As far as the early 1990s are concerned, Hondas and turbocharging will remain strange bedfellows. With the exception of the HKS turbo kit designed for 1.6L, twin-cam D-series engines, Honda powerplants remained, by and large, of the naturally aspirated persuasion. Myles Bautista changed all of that. His efforts at legendary Honda tuning facility JG Engine Dynamics, later Turbonetics, and at his own organization, Rev Hard, helped usher in the era of the turbocharged Honda. Considered by many as the father of Honda forced induction, Bautista is credited for executing the first 12-second quarter-mile pass and for developing among the first Honda-specific tubular exhaust manifolds. Perhaps ahead of his time, he experimented with large-frame turbos and went on to cofound Rev Hard, a pioneering organization that specialized in Honda turbocharger systems. Bautista undoubtedly revolutionized Honda performance, set records, founded a million-dollar company, and, not unlike other legends, left on an unannounced, undetermined hiatus in 2005. But Bautista has since returned. The following recounts where he came from and where he’s headed.
HT: What’s your earliest Honda-related memory?
MB: When my dad gave me an ’85 CRX HF as a graduation present from high school during my senior year. That was the beginning of me trying to learn, bolting on a bunch of parts, trying to see how I could make an HF go fast. That was 1989.
HT: Did you even care about Hondas, or was the CRX your dad’s choice?
MB: No, I didn’t even care about Hondas. I had a Toyota pickup truck that I drove in high school. That was the scene in the ’80s. As far as street racing went, all my cousins drove Corollas and Celicas. The first thing they said was, “That can’t compete. Nobody drag races a FWD car!”
HT: Explain the events that led to you creating Rev Hard.
MB: After I spent a ton of money on the CRX, I would still get beat at the street races. I went carbureted, nitrous, new cams every weekend, every type of electronic ignition. I needed a change. I’d been looking at a lot of Carboy magazines, and that’s when I noticed that the [Japanese] CRX came with a different motor—a twin-cam, 1.6L—what they called a ZC. I got a hold of one of those motors, put it in, got quicker, but still wasn’t quick enough. That was 1990 or 1991.
Just a small sample of Bautista’s hard work. His extensive trophy collection, made up of t
HT: What’d you do next?
MB: I bought a universal turbo kit from HKS. I didn’t know where to hook up the water lines, so I took it to a turbo shop, AK Miller in Rosemead [California]. They were the turbo gurus back then. I picked up the car with a $2,800 bill, looked at it and said, “What happened to the HKS turbo?” They said, “You don’t want that on your car; it’s too big. You need one of these T25 Garretts.” I just figured the T3 turbo that HKS provided was too big for my motor. I got back to my dad’s shop, looked at the turbo kit, and saw that they didn’t even hook up the water lines! The only reason I paid the $2,800 was because I wanted everything done right and I wanted to know how the water lines hooked up. I called them up, and they said that I didn’t need them. I was like, why would a turbocharger have such a thing and not need it? That was the first step toward me building Rev Hard.
HT: An important step that you probably didn’t even realize at the time. What else did you do to make that ZC engine more powerful?
MB: I ran twin side Mikunis on it. I dealt with JG Engine Dynamics and we put high-compression [Arias] pistons in it, nitrous, all that stuff. Nobody made cams back then, but I had a good friend who worked at Isky [Racing Cams]. All those times they were grinding cams, they never knew that a Honda turned counterclockwise, so they were grinding the cams backward. The cams were working, but the profiles were completely off because it was a counterclockwise motor [laughs].
HT: But they worked?
MB: Yeah, they still made more power. There was a lot of trial and error back then. We didn’t have the privilege of having the Internet, so everything we did was our own innovation.
HT: What did you do for fuel management?
MB: I had a blow-through, twin-Mikuni, carbureted turbo setup, which actually helped at the street races. Since I didn’t have the transition from the primary jets to the main jets, the car would bog, which would help me gain traction. So while my car was sputtering, it was actually gaining traction. By the time it cleared up, the car would move [laughs].
HT: Prehistoric traction control, no?
MB: Yep [laughs].
HT: Did you have any experience with turbochargers prior to the HKS kit?
MB: None. That kit started everything, and that bad experience with AK Miller, well, I actually have to thank them for that. We’ve learned that Honda motors are a different kind of animal when it comes to their efficiency. Even when I worked for Turbonetics R&D, the old-school guys, they were really black-and-white: “The efficiency of the turbocharger, the maps. This is the exact turbo that you need for that particular sized motor.” I don’t have a mechanical engineering degree, but one thing that I love to do is experiment. Why don’t we put this on and if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, then we keep going. I think that if it wasn’t for me, people would still be running T3/T4 combinations.
Bautista’s 600-plus-horsepower, 9-second Integra.
HT: What finally led to you forming Rev Hard?
MB: Later on I went to Drag to buy a tubular [exhaust] manifold. Drag was one of the first companies to make turbo kits for Hondas. I ordered it, went to go pick it up, and $450 later got a tubular log manifold. I brought it back to my dad’s shop and he was like, “You paid $450 for a log manifold? We can do a lot better than this.” I put the manifold on anyways, made good power out of it, but from the looks of it, I was really unhappy. So I decided to use my savings, bought a TIG welder, and made my first tubular manifold. It made like 20hp and 30 lb-ft. I thought, we’re onto something here. I started making those manifolds for my car club, Team Precision. I did all of their custom turbo kits. After that I thought, why don’t we start a company? So Ramon Rayos, who’s in the Philippines now running his drifting events, Allen Camero, and I started Rev Hard. We didn’t know it would turn into a million-dollar company.
HT: Were you surprised when you blew your first turbocharged engine?
MB: Yes, but when we blew it, we tried to figure out a way to make it stronger. When I worked for JG, that’s when Javier [Gutierrez] and I came up with the idea to weld the block shut. We had those aluminum girdles made and started welding them in. Those held for a while; we made 470hp. Then we found L.A. Sleeves and JG started sleeving blocks. That’s when we broke the 600hp mark.
HT: You worked at JG Engine Dynamics first, right?
MB: Yeah, that was when JG started with Hondas. When I first went to JG, I told him all of my problems: the turbochargers, the blocks, all that stuff. He was like, “Oh, yeah, we’ve done all those things on cars before.” To this day, I’ve still never seen any of those cars that JG supposedly did before the first time I walked into that shop. But when we hit the record of 12.21 seconds—the world’s fastest time and then the first 11-second setup—his phone started ringing off the hook.