King Motorsports Unlimited, Inc. - Mugen Performance Products for Honda and Acura

Gallery: King Motorsports Dyno Day Shirts

With King's next Dyno Day less than a month away, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the event shirt designs. Each year of the event, King has designed and printed event T-shirts for each attendee.


In recent years, we began smaller runs of specially-designed shirts for the Event Staff. Separate shirts would make it easier for attendees to find King staff on the day of the event.


Here's a look!


Dyno Day 2009:


This shirt was designed by my predecessor, Jude Z., who was also King's in-house designer for many years. This shirt was black and featured the RSX Challenge car tightly strapped down on King's dyno. I've never seen one of these shirts in person but would love to!



Dyno Day 2010:


2010's Dyno Day was the first event I worked on with King. The first thing I tackled was a logo for the event. I drew inspiration from King's dyno bay, which has a bright yellow safety zone painted around it.



That yellow shape safety zone became the foundation for the Dyno Day logo. I separated out the "2010" so it would be easy to swap out from year to year. The back of the shirt included a Mugen-equipped S2000 in clean vector art.



Some trivia... one of the early versions of this shirt had the dyno positioned incorrectly under the front wheels. D'oh! So glad we caught that before going to print!



We also designed a Staff version of the shirt for the year, which was to be printed on a red shirt. Unfortunately our shirt printer didn't have them printed in time for the event, so sadly this design never saw the light of day.





Dyno Day 2011:


For the next year, we decided to do a brighter shirt. The front includes the King #64 Grand Am car and some of the chassis codes you'll find in the King facility on any given day. Unlike the previous year, we chose not to feature a single car. From a design perspective, a challenge for auto event shirts is what vehicle (if any) to put on the shirt. You can put a car on the shirt, but it should have significant meaning to the enthusiasts or to the event. Or you can put an ensemble of cars on the shirt, but that quickly makes for a cluttered shirt. Or you can stylize the car, so it isn't so immediately recognizable as a certain model. Or you can leave cars off the shirt altogether.




Close up. Can you spot your own chassis code?


 

This year we were able to get the Staff version of the shirt printed up. The logo was re-used, but this time in red.



Dyno Day 2012:


This was a very special Dyno Day. As in previous years, Mugen representatives flew out from Tokyo to show off new products and meet enthusiasts. But in 2012, Mugen shipped the Mugen CR-Z: RR concept car from Japan to King's shop in Wisconsin -- this was one of the handful of times that a Mugen concept car had ever made this 6200 mile journey. This orange beauty had to be our color theme this year. I drew a vector version of the CR-Z: RR for the front, and we added the Mugen logo for the first time on a Dyno Day shirt.






Here's the Staff version of the shirt:



Dyno Day 2013:


This year's theme is "Honda Nostalgia," which we've defined loosely as pre-EG6 era vehicles. King designed and built some of the very first Honda race cars in the USA, and we wanted to celebrate the engineering and simplicity of those early Honda models. The front of the shirt includes one of my favorite photos of the King-built GT5 Civic race car. I felt this year needed a new version of the Dyno Day logo to better fit with the nostalgia (1970's) theme. These vintage photographs are so awesome I was tempted to slap the photo alone on the shirt -- no logos or anything else -- and call it a day. :)




The back of the shirt includes an awesome photo of the GT4 Civic. I always wanted to work MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN into the shirt and was able to this year.




I split out the car into a triptych to make the overall design vertical, and to give the sense of speed to the GT5 Civic -- as though it was moving so fast it could barely be photographed.


 

Here's a preview of the Staff version of the shirt for this year.







If you've missed out on any of these shirts, the event Attendee shirt is usually available for sale on the King website after the event. The best way to get one is to sign up and join us for the event! Hope to see you there!


Honda Daily Drivers: Beater with a Heater

**The following is a post from blog contributor Perry Nation and in no way reflects the complete opinions of the KMS staff and in fact we feel even more strongly about these cars than Perry has expressed.**


Tucked away in the King Motorsports Facebook page is some kind of button that allows ordinary civilians to share pictures of their Honders. And this makes me very happy. I want to share some of these pictures with you blog-reading people. These are the cars I would drive if I were banished to Winterfell.


This daily driver was shared by Justin F. Lowered on stockies, nice and tucked with special windshield spiderweb design, offset and marbled passenger front fender and CF-inspired hood. Special seat covers protect the OEM seats. Additional ventilation beneath the passenger side headlight brings in extra cooling to the brake system. This Civic is as much at home on the track as it is in the backyard next to that concrete well that came with the house!



This beaut was sent in by Charles M. Best to let him introduce us to his EF: "last pic of the first car 365k on the clock before i took it off the road because of rust. It had koni yellows purchased through king motorsports back in 1990 by my father for his 85dx (bought new in 84) also had the jackson racing springs, JR short shifter, JR front and rear sway bars and JR Bushing kit. and it had a 13" momo monte carlo purchased new in 1990 by my father. plenty more done but this is what was taken off my dads old 3g. right after this picture i upgraded the injectors, added a hedman header and a side pipe. Miss this car but not that much since i have a better 3rd gen now ;)"

Charles we are loving your black-on-red color scheme with the meaty tires and the bold primer patch with color-matched gas tank fill door. Photographically speaking this is a work of art and we appreciate how the architectural and parking lines accentuate the subtle, shy curves of your EF. The green PARK sign is the icing on the cake and brings the perfect STOP-NO-NEVERMIND-GO-palette balance to your red masterpiece. Also you must have been very close to the ground to take this picture.



Here is a proper EF wagon from Shawn D. Shawn has *only* cultivated a wee bit of rust so far because he is busy chasing down his true automotive passion, which is finding and then parking in front of ridiculously large red doors. We see some rust starting at the taillight seam which is encouraging and a good start! Shawn you must be as tall as Chewbacca because those front seats have become back seats.



Yia L. wants ya'll to meet the Red Rocket: "93 civic Dx, d16z6 swapped, 261k on Chassis, 264k on engine. rear ended so the trunk does not seal, smells like exhaust in cabin when the front window is cracked/opened. This is truly a beater with a heater! Did I mention snow tires up front for extra Wisconsin traction?"



This 93 Civic Si was shared to us by Unikeone D. He bought this green EG gem because the heater went out in his 4 door Civic. The EG has become his garage project car and presumably has heat. It's got special features like lightweight steelies up front, universal 4-lug alloys in the rear and just enough rust to let people know he's serious about living where it snows. Unusual sheetmetal deformations above the rear wheel wells belie the hidden mysteries of this car's past -- was it stanced beyond sanity? Was there a fender rolling session using a 20" rim and a speed bump? Did a snow chain that should have been installed on the front tires come loose and tear up the inside of the fender? As it is with roommates you find on Craig's List, used cars should have some secrets that you discover when you are tired and vulnerable. The rear end features defensive metallic protrusions that can knick the shins of any would-be thieves.



Dustin's Ek hatch makes me cry, bitter, rusty tears of desire. My mind wanders to days of youth, when camel statues were still magical and when hiding people inside cartop carriers was not illegal but instead encouraged. We hope to see thee again at Dyno Day, Dustin. Don't make us beg.


