Oct 29, 2013

A year of decisions, one month of ownership, and nine thousand revolutions per minute. | Part II

 To me the S2000 is a great mix of old and new generation Honda engineering. Without getting into the whole 'golden era' debate, I feel that the S2000 has many qualities of the 'old cars' while also benefiting from Honda's new technology and manufacturing processes. I get to 'have my cake and eat it too' as they say.

It sounds terrible and as cheesy as kraft macaroni, but after the first drive home I knew this was it. This was the car I had been looking for. It is loud, raw and about as engaging as any car could be. Every button of the climate control and audio controls is reachable while your thumbs are still fully wrapped around the wheel. Even the CD player is blocked off for fewer lights and distractions. This driver focused theme is most noticeable for me when driving at night. The cabin is the darkest I have been in. You see nothing but rpm bars, speed indication, and the road ahead; lit up by the beautiful HID's the S2000 is known for.

Read any review of the S2000 and they will say the steering is razor sharp and super responsive. They would be right. Though my one and maybe only gripe with the car, after having gotten used to the ultra quick ratios of the 8th gen Civic and Fit, is that the steering ratio is a bit wide. I find myself having to crank more steering angle than I anticipate in a corner or round about. The OEM dampers are fantastic. They have great low speed stiffness allowing for quick transitions with little to no body roll, but soft enough high speed to maintain what I consider great ride comfort over sharp cracks and dips in the road. Throw the S into a long off ramp or carousel and the softer springs become apparent as there is a substantial amount of roll. An unfortunate but necessary evil when selling a car to the general public whom will probably care more about comfort than the true cornering potential of the car. I really enjoy the ability of this car to transfer weight exactly where, when and how much you want to each corner. I truly cannot wait to push the car in a closed course setting.

The engine is of course the pièce de résistance as is the case with any of Honda's offerings. It is buttery smooth all the way to its astounding 9,200 rpm cut. Engineering nerds will love the fact that the F20C had the highest specific output of any production engine until of course the Ferrari 458 stole the crown. The F20C also has a higher mean piston speed when compared to Sebastian Vettel's 2013 RBR F1 engine. ( 25.2 m/sec compared to 23.88m/sec). Again the journalists also do not lie, that is, the F20 is infact a torqueless wonder. Sure if you want to bang around traffic on the highway or from light to light this car doesn't offer much.  I quite enjoy the fact that when you want,  the S2000 is as easy to drive in a pedestrian manor as your mom's civic. The transmission feel is an interesting mix between the B and K series units. It has direct mechanical feel with tons of feedback like the B series, though has that super crisp tight gate feel associated with the K shifter boxes.

As good as the car is in factory stock form, I will begin the process of giving it the SHG treatment this winter. The theme of round one will be suspension and safety to give me something fun and safe to use on track and from time to time on the street. I still wish to drive to the track, hang with friends and go to local meets with the car. First I will tighten up the suspension by replacing the old tired bushings with poly/delrin/spherical versions where applicable. I will also be adding tunability with single rebound adjustable coilovers with custom track oriented valving and spring rates. Geometry will kept in check with front and rear roll center adjusters, rear toe arms to reset and tune roll center, and toe/camber gain. Calipers will remain factory with upgraded pads both for street and again for track duties. I will be going with a square setup of 17x9 wheels wrapped in 255 street tires all around.

Safety upgrades will consist of a custom built SHG roll bar, head restraint seats 5/6 pt harnesses, and a new steering wheel. The soft top will need to be removed for the roll bar so a hardtop will also be installed. The rest of the car will be gone through and all necessary worn out or old parts will be refreshed and replaced. Any unneeded parts such as the AC and air pump will be removed for weight savings.

The next summer and years to come will consist of a stand alone ECU, the typical bolt ons, and upgrading the aero as necessary. My inspirations if I had to choose just a few for this build are the Porsche GT3 RS street car, as well as any FIA GT3 class endurance racing car. It is important to make the car quick, but it is just as important to make the car bulletproof reliable just as is the case with endurance motorsports.

Stay tuned for the continuing progress this winter...