The SEMA Look
It's been quite a few years since Honda unveiled a new offering in their lineup that's stirred up as much emotion as the CR-Z has. Whether it's the angry, power-hungry enthusiast, demoralized by the lack of a factory K20 powerplant, or the optimist that sees the CR-Z for what it is: a semi-sporty gas miser with a tiny hint of the so called "CR-X spirit," there's no denying that the CR-Z is making some noise. The result seems to be numerous manufacturers, both big and small, fitting and testing new parts, and mapping out production schedules.
As with most project cars, we'll get into suspension, wheels and tires, and bolt-on upgrades, but this month we start things off with the exterior. With a late delivery of our CR-Z project car, we scrambled to get some type of aero upgrade established in preparation for SEMA. Japanese aero specialists had already introduced complete body kits to their market, and some of the parts have defected to U.S. soil, but it seemed nothing could be obtained in time. On the bright side, C-West had agreed to partner with us on the CR-Z build, and test fit their new kit and wing combo, but arrival of the kit wasn't due for a few weeks, and wasn't going to happen before the ever-looming SEMA kick-off.
With hope quickly dwindling, John of JDPengineering.com once again stepped in to make things happen. He'd already been eyeing the CR-Z, and in his head, had come up with a few ideas for a front lip and rear wing. Luckily, an acquaintance of his just so happened to have access to a CR-Z, which allowed us to continue working on our build while he did research and development on the loaner car. The name JDP should be quite familiar with Honda Tuning magazine readers, his parts have shown up on the majority of our project cars, including our Fit Sport, S2000, and TSX V6. JDP has a history of producing clean, simple, carbon-fiber pieces that accentuate rather than overpower factory body lines.
In no time at all, JDP delivered a sleek front lip, grille cover, and rear deck extension. The front lip uses factory clips in the front portion, double-sided tape on the sides, and fits just under the front bumper, outlining the sharp factory lines. Like all of JDP's offerings, ground clearance is maximized through clever design and strength and durability, a major concern with a front lip, is exceptional. The grille cover is essentially a block of carbon fiber that eliminates the "mini-blinds" that fill the front, upper grille area. Installation doesn't get any easier, as the removal of a few pieces of tape and a careful alignment are all it takes to finish the job. The lip and grille pair drastically change the front end of the CR-Z, but keep the sexy lines of the micro-hybrid. Out back, JDP created a small wing to sit atop the rear hatch, and extend outward to lengthen the car. Third brake light functionality is in no way affected, and much like the front grille cover, installation is as easy at it gets; double-sided tape. With all three pieces installed, the new look slithered right past the average bystander at SEMA, but those in the know were more than impressed by the clean, simplistic flow, and the excellent fitment. For a street car, the JDPengineering setup is absolutely perfect.
Finding a carbon-fiber hood for the CR-Z should have been difficult this early in the game, but luckily, Seibon is always well ahead of the curve. When we contacted them, they mentioned that they'd already come up with three hood types for the CR-Z, and they were ready to go. The hood we picked up has an engine-wide vent that allows heat to escape, a lighter weight thanks to the carbon design, and adds an aggressive flair to the front end. Fitment was spot on, as there was no adjusting of the hood latch, no shaving needed, nor was there any reason to slam the hood shut in order to secure it. We simply lined up the hood with the proper gap between the fenders and it was as good as factory.
Rather than use the factory hood prop at SEMA, we searched the web for someone that might be offering hood dampers. A staple with the majority of street and track Hondas, hood shocks offer a cleaner look, more secured popped hood, and offer more room to maneuver in the engine bay from the front of the car. Only one company had the dampers in stock, and ready to install, and that was NRG Innovations. Offering a number of interior, exterior, and performance products, NRG wasted no time in creating a complete hood lift kit for the newly released hybrid, and they even had various finishes available. We chose the carbon-fiber version to match the hood, and installation required nothing more than removing and replacing two bolts on each side, snapping in the new shocks, and securing them with the included lock pins. Once you've had hood shocks on your car, it's tough to go back to the factory prop. If nothing else, the convenience is too much to resist.
The Super Lap Battle Look C-West And DTM Autobody
After SEMA, the CR-Z was shipped back to L.A., and the rush was on to get the car prepped for Super Lap Battle, just 24 hours away. Knowing that we were on a ridiculously tight schedule, the C-West aero kit and wing were dropped off at DTM Autobody just two days prior, with nothing more than a paint code and a prayer. Not only did DTM get the job finished in a very short period of time, but they were able to get an outstanding match with the car's factory paint without having any parts from the car as a guide. With the help of HT writer Joey Lee, we picked up the parts and headed straight for Evasive Motorsports to install the new kit.
Removal of the factory side skirts was a little tough due to some stubborn fasteners, but with a little massaging, and a lot of curse words, they finally let go.
The C-West side skirts simply replace the OEM version, using a mix of factory fasteners, double-sided tape, and included self-tapping screws. The side skirts seemed to fit very well on the driver side, and unbelievably well on the passenger side.
The front lip is comprised of multiple parts, two of which fit on either side of the bumper, and a third that connects the outer pieces. Double-sided tape and self-tapping screws secure both outer lips, and a set of Allen head bolts bring all three parts together. Fitment was very good in the center and very outer portions, though the inner area that surrounds the grille seemed to flare out a little too much-one of the drawbacks to not being able to fit the kit prior to installation, in order to make adjustments.
The rear wing requires the removal of the third brake light, which may scare some DIYers off. It's unfortunate because the wing, in our opinion, is the highlight of the entire kit. Taking cues from the legendary Mugen CR-X wing of the late 80s/early 90s, the C-West version carries the body lines straight off of the rear hatch, and curves down to each taillight in a graceful manner that stretches the car out significantly. Installation revolves around removing the third brake light and the black plastic trim that sits just behind the rear window, and using the factory holes to secure the new wing with supplied bolts. Fitment is factory-fresh; in fact, it couldn't be any better.
This brings us to the rear bumper. The two things we didn't consider at the beginning of the installation were; 1) the U.S. CR-Z most likely uses a much different rear crash bar, and 2) the U.S. rear crash bar doesn't have provisions for rear reflectors (at least ones mounted this high). With the removal for the factory bumper insert, it was obvious the C-West piece wasn't going to fit. Kel of Evasive pulled out his handy cutoff wheel and solved the reflector recess problem with just a few minutes of careful cutting. He also went to work on the exhaust cutout area as our HKS muffler wouldn't cooperate with the C-West opening. The crash bar issue wasn't so simple to fix. Rather than remove the crash bar completely, we did our best to "encourage" the rear bumper add-on to fit properly. Though it's safely installed, we do have a gap on either side where the kit meets the bumper in the mud flap area, as well as a slight gap in the middle. It's something we can live with, but if we could do it all over again with more time, we'd definitely have a body shop fit everything properly, make the necessary adjustments and modifications, and then paint and install it. Regardless, the C-West kit is striking to say the least. Extremely sharp lines give our project CR-Z a "moving even while parked" look with a sleek, stretched, and bulked-up body. As if bystanders weren't confused enough about what car they're looking at, they're really thrown off by the new, much more aggressive appearance as compared to stock models.
Next month we'll go over more of the upgrades performed before and after SEMA and Super Lap Battle, and we'll continue to give you feedback on fit, finish, and performance. Stay tuned.