This next beater with a heater is owned and driven by Alvin S., which clocked an impressive 313,763 miles and counting. He's opted for a unique rear wiper *BLADE* delete, rather than the more pedestrian rear wiper *arm* delete. Alvin must work with reptiles, because there is a snake escaping from the trunk and wrapping itself around the muffler. The front seats have been upgraded to racing hammocks with ultra rare JDM material sourced from Babies "R" Us.






This Geo Metr- er, Honda Civic was shared with us by Mikle I., direct from Hungary. His Civic features custom time attack steelies, a Christmas-inspired paint job, and is the very rare lightweight bumperless edition EF that Honda only briefly offered overseas (the stuff we miss out on due to over-zealous US safety standards...). We do like the door and window trim delete, which is popular in Europe. Also, Mikle, we caught you sporting that Mugen sticker on the hood, and you know what? We are proud. There is something poetic happening there with your gas tank fill door, like some kind of stencil/spraypaint experimentation that is perched on the edge of self-discovery. Keep up the good work!




Shulong X. shared this amazing 1994 Integra DC2 LS with us. This picture was taken from a moving tram during the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot tour, which passes by famous retired film cars. That's right! This is the "Silver Flame" Integra featured in the "Jurassic Parking" TV series! Only 7 of these "picture cars" were made, 5 of which were destroyed during filming the 2nd season of the show. 1 was shipped off to the Smithsonian, and this last remaining car was actually driven on set by Gary Coleman in season 4. It features a full working interior and an upgraded suspension that has been replaced numerous times due to all the jumps it was featured in.

Mugen Racing History: Circa 2003

Today we have a Mugen history brochure from 2003. It includes a storied racing timeline that starts in 1973 and covers Mugen's major racing contributions, engines and accomplishments up to 2003.

 

Right-click to see the images at full size.




We are proud to have the King Motorsports / Mugen GT3 CRX included as part of Mugen history!


Mugen Emblems: Power Collection, Mid 80's


The Mugen logo has always been to me a thing of beauty. I first saw it in the late 80's, on a white first-gen CRX that the popular kid at school owned. He had acquired a few Mugen parts and proudly showed off his Mugen badges. In those days, Robotech and Japanese anime culture were on the rise, so the Mugen logo represented a magic synergy of Japanese cool-factor and cache. The badge had it all: Power, bold kanji, simplicity and in "in the know" foreign flair; all built upon compact cars that were within reach to the average high-schooler growing up in Southern California. Come to think of it now, these elements make up a large part of the backbone of what we toss around these days as the definition of JDM car culture.


Nowadays we take it for granted that "imported from Japan" is synonomous with "high quality," "original" or "authentic" -- even if it isn't always true. But let's turn back the clock to the 80's, to a time when Japan was just starting to be seen as a country that produced high-quality, technologically-advanced goods, especially in the automotive and consumer electronics industries.



This newly-forged consumer credibility in Japanese-made goods was such a departure from decades past that "Back to the Future: Part III" pokes fun at how much things have changed. In the 1955 storyline, Doc and Marty dig up the USDM Fried-Time-Circuit-Spec DeLorean and have this memorable exchange:


Doc Brown: No wonder this circuit failed. It says, "Made in Japan."
Marty: What do you mean, Doc? All the best stuff is made in Japan.
Doc Brown: Unbelievable!


Can't blame Doc Brown for his incredulity. Let's put this in perspective for today. Right now, Chinese-made cars have the reputation of being low-quality, gaudy, inferior knock-offs hobbled together with shoddy workmanship, cheap labor and non-existent quality control standards. Whether that harsh reputation is warranted or not, when the Chinese car manufacturers show off their products at international auto shows, they make cringe-worthy appearances and somehow can't find a copywriter who helps their image instead of harming it. But you have to start somewhere, and in perhaps a decade a few stand-out Chinese auto makers will at last make a decent car, pay the big bucks for a proper ad agency to position and brand them, and they will eventually sell proper Chinese-made cars here in the USA. It sounds crazy now, but no crazier than telling 1955 Doc Brown that in just a few decades, Car and Driver Magazine would have a 10 Best Cars list that includes three cars from Japan (1985 Honda: Accord, Civic/CRX and Prelude). In my own lifetime I've seen Korean cars go from oddities to top sellers. So IMHO I'm betting the same can happen with China. Some day, your kids may want Chinese lettering on the vinyl stickers they proudly display on their super-smart, super-efficient CDM rides. Ni hao, mei guo!


All this automotive navel gazing spooled up within me this week when King Motorsports posted up a classic collection of Mugen logos and emblems from the mid 80's. This single full color catalog page reads a bit like the Rosetta Stone of the Mugen logo. The logos featured here bridge a certain visual branding language gap, capturing a precise moment of Mugen's visual identity transition from the 70's to what they would use in the 90's.


On this single page you'll find the well-established, classic kanji-focused stickers and emblems-- but you ALSO see some of their early uses of the red-gold-black stripes integrated with the logo. The san-serif version of the badge has transitioned nicely into the metal, tilted parallelogram badge they use today.



By the 90's the red-gold-black stripes were common in the printed logos, usually in the minimized dashes they still use today.



I love this terrific window banner that is properly curved to the shape of the glass and tucks the Mugen kanji into the black color bar.



Here is the full catalog page scan. Right-click to see the high res version.


 

And someday you'll have this exchange with your son:

 

You: No wonder the super e-motor volt booster you got off Taobao isn't working. It says, "Made in China."

Your kid: What do you mean, Dad? All the best stuff is made in China.

You: Dangit!

 

** Check out all of the currently available Mugen emblems and stickers at the King Motorsports online store. **







Functional Art: Mugen 2012 Wallet and Card Case

 

There are accessories for your car, and then there are accessories for people. Lucky me-- Mugen makes both types, and they do it well. Mugen has never cut corners on their designs, materials or workmanship. If I could carry around bronze MF-10 wheels with me everywhere I travel, I would. But that's not practical or advisable. So instead I carry a Mugen Coin Case and Key Case -- they still make me smile when I pull them out of my backpack, especially when I'm thousands of miles from my Honda.


The latest line of Japanese-made Mugen accessories has finally hit our shores, and I was floored to get my hands on the new Mugen Carbon Leather Wallet and Mugen Carbon Leather Card Case.



The Card Case, Wallet and Smart Key Case are all part of same design line and have the same design themes throughout.



The outer covers are completely covered in a black leather that looks like carbon fiber, which Mugen is calling "carbon leather." The material catches the light just right, not too shiny and not too matte. And it feels great to the touch, with a nice grippy texture. This material really gives these pieces a premium feel and look. Stitching is black and cleanly done.



Each piece is finished with an understated metal badge, plated in gunmetal and colored in Mugen's iconic white, red and gold bars. The colors will be instantly recognizable to true Mugen enthusiasts. The absence of a traditional logo on the exterior of the pieces is a refreshing and bold choice on Mugen's part.



Open up the Card Case and you'll find the MUGEN POWER logo embossed on a soft Nappa leather. There is a main expandable pocket that can hold about 30 business cards, plus 2 smaller pockets that can each hold a couple cards. Each pocket's interior is lined with a smooth polyester material that will prevent your business cards from getting stuck inside the pockets due to humidity or friction.


 

The metal snap is plated in gunmetal and has a wonderfully crisp click to it. When closed, the case is slim enough to fit in a front pocket comfortably and is smaller than most smartphones at approximately 112mm x 70mm x 14mm.



