When Rob Blackwell started planning his stanced Honda S2000 project, he knew it had to be good. Like, SEMA good! And all the trophies he’s won prove that he hasn’t held back…
The naturalists among you will doubtless be elated that the giant panda is no longer on the endangered species list. Those fuzzy monochrome loopers have finally figured out how to shag their way out of peril – although it’s not all great news, as an equally splendid creature has taken their place: the Honda S2000.
Why could this be? Is it because they’re undesirable, or not very good? No, that couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, a lot of people simply see the S2K as a donor, a magnificent engine with a disposable roadster attached. They tear out that stratospherically- revving VTEC and shoehorn it into Mk1 Cortinas or Chevettes, thereby diminishing the S2000 population significantly.
You can see why they do. The F20C is an absolute screamer of an engine, redlining at 9,200rpm. And it boasts clever cam timing, forged pistons with molybdenum disulfide- coated skirts, and all sorts of other race-car tech. Indeed, the F20C held the record for a while for ‘highest specific power output for a mass-produced, naturally aspirated engine’, serving up 237bhp at 8,300rpm, before marching on to that hysterical top end.
Thankfully, however, people like Rob Blackwell exist. Rob sees the S2000 for what it is – a gorgeous roadster with endless potential. He’s also got a pretty clear idea of what makes a cool car. And he knew just what he wanted to achieve with the perky little Honda. “I’ve always been a huge fan of the US stance and USDM scene,” he says. “I went to SEMA a couple of years ago and the cars out there, particularly the S2000s, whetted my appetite to build one back in the UK to that world-class level. I then started looking at the right parts needed to pull off this image. I wanted wheels and details that would really help mine stand out from the rest.”
With the decision made, Rob had to find himself a car. Hours of searching bled into days, bled into weeks, collecting thousands of screenshots of potential cars and weighing up all the pros and cons. “I eventually narrowed it down to three cars that I wanted to view,” he says. “And ended up driving three-and-a-half hours to pick this one up, simply for how well it had been mechanically maintained.”
All the pieces were neatly shuffling into place. A man, a plan, the right project base. Rob had himself a bone-stock and mechanically perfect S2000 to play with. All systems go! “I’m lucky enough to have a very good friend, Adam, who owns Eastcote Customs, and that’s where the car started its modifying journey,” he grins. “The first job was a trip over to Wales for a brand new roof.
It was originally dark blue but I just couldn’t stand it, so I opted for a new black one. And then it was time to get serious… the main aim of this build was to be as genuine US-spec as possible – there was to be no cutting corners, the right parts had to be fitted. I started to look at genuine parts from the US and how I was going to get them all over to the UK. Luckily a good friend of mine is building a rat rod and had a quality link for shipping parts.
It wasn’t long before there was a container of parts coming across the ocean: US-spec rear bumper, Invidia exhaust, Shine carbon-fibre side diffusers, J’s Racing rear diffuser, US-spec headlights, KEY’S Racing steering wheel and most importantly a custom set of CCWs.” It may sound to some like he’s just reeling off a shopping list, but this is a thorough and fastidious line-up of upgrades that have been researched and compared to an absurd degree to ensure that Rob can fulfil those SEMA-fuelled dreams. With all of this in the mix, there was never any question of there being a more USDM stanced S2000 in the UK. This is it. Rob’s taking the crown.
“Collecting the parts from the hot rod guy was a nerve-wracking experience,” he laughs, the terror of the memory having evidently dissipated somewhat. “Shipping a set of hugely expensive wheels on a boat across the Atlantic had me hoping against hope they’d be fine when I got them, but the guy did a great job getting them over. And I soon started to focus on the bodywork. Originally I wasn’t a massive fan of the colour, but I decided I was going to try and make it work.
For the full US-spec theme I had the front and rear bumpers fully smoothed, removing washer jets and towing eye covers. I then looked at the arches and opted to have them rolled so I could run the fitment that I desired. All bodywork and paint was yet again carried out by Adam at Eastcote, and all of this came together just in time for the Modified Nationals last year.”
This was to be the car’s show debut and it certainly didn’t disappoint, with Rob taking home the Wheel Whores Best Wheels award – not bad for a first outing! But our man was far from finished – having sorted the exterior aesthetics, he was really just warming up. Turning his attention to the interior, it wasn’t long before the stock seats were junked in favour of a pair of bona fide race car buckets from Buddy Club, while a smattering of carbon parts appeared to join those outside, and this was the point at which Rob was able to simply sit back and cruise in his little VTEC drop-top. Job done, finish line reached.
Well, no, not really. These things just keep forcing their own evolution, don’t they? “Running so low on coils and destroying my front splitter on everything over a centimetre high, I knew deep down air might have to be an option,” he recalls. “That was the only way to keep the look I desired without compromising usability. After pondering it forever and a day, I decided to just go for it. I purchased the D2 kit first, but literally the day I ordered it Air Lift announced a kit for the S2000 and I couldn’t help myself – that would have to be the one to have, so after a phone call to Car Audio Security, a full Air Lift 3P kit was on its way!”
At this time there were pretty much no bagged S2Ks in the UK, so this was always going to be a journey into the unknown. Rob and a mate installed the air-ride over the course of a weekend, feeling their way as they went and blazing a trail for S2000 stancers of the future. (And, er, dropping a 4-post lift on somebody’s foot and nearly slicing off all his toes. All part of the fun, eh?)
“Camber-adjustable ball joints, custom spacers, four blokes, three jacks and a ramp were needed just to see where the rear wheels would sit,” says Rob, “and the results were perfect. The first test ride was a trip to Ultimate Dubs. I ended up blagging it into the outside show car park, and the feedback was unreal. Many people said it was the best car they’d seen all day… it was a good afternoon!” And it was just a twinkling of an eye before the car was hooking an International Top 20 at Heaven on Wheels. It’s an unrelenting showstopper.
“The reactions have been amazing,” Rob smiles. He’s right to be chuffed with that too – he’s taken an endangered species and thrust it squarely into the limelight. It’s like a giant panda winning X Factor and Bake Off. The show scene thrives on this kind of magnificence. And it needs more pandas.
OWNER: ROB BLACKWELL
TECH SPEC: HONDA S2000
Fully smoothed AP2 front bumper and US-spec rear bumper; US spec headlights; J’s Racing carbon-fibre rear diffuser; Shine RX-7 carbon-fibre side diffusers; Carbon Mods carbon-fibre front splitter.
F20C 2.0-litre VTEC; 6-speed manual; K&N FIPK intake and filter; carbon-fibre cam cover; carbon-fibre cooling plate; Password:JDM red anodised bolts; Invidia N1 70mm exhaust with Invidia 70mm pipe.
9x18in (front) and 10x18in (rear) CCW D11L 3-piece split-rims; 205/40 (f) and 225/40 (r) Falkens; Muteki neo chrome extended lug nuts; Air Lift 3P air-ride system; Eibach rear camber-adjustable ball joints; drilled and grooved brake discs all round.
Red Buddy Club race seats, KEY’S Racing deep-dish steering wheel; Zillalife gearstick; Hertz two-way speakers; custom carbon-fibre clock surround;
gear surround and CD player cover.
Adam Shuttleworth at Eastcote Customs – without him none of the build would have been possible, so massive thanks to him; Ant Pittaway for helping me make the right decisions and installing my air ride; Paul Burns for helping me throughout the whole build; Lee Garfield for making me crap cups of tea but always being there when needing a chuck on’ and my Mom and Dad for letting me waste countless amounts of money and not being mad!
Words Dan Bevis Photos Chris Wallbank