Tag Archives: Honda

Wednesday View: The Power Of Dreams

By Nathan Green

Power. We love, it don’t we? For many petrol heads, extracting as much horsepower as possible from the internal combustion engines bolted into our cars can easily become an obsession.

I know from experience that nothing puts a bigger smile on our faces than the stomach churning acceleration provided by a high-output engine in a featherweight chassis.

Those days are unfortunately a distant memory for me. My 240bhp, 2.0 16v, turbocharged Vauxhall Corsa died years ago, and, after some difficulties, my Renault Clio 172 Cup had to go.

Luckily for me, my younger brother, Liam, and many of his closest friends, drive Hondas. VTEC Hondas. The ones you want.

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Liam owns a late nineties, Honda Civic EK ‘Illusion’ hatchback. Originally a base spec 1.4 variant, now fitted with a B18C4 engine (1.8 16v VTEC petrol engine) from a Honda Civic Aerodeck (Civic estate) which plays host to a decent list of thoughtfully planned and executed power augmenting modifications.

The little terror has also fitted Recaro bucket seats from a Type R of some sort, a set of rare alloy wheels that Honda people lust after and a tasty set of coilovers to give it the necessary Honda stance. The boy’s done good.

He also has a Mazda RX7 FD and, until recently, owned 300bhp+ Toyota Starlet EP82 GT fitted with the biggest, shiniest turbocharger I ever did see. He also has a lovely, approving girlfriend. Lucky son of a gun.

Manifold is manifoldy.

Manifold is manifoldy.

Anyway, I digress. The aforementioned modifications have increased the brake horsepower of the engine in Liam’s Civic to approximately 200 at the flywheel. Maybe more.

So, with the car only weighing around 850kg, the first time I went in it, and bro hit VTEC in first and second gear, I didn’t know if I was going to shit myself or ejaculate.

Let me try to explain. Being in something VTEC powered, is, unlike any other experience I’ve had in a car, even a modern sports car, in fact most Supercars can’t match it for thrills. There’s just something so guttural and raw about the way a VTEC engined car accelerates, especially a lightweight model with an early B16 or B18 engine.

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You can feel the VTEC system switch to the higher lift cam- you can feel it at your fingertips on the steering wheel and through your toes on the pedals. You can feel it in your heart, your soul. It reverberates through you as the engine accelerates rapidly towards the rev limiter, set at some crazy level above 8,000rpm.

You don’t feel insulated from the power like you do in some cars, you feel excited by it, enclosed in it, wrapped inside of it. It becomes you and you become it, combined as one by a common love for thrusting forward motion and darting changes in lateral acceleration and deceleration. It sounds a bit like sex, I know, even stranger, it almost feels it.

Words alone cannot bring justice to the experience of being inside a Honda as the whaling, high-pitch sounds and associated vibrations of a VTEC engine are revealed during and after switching to its more aggressive camshaft profile.

It is an experience you must enjoy for yourself to fully understand. If feel you have no way of making this happen, just ask. I’ll make it happen, somehow, some way.

So, where did it all begin, this ‘Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control’ malarkey?

Allow me, if you will, to take you back to the 1980’s. Turbocharger technology had become the main focus for many mainstream car manufacturers across the globe with regards to increasing engine power output and, in some cases, fuel efficiency.

Honda had a different idea. Their aim was to increase the volumetric efficiency of the internal combustion engine by use of variable valve technology. They embarked on the task of building a reliable engine that could produce 100hp per litre of engine displacement without using forced induction. This was a goal that, at the time, seemed faintly ridiculous and possibly, unachievable.

Regardless, Ikuo Kajitan, the man tasked with making this dream a reality, cracked on and invited a team of engineers to join him. Once the scale of the project became clear, he is said to have invited them to leave if they wished. Testament to just how hugely dedicated a task he was asking them to complete.