The new Mugen Wallet is equally beautiful. It has a large currency pocket, with a full length divider. Since current Japanese yen banknotes are between 150 to 160mm long, our US banknotes easily fit within (US bills are 156mm).  Like the Card Case, the interior is a soft Nappa leather and all of the pockets are lined with a smooth polyester. The MUGEN POWER logo is embossed inside as well.



 

There is no plastic used in this wallet, which I really appreciate (plastic yellows over time and lifts ink off cards).



There are five card pockets, and a built-in coin holder with a metal snap (King's website lists the coin holder as removable, but my version was not). This expandable compartment is a generous size at about 70mm x 70mm of space, so it's large enough to carry coins, SIM cards, keys or even a small flash drive.

 

 

I measured the wallet to be 98mm wide x 110mm long and a slim 20mm.


These pieces will make an awesome gift for yourself or any Mugen enthusiast! They come in a black matte presentation box with a silver MUGEN logo. Get these limited edition Mugen Carbon Leather Wallet and Mugen Carbon Leather Card Case exclusively from King Motorsports.

 

Bonus pic... Here are the previous-gen Mugen Coin Case and Mugen Key Case (the Key Case is still available from King).



 

 

Interview: Andy Noggle (NoggsPhotography)

(Andy Noggle with his girlfriend / assistant Taylor at Dyno Day 2011)


The relationships we have with our cars are permeated by photos of all kinds. It all starts with a photo. It might be a glossy, Photoshopped dealer brochure. Or maybe a grainy camera phone pic on Craig's List. Sometimes it's love at first sight. Sometimes we see past the picture and see deeper potential.

At the other end of the relationship, we hope our pics attract a great new suitor who will baby our cars as well as we did. In more tragic endings, we document total losses for Allstate, snapping shots of irreversible damage to a once perfect frame.

Somewhere between these book ends, we take pictures that represent our best moments with our cars. They happen at gas stations, on long interstate trips, under the harsh fluorescent lights of parking structures, at crowded meets, on the track and back home in the garage.

These best moments are the ones Andy Noggle zeroes in on. He has turned his passion for automotive photography into a professional trade, shooting up numerous events and auto meets along the way. We were able to pick his brain about how he got his start, his photos, and a few tips.


How did you get started with photography? Did you immediately gravitate to cars, or did you go through an embarrassing phase where you took hundreds of pictures of your feet?


Every time we took a family trip when I was younger, I always had the camera, I always loved making photographs, I don’t remember taking pictures of feet though. In high school, I learned just enough to be dangerous with a camera, and have excelled since, continuing on to an Associates Degree in Photography. I have always loved cars, and grew up around them, and they say you should do what you love, and I love cars. Cars were also very easy to access for photos, I could be driving along and see a great background and snap a photo of my car in front of it. Or say…”Hey, I want to try some photography things, can I borrow your car?” But I do also shoot other things besides cars. I also love doing product photography as well as architectural shots.




 


Do you have a specific niche?


I have no preference in car, old school muscle, or new school imports, or vice versa, I appreciate all types of cars as long as the owner has a passion for it, and enjoys the automotive culture in some way.



I take a photojournalistic approach to each car, and cover all of the things that make it what it is and what the owner did to it. So it depends on the vehicle. If it has a completely custom interior, I would focus on that, and do detailed shots of the stitching, seats, sub boxes, door panels, and headliner. But if it’s all go-fast parts, and little interior work, there would be more detailed shots of the engine, turbo/supercharger, gauges, exhaust, wheels/tires, etc. If I had to pick shots that I specialize in, it would be rolling/rig shots and detail shots.


 


Are there any current trends in automotive photography that you like? Any photographers you admire?


I’ve always been a fan of QuickWorks Photo, great automotive stuff coming out of there.



Are there any photography trends that you think should die?


HDR, or black/white/selective color. They can be appreciated in some cases, but in most, it’s just something you have seen over and over again!


Are there any myths or misconceptions about what makes for a good photo?


“Things look better with a fisheye”…I hate when I see photos like this. They are ok in certain instances with the proper equipment, but when somebody just adds a vignette to every photo or uses one of those cheap eBay “wide angle” devices on their lens, they just look terrible, but yet, every car show, when the pictures show up online, at least a few people have done that to their images…


Do you have any advice for mere mortals who want to take a good "show off" pic of their car?


Nail your exposure and focus. Countless times when I scroll through websites and forums and see photos by “___________ Photography” -- all I see are images that are poorly focused, and poorly exposed... and still, people think they are well done. I just don’t understand. Shoot Aperture Priority if you have to, don’t use Manual if you don't know how to expose your images.



What's your advice for picking a good location for an outdoor shoot?


Backgrounds with leading lines, or a contrasting color to the car/wheel color usually work well. Use a color wheel to pick backgrounds.



Do you have a "dream shoot"? What car, location, time of day, etc.?

Hmmm, I’m not sure; I wouldn’t like to call it quits with just one car or setup. I would rather shoot lots of cars and experience all sorts of vehicles rather than just one.




What kinds of shoots do you do?

The most popular thing I do are rolling rig shots, people love them, and I love doing them. But I do everything from full magazine shoots, multiple locations, interior, exterior, night, day, rolling, all the way to shots of stickers, or single car parts for promotional purposes with companies.



Is there any car, event or situation you won't shoot?

I’m up for the challenge, but I do not like indoor car shows very much because the lighting is not up to par at most locations for proper photos.


 



Can you share what your typical equipment and setup look like?

I have used a Nikon D80 for a number of years, not really looking to upgrade yet, because I don’t think the camera makes the photographer. Also, I have a full array of lighting equipment, lenses, and grip equipment for any situation. The most important piece of equipment is in the next question: my gear hauler.



What cars have you owned, and what do you drive now?


I’m not quite old enough to have a collection of cars yet, but my first car was a 2000 Mercury Cougar, I4, 5-Speed, I turned it into a stripped interior, race seat/harness, autocross/track car. During that time my winter car was a 1999 Subaru Legacy Sport Utility Sedan 30th Anniversary Edition. I have to say the whole name because it is ridiculously long. But that had a run in with an older driver, and is no longer with us. As of now, I have a 2006 WRX Wagon, which is my camera gear hauler and all around awesome wagon.

 


(Andy's current ride)


What's the favorite shot that you took at King's Dyno Day 2011?


I had a lot of favorites, but I would have to say this one was my favorite:

 



How did you get connected with King Motorsports?

My friend Connor was talking to Scott [King's CEO] about detailing some cars, and somehow the topic came up about my photography, and a few emails later, I was on board to shoot their next event.

(Andy's work is everywhere, including this pic that was printed in the 2011 issue of Honda Tuning magazine)

 

Andy Noggle

NoggsPhotography

www.NoggsPhotography.com



Staff Interview: Ryan Kapustanczek


The sign at Culver's read "TRY OUR FROZEN CUSTARD BUTTER BURGERS". As we drove by I told Ryan that a burger with frozen custard inside it sounded like a terrible idea. He chuckled and said "No they aren't together. They are two separate menu items." Then he proceeded to enlighten me on what the legacy of frozen custard means to Wisconsinites. I was a newbie that still had a lot to learn about Wisconsin.


