My feet were beginning to tremble. On the dial, the engine had registered 6000 revs. The turbo had already kicked in, and if I were to get off the throttle, the compressor surge would result in a vicious rattlesnake hiss from the wastegate. I nearly lifted my foot off the throttle, when a voice from the rear calmly egged me to ‘Raise it all the way up to nine grand’. ‘You have to be kidding me’ I thought. After all, the car belonged to the man with the soothing voice in the background. What if I... ‘No sweat, my friend’, he said, ‘just give it some poke’.
As instantaneously as the B16A2 had raised the revs from 4000 clicks to 6000, it took about the same time to chatter its way up to 9000 rpm. The sensation of speed was phenomenal, especially since you sit low in a Type-II Honda City VTEC , and it weighs that magical one-tonne and some grams. At 80 kph, you feel threatened, naked even, as the car rips through the dead of night. Slot the car into 5th and hold it steady at the same speed and it feels as docile as a family saloon. This quick change in character is all thanks to Jignesh’s quest in making his City the perfect sleeper, one that doesn’t look threatening outwardly, but once behind the wheel it feels like its going to take the underpants off a Porsche Boxster S. Welcome, then, to the world of engine transplants, a quick and cheap way of gaining lots of horsepower without having
to place the existing engine under undue stress.
The phenomenon is not new to the Indian modding scene either – remember the Zens with Esteem and Baleno engines? I’ve even seen City VTEC engines do duty in Zens, and trust me, ‘lairy’ gets a new definition when something that light gets 107 bhp at the drop of a hat. But for Jignesh, the Type II City VTEC was simply not fast enough. After all, he had just moved on from a twin-cam 1300cc monster of an Esteem, so the rise in power had to be substantial, not incremental. Finding a Civic B16A2 engine was the first thing he did. Developed in the 1990s, the B16A2 featured in the Civic Si and produced around 150 bhp. The entire B16A family has been a tuner favourite all along, and come to think of it, went through seven iterations before paving the way for more environmentally friendly stuff. The brilliance of the engine is its ability to soak in a lot of bolt-on performance enhancers, and do it without affecting the overall reliability of the platform. That was the number one priority for Jignesh. After all, it was also to be his daily driver, so he didn’t want to spend too much time worrying about component failure. But to think that his job was done would have been an understatement. He found himself scurrying through a whole list of bolt-on performance equipment, and he has been idiot-proofing the setup ever since. You see, once you install a larger engine, turbocharger, intercooler, wastegate, an aftermarket fuel pump, strut brace and all the allied plumbing, you have a very tight fit that can cause its own set of problems. Never to waste a moment, Jignesh went around working out the whole setup to a T, without compromising on its sleeper appeal or its driveability. The intercooler is tightly flush with the front bumper, the Garrett G28 turbocharger and the Turbo smart 38 mm wastegate sit well in the space between the intercooler and the block, while the blow-off valve and custom exhaust complete the soundtrack package. The cylinders have been ported and polished and a set of Ferrea valves and valve springs, street performance cams, Fidanza cam gears, an Edelbrock Victor Racing X intake manifold just about make up everything that’s been done to the heart of the car, apart from the Cometic head gaskets. Not content with a shell and running gear to handle all that power, he’s opted for custom coilovers and even fitted discs at the rear, which, trust me, are all that ensure you stay on the road, once you are ‘floored’ by the car’s performance.
So how much of that performance is down to all of that work? A lot, actually. On the dyno, the car recorded nearly 174 bhp, and mind you, with the VTEC switched off. A new engine remap and VTEC wiring awaits the car, which Jignesh hopes should bring the quarter mile time down by a second at least. To give you an idea, a stock VTEC can run the quarter mile in the high eighteens or low nineteens; his has already scored a high fourteens. We strapped on our test gear to get an estimate of how fast his car can go, and boy does it fly in the face of a lot of German and Swedish luxury sedans. It outran the S80 V8 (tested elsewhere in the issue) by a couple of tenths to 100 kph, and recorded sub- five second times for the 80-120 kph and 100-140 kph times. It is a genuinely fast car, if times are all that matter, and once the VTEC switches on, it might raise eyebrows among owners of European coupes that cost nearly a crore!
All of this from a typical Type II City VTEC that was bought used, and after all that the performance bits just about whisk past the seven figure price tag. It’s also fairly easy to drive, with the option of choosing an economy map or power map at the mere switch of a button. In economy mode, it will pull away from 40 kph in 5th, like it would in any stock production car. Mind you, the performance difference is discernible, but not substantially different, so this achievement is worth due mention. At any speed, the car seems to be going faster than the dials seem to suggest, gathering pace quicker than the time one has to guess road signs. Did it show a man with a shovel or a deer jumping across a hedge? The stock gearbox and the engine mounts seem strained as the entire foundation of the drivetrain moves fore and aft. Around the half-way mark on the revs, the car is already threatening to throw driver and nervous co-driver into a black hole, one where a single downshift is enough to yank both back into the seats. In all that time, every single known memory of the time behind the wheel of a standard City VTEC just withers away like pieces of carbon paper burnt by a matchstick.
At 9,000 revs there is an urge from the centre of your gut to scream louder than the car, like time has come to a standstill, where you are begging to be in control of everything around for just that second, that split unit of time that you feel you can’t bring back. The gearbox bangs against the rev-limiter just 500 rpm later, a sign that you can place time in your hand and control your surroundings. It’s addictive, this fight with raw speed and your inability to respond to such maniacal revs. In all of that commotion, you fail to realise that your left thigh is feeling the pain of that carbon composite performance clutch, a feeling where the adrenalin rush of speed takes over common sense. This kind of plaything asks you to challenge several fundamental questions. Where’s the turbo lag? Won’t the valves
just pop straight through the bonnet at 9000 revs? Can the 15-inchers handle all that power? It will answer back with a lot of wastegate whoosh, even more grip and straight line ability I’m yet to see from any other Type II VTEC. Even at 200 kph, which the satellites accurately pinpointed on our testing gear, it never felt scary, never felt like the chassis was being overtaken by all that power, the brakes feeling near-pin sharp and the ride fairly pliant. It’s never unpredictable, never sharpening its claws to take a gnash at the driver’s skin, only questioning your ability to control your chuckles and raise your driving finesse.
It doesn’t scream on the outside; the black alloys, the nicely ducked end can and the blue tint headlights give just the smallest of hints of its potential. As fanatical an approach as it might be, sleepers speak more about the car and the person, a reflection of the true personality and attention to detail of the man behind the wheel. Stealth has always been a weapon of surprise, one which no car with flared arches, lots of body kit and a big rear wing has an answer to.
I, for one, am convinced that my childhood love for machines that appear discreet, but have hair-pulling performance, was never misplaced.
We’d like to thank Viper Performance for the turbocharged City. You can reach them at www.viperperformanceindia.com.