Kajitan had been heavily involved in Honda’s New Concept Engine, or NCE, development program in the early 80’s and had recently finished this project, extracting 130bhp from a DOHC 1600cc engine for which he was highly praised.

However, the overwhelming task of mastering the first Honda VTEC engine and achieving 160bhp from an engine with the same cubic displacement, would see him become one of the true unsung heroes of motor vehicle design and engineering. Ever.

Ever ever ever.

Ever.(1)

After a long battle of making lighter materials stronger and trying to effectively protect them against the immense rotational, frictional and thermal forces at work inside of a confined space the size of four small milk bottles while hundreds of pieces of metal work against each other’s surfaces at up to 9,500rpm for years on end over hundreds of thousands miles……..they did it. And they did it in perfect style with absolutely, for the time, unequalled precision.

The first VTEC powered car was the Honda Integra XSi, released to the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM y’aaalll!) in 1989. This car was powered by the now famous 160bhp 1.6 litre B16A engine and instantly became a huge hit.

Amazingly the later B18C engine which powered the 1995-onward JDM Integra DC2 model produced an incredible 197bhp. That’s almost 110bhp per litre. With no turbocharger!

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The first VTEC Honda to be sold in the European market was the CRX 1.6i-VT with a slightly detuned 150bhp version of the B16A engine. Don’t let the 10bhp deficit fool you. These are still very capable cars, both in a straight line and through the twisties. I remember ‘racing’ a blue one down a long dual-carriageway in 2.0 16v Redtop engined Vauxhall Corsa. It made me feel very surprised and look really rather silly as it approached from behind, reeled me in, chewed me up, spat me out and disappeared into the horizon.

Nowadays, thanks to the countless hours dedicated by many people to develop Honda’s original VTEC system and the time since spent developing abundant associated performance parts and accessories, my brother can sit in his ’99 Honda Civic, on the driveway, plug my laptop into the engine’s ECU and play with the VTEC’s timing, fuel and ignition graphs, view sensory information and even diagnose faults with relative ease.

He can even send the information to his iPhone via Bluetooth. I bet Ikuo Kajitan didn’t envision Liam Green doing that to his system, 25 years after he created it. I bet he didn’t envision me spending the last 2 hours trying say his name properly either. Damn it.

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VTEC engines are like your best friends- they are consistently dependable. They can be reserved and efficient when you need them to be and yet be absolutely insane, outlandishly good fun and provide countless smiles when you want them to.

The system is a huge credit to Honda who, despite the immense challenge and, initially, extremely daunting task of building a reliable, high-revving, high-output, mainstream engine, have actually managed to over-engineer their VTEC units to a point whereby they uphold a reputation for being almost indestructible.

This, I think, deserves the highest level of commendation. For me, the invention of VTEC is an absolutely stunning example of how, with appropriately thorough research, painstaking attention to detail and bloody hard work, as a race, human beings can achieve some truly amazing things.

Thank you Honda and, as always, thank you all for reading.

Picture Credit: Hannah Geddes. I shit ye not, she is the VTEC Goddess Of Hotness. Or GOH.

Picture Credit: Hannah Geddes. I shit ye not, she is the VTEC Goddess Of Hotness. Or GOH.


1. I won’t go into the finer details of how the VTEC system works because, if you’re a Honda lover you will already know and, if you’re not, you probably won’t care too much. However, for those of you who don’t understand how the magic behind VTEC works but would like to, I promise I will write a piece explaining it all for you.

In fact, it’s already in the pipeline. For now, search ‘how does VTEC work’ on YouTube, pick a video and stare at the screen in amazement at the feast of fine timing, it should offer you some food for thought.

 

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Land Rover Create See-Through Car. Sort Of. Not Really.

By Tim Smith

Land Rover will unveil the Discovery Vision Concept (or the what-the-new Discovery-will-probably-look-like-concept, if you’re a normal person) at next weeks New York International Motor Show.

