One of the debates you most often hear among Honda enthusiasts is whether or not a build is truly functional. Functionality is really only relative to what the owner’s intentions were during the assembly of the vehicle in question, but you’ll frequently hear people talk about how there are too many show cars that never see an actual track time. There are individuals who care very little about racing their cars, but since they’ve installed performance upgrades, it’s assumed that their focus is the racetrack. The race enthusiasts are usually at the opposite end of the spectrum of the show car crowd, and it’s been that way for as long as anyone can remember. You either beat the crap out of your car racing it, or you want to keep it as pristine as possible for the next show. It’s a rare thing to find someone in the Honda community who is into both and willing to embrace both sides.
Ken Suen is one of those guys who loves all aspects of the tuning world. He’s often being pulled in two directions and trying to find a balance between show and go. When he first acquired his 2008 Si, he never had any intentions of doing anything crazy with it. His plans were to build a clean street cruiser that he could drive to work every day, as well as various automotive events. The Civic you see today is a far cry from his original intentions. What was supposed to be a simple, daily driven Civic has now been transformed into a full-blown time attack race car.
“I bought this Civic brand-new from a local dealership four years ago,” Ken explains. “Back then, it was the stock Taffeta White color and I had planned to just put some wheels on it and maybe an intake. I began doing research on the car later and often found myself looking through countless Japanese car magazines for inspiration. It was in one of these magazines when I first discovered the FD2 Civic Mugen RR. I loved how aggressive the car looked and decided that I wanted to do the conversion.”
Not long after, Suen was able to locate an RR front and rear end conversion. Many of you are probably wondering if it is an authentic kit, and Ken will admit with no hesitation that it certainly is not. The authentic Mugen RR kit is not something you can just buy at your local tuner shop. There were only 300 Mugen RRs ever produced, so you can imagine how difficult it would be to actually get your hands on a complete “real deal” conversion. The way Ken would later pound on the car, it’s probably better that he has a replica kit. (Continue reading and you will understand why.) After acquiring the kit, he made the decision to respray the car in a red hue to match the look of the Mugen RRs he saw in Japan. He didn’t want to have the RR look without some power to back it up, so he installed some bolt-on parts like an intake, exhaust, and header. With these new additions, Ken was pretty happy with his Civic. He began attending local meets and going to car shows but never had any thoughts of racing the FA5 on a closed course.
After some convincing from his friends, he agreed to take his Civic to a weekend track event—one session later, he was hooked for life. The pursuit of speed had consumed him and he found himself participating in every weekend track event he could possibly find. Ken’s Civic was also living a double-life as his daily driver during all of the action-packed weekends. The combination of harsh weekend racing and a long daily commute began taking its toll on the stock K20Z3. Luckily for Suen, he made some new friends during his racing exploits, one of them being Loi Song of Sportcar Motion. Loi was not only an expert when it came to Honda K engines, his shop had become very well known for dominating the Limited FF class at various time attack events and setting record-breaking times. If there was anyone that could help Ken find more performance from his K, it was Sportcar Motion.
Suen entrusted his faith in Loi and the SCM crew and wasted no time in bringing the car to their shop in San Marcos, California. Loi and his crew quickly went to work, pulling the worn-out K20 in order to refresh the powerplant. To maximize power, a bevy of Skunk2 goods were installed, and the transmission was removed and shipped to Gearspeed. Torn down and rebuilt using their signature carbon synchros and a new Kaaz LSD, Gearspeed made quick work of the process, and SCM pieced the car back together in just a few days. For tuning duties, the Civic was transported to Church Automotive Testing where it was fine-tuned using Hondata’s FlashPro.
Confident in the power of his new motor and his growing experience as a driver, Ken resolved to compete at a Global Time Attack event. He then spent time with Loi designing and creating a one-off front splitter to help plant the front end. However, the new aero package wouldn’t mean a thing without a rear wing for proper balance, so Evasive Motorsports was contacted and was able to source a Voltex GT wing and canards to complete the package.
Over the next few weeks leading up to the Global Time Attack event, Ken spent all his time trying to improve his driving skills. He even enlisted the help of longtime front-wheel-drive record breaker Clint Boisdeau. The Apollo Performance driver accompanied him on the track and taught him some time-slicing driving tactics. By the time Ken finished testing his new setup, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that his lap times had improved by over eight seconds! This is a huge, huge feat for someone with no more than a year of experience under his belt. At the Global Time Attack event, Ken managed to win the Street Front Wheel Drive class, outrunning Boisdeau, a driver who he looks up to as his mentor.
It is wild to see how much of a transformation Ken and his Civic have made in just a short amount of time. He went from a young kid who barely knew anything about cars, to a very formidable driver in the road racing community. Although he’s experienced a significant amount of personal success, he’s quick to point out that it is all in good fun. And in case you’re wondering, he still makes that lengthy commute every single day from Ontario to El Monte, California, in his RR-converted Civic. And when he’s not chasing down lap times or daily driving, you’ll find his Civic at various car shows throughout the Southern California region, albeit with a few more battle scars. Ken Suen is a true enthusiast who does it all, and we’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for a guy like that.