TRIP TO THE USA, CALIFORNIA [HONDATA/CHURCH’S/WILWOOD]

The Land Of The Free… in Left Hand Drive
A trip to the “Star Spangled Banner”, known as the United States of America is often a rich and telling experience that most of us will never forget. Although almost 20 hours away from us and lying across the other side of the planet, the United States is definitely not an exception when it boils down to our common passion for automobiles. With its rich history of car makers and the various iconic machines that many talented American individuals have given the world, how could Driven Singapore pass up an in-depth look at its unique approach and take to its domestic automotive community? We headed to California, home of great workshops, tuners and parts that the world has enjoyed till date.

petrol... so cheap and americans are whining
Evidently, the locals are griping how expensive gas (or otherwise known as petrol) is. Obviously they haven’t seen the pump prices back home…
Interior of Grand Voyager
My rented Chrysler Town & Country’s interior, pretty classy! Served me well and held up well to my abuse during the entire trip.
eating drumstick is cheaper than breasts
Cheap American Junk food

Of All-American Diners and Gasoline…
Between the daily routine of hamburgers, colas and workshops, one note-worthy place that was included in the itinerary was Hondata’s head office, which had recently moved to their new premises in Torrance. Driven Singapore was shown around the new premises, and of course the usual latest Honda technical bits and super trick parts that have yet to hit the market. The newer office was not only spacious, it could also easily accommodate Hondata’s fleet of test vehicles that would undergo the company’s rigorous and extensive R&D sessions.

Stored in the new workshop space included the fleet of race winners that were normally “sneak preview-ed” online and posted widely in numerous car forums and magazines. These included the VTEC-timised K20 powered Lotus Exige, the Destroked Acura RSX (the Acura version of the Honda Integra) that broke the Landspeed record and Miriam’s turbocharged and also destroked K20-powered ‘90s CRX that puts out those insane HP numbers down on the salt flats of Bonneville. The list goes on, but we’ll cap it here; just about enough to whet your appetite.

hondata landspeed records trophies in their office
The reason why Hondata is Hondata today, around the world. Look at all those Landspeed record trophies.

Amen to the creation of the Four-Wheel Monster… and Dynos
The following day, Driven Singapore visited Church’s Automotive off Quay Avenue in Wilmington, with Doug Macmillan in tow. Church’s Automotive is a very popular tuning and dyno shop that has a long list of customers with extensive mods. Customers include workshop owners and tuners as well, who visit the shop for its massive offerings; a Dynapack 2000, good for 500 horsepower vehicles and two Dynapack 4000s, that take as much brutal horsepower a “fully-modded” machine can throw on its rollers (1300 horsepower-capable). There you have it, 3 Dynapacks cramped into 1 shop. These dyno-machines can handle all sorts of drivetrains, from all-wheel drive systems to rear/front wheel-driven vehicles.

parked cars at church's automotive
All that Honda goodness, we could only recognise as COE cars today.

JET OIL! secret to 200hp gains
Now we know the secret why the US cars make so much more power than us!

The purpose of the Church’s Automotive visit was to fulfill a tuning job; Oscar Jackson’s Kraftwerks supercharged Honda S2000. Doug was trying to tune it with new injectors and hoping to pass the CARB emissions testing. While we were on the dyno, booked-in cars were being loaded and offloaded the other two dynapacks. The S2000 however, was being worked on nice and slow and having every single bit of horsepower carefully extracted and gained from the AP2’s stock F22C engine with a rotrex charger. Sad to note, this setup will only work on left hand-driven AP1/2s. However fret not, the CT-Engineering kit available back home produces results just as good as this.

an otherwise stock s2000 engine
Just in time for some Hondata magic. This relatively stock Honda F22C powerplant is about to receive its orders for work with its hardware. A good, long hard peak will then reveal something that smells of forced induction. No turbo for this AP2 for today, as its stock F22C heart gets supercharged for that redline rev limit.
Doug putting on the dynapack hubs
If you’re earning a keep, you better be working. Doug Macmillan gets down and dirty as he props the Dynapack onto the Honda S2000.
over 400whp on the dynapack
Making out a healthy 400whp, now that is what I call being Driven!

Because 100-0km/h is the new sprint
Call it a due visit, Driven Singapore had the great opportunity to tour the Camarillo facility where the famous Wilwood brakes are made. A big facility that houses about a hundred employees, there are also rooms specially dedicated to R&D purposes, such as the creation of mock brake calipers, parts and brackets for most cars. Packed with rows and rows of CNC machines, calipers are carefully crafted and machined from billet blocks of aluminum and sent for a protective powder coating process.
Every top-notch, state of the art brake manufacturer has the all-important brake dyno machine, which Wilwood uses to good measure, ensuring that every brake caliper, rotor and necessary component that is made under the Camarillo roof is satisfactorily made and matched to its promised quality and standard. While Driven Singapore were not granted the liberty to take photos of the processes and facility grounds, it was an assuring statement that all these kits were made purely under this roof, for the purpose of quelling the circulating rumors that Wilwood had outsourced their manufacturing facilities to other countries. Nothing substandard here at all, just pure American braking perfection.

wilwood factory visit in Camarillo
The fabled Wilwood factory in Camarillo, where one of the world’s best automotive braking systems are made.