So far, the images have been limited to line drawings that remind me of that sticker job on that Lambo spotted in Londonium, or that GTR I saw somewhere, probably on Twitter. Or something.

A Lamborgini and a police-man in leather trousers.

A Lamborghini and a police-man in leather trousers.

Anyways, line descriptions aside, Land Rover have been having a bit of a boast about some new technology, that with all of the honesty of frank (whomever he, she, or it was) I believe they have every human given right to.

(Lazy Tron based joke)

(Lazy Tron based joke)

The graphic above goes some way to explain the idea. Camera’s mounted on the grill can scan the area below the driver’s field of vision giving better visibility, and, as a result, allowing for better obstacle avoidance.

Now, as we all know, most Land Rovers will never be used too far from the road. The obvious everyday use of this technology is parking. Can’t see the where the white line is? You can now. And this got me thinking.

Spot the duplicate rock from the camera being mounted too high...

Spot the duplicate rock from the camera being mounted too high…

You see, last week I was able to drive a Honda CRV. I liked it. I mean, not liked it, but similar to most things I’ve driven from Honda it had an actually great drive-train surrounded by an okay package.

One thing I did notice, though, something that must afflict all tall passenger vehicles was a terrifying lack of visibility out the back window. You could lose a short person pushing a pushchair back there. Or someone in a wheel chair. Or a whole school of orphans.

David Icke, it was scary.

So what about using this new tech to create all round visibility? You could see through the boot, see that bollard or child and simply not do any running over. Hell, if we’re feeling a bit fruity you could even have see-through doors and floor… A job for Google glass?

Think about it, eventually windows could be a thing that old people talk about. We’d all drive around in perfectly tear dropped featureless and colourless machines. All hooked in and being fed ideas from advertisers about the outside world.

Actually, let’s not think about that for a bit. I think I may go for a walk.

Comments below.

 

 

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Monday Long Termer, Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 Life: 07/04/14′

By Nathan Green

(Editor’s note: I love Nathan Green, you love Nathan Green. We all love Nathan Green. Unfortunately, today he sent me a piece that compares women to cars. Now, Nathan is a kind and thoughtful human being who respects women as equals. I also believe him to be comfortable with his sexuality.

Anyway’s for shits and gigs I decided it would be better if the piece (‘piece’, heh, heh) compared men to cars. In line with this I’ve changed any mention of women  to men. Mainly because it would make me laugh. But also, ’cause it makes me laugh. Oh, and *it is* odd comparing living breathing, creative, highly developed and often sidelined ‘groups’ to inanimate objects that you can buy with money.) 

Men, if I may, I would like to draw some comparisons. I promise these will be mostly positive and reflect only my own opinions. I promise not to be derogatory, sexist or misanderistic. Probably.

Why do I feel apprehensive about this? Everyone knows that cars are almost always named after men so there is already an existing link. Furthermore, I shouldn’t really be scared of offending anyone because, let’s be honest, there are plenty of less desirable objects to be compared to than a handsome modern Ferrari, a vintage classic Mercedes or even a filthy dirty Vauxhall Corsa.

I, myself have been compared to a variety of things that are much less complimentary. I won’t give examples, I’m sure you won’t have to try too hard to fill in the blanks.

Anyway, as many of you know, up until about 6 months ago, I was a car sales executive, which is an over embellished way of saying I sold cars. During this time, I was in a committed, long-term relationship. In fact, weirdly, my career in car sales started and ended at the same time as my relationship.

As a car salesman, I drove lots of different cars, each with their own personality and individual aesthetic qualities. However, I only had one lady in my life. Nowadays, I only have one car, my darling ‘Long Termer’ Corsa Life and I am free to date whomever I choose. As long as they reciprocate my interest, of course.

