From turbo placement to exhaust routing, each and every component was well thought out by
Seven-hundred ninety-four horsepower doesn’t care how many cylinders you’ve got. Seven-hundred ninety-four horsepower doesn’t care how big your engine is. It doesn’t care which turbo you’ve got, what your compression ratio is, or what kind of oil you use. And 794hp for damn sure doesn’t care whether you’ve got one cam or two.
Chances are, your fondest memory of Honda’s entry-level, four-cylinder D series is the day you plucked it from your bay and chucked it for a twin-cam swap. The truth is, though, with a little bit of attention, the D series is every bit as capable of making respectable power as any of Honda’s larger, dual-overhead-cam lineup. Just ask SpeedFactory’s James Kempf, who’s taken Honda’s D16Z6 and done everything to it that the Internet says you shouldn’t—like push more than 794hp out of it.
As a boy, James assumed he’d one day own the obligatory muscle car—something with eight cylinders. After all, he says, four-cylinder Hondas were “slow” and best left as “commuter cars.” Despite all of this, in 1998 James found himself the owner of a ’95 Civic EX coupe. “The look of the car caught my eye, and after a test drive I was hooked,” he says. “I just couldn’t believe how quick that puny 1.6L four-cylinder was, how it screamed to 7,000 rpm happily.”
James spent the remainder of the ’90s modifying his Civic and soon found his calling—drag racing. “The process of constantly tweaking and tuning the car, as well as my driving skills, in order to improve and run a new personal best was like a drug to me,” he confesses. It didn’t take long before James sought a lighter chassis in hopes of going faster. In 2002, the coupe was sold and a ’92 Civic VX hatchback was sourced. The VX was rough around the edges but was precisely what James was looking for—something light. In short order, James gutted its interior, yanked the engine, and dropped a D16Z6 complemented with a GReddy turbo kit into place. The combination was good for a 12-second quarter-mile, enough to spank just about any Mustang James would happen upon. And about beating those Mustangs, well, “It was a damn good feeling,” he says.
James grew bored of the entry-level turbo kit yet remained attached to his D series. “I loved having the underdog motor and the notoriety of being the guy with the little SOHC that was beating up on all of the DOHC-swapped cars,” he says. By 2006, though, James’ family and financial responsibilities began to counter his desire to go faster. As such, he pieced together an economically minded T3/T4-based eBay turbo kit and strengthened his block with Suzuki Vitara pistons—a combination James had seen proven within the Puerto Rican drag racing scene. “I had a very limited budget after the turbo kit upgrades and was dying to get it running again, so I was looking for a cheap way to get the motor back together,” he says. “The Vitara pistons had only been used to 300 whp at that point in time, and nobody really knew how far you could push them.” The new setup yielded James a 10.4-second quarter-mile once properly slicked down and earned him bragging rights as the quickest and most powerful Vitara-based D series. To be sure, at 471hp and 29 psi of boost, James’ D configuration was no joke.