Ryan Kapustanczek is the newbie member of King's staff. As in most organizations, "new kid" status applies for the mandatory 6 months (or until another newer hire is made, whichever comes first), so it was no accident that Ryan was assigned to the humble but important task of picking up all of the rented furniture and electronics for Dyno Day 2011. We were traveling around town in King's massive green pickup that pulls double duty as a gopher-mobile as well as a snow plow in the winter. We had Jude's trailer in tow. By the time we were done, every square inch of our cargo space had been consumed by folding chairs, tables and that giant screen everyone would gather around to watch dyno results.



I hitched a ride with Ryan that day for the errands. I was like the junior rookie assigned to the senior rookie. As new as Ryan may be to King, he's no slouch when it comes to Hondas, so I rode along as his iPhone navigator and picked his brain.



What do you do at KMS?


I would say my job title would be Mechanic. Right now I am doing a lot of learning from Mike, Tim, and Chad. I am currently doing the basic things on the cars like bolt-ons but I also am like the middle man or prep guy. For example I pull the engine, then Chad rebuilds it then I put it back in and then Tim dynos it. And the more I am there the more I learn and the more I can do.


How did you first get connected with KMS?


Well I heard about King Motorsports through word of mouth basically so when I graduated from school I contacted Scott (King's CEO). That was summer 2007 and at the time they were switching locations. Understandably he told me at the time they didn't need extra help. Then for the next four years I emailed and called and pretty much bugged them for an interview. I then went for the interview in May 2011 and Scott offered me a job shortly after.


What kind of jobs did you have before King?


Well I have worked as a car porter/detailer at two different local dealerships, one being a Honda one. I have also recently worked at two different dealerships as a lube technician as well as doing some minor maintenance work.  In between I have also done some retail, delivery, and some warehouse work too.


Are you getting hazed for being the new guy?


A little, nothing major though. Just some jokes here and there to give me a hard time.



Is there anything in particular you like about working on Hondas instead of other makes?


I would say the simple yet great engineering in them.


They are simple because they are not over-engineered. Things are easy to get to and when you look at them it just makes sense. Having worked at dealerships and around cars quite a bit, I've been able to see a lot of other cars. Sometimes you look at a car and you have think to yourself 'why would they do that?' or 'why would they put that there?' -- it just does not make sense sometimes.


Honda's great engineering is a no brainer. They build things right and reliable.


Did you have any formal or informal training/education regarding automobiles? Did you have any specializations?


I do, first I took all the automotive classes at my high school except the body shop. I would have taken welding too but they cancelled that class before I could. After high school I enrolled into Wyotech, an automotive-only trade school. It was a lot of fun. It was like the whole college experience, without all the regular classes. While I was there I studied basic automotive technology and then specialized in high performance engines, chassis fabrication, and trim & upholstery.


Do you have any racing background?


Unfortunately the only background I have in racing is purely as a spectator. Although I do hope to change that in the near future, I plan to start off in the solo events at Miller Park.


Do you have any personal project cars that you’ve built for yourself?


I do have a project that I have just started this last month. It is a 1985 Toyota Corolla GTS. It's the last body style where they came RWD. I know it isn’t a Honda but I have always liked them and I was not even looking for one, but it kind of fell into my lap and the deal was too good to pass up. It’s the car I plan on doing the solo events with, but I am mainly building it as just a fun street car.


If you could go back in time and meet the founders of Honda, what would you ask them?


I would be curious about the business side of what they did. Mostly about what made them get into the automobile market? They already had a great thing going with the motorcycles. Was it inevitable to move onto cars? Just kind of get a feel for what their thoughts on some of the decisions they made.



Do you regularly attend any car shows or other auto events?


Yes, I regularly go to the Import Wars drag racing events at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Groove. I also attend quite a lot of car shows. All the big local ones and I even travel down to Chicago for a few every once in a while. I love going to these events because I really like to see the work that people put into their cars. To me it doesn’t matter what kind of car it is, if the work put into is done well then I can appreciate it.


If you weren’t working on cars for a living, what would you be doing?


That’s tough because cars is all I have ever being really interested in. But if I had to think of something I am sure it would have to do with computers like a designer or a programmer of some kind.


Do you have a dream car?


To be honest I have tons. It is so hard to choose one, because some of them are not your regular dream car. They are just project cars that I would like to do at some point in my life. At any one time I have probably ten project cars in my mind and they are always changing. To give you an answer on more of a tradition dream car: of course the NSX is on there but I have always loved the Ferrari F40. I mean that thing is a pure production race car.


What is your daily driver? Is it true it’s an automatic?!


You had to bring that up. Yes right now my current daily driver is an automatic. It is a 1997 Integra LS. I have plans to change that by winter though so if anyone is looking for an automatic Integra probably as another daily or a shell let me know.



Xbox or Playstation?


Xbox for sure.




Causing a Scene: Urban Disturbance

 

 

It was just after 8am. The weather was looking good. Big Mike and other staffers were hauling the goodie bags out to the welcome tent. Although we still had about an hour to go before the start of Dyno Day 2011, the first cars were already rolling up. The Urban Disturbance car club had arrived early, and they had big plans for the day. They settled into choice parking spots and set up a portable tent of their own (complete with their website URL). Throughout the day the members would impress the hundreds of attendees with their clean builds and jaw-dropping dyno runs. By day's end, Urban Disturbance proudly picked up the lion's share of awards. Their members took home awards from 3 of the 5 categories: Spirit of JDM, People's Choice, and King of the Dyno. From start to finish, this club stole the show.


Who is Urban Disturbance? We interviewed their members about its influential club, their rides, and their connection to King Motorsports.


How did Urban Disturbance start?


Urban Disturbance (UD) Car Club started in 1998 with mini trucks and low rider styled vehicles.


The club was formed by Chris McCauley (now referred to as ‘The God Father’) along with a group of friends: Jon Jezo, Chuck Glissendorf, Kris Walker, and Matt York. It all started right from the roots of many of today’s enthusiasts: custom built vehicles, built in a driveway garage with no luxuries, special tools, or sugar daddies.


How many members do you have today? What kind of cars do they drive?


Currently we have 25 official members. Most of them have sport compact cars but there are vehicles of all types -- trucks and bikes too. Although we dominate with Hondas, we are receiving applications from all makes and models on a daily basis.


Which members and cars are the most influential in the club?


As a club we are all influential to each other, we push everyone to do bigger and better. Spaz is known as our head mechanic, most people bring their cars to his garage for modifications and repairs. Spaz has an '05 RSX K24 swapped, supercharged and tucked. Chuck (aka “Chucks Tucks”) is influential for many who want that clean tucked engine bay -- they go to him. Ole (2x "Spirit of JDM" & "People’s Choice" award winners) has a shaved & tucked, RHD true JDM ITR DC2 that everyone drools over. And our club President, Jezo, has built a 500+whp 4cyl beast RSX that gets plenty of attention (2x "King of the Dyno" winner).



Were there any runner-ups names for the club?


"Driveway Customs" & "Disturbed Customs."



Are there requirements to join the club, and how does someone join?


Anyone can apply to join by simply filling out our online application and sending three photos of their ride. Our requirements consist of a vehicle that is complete, street ready or a quality build with progress demonstrated.  New members have a probation period in which they must attend 3 events in a season, such as car shows, meets, track days, etc. (at least one event being with your ride). 