Whilst spending time with my friend Natalie, last week, we looked back through my iCloud Photo Stream at some of the cars I drove during the two years I spent selling them. It made me think about how each one of them made me feel, what strengths and weaknesses they showed during my time with them and, most importantly, the best experiences I had when driving them – experiences I can now recall as cherished memories. Let me introduce you to some of my past conquests:

My first sales position was at a Ford dealership in Redditch where I was given a silver Focus Zetec TDCi as a demonstrator. It was a great car. The car that really sticks in my mind, however, from that time was a brand new, bright orange Focus ST that I was lucky enough to drive before it was available to the general public.

A bright orange essex person.

A bright orange essex person.

The ST is the hottest of the new generation Focus and, I hate to be so cliché in my comparison, but it’s a stereotypical Essex boy – overdone exterior accentuation, tight bodywork, bulging bumpers and a large mouth. It looks like fun and it really is. It also has many impressive features, both inside and out. It certainly got lots of attention when I drove it around town.

I took this particular car out only a couple of times but it made more of an impression on me than my daily driver Focus did during the four months I used it. I suppose one could compare my experience with the ST to a few short moments of passion and excitement. I could easily lose myself behind the wheel, and quite possibly my drivers licence. Ultimately it was unsustainable. I’d love to drive an ST again, I just wouldn’t buy one.

Another brief fling I can boast about was with a Vauxhall Corsa VXR, again the hottest derivative of its model type. It was short, good looking, well-proportioned and makes all the right noises (Ed: oh you shouldn’t have.. wait we’re talking about me, right?). It was also completely bonkers. (Yep, talking about me.)

A short handful...

A short handful…

It was probably no faster than the Focus ST but, due to a significant weight deficit, it definitely felt faster, maybe even lunatic quick.

Driving the Corsa VXR quickly through wet country lanes lined by trees and peppered with potholes was comparable to jumping on the back of an angry masculinist after cracking a joke about woman being people too- you’d better hold on tight because if you lose control, he’ll kick your arse!

I remember I used to put the back seats down just to hear more from the sporty exhaust, the sound waves bellowed and amplified in the boot space filling the cabin with a beautiful high pitch resonance, particularly when the turbo came on song.

While the VXR was thoroughly enjoyable to drive, it was actually rather exhausting because it was hard to drive sensibly and driving it with spirit required total focus and a fair bit of effort.

Unfortunately for me, it was also too expensive to run on a long term basis. I guess it was comparable to a very exciting but very high-maintenance man who would only make sense as a weekend luxury. You simply wouldn’t have enough energy or money to keep him completely happy seven days a week.

Another favourite is my friend Matt’s 2007 Honda Civic Type-R which I drove back from Redditch and delivered to him in Stroud. Matt is fully aware that drove it hard because, well, I told him.

A two-timing red-head. In a car lot.

A two-timing red-head. In a car lot.

 

VTEC engines are built to be thrashed, it would have been rude not to oblige. I had merely a quick fling with his Japanese hunk before passing it on to him for something more long term. I am happy to report they are still very much in love.

And so, this brings me on to my trusty Long Termer, the 2007 Vauxhall Corsa Life. As an object, it is not beautiful – it was not styled to impress the eye or indeed excite any of our sensory receptors. It was not designed nor engineered to make your palms sweat with its cornering abilities or provoke a tingling sensation in your loins when accelerating from a standstill.

Plain Joe

Plain Joe.

It was created to be consistently dependable, uneventfully reliable, boringly efficient and pound stretchily frugal. And it is. It is also filthy dirty most of the time.

Despite the seemingly negative slant on this summary of the Corsa, I am actually content driving it every day. It does exactly what I need it to do and does so to the best of its limited abilities. As a mode of transport it is absolutely fine, however if I had a boyfriend with the same attributes I would not be so content, apart from the filthy dirty bit. Perhaps.

Cars and men – comparable in some ways, but luckily, completely different in almost all others.

Weekly Mileage- 324

Fuel Cost: £30

Repair cost: £0

Repair costs (2014)- £849

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Here’s Some Photo’s Of A Focus I Rented.

