NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS: JADEN MARTIN PHO­TOS: MAR­CUS GIB­SON

Stop for a sec­ond and think of as many mod­i­fied cars that can be found on New Zealand shores as you can. Now, tally up all the ones that have model years start­ing with a one — there should be a shit­load of them bounc­ing around your skull right now. The truth that we’re cur­rently star­ing at is that our car fleet is age­ing some­thing chronic. The cal­en­dar pages may be peel­ing off rapidly, but the av­er­age year of the cars we’re driv­ing and build­ing al­most seems to have stalled. We’re stuck in the past, liv­ing the glory of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.

While you may be able to list a cou­ple of ex­am­ples from the early to mid 2000s, these are al­most al­ways at the tail end of a beloved model’s life­time, just be­fore it’s dis­con­tin­ued. These cars aren’t get­ting any younger, and, as more and more get dragged into the abyss, we’re left with fewer and fewer, while we see hefty price tags at­tached to cars that we were once un­able to give away.

So, it begs the ques­tion: why aren’t we em­brac­ing more mod­ern ex­am­ples? Are we scared of the 2000s or the myth­i­cal high price tag that we all seem to think mod­ern cars com­mand? Jacky Tse of Jtune Au­to­mo­tive tells us straight that Ki­wis should be look­ing to­wards the fu­ture a lot more than we cur­rently are.

“So many cars get built and then sit in the garage be­cause they aren’t prac­ti­cal to drive reg­u­larly. Most of these cars are old and look old, even with en­gine swaps,” he says. “Our new con­cept is ‘less is more’. Do less, but get more. The car doesn’t need to have a huge spec list; just ev­ery­thing hav­ing been done for a rea­son — it doesn’t have to be fancy all of the time. Some­thing mod­ern with the right bits goes a long way.”

To get a bet­ter idea of what he’s on about, Jacky in­vited us to get be­hind the wheel of a project that he and the team re­cently com­pleted for a cus­tomer. Af­ter hear­ing the above com­ments from the man him­self, any rea­son­able per­son would gen­er­ate thoughts of mod­ern weapons the likes of an Evo X, late-model STi, or GT-R. So, in say­ing that, we weren’t quite pre­pared for what was parked in the drive­way when we showed up to Jtune — a 2010 Honda Fit RS. Yep, we were there to look at the quin­tes­sen­tial old-lady gro­cery-get­ter! How­ever, straight off the bat, it was ob­vi­ous that this was by no means your reg­u­lar ex­am­ple. Drip­ping in fac­to­rystyled aero, car­bon-fi­bre laden, and sit­ting low to the ground over a stark white set of Rays TE37s, it looked as if there was a lit­tle more go­ing on un­der the steel skin than you’d prob­a­bly be able to guess.

Jacky ex­plains to us that the car had served the cus­tomer

as a daily-driver for a short while, al­beit not liv­ing up to the owner’s power de­sire — a measly 80kW at the wheels. With ideas of hit­ting the track, the cus­tomer had the 1.5-litre fac­tory heart fit­ted with a Sprintex charger and Ti ex­haust, and tuned to 125kW, with a smaller pul­ley for more boost. Even then, the Fit strug­gled to keep up with its big­ger brothers on the track — the fac­tory six-speed man­ual had hor­ren­dously long-spread gear­ing, lacked a lim­ited-slip diff (LSD), and, as the charger heated up with a lack of cooler, power was lost. It was ob­vi­ous that the pack­age was sim­ply not suited for track work, and that reve­la­tion was the ex­act rea­son that we’re look­ing at this car now. Af­ter all, no one likes to sit at the back of the pack.

“There wasn’t enough power to keep up with the big brother K20A around the track, so we de­cided to step up and go with the big­ger ca­pac­ity K24A,” ex­plains Jacky. “Our ini­tial plan was just a ba­sic stock swap — stock mo­tor, stock gear­box — enough for daily driv­ing and a step up for the track.”