What kind of events and outings does the club attend and how often?


Our club enjoys going to local, regional, and national auto events to show or race our rides and to just look at the latest trends and styles. We also love track days at the local autoX spot, drifting spot, or Union Grove Great Lakes Dragaway (Import Wars) and Byron Race Tracks.  This year our club attended a huge event called Import Alliance with over 10,000 other enthusiasts in Nashville, Tennessee. Almost every weekend day you can find our members at an event of some type.



Is there a city that the club calls home base?


Janesville, WI is the home base of UD.  We now have an Illinois chapter and are accepting applications for new members and chapters everywhere!


What makes Urban Disturbance different from other car clubs?


We try to keep a good strong mix of everything. From high horsepower builds, to full engine shave and tucking, to full custom air ride, track, autocross, drifting etc. This way our club can get out, adapt and grow everywhere we can.  We take great pride in our rides and want to support the scene in a classy manner.



How did you come to know and work with King Motorsports?


Anyone truly passionate about Hondas knows the famous King Motorsports. Since we're mostly in the Honda scene, we are all fans of King Motorsports. Several members have bought parts, gotten tuned, and visited the facility. Also King is one of the few tuner shops that you can order quality parts from... including official Mugen parts


You guys really cleaned up the awards at King’s Dyno Day 2011!  Any advice for people who want to create award-winning builds?


Come to us! LOL. Seriously though, just take your time and do things right. The problem with builds we see online is there are too many people buying cheap "eBay knock-off" parts. Everyone buys a Honda and says "yeah I’m gonna boost it…blah blah blah," but talk is cheap. Money is the issue. So take your time, build it right. Better quality parts = better results every time.


Over the years, what type of tuning or work has King done on member rides?


King was the influence for Spaz doing an Electronic Power steering swap in his DC5. According to the forums the 2005+ RSX-S cannot use EPS without a speedo healer converter but with the help of King Motorsports they were able to figure it out and his EPS works great.   Another member, Ahmad, has gone through King Motorsports for a lot if not all his parts.




What makes King different from other shops like it?


Quality. King Motorsports is the high end of dealers, mechanics, and engineers. There are plenty of tuners and shops, but none of them with the reliability and reputation as a place like yours. To most people, when you see a car built by King you knows it’s quality and built right!


Do you have any stories about King Motorsports you'd like to share?


Anyone who hasn’t been to King Motorsports for their annual Dyno Day needs to check it out!

 

Parting thoughts?


No matter what happens in life you can’t let it get you down.  If cars are one of your passions don’t let it get away from you.  Cars come and go but the passion remains, find it and keep the scene alive.


To all the other Honda, import, and auto enthusiasts out there: Please remember to support the scene, give back to the next gen, and skip that last helping of rice.




>> For more information about Urban Disturbance (including membership, show calendar, forum and club store) look them up at urbandisturbance.net.

Staff Interview: Chad LeBeau

Soichiro Honda was driven by a lifetime of passion for all things mechanical. That passion led him to become a skilled mechanic, driving the creation of the company we know and love today. Along the way, Soichiro’s enthusiasm for speed and adventure never took him far from racing cars and motorcycles.


It’s no accident that Soichiro’s love of motorcycles, horsepower and engineering is shared by one of the best Honda engine builders in the world: King’s own Chad LeBeau.


I caught up with Chad recently to talk engine building, motorcycle racing and the beer he would have had with Soichiro Honda.



What do you do at King Motorsports?


My title is Engine Builder. In the past, I also did fabrication (such as roll cages), but we've since hired other people to do that so I could focus on engine building. I used to do a little of everything. Compared to 12 years ago when I first started, we have so much engine work to do now that I primarily focus on engine work. But I can do pretty much everything except for tuning, which is Tim's area of expertise. But we can both do roll cage work and any type of fabrication, machining, etc.


For the most part, for the last several years I've been doing engine work.


I build the engines. Sometimes I'll install the engine, but usually someone else installs the engine and Tim will then tune it on the dyno. I'll do the cylinder head work, all the blueprinting and balancing, and assembly. Then it's up to Tim to make horsepower. If it doesn't make horsepower as it should, I just blame it on Tim. (laughs)


As far as tuning goes, we work with Hondata for engine management. We work with the AEM units too. It's basically putting the engine on the dyno, hooking it up to a wideband O2 so you can get the air-fuel, and making adjustments on timing, air-fuel, and VTEC engagement. With the K series, we also have cam advance on the intake, which is a whole other variable when it comes to tuning. It's a lot of dyno runs, then fine tuning fuel, ignition and stuff like that.



How did you first get connected with King Motorsports?


Back around 1999, I was a customer when the shop was located in Sullivan, WI. I was out there several times picking up parts. I got to know King’s President and CEO Scott, and he mentioned he was looking for an engine builder (who could also be a fabricator). I told him “Well that's what I'm doing now.” So we set up an interview, and it all worked out from there.


What drew you to Hondas?


I worked at a Harley-Davidson shop prior to King Motorsports. I was into motorcycles and motorcycle racing. I raced Honda bikes, but I knew a bunch of guys who raced both bikes and cars. Before the Harley-Davidson shop, I was working at a Ford dealership.


One of the salesmen from Ford moved over to a Harley-Davidson dealership. He got me a job at Harley-Davidson.


I've always been a Honda guy. Motorcycle racing is where I got started on Hondas, transferring my engine and racing experience over to cars. The more I learned, the more I saw just how far ahead Honda was ahead of the other guys, especially in their engine program. Back in the early '90s, just when I was getting into motorcycles, it seemed like Honda was way ahead of everyone -- both motorcycles and cars.



Did you have any formal training?


I took every shop class in high school. I took auto, welding, machine shop, electronics, you name it. I also went to UTI Auto Tech School, but left after 3 months. I already had a job at the Ford dealership, where I was able to learn on the job.


I am fortunate to have worked at places with knowledgeable people. The Harley-Davidson dealership was very involved in both motorcycle road and drag racing. They are just down the street from us. We did really involved engine work, they have smart guys that work there, so I learned cylinder head flow and other skills. I also learned from people at King. I’m fortunate to be around smart people I can ask questions of.


So what was your interview with King like?


It was a typical interview. We reviewed my background and work at Harley-Davidson. I told them I could weld, fabricate, machine, etc.


But did Scott ask you to build an engine blindfolded, ninja-style?


No, ha ha.



What is your background in racing?


I raced in CCS (Championship Club Series), which is like the SCCA, except it’s for motorcycles. It’s road racing at a regional level. I always raced the Honda CBR600F2. I did that for 2 years before I went broke and couldn't go any further.


What project cars have you owned over the years?


Just my '90 Integra LS, which is the car I was buying parts for from King. I still have the car. I do track events with it now. That's my project and hobby car.


Although I'm not the original owner, my favorite mod was putting Hoosier racing tires on it. (laughs)


I’ve had several motors in my Integra over the years. Currently it has B17 VTEC from a ‘92-93 GSR. It makes about 200-ish WHP, not bad for a naturally aspirated motor. I'm building out a different motor for it right now, a 92 stroke motor. Hopefully I’ll get 240-250 WHP out of that, we'll see.


What categories of engine building are you involved in?