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By Tim Smith

 

 

With no car for the moment, I’m currently going through rental cars like a hot light-sabre through Obi-Wan (too soon?). I thought, that as part of starting this little blog, with an aim to making it a big blog in the future, I should try and do some reviews of cars and stuff. You know like all the other alleged grown-ups in the motoring-press.

Well, try as I might to write a straight-faced piece, I  keep coming up against something, that you, the first regular readers of this green shoot of a future empire will get to see change over time.

I simply don’t have the experience to say one car is better or worse than all of its key rivals. I know the Focus 1.6 TDCI is better (though less frugal) than the Honda Civic 1.6  i-DTEC in many key ways but I can’t say whether it’s better than a Golf or an Astra. To cut all of this tedium short, when we start doing road-tests, we’re gonna do them properly. In the mean-time

I’m gonna get Tim Hamilton to take pictures of the stuff we drive.

He’s excellent, you’ll like him.

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Honda’s ‘States Advertising Is Bizzarre.

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By Tim Smith

I’m not entirely sure who’s responsible for Honda’s ‘States advertising strategy, and, as always, I’m sure they’re just trying to pay the bills, pull that barmaid down that bar where they got a bit too pissed and may have shouted several embarrassing things at the very top of their voice, or something…, but I have absolutely no idea what is going on over there.

Jalopnik got all up in their grill just a couple of days back because of an ill-timed advertising campaign depicting some hip types, or hipsters, as the new totalising phrase calls ‘them’, doing some sort of a protest in Detroit.

Before that we were all treated to a bizarre experience involving another ‘hipster’ doing ‘hipster’ things while hanging around the Fit’s (Jazz’s) plinth at the Detroit Motor Show. Here’s a taste:

Notice the actor seems to be being all ironic about taking a selfie. I have no idea whether he’s extracting urine from Honda or actually trying to make it work.

The caption below his name calls him an ‘Automotive Expert’ but he later seems to think that the Fit/Jazz has two gearbox’s. I know, I know, it’s all in the semantics, but come on. Why not caption him ‘Honda Sales Representative’? And/or get him an editor?

The Jazz has long been the fodder of older demographics in the UK, despite several attempts to suggest otherwise by Honda. I don’t think this is a bad thing, the Jazz is easy to get in and out of, easy to drive and efficient. It is reasonably priced and offers good reliability. If simply getting around is a priority, then it’s one of the best cars in its class.

I’m unsure of the buying demographic of the Jazz/Fit in the ol’ US of A but from this advertising campaign (IT’S FOR YOUNG, HIP TYPES, YES IT IS, IT REALLY IS.) it seems like they might have the same perceived problem.

It is not a problem, Honda. Old people are people too. That is all.

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Senna’s Soul/Sound

Although both Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher were statistically more successful, Ayrton Senna will, for the time being at least, always be considered the greatest Formula One driver. It was not just his success, but the enigma he held out, an enigma best described in Asif Kapadia’s 2010 documentary Senna. This is what makes a great, not just the accomplishment, but the show that surrounds the feat.
Seeking to promote Internavi (a typically Honda navigational aid only available in Japan) Honda Japan employed Daito Manabe, an artist, to capture something of this show. The result is, well, I’ll let you decide, but the truly intriguing side to this film (the making of which can be found here) is that what you are experiencing is a recording of the being of Senna as manifested through the data of his machine.
Mamoru Atsuta, a photographer present the day Senna recorded the lap reproduced in the film, states, ‘Senna’s time attack lap almost seemed like an embodiment of his fighting spirit’.
Senna remains the last driver fatality in Formula One and we will never get to see or speak with this man again but through the telemetry of the Honda engined MP4/5 and the imagination of those who choose to create we can listen to that fighting spirit today.
Enjoy.

(With thanks to Simon Nicholson and Tara Berry @ Honda PR UK)

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30/07/2013 · 15:11