This article was first published in October 2001.
When an Aussie bloke admits to being a V8 man, chances are they'll forever stick to the brute force of big cubes. Robert Cincotta, however, is notable exception. Robert sold his bent-eight ute to make way a vehicle that's at complete odds with what he was used to - a high-revving Honda Integra Type R! Robert tells us he'd always loved the Type R and - after time and time again reading about how brilliant they were - he finally bit the bullet and put an order in for his own Type R. A black one.
With its wondrous 141kW (at 7900 rpm) and 178Nm (at 6300), Robert knew he'd made the right move with the Honda. It went reasonably hard for an off-the-floor stocker, handled well and was impeccably built. But - like many of us - Robert "got bored"...
After 3 months of ownership passed, Robert approached Dean Ong of Melbourne's Technic Tuning. Unsure of quite how much power was required, the guys started off replacing the standard exhaust system with a bolt-on top-grade replacement. At the front there's a set of tough-looking Mugen 4>1 extractors, leading into a full A'PEXi N1 pipe system. Suppressing just the right amount of the VTEC bark is a single cat converter, a centre resonator and a showpiece rear box. Despite the factory's already high specific power output (78.3kW per litre), Robert says he felt a noticeable increase in performance in the top-end - though bottom-end did suffer a bit.
Robert likes to make sure his power-up mods are accompanied by suitable suspension and brake enhancements, so a rear tower bar and a full set of Tein adjustable coil-overs went in. Interestingly, Robert says these actually improved the ride and "when you're hammering, it sticks like anything." Not long after these came a stickier set of 195/55 15 Bridgestone S-02s, which - of course - elevated the cornering limits even higher. The standard ABS was then introduced to a set of A.R.T. pads (A.R.T. is a product of Technic Tuning).
Following these initial changes, Robert had Technic Tuning install an A'PEXi Power FC adjustable computer. This helped to tune out the bottom-end doughiness and give the scope to adjust for future mechanical mods - which were, inevitably, to follow. The first mechanical item Robert roped in was a pair of Cusco adjustable cam sprockets. These helped acceleration slightly, but torque still died off by 'only' around 8500 rpm.
"Just for fun", Robert next decided the only way he'd get a serious increase in power was with a full engine build - and the poor little Honda engine had barely clocked up 20,000 kilometres! Inside the DOHC 1.8-litre four are now high-compression forged pistons (giving around 12.4:1 compared to 11.0:1 stock!), lightened and balanced conrods, Toda Type C camshafts (the wildest grind you can get before entering race territory), Toda titanium retainers and upgrade valve springs. Note that the ultra high compression ratio makes filling the tank with high-octane fuel essential.
The visible stuff included in the engine build phase are a Cusco oil catch can, a K&N air filter on the end of a large diameter mandrel pipe, Honda NSX injectors and an A.R.T. fuel pressure regulator and gauge.
Rather than putting the engine back in the car and just hoping that the clutch could handle the extra neddies, a Daikin/Exedy 3-puck unit was sandwiched in, along with a Toda lightened flywheel. This combo holds the 1.8's torque without hassle and is quite practical for everyday use.
So - given that Honda had already done a magnificent job of attaining 141kW out of their atmo 1.8-litre four - how much power have the above mods released? Well, according to Dean of Technic Tuning, somewhere between 190 and 200kW. That's a claimed increase of over 35 per cent!
And, boy, does this power packet love to rev to make that power.
Robert says the VTEC switchover point (where the second cam lobes come into effect) is currently set at a heady 7200 (6200 is standard) and "it'll pull away from just about anything up the top." Up the top, by the way, means from about 7500 to 10,500 rpm - it's savage!
Drowning out most of the engine scream is a modest, but effective stereo system. Heading it off is a Clarion CD/tuner with an Alpine 4-channel amp, dual Alpine DDDrive 6½-inch splits in the front and a pair of 6-inch full-range speakers in the rear. Nothing over-the-top, but a quality system nonetheless. And since the engine build, Robert has also added an A'PEXi rev/speed meter and auto timer (which is like a turbo timer for highly-strung atmo cars). Of course, there's absolutely no need to touch the factory race seats, the grippy airbag steering wheel, or the aluminium shift knob and pedals. Honda's trick push-to-crank button alongside the steering wheel also adds a touch of racecar appeal.
Having gone just about as far as you can go with an atmo (non gas'd) engine, Robert says he's near the end of his list of ideas. A set of monster Brembo brakes should have been fitted by the time you read this, and he's also very interested in a close-ratio gearset.
Depending on gearing and traction (which, on the street, is normally exceptional), Robert hopes that his high-pitch singer will crack a 12-second quarter mile. Perhaps a tall order for a non-turbo FWD, but bear in mind the engine is making more power than stock and the whole caboodle weighs only 1087 kilograms.
No matter what time it eventually runs, there's no doubt Robert is 100 percent rapt in his new toy; its grunt, its handling, its looks - everything. So, by the sounds of things, Robert's been successfully 'converted'.
Once an avid V8 man is now a hyped-up Honda hero!
+61 3 9482 1883