One fateful morning the Grim Reaper claimed our black Project Integra 200; luckily, it has since been reborn into the white ghost, or bac gui, you see before you.
This was an unforeseen demise. We'd just successfully pumped out 196.6 hp, only 3.4 ponies away from our goal, so we were feeling good. Our black stallion was running fine, giving us no forewarning of any problems. It was a sunny Southern California morning and I was heading back to the Bat Cave at Turbo Mag HQ after a quick visit to one of the local speed shops. I'd finished installing a new set of Skunk2 stage 2 cams, which were going to push us over our 200-hp mark and was cruising along, enjoying the ride.
Suddenly, this pleasant driving experience went horribly wrong. I was doing about 40 mph in fourth gear when the engine made a rattling noise I've never heard before.
I quickly put the car in neutral, shut the engine down, pulled into a side street and tried to crank the engine. It was a no-go. The engine was dead, literally.
I called AAA for a tow and as I waited, I pulled the spark plugs out of the cylinder head. Three were good and one had completely disintegrated. My guess? The valves touched the piston and broke off. We were supposed to clay the piston and check for clearances to ensure there wouldn't be clearance issues with the new Skunk2 cams-a costly mistake.
After towing the car home, we removed the head and witnessed the aftermath of the destruction. One of the intake valve heads had completely broken off, wedging itself into the Civic Type-R piston. Two of the valve seats also came apart, scoring the cylinder wall in the number one cylinder pretty badly.
The block was salvageable, but the head was gone. The engine was removed from the Integra and sold to a friend.
Cars must be Buddhist in nature because they're constantly reborn and take on new lives. When you leave your fallen vehicle at the junkyard, insurance check in hand, you know your car will live another life. If it's lived a good life, it may be put back together and made whole again. If not so lucky, it'll be chopped up and parted out, contributing to the lives of other deserving vehicles. I've seen many a beautiful car cut in quarters because junkyards can make more money that way. It's a sad sight.
This wasn't the fate of our Project 200. Starting fresh, we decided, after selling its loaner body, to transfer its soul to our newly chosen-and newer model-1997 white Integra. It seemed fitting to go from black to angelic white in its rebirth.
The powerplant in our white Integra will still be a Frankenstein engine with some changes from the first powerplant. First we went with overbore Integra Type R pistons instead of Civic Type-R pieces.
One problem we noticed was an occasional knock when the engine got hot or when we quickly stabbed the throttle. Our guess is Civic Type-R pistons incorporate too large of a dome for crappy Cali 91-octane. The Civic Type-R pistons work great if you plan to run 100-octane juice all the time, but who really can afford that?
The Integra Type R pistons have a much friendlier dome height. To make up for the decreased compression from the smaller dome, we'll use a GS-R cylinder head instead of a B16A variant. The smaller combustion chamber-43.5cc of the GS-R vs. 45.0cc of the B16A- should easily make up for the lost compression from the smaller dome. The smaller combustion chamber should be more efficient at igniting all the compressed air/fuel mixture.
Once the engine was properly broken-in, the Integra went to SP Engineering of Azusa, Calif., to check its dyno numbers. Our baseline run was 160 hp, just 1-hp short of our original black Integra's virgin run. Not bad, considering the previous engine setup had a ported-and-polished JG Engine Dynamics cylinder head; with the new engine, we're still running a stock GS-R head. The 160-hp baseline was also accomplished running an all-stock exhaust, intake and header. And it still passes smog. This is a good platform to achieve our goal of 200 whp.
Though we were so close to accomplishing our 200-whp goal the first time, it wouldn't be right if we called it a day. This time around we plan to make sure all goes well; 200 whp is a challenge, but we're confident Project 200 will live up to its name.