Treasure Hunting in the ‘Yard
Call it a last minute addition or an addiction to places that only an automotive junkie could ever love, Driven Singapore had the blessed chance of visiting a scrapyard while on the American Dream. One of the biggest, actually. In Singapore, the scrapyard is synonymous burial ground, albeit a metallic one, for retired automobiles. However, unlike the local Singaporean scrapyards where the government places strict regulations on usage of scrap parts and where exporting of engine and chassis parts is a common trade, the American people view the scrapyard as a secret treasure trove.
With so many spares to choose from, parts that could still be used await in tow for the right owner to come. Americans are free to pay a price for parts that they want for their own purposes, whether it is an economical solution to maintaining a ride rather than having to fork out wades of dollars for a brand new part (or even rare part), to building an insane ride that no one has ever thought of, the Americans certainly know how to flex their dollars worth, so no part is ever wasted.

anyone needs parts, grab a ladder
Grab a ladder folks, rows and rows of automotive goodies are awaiting your pickings! Just be careful, your wallet might not be able to handle the heart attack if you discover a gem amongst the ruins.
my orders!!
A little shopping, a little guilt for Driven, but hundred percent satisfaction and pleasure.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… the American way
It was heartening to know that workers are placed above all. Although work in a scrap yard is no clean affair, it gives no reason for sloppiness or ignorance. Americans take their jobs seriously and with a lot of pride, evident from the set of stringent rules and procedures that every car that is about to be recycled, goes through. Machines are scrapped of their useful parts, or at least what is left; then these parts are thoroughly cleaned with detergents that grind years or even decades of mechanical grease and oil stains down to the bare surface. These engines and parts also tested for durability, such as compression tests, before being properly kept in assorted storage areas. What’s left is the chassis of the marked vehicle, which gets prompt attention under an industrial compactor, which quite literally and painfully, crushes what’s left of the doomed automobile into a neat alloy cube of sorts, that is soon transported to a dock where it is stored, and then sold for scrap metal.
As though that isn’t hurtful enough, Driven Singapore was told by staff that even new vehicles, often the first of their kind before they are soon mass imported into the country, are scrapped in a similar fashion after road-going tests are done, along with paperwork inspections. Sighing at the thought of it, as the spanking new automobiles that were parked less than a few meters away, with barely a thousand kilometers to their odometers, await the “Iron Reaper” that delivers death in a slow and excruciating manner.
To share a fact in America; illegal street racing is a serious offence. So serious that once caught, not only is the accused stuffed with a stack of fines and rap-sheets, the said vehicle is confiscated, compounded and subsequently, share the same fate as the vehicles marked for scrapping. While this level of severity has not reached our shores, we certainly hope that it never will. Imagine the ride that one painstakingly builds, being scrapped in a blink of an eye… we can certainly never imagine how much pain it would inflict upon our souls.

Junkyard testing engine compression
Engines are not only disassembled from the soon-to-be-scrapped cars, they are subsequently tested for compression and if good, they make it to another owner’s ride.
wash wash
Making sure that every customer goes home grinning from cheek to cheek, parts are put into an industrial washer to thoroughly remove years of built up grease and grime.
BRAND NEW CARS waiting to be dismantled
A pitiful sight, these vehicles only lived for as long as certification was mandatory, before these mass consumer vehicles could be exported into the country by the thousands. Now they await their scrap metal fate, courtesy of policies and a lethal compactor machine.
Car crushing machine
The Iron Grim Reaper. Nothing stands in its way, as it pounds pure metal chassis into mere soda cans for disposal and recycle purposes.
whats left after car crushing machine
The ill and unfortunate fate that awaits every car consigned for scrapping, or worse; confiscated and compounded for illegal road racing.

That said and done…
With only so much time and how stomachs miss local cuisine, Driven Singapore bid a fond farewell to the sunny state of California, bringing back in physical and emotional memory, what America could only offer to the rest of the world, as well as a fruitful insight into the automotive community and how much pride and respect they have for their jobs, no matter how menial it might seem. During our short stint here, Driven Singapore had definitely experienced much more than it had bargained for, looking forward again to the next visit with more in-depth write-ups that can only be derived from the rich-automotive building blocks of life the United States has to offer.

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