You’ve seen the name in over 90 percent of the feature car spec lists in this magazine, as well as a host of others. The name HaSport is synonymous with quality and function, and the company has rightfully earned its spot at the top of the motor swap food chain. Currently in the midst of possibly its biggest year ever, I stopped Brian Gillespie for just a few minutes to find out how the company started, where it’s at currently, and what’s next.
(Left) Brian Gillespie, product development and marketing. (Right) Keith Gillespie, presid
BG: Well, HaSport actually grew out of my brother Keith’s Honda salvage yard. He started Honda Auto Salvage around 1994 to support his SCCA racing. He was racing a Volkswagen Rabbit in ITC at the time, but saw the Hondas were doing very well in IT and Solo classes. In ’97, I came on board. My job at that time had me working a lot of evenings and weekends, and if I wanted to see my 4-year-old son grow up once he started school, I needed a day job. One of the deciding factors for going to work for my brother was that I could build a race car and Honda Auto Salvage would pay for my racing. Keith and I had raced motocross when were kids, so I thought that would be great.
I started bringing the road race cars to the dragstrip on the weekends, and the cars were moderately fast. We began to attract some attention since there were a lot more Honda fans at the drags than at road races. Keith had set up HAS (Honda Auto Salvage) Motorsports to purchase race car parts, so we started selling AEM, Autopower, ARP, Neuspeed, and other parts through that entity. Around the same time we started selling a lot of parts to locals who were doing engine swaps.
After some research into this engine swap craze, we decided to do our first engine swap; a ZC into a ’91 Si. The swap took a day, but the wiring took a week! I’d wired the crank angle sensor backward and lacked a manual to figure it out. After a local Honda tuner, Mark Basch of Basch Acura Service, found the problem, we began buying manuals of the cars we were working on. The owner of the car got a speeding ticket for doing over 100 mph on the freeway about a month later, but in spite of that, we decided engine swapping was a viable business.
I started looking for a name for the new company; I didn’t particularly like HAS Motorsports. It wasn’t catchy. Eventually I settled on HaSport because I was going to advertise the company as Honda + Acura + Motorsports = HASport. That was August or September of ’98. Things were happening fast in the engine swap world, and a couple of companies were coming out with parts to do engine swaps. Place Racing had some weld-in brackets, and HCP had the adapter brackets. Eventually, Place Racing came up with actual mounts for installing a B16 into the EF chassis, and we started to use those on our EF swaps.
HT: How was supply as compared to the demand? And when did HaSport officially jump into the motor mount business?
BG: It was hell getting those parts from Place Racing. It seemed like our mount orders would take months longer than promised, as we would never get as many as we had ordered. At about that time I had tried my hand at making my own mount kit: the B-series kit for the ’84–’87 Civic/CRX. The design process took a day and a half but went very smoothly. The initial kit was a little spindly, but it held the engine perfectly. It had one design difference compared to the Place Racing mounts that we thought was very important. The urethane was pushed in, instead of cast in. A couple of the Place Racing mounts we had used in swaps had the urethane separate under racing use, so I suggested to the owner of Place Racing that pressed in would be a good solution. After he declined I asked if he would sell me Place Racing mounts without the urethane cast in. He said he’d think about it.
After that it seemed even harder to get mount kits from Place Racing. I’m sure he was busy selling all he could make at retail to individual customers instead of at a discount to businesses like HaSport. Keith and I were getting frustrated at losing sales, so we decided to make our mounts. We needed to be unique, though, so we decided to design the mount kits from scratch, produce them in aluminum, and have pressed-in urethane, not cast. On August 19, 1999, we made our official announcement on the Hybrid Page.
We were still working on customer cars, and there were just two employees, me and James Rasmussen. The mount business took off huge, and we made the switch from shop to manufacturer. James left to work on cars at another shop, and Joe Sawyer (aka Locash Racing Joe) came in to do sales. I moved to developing new kits. We made the observation that many people were getting the engines in quickly but having a real struggle with wiring. A lot of people doing the wiring were doing complete chassis and dash wiring swaps to make things work. So in the evening at home, I started to make swap harnesses. There were a lot of small differences between models, which caused a lot of problems. Because we had a salvage yard, I could find the right year and model for a core harness, and it made it much easier to keep things correct.
HT: Were you farming some of the process out, in order to get the product completed? What about the process currently?
BG: At that time, the mounts were cut by a water jet company and welded by a fab shop. Over the years we’ve managed to bring almost all manufacturing in-house. We now have 12 employees, many of whom have been with us for more than five years. Also, my 18-year-old son has recently come on board as a full-time employee. HaSport has five CNC mills, Waterjet, CNC press brake, CNC lathe, CNC saw, TIG and MIG welders. The mills run between 16 and 24 hours a day making mounts. Last year was our best year ever, and this year looks like it may beat last year by a fair margin!
HT: When it comes to creating a new mount kit, what is the process before the actual hands-on work begins?
BG: There’s actually a big master list of mount kits with everything imaginable on the list. On a regular basis, we discuss what’s going to be next. Keith and I will poll the employees as to what people have been calling about and what is being discussed on the boards. Based on that, we make the decision (most of the time) mutually. Sometimes I try the engine in the car to see what the possible problems might be, and I may move the mount kit up or down the list. The CR-Z/K swap was chosen because Honda did not choose us for the 2012 Civic builds for SEMA. That, and Eibach thought it was time to make its CR-Z faster and more fun. We knew that would be a nice halo project. There was a universal cry from Honda enthusiasts for that car to get the K series when it came out, and we looked at it as a chance to right a huge wrong. When the CR-Z came out the year before, Honda had asked everyone that received a CR-Z for SEMA not to do an engine swap because of the Hybrid image—it was a no-brainer. (BTW, I still bristle at the use of the term Hybrid to mean anything except a Honda with an Acura motor. Call me old-school!)