At King, we do it all. That includes working on the bottom end, measuring all the bearing clearances, and balancing the crank, rods and pistons. We bore and hone it. A lot of the work is in the cylinder heads, as far as doing the porting and the valve job. We also run it on the flow bench, trying different things with the porting and valve job to increase flow. Once all of that's done, I do a mock up assembly and check the piston and valve clearances, degree the cams in, etc. Once I make sure all the clearances are right, I go back and clean everything, re-assemble it, then do a final check on the cam timing. That’s pretty much the short version. It's a lot of measuring and checking clearances, which can be a time consuming process. By the time you're done, you've disassembled and assembled things 3 or 4 times.


I've seen your work area, and it resembled an immaculately clean laboratory!


Yeah, any nicer shop is going to have a separate clean room for doing all the final assembly work. It's too hard to have all that stuff out in the open in the shop. With all the machining stuff, and grinding cylinder heads, I'm making quite a mess, so we have to keep that stuff separated otherwise it's almost impossible to keep it clean.


What does it take to have a good reputation as an engine builder?


I’d say it’s a balanced combination of making an engine that a) gets good HP numbers and b) performs reliably.



What is the most interesting part of engine building for you?


I definitely like the cylinder head, porting and valve jobs. I like working on our flow bench, constantly trying to make the cylinder heads better, and the valve jobs better. I like the challenge of getting more flow out of a motor. I definitely found that how the engine performs on the flow bench relates directly to how it will perform on our dyno. If we get an improvement on the flow bench, we almost always see an improvement on the dyno too.


What is a flow bench?


It's a machine, basically a big vacuum cleaner, if you will. It has several big vacuum motors in it, and it measures the head, the lifts at the valve ... simulating the moment when the cam opens the valve. Our flow bench measures air flow at each lift and the flow of the cylinder head at all the different lifts at the valve.


So it's like a simulator of the engine movements without the inherent risks of having gas exploding?


Right. Basically the way you increase a motor’s power is to increase the air flow both in and out. The quicker you can get it in and the quicker you can get it out, the better. Compression plays into that too. The higher the compression ratio, the more it compresses, the more power it makes. The flow bench can help me determine how effective the porting and the valve job were.


How many customers do you have that are local vs. ones that ship motors to you (such as from outside the US)?


We have a fair mix, about even across the board... Local Wisconsin guys as well as from Northern Illinois and Chicago, but we have plenty from other states as well as from around the world!


We also have customers that ship us their engines from overseas – they just put them on a pallet and crate them up.. We use Mike's old drag car as a K series motor tester, and we have another car for the B series motors.


Do you have a favorite engine or swap?


Hmm, I don't really have a favorite. But we do more B series than anything else.


That said, I like doing the K series – they’re interesting motors. They have roller rockers, an adjustable intake cam, and the advance on the intake cam is controlled by the ECU, so you can control the cam timing on the intake cam, which is pretty neat. It’s a lot more work for Tim to tune though. There are a few things they've improved on over the B series engine: the bottom ends are a little stronger; the way the main bearings hold to the block as one big “girdle” if you will. All the main bearings are connected to each other in one big piece of aluminum, so the bottom end is pretty stout. The cylinder heads flow better, there are bigger valves, bigger ports. It's a little better in terms of wear on the cam shafts.


The B series are definitely our core. We have the most R&D done for B series cylinder work, valve jobs, custom intake manifolds, headers, etc.



How much do you get involved with R&D?


We’re doing a little R&D with every engine build. I'm always working to get the heads to flow a little more, trying new things... I've got plenty of scrap cylinder heads that I'll experiment with to find new ways to port and valve to increase flow in the flow bench.


With the B series we've done quite a bit of R&D on intake manifolds, cutting them apart, porting, and then welding them back together; even making our own from scratch. We'll take the flange off a stock manifold and go from there. Some of the aftermarket and Edelbrock ones are pretty good. We modify them and keep trying different things. It's always a learning process. We never get to a point where we're like "Ok, we've got the end-all best solution now." Instead, every month we see new ways improve flow. It's kind of a never-ending pursuit. We're always striving to extract more horsepower.


How long do typical builds take?


They typically a month in terms of duration, accounting for getting parts in and taking parts to the machine shop (we have a machine shop that does all of our boring, honing and balancing). So by the time we get all the parts in and get the cylinder head worked on it's about a month to a month and a half.


What do you think about the industry’s shift towards greener power plants? What do you think of the CR-Z?


I personally only have modest experience with the CR-Z. King did the Mugen suspension on one and had it on the dyno, but I haven’t yet had the chance to take the engine apart to see how the engine's electrical assist works. I know when the CR-Z is wide open and the electrical assist is working, it's draining the battery. You can only do that for so long and then it's got to recharge itself.


So the first thing that came to mind for me is that the stock electrical assist might not be practical at a track event because you'd probably get half a lap in and then the battery power might start to drain. So I don't know how well the electrical assist would work on the track.


It's sort of like the technology in F1 cars. They have an electrical assist called the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS). Drivers are only able to use the system a couple of times per lap. So they’re incorporating a similar technology into F1.


It would be nice if the CR-Z had a bit better power plant to start with. Like if it had a K series motor. Obviously the CR-Z is more about fuel economy then high performance, but it seems Honda is trying to feel out a balance. The CR-Z looks great. I'd love to see Honda try to make a similar style hybrid out of a Civic Si.


It's a little discouraging to see Honda get rid of the NSX, then the RSX and now the S2000 -- it seems like Honda is getting away from performance cars a little bit. So I'm looking forward to seeing what Honda comes up with to replace those models. In terms of performance platforms, right now we just have the Civic Si and TSX.


What makes King Motorsports different from other shops?


I don't think there are a lot of shops that do as much as we can. For example, we do roll cages, engine work, development, chassis dyno, and all the rest of the heavy lifting that goes into preparing race-spec vehicles. There aren't a lot of shops that can offer all those things.


We're well-rounded. We're not just a place to come get your car tuned or buy parts. We can build your car from the ground up: fabrication, engine work, tuning, suspension, brakes -- everything you need to build a race car. So if you’re looking to build a race car, you don't have to take your car to multiple shops. We can do everything right here; We're a one-stop shop.


What can you tell me about King’s long-standing relationship with Mugen?


I don't personally get into the part sales. But I can say it was definitely nice when we were racing the World Challenge series and we'd have a couple of guys from Mugen come out from Japan to support us at the races. We'd hang out with them and talk shop. I got to spend time with one of Mugen's engine guys, asking questions and sharing stories.



If you could go back in time to meet the founder of Honda, what would you do?


I'd have a million engine questions to ask him. It'd be cool to see his facilities, see his machines and what makes his shop run. I'd ask him about his cylinder head designs, the differences in bore and stroke and rod ratio. Stuff like that.


So you'd buy him a beer and pick his brain for a while?


Right! I wouldn't know where to start!


I might ask why they never came out with a V8 NSX, or an inline six S2000. Honda has always pursued the most power-per displacement engines, but they never seem to make a big displacement motor. Their focus is getting the most power out of smaller motors. Man it would be cool if they had a V8 NSX ... or that inline six S2000. Seeing as how they get so much out of those smaller motors, I can only imagine what they'd do with larger motors!


What do you think the next 30 years will be like for Honda and the tuning scene?


