A lot of people buy S2000s for wind-in-the-hair-thrills. But Sophie Williams’ approach has been to blow a load more air into the motor and turn that gentle breeze into a tsunami. This is her turbocharged Honda S2000.
Feature taken from Banzai magazine. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Oli Remedi
There’s a phrase which has kicked off quite a few interesting project builds over the last decade or so, and that’s ‘Why don’t you stick an F20C in there?’. Honda’s road-racer four-pot motor from the S2000 has become a popular donor for all sorts of unexpected retro projects; AE86s, Starlets, 510s, you name it, as well as a fair few non-JDM bases like the Mk2 Ford Escort and the Triumph Toledo. So when Sophie Williams’ mechanic uttered those happy words, ‘Why don’t you stick an F20C in there?’, in reference to her constantly misbehaving MG TF, it wasn’t all that mad a suggestion. But you know where the F20C’s happiest? Right there in its native S2000 engine bay. It was at this point that the mental cogs started to turn. “I went to test-drive an S2000 in Pearl White, and just fell in love there and then,” she says. “Straight away I knew it was the car for me; I’ve always loved two-seater soft-tops, and the Honda was perfect – everything from the exterior styling, the look and feel of the dash, even the start/stop button… and of course hitting the VTEC!”
A match made in heaven then, right? But of course this isn’t a story of a cabrio enthusiast picking up an S2K and that being the end of it. This isn’t that sort of magazine. No, the extreme modifications that were to follow were really quite inevitable, given that Sophie runs a large international car club for women – www.modifiedgirls.co.uk – which acts as an outlet for her own modding obsession, as well as being a vibrant community for like-minded tuners and drivers.
It also helps that Sophie’s background has been hardcore JDM from the start. “My family shares this passion for Japanese cars,” she explains. “My brother is a big fan of the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R, his dream car which he now owns. I think it was the initial explosion of the Fast and the Furious movies and Initial D back in the day that led to me meeting quite a few people who owned JDM cars, and I just knew then that it was something I wanted to do.” And much like her brother yearned for the R34 and ultimately fulfilled his daydream, so Sophie had her heart set on an S2000 – and six years ago, after years of patient saving, she was able to buy her dream car too.
It’s fair to say that the plans to radically alter the Honda were swimming about in her brain right from the start. “There’s just nothing that quite beats the feeling of driving a modified car which you have taken the time and the money to build,” she enthuses. “And then, after a few years of owning my S2000, attending car shows and adding more and more modifications, I met my partner who happens to own JDT Tuning in Ashford.”
This turned out to be a serendipitously fateful occurrence for a number of reasons. Obviously the life-changing romantic element is key to the tale, but the relevance to our own narrative here is that the fella in question, Justin Haydon, is a man who knows Hondas inside out, having been a Honda Master Technician for over sixteen years before founding JDT Tuning. Furthermore, at the time he owned an S2000 which he’d recently turbocharged. You can see where this is going, can’t you?
“We share the same passion; we currently own nine cars between us,” Sophie beams, “and we ended up building my car together.”
Rewinding to the start of the project, we find that Sophie’s brother was actually the source of it all. “He went and bought my dream car while I was saving up for it,” she laughs. “He was training to be an airline pilot at the time, which is very expensive, and he ended up not being able to warrant the cost of the car.” So after a couple of years of it languishing on the family driveway she decided to make him an offer for the S2000, which he gladly accepted. After a couple of years of neglect it wasn’t in the best condition, and Sophie had to apply a fair amount of elbow grease to get it all up to snuff, but beneath the grime there was a shining kernel of potential gleaming through.
“It was largely standard when I got it, although thankfully it already had the carbon fibre bonnet and bootlid and some Skunk2 springs,” she recalls. “So I started with the basics – induction kit, strut brace, wheels, carbon slam panel, exhaust system and so on. I’ve subsequently transformed the entire car over the past six years, with my decision to go turbocharged around four years ago. My brother always tells me that he cannot believe it’s the same car!”
The turbo S2000 conversion was something well within Justin’s comfort zone, both with his extensive experience of working on Hondas and, of course, the fact that he’d done this before. He takes up the story here: “The turbo setup was designed with fast spool in mind, and ease of maintenance; no oil filter relocation like with other manifolds you can get. This engine was sadly in quite a worn state, so we decided to rebuild it with steel sleeves and forged internals. Later we had some other issues with a company in America making a manifold which cracked due to poor manufacture, so Alan from Solid Fabrications kindly remade the entire manifold and now it works a dream!”
