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"Honda Tuning", May 1, 2012

D-Series Supreme!

Proving you wrong, 794hp at a time



Seven-hundred ninety-four horsepower doesn’t care how many cylinders you’ve got. Seven-hundred ninety-four horsepower doesn’t care how big your engine is. It doesn’t care which turbo you’ve got, what your compression ratio is, or what kind of oil you use. And 794hp for damn sure doesn’t care whether you’ve got one cam or two.

Chances are, your fondest memory of Honda’s entry-level, four-cylinder D series is the day you plucked it from your bay and chucked it for a twin-cam swap. The truth is, though, with a little bit of attention, the D series is every bit as capable of making respectable power as any of Honda’s larger, dual-overhead-cam lineup. Just ask SpeedFactory’s James Kempf, who’s taken Honda’s D16Z6 and done everything to it that the Internet says you shouldn’t — like push more than 794hp out of it.

As a boy, James assumed he’d one day own the obligatory muscle car — something with eight cylinders. After all, he says, four-cylinder Hondas were “slow” and best left as “commuter cars.” Despite all of this, in 1998 James found himself the owner of a ’95 Civic EX coupe. “The look of the car caught my eye, and after a test drive I was hooked,” he says. “I just couldn’t believe how quick that puny 1.6L four-cylinder was, how it screamed to 7,000 rpm happily.”

James spent the remainder of the ’90s modifying his Civic and soon found his calling — drag racing. “The process of constantly tweaking and tuning the car, as well as my driving skills, in order to improve and run a new personal best was like a drug to me,” he confesses. It didn’t take long before James sought a lighter chassis in hopes of going faster. In 2002, the coupe was sold and a ’92 Civic VX hatchback was sourced. The VX was rough around the edges but was precisely what James was looking for — something light. In short order, James gutted its interior, yanked the engine, and dropped a D16Z6 complemented with a GReddy turbo kit into place. The combination was good for a 12-second quarter-mile, enough to spank just about any Mustang James would happen upon. And about beating those Mustangs, well, “It was a damn good feeling,” he says.

James grew bored of the entry-level turbo kit yet remained attached to his D series. “I loved having the underdog motor and the notoriety of being the guy with the little SOHC that was beating up on all of the DOHC-swapped cars,” he says. By 2006, though, James’ family and financial responsibilities began to counter his desire to go faster. As such, he pieced together an economically minded T3/T4-based eBay turbo kit and strengthened his block with Suzuki Vitara pistons — a combination James had seen proven within the Puerto Rican drag racing scene. “I had a very limited budget after the turbo kit upgrades and was dying to get it running again, so I was looking for a cheap way to get the motor back together,” he says. “The Vitara pistons had only been used to 300 whp at that point in time, and nobody really knew how far you could push them.” The new setup yielded James a 10.4-second quarter-mile once properly slicked down and earned him bragging rights as the quickest and most powerful Vitara-based D series. To be sure, at 471hp and 29 psi of boost, James’ D configuration was no joke.

As James’ Washington-based tuning facility, SpeedFactory Racing, began to grow, so did his D-series aspirations. Soon the company developed its own D-series-to-B-series transmission conversion kit for the Civic and a legitimate compressor — this time from Precision Turbo — was added to the roster. Six-hundred horsepower came and went and was followed with more research and development, including a Bisimoto camshaft and Competition Clutch twin-disc assembly. In 2010, James’ Civic went on to become the first street class competitor to break into the nines still making use of Honda’s single-cam. And with a 9.65-second quarter-mile, it did so with those same cast-aluminum Vitara pistons.

As you might imagine, cast-aluminum pistons are no match for forged alternatives. As such, James upgraded to Arias slugs and a sleeved Golden Eagle short block. A larger T4-based turbo from Precision Turbo along with a reworked cylinder head netted James and company a remarkable 794hp at 39 psi, which led to the team’s 9.49-second quarter-mile best. Needless to say, the car’s early years helped shove budget-minded D-series performance to the forefront. Today, Vitara pistons remain a staple for frugal D fans across the globe.

You might think that with all of the success James has encountered thanks to his faithful D series that a DOHC engine swap would be the furthest thing from his mind. You’d be wrong. After 12 years, James says he’ll soon be retiring the single-cam. “I’m content with what we’ve been able to accomplish with it over the years, and it’s now time to move on to something else,” he says. Te D has already been pulled and, by the time you read this will have been parted out, shelved, or tucked away somewhere. But James remains undecided of what exactly will occupy that barren space underneath the hood once again. Perhaps an Outlaw K series mated to an Albins dog box will find its way in there. Or maybe a 309hp, naturally aspirated B series, which the SpeedFactory team just so happens to have sitting in its facility, will be called upon. In the words of James himself: “Only time will tell.”



D16Z6 engine

Avid Racing solid engine mounts

Precision Turbo 6765 T4 turbocharger

Precision Turbo front-mount intercooler

Custom intercooler piping

Omni Power 68mm throttle body

Golden Eagle intake manifold

TiAL Q blow-off valve

SpeedFactory exhaust manifold

TiAL MV-S wastegates (2)

SpeedFactory 4-inch downpipe

Golden Eagle sleeves

Arias 10.6:1 pistons

Eagle rods

ATI Super Damper

Bisimoto Level 3.6 camshaft

Ported, polished cylinder head

Ferrea +1mm valves

Supertech valvesprings

Supertech retainers

Injector Dynamics 1,000cc/min fuel injectors

Golden Eagle fuel rail

XRP AN fittings and lines

Aeromotive fuel filter

Weldon fuel pressure regulator

Bosch fuel pumps (2)

Koyo aluminum radiator

Skunk2 radiator hoses

NGK spark plugs

NGK spark plug wires

MSD Digital 6-Plus ignition

MSD HVC-2 coil

SpeedFactory D-to-B conversion kit

Albins B-series dog box transmission

SpeedFactory shift change holder assembly

MFactory limited-slip differential

Competition Clutch D-to-B twin-disc clutch

Competition Clutch D-to-B flywheel

Driveshaft Shop Stage 3.9 axles

Hondata S300 engine management


794 whp and 479 lb-ft @ 39 psi


A’PEXi N1 coilovers, front

Blox Drag coilovers, rear

Full-Race traction bar


Brembo rotors

Integra brake conversion

Goodridge steel-braided lines


13x9 Bogart Pro 4 front

15x3.5 Bogart Pro 4 rear

24.5x9 Mickey Thompson front

22x4.5 Mickey Thompson rear


Wings West RS front spoiler

Spoon-style mirrors


Art Morrison 10-pt rollcage

Kirkey aluminum seat

G-Force harness

G-Force window net

MOMO steering wheel

Auto Meter gauges

NepTune TunerView


Wife and kids — Katie, Jaedan, Isabell

Mom and Dad

SpeedFactory family

Golden Eagle

Competition Clutch

Arias Pistons

Bisimoto Engineering

Precision Turbo

“Marmalade” Marmon



SpeedFactory Racing






13 years


Nitro funny car


All the guys trying to go fast with an SOHC


Something fast!










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