It’s hard to say, especially if they keep going in the hybrid direction. It might put a damper on the kind of stuff we do, especially if they keep getting rid of their performance-based cars. But we'll still always have the people who are building and swapping the cars that are on the road now. The only problem is these car's shells won't last forever. But there are plenty of them out there.


There will always be racing, and there will always be people who want to get their car around the track faster. So I’m sure King will always be busy.


If you weren't working with cars or motorcycles for a living, what would you be doing?


I’d probably an engineer of some kind, building things. Right now I have the role of "re-engineering" so it would be nice to be on the other side of things. It would be nice to be designing things for a change.


Do you have a dream car?


Being a Honda guy, I've always liked the NSX. I'd probably set that as my realistic dream car.



Staff Interview: Mike Lindquist (Part 2)

 

(Continued from Part 1 of our Staff Interview with Mike Lindquist)

 

In Part 2 of our interview with King's Service Manager Mike Lindquist, we talk about customer collaboration, favorite projects, and tuning myths.

 

I’ve heard that you really take the time to listen and ask questions when customers come to you for a build. What is the initial contact like with your racing customers?


Mike L: Our customers from the Dominican Republic are a recent example. They knew King had been building race cars for years, and they always thought of us as the “go to guys” if they ever built a Honda.


Previously, they were running Mazdas that were ex-US World Challenge or Grand Am cars. The cars were from a company called Tri-Point Engineering, the team that really won with those cars. So once  Tri-Point went to the newer Mazda chassis, the older Mazdas got shipped down to the Dominican Republic where our customers raced them. Those Mazdas were kind of heavy, and they’re not as tuner-friendly as the Hondas. The rules are very lax down there.


They called and said, “Hey we know Hondas, we used to race them years ago. We want to go back to the EG hatchback, with a properly built engine. We knew that if we ever did a Honda that you guys would be the people to talk to. Here’s what we’re looking for... here’s what the displacement of the engine needs to be per the rules,” etc. Basically if they tell me the rules, I can come up with something that fits those rules. I send them pictures and dyno charts from previous customer’s builds so they know what we’re talking about throughout the conversation.


We usually go back and forth until we get a quote hammered out. It’s usually a good five or so phone calls (with race engines we’re talking about a project that’s the price of a new Civic, so it’s not something you get done in the first phone call). So the process starts with letting the customer know that we can definitely accomplish their goals. I’ll usually ask them specifics about those goals. Then we go from there: “I have this idea” or “I have that idea.” If they’re ok with my initial ideas, I check the dyno charts for a couple of engines that I’m thinking will fit what the customer’s looking for. They give me feedback like, “This looks good, but can we do this or that?” Then I’ll send them a chart for another variation, and we’ll work on it together and come up with a final build strategy. It’s definitely a team effort between the customer and King.



Usually the race guys pretty much know what they want, so it’s different than talking to a customer that’s less experienced and might be looking for our direction 100% of the way.


So there’s quite a bit of collaborative consulting with the race guys?


Mike L: Right, I won’t build anything or recommend anything that wouldn’t be right. So there have been times when someone has insisted on running a certain part and I’ve had to say, “I’m sorry but we can’t do that part because of reliability issues, and here’s why ....” and I send them pictures of how that part failed in previous builds. That pretty much makes the case. We’re talking from experience, not just personal opinion. Our recommendations are based on facts.


Understandably, customers are used to doing it their own way. Especially overseas, everyone does it differently. They may have theories: “Oh these guys are fast, and they’re doing this ....” They talk to us and we might flip their world upside-down sometimes. At the end of the day what matters is that the customer understands we’re here to help. 


So the race rules are a driving force for their goals?


Mike L: Right, that’s pretty much the first thing to consider. I usually start the conversation by asking what the race rules are. They’ll  tell me something like, “We’re racing in the Dominican Republic, we have this race that’s 2-liter class, the car has to weigh this much, the only real regulations are stock throttle body and stock intake manifolds. Compression is unlimited, cams are unlimited... what do you think you can do for me?” In any racing, the first question I ask is about the rules: What are your rules? What class are you racing? ...so I know what to start out with, and make sure we’re going the right direction to begin with.


So what about the non-racing customers? What are the common services requested?


Mike L: These customers require anything from full engine builds to simple things like “I have a ‘check engine’ light in a car that I bought modified by the previous owner.”


As far as the engine build customers that come off the street, they’ll say “I really want to make my car go faster, I don’t really care if it’s all motor or turbo.” But I prod them a little bit for what they’re really going to be doing with the car. How do they typically drive it? Do they pound the car from stoplight to stoplight? Do they like driving it in pretty much stock manner versus something they can take to the track on weekends? I try to get a better feel for what the customer does with the car.


Sometimes the customer doesn’t know how to describe what they’re looking for. Which is fine, that’s what I’m here for. I help them along by asking questions about how they’re going to use the car, then suggest a build accordingly. Now, if it’s someone that is really a hands-off car guy (and we’re going to be doing maintenance on the car), we’ll give them a more conservative build as far as reliability of parts... or try to work with the OEM build and see if they’re happy with making 200hp on all-OEM parts and internals. Or if it’s a guy who says he wants to go 12 flat in a street car -- then he’s asking for something that can’t be done with OEM stock parts. So I educate them along the way.


We take pictures of every part of the engine build, and the customer gets a whole file folder with all his pictures from the build. I can sit down with the customer for a visual explanation: “Here’s what we do with the sleeved block, here’s what we do with a non-sleeved block, or here’s what we do when we add valve cover vents to the valve cover, these are the kind of pistons we use .... see this mark here? This is what we machine versus the stock one.” We show it to them in pictures.


A customer can know nothing about parts, but the pictures and my explanation will teach them. That’s a big part of getting the people’s business. I kind of like teaching them, helping them along, you know? We get all kinds of customers. If the customer is willing to take the extra time, I can explain all the stuff to them so they can feel like they have and understand all the facts. I want to make sure they don’t feel like they’re getting “taken” or whatever.


A lot of customers bring us stuff built by other people where they don’t even know what’s inside these engines. They don’t even have an invoice that shows the individual part breakdown, so all they can say is, “I think it has CP pistons, maybe Eagle rods, but I don’t really know.”


So we take the extra steps. Our builds may be more expensive than other places, but a lot of that cost comes from my time spent with them making sure they’re comfortable and on board with everything, as well as our painstaking methods for assembly. The whole build is well-documented with pictures, dyno charts, and itemized invoicing. We make sure everything’s done right.

 

 

When we’re building an engine, we keep communication flowing with the customers. If they ever call with questions or they stop in, I walk them out to the shop and show them where Chad [King’s engine builder] is. He’s always willing to show people the work in progress. I walk people right in all the time in the middle of him working. I say “Here’s where you motor is, and here’s what we’re thinking about doing with this, and here’s why this is going to better...” I physically show them.


Are there any tuning myths that you have to dispel? Do any customers come in with unrealistic expectations?


Mike L: Well I think the Internet is the worst source when it comes to leading people to draw conclusions based on incomplete or faulty information. There are so many myths, I could talk about them for days. There isn’t a specific one that sticks out to me, since there are so many. But I’d say the concept of “You don’t need tuning,” or “I saw this guy do such and such on the Internet and he got away with using this part or that part,” or “I can run 400hp on stock internals,” or “this guy made 600hp on pump gas, why can’t I?” I have to explain to them, “well, he probably made three pulls before it broke,” or “he’s running a giant turbo and can make a lot of power with a little boost because it’s so huge.”