The spec of the F20C is pretty brutal today. Justin and Sophie’s comprehensive rebuild means that not only is it strong as hell thanks to being forged, but also essentially as-new which brings with it the baked-in reliability. The turbo that sits on the custom manifold is a Precision 5858 ball-bearing unit, working with a Tial 44mm wastegate, Tial dump valve, screamer pipe, and a full custom 3-inch Solid Fabrications exhaust system with downpipe and decat pipe. There’s a custom intercooler setup and HKS induction, and fueling is taken care of by LD1000 injectors, dual AEM pumps and an uprated fuel pump power supply. It’s all managed by an AEM Series 2 standalone ECU, and a recent dyno session yielded some extremely healthy figures of 451bhp and 352lb.ft.
“Since we’ve undertaken the turbo conversion, I have some strict rules to only drive it properly when it’s hot and sunny and the roads are dry,” Sophie explains. “You have to show quite a lot of respect for these cars when you modify them to this level, and the S2000 is now my show car – it comes out at the weekends and gets a workout throughout the summer. It’s a real crowd-pleaser at the shows, it always gets people milling around, and taking people out in it is always a laugh! It’s an extremely quick car, and combined with the sound of the exhaust and the screamer pipe, when you add in some tunnels it definitely turns a lot of heads.”
This really is a massive transformation over the stock Honda specs; while the S2000 is pretty manic in standard form, it’s famously tricky to extract significant power gains from it in naturally-aspirated form as it’s so optimised from the factory. However, bolting on a huge turbo and beefing up the internals to suit is akin to unlocking Pandora’s Box, unleashing a hellstorm of hitherto unimagined fury.
It makes sense that the rest of this car has been reworked to suggest what’s coming, as it’s only fair to give onlookers a bit of a heads-up before they have their expressions aggressively rearranged. As such, the S2K now wears a coat of Ford’s crisp Frozen White paint and has been artfully updated with Voltex skirts and rear diffuser, as well as an APR Racing front bumper. The carbon bonnet, boot and massive APR wing leave little ambiguity as to what’s going on. This is, in essence, a race car for the road.
“There are still a few bits we need to finish,” says Sophie, with the sort of never-done obsession we hear from all the most eager feature car owners. “As most of us enthusiasts know, the list is endless and the project is never done. So I might get a Spoon hard-top for it at some point, and I’m sure as time goes on I will end up swapping to a different turbo to get the car up to 500bhp or more.” And so the merry-go-round continues to spin. That popular mantra has been turned on its head here, the ‘Why don’t you stick an F20C in there?’ making way for a keenness to leave the F20C where it is and instead bung a turbo on it.
Whoever said that it’s hard to extract big numbers from an S2000 motor and keep it reliable would do well to have a word with Sophie and Justin. This, right here, is how it’s done.
Tech Spec: Turbocharged Honda S2000
F20C 2.0-litre four-cylinder VTEC, Precision 5858 ball-bearing turbo, custom Solid Fabrications turbo manifold, custom Solid Fabrications 3-inch downpipe, screamer dump pipe, Tial 44mm wastegate, Tial dump valve, custom 3-inch decat pipe, custom Solid Fabrications DMS Pro 65 3-inch exhaust system, CP forged pistons, Skunk 2 H-beam rods, ACL race bearings, ARP head studs, AEM Series 2 standalone ECU, LD1000 injectors, dual AEM fuel pumps, uprated fuel pump power supply, custom fuel surge tank system, Mocal thermostatic oil cooler system, stainless braided oil lines, custom intercooler kit, HKS mushroom filter, Supertech valve springs and titanium retainers, 0.73-inch thicker Cometic head gasket, new valve stem seals and piston rings, King Racing conrod bearings, Racelogic traction control system, machined and sleeved block with Darton Sleeves by Clockwise Motion, Tegiwa carbon fibre slam panel, custom carbon spark plug cover, custom Cadbury Purple engine bay paint dress-up, SFS Performance hoses – Cadbury Purple, mirrored crossmember cover, Exedy Stage 2 clutch. Power: 451bhp, (352lb/ft)
18-inch SSR Professor wheels, Bilstein B14 coilovers, APR Racing strut brace
Custom Corbeau seats with interior trimmed to match, J’s Racing (signed) carbon fibre dash surround, We Are Likewise purple gearknob, PLX multi-gauge
Ford Frozen White paint, Seibon carbon fibre bonnet, Seibon carbon bootlid, Voltex carbon rear diffuser, Voltex carbon sideskirts, APR Racing carbon wing, carbon mirror caps, APR Racing front bumper, Car Shop Glow custom LED black/smoked taillights, custom halo headlights