By most accounts, 179 mph is fast. And by most accounts, to do so in about 8.8 seconds is nothing short of remarkable. Those were the digits that the Pacific Northwest’s SpeedFactory Racing Civic chalked up for itself less than three years ago, and those were the numbers that compelled SpeedFactory co-owner James Kempf and crew—who’ve never been ones to rest on their laurels—to target uncharted territory—low eights.
Despite the timeslips, Kempf says that “ was the year we decided it was finally time to move away from [our] street car roots and make this thing a real race car.” Although a street car only by one’s wildest stretch of the imagination, a “real race car” it is now indeed. And it takes a real race car to compete within the likes of import drag racing’s modern-day Outlaw class. Since its 15-week transformation, SpeedFactory’s Civic has gone on to post a record-setting 8.29-second quarter-mile pass at 185.21 mph, with successive trips down the strip in excess of 190 mph—that’s quicker than any Outlaw car’s gone to date and faster than anything in front-wheel-drive Honda history.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that SpeedFactory’s hatchback was any sort of slouch prior to all of this, though. Since its debut in 2009, Kempf and company’s dominated turbo street car classes, winning almost every event they’ve shown face at. Later it became the first Street Comp car in the Northwest to run nines and eventually the first Outlaw car on the West Coast to break into the eights. In the words of Kempf: “This is the Outlaw car that put the Northwest on the map.”
Right about now you’re expecting to read a story of how difficult it was for the SpeedFactory guys to gain ground so quickly within the Outlaw ranks. You won’t read that story here. Cars like the SpeedFactory Civic make it easy for writers like us to not have to reach into the predictable grab bag of automotive journalistic clichés. You know the ones: “Timmy always wanted a Honda but couldn’t afford one. When Timmy finally got his, though, the engine blew/car got stolen/transmission failed.” Foretelling hard times and sob stories ensue. Poor Timmy.
What you’ll need if you ever take a trip down the 1320 in this car.
Unlike Timmy, the SpeedFactory guys know what they’re doing, and with the help of title sponsor Competition Clutch, they now had the means to do it. Horsepower—lots more of it—was chief among items to be addressed. Transcending from high eights to low eights is exponentially more difficult than getting your mother’s 17-second Accord sedan into the 16s. As such, the limit of SpeedFactory’s original 900-plus-horsepower B series was raised to 1,300hp and 750 lb-ft of torque—roughly eight times the engine’s original output. Despite the horsepower figures, the engine block, cylinder head, and crankshaft all remain factory-issue. Whoever from Honda designed its B series some 25 years ago should be proud.
Anyone who’s ever participated in organized drag racing knows that in order for any sanctioning body to acknowledge a record, the car’s got to be legal. And anybody who’s ever participated in organized drag racing knows that in order for the court of public opinion (i.e., the interwebz) to acknowledge a record, the pass has got to be backed up. Kempf and company took care of both of these concerns. To start, an SFI-approved 25.5-spec rollcage was fabricated into place. That along with a Stroud parachute and window net as well as a Safecraft fire-suppression system (among other things) help appease track officials. To ensure repeatability and superior data acquisition, SpeedFactory swapped its Hondata engine management system for a MoTeC M800 ECU and individual, external ignition coils. Kempf will be the first to tell you that Hondata’s system is no joke and that the team fared consistently with it, but none of that was without challenges. “I had to constantly chase the tune,” Kempf quips about the demands of racing at numerous tracks with varying circumstances and weather conditions. “Much of the tuning [was] raw and based on gut feelings combined with what we could see via in-car and out-of-car video footage.” Under the JCR three-piece front end, the crew also elected to swap out its air-to-air intercooler for a custom liquid-to-air core that’s good for up to 2,000hp. Kempf comments on what originally drew fans to the car and why the upgrades weren’t as straightforward as you’d imagine: “The S300 and air-to-air setup was one of the car’s biggest draws, though, and a lot of people really liked it for its pure simplicity. It showed what can be accomplished without having the best of everything out there, so making the change was kind of a difficult decision for us.”
It turns out that the SpeedFactory boys are getting comfortable with change. Kempf says the alterations aren’t over with and that significant engine and chassis modifications are drawing near. “Some of it might be a step backward, but at this point it’s all about testing different things,” he says. “As she sits right now, it should be able to run 8.20s on a great track, possibly 8.10s if we get some amazing conditions. Only time will tell. Running sevens is a bit of a stretch and seems damn near impossible, but you never know. We never thought we could do what we are doing now either.”