Enginetiks a.k.a. Engtuning has closed its doors for business. The Lotus Honda swap project is moved to an undisclosed location for completion.

Honda swap on race trailer

An era ends. 2009-2014. Rest. Peace.


And yet… endings large and small, for all of their time-bending melancholy, or at least pause, so long as we can feel it at all, hold out something else for us: change. Something new!

And we may as well admit it, too, every venture requires at least one of both; a beginning, and an end.

Pray the tragic-comic cycle never stops.

“Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.”
Jeremy Clarkson

Manifold Destiny: This Changes Everything

When Colin Chapman famously said “Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere”, he was racing 400 horsepower, 1000lb F1 cars, in 1963. (Similar power-to-weight as the 2013 Arial Atom V8.) In this context his statement can be understood as a strategy for winning through faster cornering. Based on the cars he built, we can also say he was not calling for less power.

The come-back car for Lotus—the Elise/Exige—undoubtedly achieved the main goal of subtracting weight. Yet, like one’s first lower-powered motorcycle, its limits are soon reached, leaving that sense of what remains, what’s lacking. What’s next.

After driving a well supercharged Elise the common refrain is, “That’s how it should come from the factory.” (E.g. the Exige.) I’m here to say they both should have come as early turbocharged Lotuses, such as the Lotus 99T, did: powered by Honda. Not the eager, reliable, yet less robust and extensible Toyota power plant.

A well built naturally aspirated Honda K-series engine will give most of what most should want from their Lotus. Certainly as much or more than the supercharged Toy(ota) engine. And more reliably. To want more than either of these two prime-movers can provide is probably the sign of a problem… of a different kind.

Call it a personal problem, an illness, genius, or plain evil. Call it all the above. I’ll call it destiny. Rather, it called to me. A call known to those with a dis-ease in the marrow of our bones: the knell to be slung out of corners and down the straights. Not just swung around corners, however nimbly.

Those who’ve run an Elise or Exige with the more muscular spate of contemporary performance cars knows that, for all of Lotus’s agility and unequaled cornering ability, straigt-line speed is often its Achilles’ heel (a weakness in spite of overall strength). Supercharged or not. Even after factoring in the heftier weights of Porsches, Corvettes, GTRs, BMWs, or so many super cars, their horsepower often still sets Lotus behind in power-to-weight. The Honda/turbo recipe changes that.

Could it be too much power for such a light-weight chassis? Ask Hennessy. Regardless, what proves too much can be easily curtailed. What’s proved too little has already failed.

Thanks to Innovative Mounts, the K-series Honda-powered Elise or Exige is affordable and feasible. Yet there is no mass market manufacture of turbo “kits” for the K20 Elise. This is the land of hand fabrication. You have to love this stuff. Or it doesn’t get started, never mind done.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have manifold!

k20 honda elise turbo manifold

Pulling The Toyota/Yamaha 2ZZ-GE

I’m not a mechanic and I could not do this myself. The most automotive maintenance I’d done was tune-ups and break pad replacements. And that was back in the ’80’s. This project is only possible because of my luck in meeting the team at Enginetiks. This is a unique project in a number of respects, but the team supporting it brings a key characteristic to it: we share a personal desire for the result.

“Engineering without personality doesn’t have much value.”
Soichiro Honda

Though I’ve been gathering the necessary parts and components through much of this year (2013), the K20 swap project officially kicked off the day we pulled the Toyota/Yamaha 2ZZ-GE engine.

Lotus Elise K20 turbo swap project - Toyota/Yamaha 2ZZ-GE removal

Because of the work ethic of Casey and Sean, and Casey’s long experience with the Lotus chassis, the rear clam was off within an hour and a half of pulling in and turning off the engine.

Lotus Elise K20 turbo swap project - Toyota/Yamaha 2ZZ-GE removal

Truthfully, the Toyota/Yamaha 2ZZ-GE engine had been quite performant and, with the exception of only two hiccups from sensor glitches (meaning no problem with the engine itself), extremely reliable. Such that it was with a little reluctance that I committed to the swap. Yet committed I am.

Lotus Elise K20 turbo swap project - Toyota/Yamaha 2ZZ-GE removal

In keeping with the Hondaism of climbing up and kicking out the ladder behind you, I decided not to keep the 2ZZ in case the swap somehow disappointed.

Lotus Elise K20 turbo swap project - Toyota/Yamaha 2ZZ-GE removal

While great to see tangible progress on the project, to have one of your few great pleasures in life have the life removed from it is simply unnerving. It certainly feels like an act of faith. Yet in reality, Casey and Sean have my complete confidence. Great thanks also to Ike for his support. Now the “fun” begins!