marji OK'd production, only to learn a few days later that the kit in fact did not fit the way he'd hoped.
"When they sent the TL from [the manufacturer in] California to [RonJon's headquarters in] New York, I actually almost had a heart attack. I literally couldn't eat for two days." Marji was in the Golden State within 24 hours to find a fix for the problem. In the end, the manufacturer had to scrap 25 kits and Marji and the engineers had to redesign every clip in the kit to make the body pieces adjustable.
Things have been looking much better these days for Marji and RonJon. Within the first three months of operation he's sold 85 kits when he expected to sell only 20. The demand has presented the new challenge of maintaining standards while keeping pace with sales. This is why every third kit produced is test fit.
Right now Marji is RonJon's sole employee and most of the company's operations are contracted out. He keeps his day job as a designer because he says he's not really making money with RSD, as everything he makes is being reinvested into the company and new products. RonJon will be rolling out an Accord kit soon, and Marji has expressed interest in doing something with the new Si.
Additionally RSD has a lightweight one-piece forged wheel, the Devotion 1PS, in the works that will feature a mirror-polished lip and a face colored in O.E.-spec paint, either nighthawk black pearl or satin silver metallic, or in full polish. Marji is fine with the part-time nature of RonJon, though, and would be pleased if the company just paid for itself.
"I figured if I'm to start a business I better do something that I really love because money only motivates for a short time. It'll motivate you just long enough to make you sick of what you're doing. With the Honda thing, I don't bring a product to the market until I feel like I would put it on my car. If I have any hesitation, I won't do it."
We like that kind of work ethic.