So they don’t have all the facts?

Mike L: Yeah, or they think they can buy a turbo kit off of eBay and turbo their car the same as someone who turbo’d their car for $8,000, versus a generic $2,000 turbo kit that doesn’t get the same results. They don’t understand why it takes two days to install something that’s “just bolt on.” Well, it’s not so much the bolting on the manifold and turbo that takes time, it’s trying to maintain quality for everything else that goes into the installation. We end up replacing most of the eBay kit parts, making custom parts anyway. Ultimately you’d be better off having us build the kit with the correct parts in the beginning, because we simply won’t put a turbo on with silicone hoses as the oil feed lines instead of a braided line. And we won’t use zip ties instead of proper hose clamps. These eBay kits get really generic. A customer may end up with a turbo that’s just awful and will probably smoke from day one and never stop smoking. So a major myth would be that you can buy an eBay turbo, have us tune it, and expect that everything is going to be just fine. It just doesn’t work that way.


So it sounds like you really have the customer’s best interest at heart...

Mike L: Yes. Sometimes they may not think so at first. But they come around once you go through the explanation and show them you’re not just trying to sell them a part. I explain the reasons in detail, which is something other shops can’t always do. A customer might ask, “Well why do I need a breather kit?” and another shop might dismissively say, “Well, it’s just better.”

But why is it better? If you can explain something technical in terms that customers can understand, it arms them with real knowledge. An informed customer is a happy customer. A customer should never feel like you’re telling them to buy a part they know absolutely nothing about, like they’re only doing it because I said so. Maybe not every shop feels that way but that’s what we try to do for our customers at King.


 

Do you have any favorite customer projects that come to mind?

Mike L: We have a turbo car that we’re working on. ...These are guys that I drag race against so I know them. Theirs is one of the fastest cars we’ve ever built as far as drag strips go. It hasn’t put down majorly impressive numbers yet but the car’s won events. I was driving the car for them as sort of a “hired driver” to shake out the bugs for them. Got the car to go 10.70 at 135mph. We tuned and did a lot of fabrication on their car; a lot of turbo set up, the fuel system and everything else. It’s a B16 making almost 590hp, and it’s a real small engine.

This winter, we’re taking that same car and building it out to make over 800hp, and they want the car to go mid to low 9’s. We’re stepping it up to a proper 2-liter build and going with a bigger turbo. We’re really turning the corner towards “serious” drag racing now.

That build is a respectable endeavor, financially speaking. Just the gears for the transmission alone are $8,000. So when you get to that level and you’re making that much power, you have to step up your game on all fronts. It’s a great challenge.

 

I’m an all-motor guy at heart, but the turbos are pretty cool. Getting them to run efficiently is what’s fun. But all-motors are still my first love since it takes so much careful tweaking and so many specific part changes to get to a power goal. I was running 11.1’s making 280hp while another car running 10.70’s is making 583hp or something. It shows that in a car that’s all-motor, you can still make the car fast without making the big power of a turbo car. So I guess I’ve always liked that. I like the responsiveness of an all-motor car.

When I sold the engine out of my old drag car, I used the money to purchase a white Integra Type-R. The Type-R was a theft recovery. The car only had 49k miles on it, and King had done all the work on it, Mugen parts, etc. So I rebuilt it to factory spec as far as the chassis goes, and built a bigger 2.2-liter B-series stroker for it, and that’s been my project that replaced the drag car.


Is that the white Integra Type-R that was parked in King’s showroom at King’s Dyno Day in 2010?

Mike L: No that’s Tim’s car. His has a stock motor and is very, very clean. Mine was parked out front for Dyno Day. Our cars are similar; same year, same white color. Tim’s is just a lot cleaner. He’s got black wheels on his. It’s just immaculate. Mine’s clean, but not that clean. Tim’s is so clean that he’s had it for 10 years and it’s only seen rain twice -- by accident. The engine bay is ridiculous too.


Were there any least favorite customer projects?

Mike L: What comes to mind again are the guys with the eBay turbo kits. The owners spend so much money to get the kit set up right, but the car itself may not be worth all the effort. We get the turbo to the point where it’s reliable, but it still doesn’t make any real power. So we put a lot of time and effort into something that’s mechanically sound, but it’s still not right because of the parts the customer brought to the build. We can’t change those parts if that’s what the customer wanted us to do.

Then there are cars that come in here that are plain scary. They are so dangerous that you’re afraid to drive them. Just tonight, we got a car that the customer shouldn’t even have driven on the road. I took it only ten, twenty feet in the driveway. I got out of it and said, “This is going on the lift, there’s obviously a major problem.” One axle nut was tightened so tight it broke off. If you grab the top and bottom of the wheel and you can wobble it an inch, inch and a half, that’s bad. The only thing that was holding the wheel on the car was the brake rotor and caliper.

The really scary part is that it was a tech at a Honda dealership who originally put the wheel bearings in the car. At a dealership! So that’s even scarier, that people like that work on cars and allow it to go out like that.  Basically the wheel was loose because the tech just kept tightening the axle nut until it broke off. So when I took off the wheel, the nut fell on the ground with part of the axle still in it. I took off the wheel and heard “clink!” I looked on the ground and saw that the axle had sheared off and is stuck in the spindle nut. That’s a big nut that requires a 32mm socket.

I can’t say that I have any specific cars that are least favorites. I’d just say that the least favorites are the ones that are just pieced together. I know that everyone can’t have something really cool. It’s respectable to have a car you thought through and did right. Don’t just buy someone else’s botched-together project. It’s a gamble that may not pay off. That’s what we’ve sometimes seen when people don’t have the money to build their own so they just trade cars on Craig’s List and end up getting a pile of junk.


Um, I have to admit I look at those Craig’s List cars too. I’m glad you tell it like it is.


Mike L: I want to make sure I can make every customer comfortable. Some of our customers might be more reserved in personality. They don’t want to feel like they’re getting that snobbish, over-priced tuner shop attitude.  We work hard to avoid that stereotype. Street-build customers generally need more explanation and help with developing their build. Also, their budget is tighter. With racing customers it’s a bit more cut and dried. They usually know their cars inside and out, and come to us for specific work. They’re well aware that power and speed cost money and they’re not shocked at the cost. In either case, I really enjoy finding out what their needs are and being able to help them out. We want to make our customers feel comfortable enough where they can speak their minds, and trust they are collaborating with us. I know we’re on the right track when we use plain English instead of stuffy professional-speak that doesn’t really mean anything. Professionalism is important of course, but you have to be able to relate to the customers too. I think that’s the difference between customers that walk in and then right out, versus those that stick around. Being easy to talk to can make the difference on whether someone comes back again.


I do my best to figure out where the customer is coming from. I’ll give customers a shop tour, show them around, and remind them that, “Hey, we’re here to help you. We’re a full-service facility. We aren’t those guys who want your money but don’t care about your car.” Some people focus on our prices, and once in a while we take some heat for it on the Internet. But we have way more customers posting that their money was well spent and they’re really happy with our work and our customer service.  The bottom line is that when people come in here, I want them to realize that we’re friendly people who genuinely know our craft and care about the customer’s real needs.