Ev­i­dently, that never hap­pened. The Ac­cord Euro–sourced K24 bot­tom end has been fully re­built and the head packed with a fresh pair of camshafts ground to Jtune’s own blend. The Fit’s drive-by-wire (DBW) throt­tle has been re­tained through the use of an adap­tor plate and ZDX 78mm throt­tle body, which was more of a ne­ces­sity than choice due to space con­straints — if you’ve ever

stopped to have a gan­der in­side a Fit en­gine bay, you’ll know that it’s by no means roomy at the best of times, let alone when crammed with a mo­tor that has nearly a litre on the fac­tory unit.

How­ever, as we quickly learn when pulling out of the drive­way with the assistant ed. be­hind the wheel, that is only half of the fun. Jacky has fit­ted a Fire­power close-ra­tio gear set into the DC5 Type R five-speed and made shift­ing noth­ing more than a flick of the pinky thanks to a K-Tuned shifter. It’s a sure­fire way to keep the power band in play, only drop­ping 2000rpm be­tween shifts, and pump­ing mas­sive amounts of torque to the fronts in prac­ti­cally any gear of your choice — grip be­comes a con­cept of how hundo you want to peel through gears, spin­ning first through third like it is noth­ing, and we dare not hold through three more gears to find out how much trou­ble we could get our­selves into on this ‘Sun­day’ drive. Hav­ing 192kW at the front, with oo­dles of torque in such a small wheel­base and light­weight chas­sis is dan­ger­ous in all the right ways.

It may scream out ‘rice rocket’ to any mid­dle-aged hot rod­der within a 20km ra­dius, and sound like an an­gry teenager look­ing to piss off their en­tire neigh­bour­hood to the reg­u­lar com­muter, but it packs all the drive to jus­tify do­ing so, and then some. It is a well­blended con­coc­tion of a smooth daily-driver and tar­mac-ter­ror weaponry. This is what the word ‘stealth’ was cre­ated for, and, even if you know what you are look­ing at — not­ing the AP Rac­ing brakes and the chop of a cammed mo­tor — there is re­ally no way of pick­ing out that some mad man has crammed a K-se­ries heart into a Fit. You can be high­way bang­ing one minute, weav­ing your way through dense traf­fic at speeds that would un­doubt­edly see your li­cense in­cin­er­ated, then sit­ting at the lights calm as the next, with the boys in blue not bat­ting an eye­lid at you.

Best of all, this ve­hi­cle comes with all the perks of a mod­ern car. You get to have a swanky in­te­rior that feels, and smells, new. All the gauges work as they should, the trims don’t rat­tle as if they’ve been vi­brated to death for 200,000-plus kilo­me­tres, and it’s gen­er­ally a place that pas­sen­gers don’t mind climb­ing into — it even has air con­di­tion­ing, a fea­ture that Jacky tells us was a must for the cus­tomer.

There are very few cars around that you can hop into the driver’s seat of and gen­uinely not stop smil­ing the whole time; some­how, dur­ing our drive, this lit­tle Fit man­ages to sur­prise us all and de­liver a lot more than its looks prom­ise. If you’re look­ing to build a prac­ti­cal daily com­muter that can han­dle a se­ri­ous amount of track work while re­main­ing com­fort­able and still look­ing half de­cent, the Fit re­ally makes sense. You can pick these things up for $5–6K, and most K-swaps will cost around the same whether you’re do­ing it with an old Civic, an In­te­gra, or a Fit. Hell, the mounts are off the shelf, and you don’t even need to build the mo­tor or have a gear set for it to pack plenty of punch. So, maybe Jacky’s right and we do need to start look­ing to­wards the next gen­er­a­tion of mod­i­fied chas­sis — this K-swapped Fit has cer­tainly con­vinced us that the fu­ture is look­ing good.

Sur­pris­ingly, the looms re­main un­cut and no adapter har­ness was used for the con­ver­sion. The only mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the wiring was re­pin­ning the ECU plug so that a Honda Civic FD2 Type R unit could be used to re­tain the dbw throt­tle When the VTEC hits at 6200rpm and revs out to 8000RPM, the Fire­power gear set keeps the mo­tor within the power band by drop­ping only 2000rpm per shift and those fronts strug­gling for trac­tion

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