Honda Del Sol with Budget Turbo Build Is A Reliable Track Monster!
This car just keeps going and going and going.
Celerity. In the strictest of terms it means swiftness of movement. A good thing for any track car to have. Even more important with something that has to use momentum to get a good lap time.
That’s all fine and good, but there comes a point where usable power is necessary, and even essential to enjoy respectable lap times. The new Civic Si and Type R accomplish this with tiny engines and super efficient turbos, but what happens when you take a big turbo and slap it on to an aging engine? Well it turns out if you take a creative approach, cheap actually works.
Cheap(ish), fast and reliable power.
There’s an old saying that you can choose – cheap, fast, and reliable – but you’re only allowed to pick two. James’ Del Sol might actually be able to get away with all three, however. After nearly 6 years of turbo boost on top of 9.0:1 compression on his D16 motor, it’s still running strong as ever.
Powered by a Garrett Super 50 turbo, James’ D16Y8 Del Sol is extremely simple, yet still fun to play with on both street and track. The story about how James came into ownership of this car is about as unique as the car itself. The prior owner nearly had the car impounded due to emissions. “James, you can have it for $500.00 just promise me that you’ll actually do something with it.” And so it came to be.
That’s not to say that everything was perfect, or as good as it could be. Soon fitted were higher capacity injectors, an E85 tune and turbonetics manual boost controller. Given those few modifications, it’s amazing how this cheap car manages to still romp around the track.
There’s more to this “del Slo” than power.
Grip is provided by Falken Azenis tires, and the suspension set up is closer to street than it is to a race set up. Simple H&R springs are paired with Koni “Yellow” single-adjustable shocks. This is made apparent by the amount of body roll in some of the pictures you see here. ITR calipers help in the brake department and Mini Cooper rotors are used with Hawk HP+ pads.
Taking the car out to Blackhawk Farms Raceway for a local track day was an easy decision for James, and I wanted to see what this inexpensive wonder could actually do on track. The layout of Blackhawk is particularly harsh on brakes, so sitting in the right seat as his instructor, James took things a bit easy. The car doesn’t have a proper differential up front so occasionally it pushes wide in the corners, but I still felt that the car was planted. However, from the right seat, there’s only so much you can tell.
“James, you can have it for $500.00 just promise me that you’ll actually do something with it.”
As the time came for myself to drive, I found the car to be… a bit like any project car you’d expect. On the passenger side, there are wires that pop out from the carpet that allow you to tune on the go (something James does quite often). And the rest of the interior is what you’d expect from a $500.00 car (including the car’s infamous “passenger seat penny” which seems to never leave the seat no matter how hard the car is driven). The faded-to-pink paint adds a nice patina, but the important bits are there.
For as much shove as this car has, the clutch is pretty easy. I’ve driven some that have a clutch like an on/off switch, but this isn’t like that at all. Power delivery surges as the revs rise, and there’s the obvious turbo lag. However, it’s still very possible to keep the engine in its sweet spot despite the wide gearing of the transmission.
Even more amazing is how it handled. Falken tires aren’t the most extreme road tire you can buy, but the car still felt planted, with only a few instances of washing out when the turbo spooled up mid corner. That was mostly my fault, though, as I was getting used to the power deliver and the time-gap between application of throttle, and reaction from the turbo.
So, you’re waiting to hear the issues of running a cheap turbo track day car. If you’re waiting for many problems, you’ll have a long wait, as a tiny bit of heat soak, and slightly lower than normal oil pressure were the only abnormalities observed.
Interestingly, James’ car hasn’t been on a proper dyno yet, with only street pulls as the basis for tunes. A flat-out dyno run will come soon, but for right now, he’s just enjoying a cheap turbo track day Del Sol.
For a car that has been driven to track days, at places like Road America, Autobahn Country Club, and Gingerman over the past year, we have to give him some bravery points. But then again, it just proves how solid that motor was built, even if the car was inexpensive.
This isn’t the only Honda track car on his radar either. Build plans are already under way for an all-motor track day Civic, meant to be reliable for months on end, and used even more prolifically than the Del Sol. It’ll likely see some proper wheel-to-wheel action if you ask him the right questions. We cant wait to see how that one comes out.