Balancing Act: A K-Swapped Integra For The Street & Track

Must be nice.” That’s how I greeted Frans Kusuma, the owner of this 1997 DC2 Honda Integra, when Peter (the photographer for this story) and I met him at Go Garage in Sydney, Australia.

It’s a standout build created by a mechanic who treated it as much as a learning experience as his passion project. “I tried everything on this car, making the smallest adjustments just so I could see what makes a difference and how it does so,” Frans admitted when we began to pore over the details.

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However, as we got deeper into the intricacies of Frans’ project car journey – from sourcing a high-comp K20A, the Spoon Sports and Bride bucket seats, and Öhlins DFVs – it became increasingly apparent: opportunity cost is a very real thing when it comes to building the ultimate track-ready but still street-registered Honda.

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Modern performance vehicles present a comprehensive offering to customers, and without any real deficiencies. You can have your power delivery with your fuel economy. Soft, pothole-friendly damping is just a couple clicks away from the race setting. Your bucket seats can also heat your cold ass on a winter morning.

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Vehicles are more complete than ever, but for purists like Frans, it’s a nightmare. Sports cars are supposed to be deeply visceral, creating a sense of occasion that can only be adequately explained if a person experiences it firsthand. Building the perfect emotional driving experience doesn’t come without sacrifices though, as Frans told me: “I built this car with the purpose of a street-registered track car. What I mean by that term is, I can still enjoy it on the streets or daily basis, and also enjoy it on the track. Given that it’s a Honda and it’s built with quality parts, my intention was to build a reliable and durable ‘sports car’.”

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But the more money Frans poured into his machine, the less he actually drove it as it “leaned towards a track car – much more than what I originally intended.”

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. You invest in quality parts and performance upgrades to decrease lap times on track, and up the “on-track feel, response” etc., but for Frans, these occasions ended up becoming few and far between.

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During our talk, it came to light that Frans had booked a track day, to which I asked if it was a good opportunity to wring out the swapped and tuned K20A to 9,800rpm through multiple gears. Frans looked at me bluntly and said that he wasn’t even taking the DC2, opting for his newly-finished EG Civic.

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“I just got hooked with baller parts and now I’m scared to drive it,” he laughed as he tried to explain taking the daily to Sydney Motorsport Park over his purpose-built track car.

It’s such an odd situation. Frans could take the DC2 off the road and make it a dedicated track machine, but there’s too much invested into the car that going ten-tenths and having an off isn’t worth it. And that’s before you start looking at the extra resources needed to maintain and transport a track-only car.

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It’s a problem that so many of us face as entry-level track enthusiasts. We struggle to keep a lid on our decisions because the high of on-track fun is just too good, but in the blink of an eye, that OEM+ build has ballooned out into a super sprint-ready monster.

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What would it take to make the car more road-friendly, so Frans could make the most of what he’s invested into the car over eight years? He keeps the answer quick and simple: “De-mod the entire car, soften the suspension, remove the bucket seats, the roll bar, get a quieter exhaust, and re-tune the engine for better fuel economy.”

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But as you’ve already guessed, Frans would probably end up unhappy again, because he’s already experienced the pinnacle of each component that would be downgraded. He has his B-series EG in the “fun daily” role, which is a different type of performance altogether.

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Where this leaves Frans is with a K-swapped Integra that isn’t particularly fit for any particular purpose. It’s perfect for the track, but for him the risk is relatively too high. Driving around town is fine, but the car was built for a different type of performance. This is where the simplistic definition of opportunity cost stops making sense.

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Frans has incredible perspective in relation to his experience with his pride and joy: “I don’t have any regrets. Maybe I spent a bit too much money, but the knowledge that I’ve gained and the appreciation I have for what it takes to build a complete car from scratch, I wouldn’t trade it at all.” He built so much of this car in his garage, applying skills from his trade as a mechanic while learning new approaches and figuring out every little detail that marks him out as a craftsman in his profession today.

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When talking over this feature, I made the analogy that he turned a car that was B+ on track and street, to an A+ on track and a solid F on street, and Frans definitely agreed. He’s felt the highest of highs that you can experience a street-driven lapping machine, put components on his vehicle – performance and aesthetic – that are certified crème de la crème, and made so many tiny-yet-expensive adjustments to ensure that he understood how the outcome was obtained.

The end result doesn’t fit into his life that well anymore, but that’s OK. It’s cliché to say, but success is the journey, not the destination.

Kelvin Chan
Instagram: kawingkelvin

Photography by Peter Nguyen
Instagram: fmzvisuals

Frans Kusuma’s 1997 DC2 Honda Integra

Engine:
JDM Honda K20A Series II, Toda Spec C camshafts, Toda valve springs, Toda TCT, Toda 40-deg VTC gear, Toda RBC throttle body, stainless steel lobster weld intake arm, custom 2-piece aluminium cold air intake, K&N air filter with velocity stack, DC5R Mishimoto alloy radiator, 2x 12-inch Davies Craig slim fans, billet overflow bottle, Hybrid Racing radiator hoses, Spoon Sports baffled sump, Spoon Sports oil cap, Spoon Sports engine oil drain plug, Spoon Sports Gen 1 Kevlar spark plug cover, J’s Racing K20A rocker cover, NGK Iridium spark plugs, ported RBC manifold, OEM K20A engine harness, K-Tuned K-swap harness, Hondata KPro V3 ECU, Blackworks exhaust manifold, 3-inch stainless steel exhaust with de-cat & Hi-Tech mufflers, Mocal thermostatic oil sandwich plate, Earls 16-row oil cooler, Speedflow AN10 braided oil cooler lines with Speedflow fittings, custom A/C system, Hasport 60A K-swap mounts

Driveline:
Honda Integra Type S LSD gearbox, 4.7 final drive, Exedy clutch, OEM K20A lightweight flywheel, OEM DC5R shifter cables, 36mm driveshafts

Suspension/Brakes:
Öhlins DFV coilovers, Spoon Sports rigid collars, ITR rear lower control arms, JDM ITR front sway bar, JDM ITR rear sway bar, JDM ITR rear lower subframe brace, Hardrace DC2R rear LCA, ASR rear subframe brace, Skunk2 front camber arms, Hardrace rear camber arms, Hardrace front roll centre adjusters, custom adjustable front caster kit, Spoon Sports rear trailing arm bushes, Nolathane front lower control arm bushes, Carbing Gen 1 3-point front strut brace, Tegiwa rear strut brace, Cusco rear c-pillar brace, Spoon monoblock 4-pot front calipers, Endless MX72+ front pads, Project Mu HC800 rear pads, HEL braided brake lines, ABS delete, ITR 1-inch brake booster & master cylinder, OEM DC5R power steering

Wheels/Tyres:
RAYS Volk Racing TE37SL 15×8-inch +32-offset, Nankang AR1 225/45R15, 5-stud conversion, ARP extended wheel studs, JDMyard extended wheel nuts

Exterior:
98-spec ITR JDM front end conversion, 98-spec JDM HID headlights, 98-spec ITR rear bar, 98-spec ITR taillights, OEM clear side indicators, Mugen front bar, Mugen side skirts, OEM ITR rear pods, J’s Racing carbon bonnet, J’s Racing carbon wing, Ganador  mirrors, open door respray, shaved antenna, shaved rear washer jet, shaved front badge, shaved rear badge, shaved side mouldings, J’s Racing tow hook, rear wiper delete

Interior:
OEM ITR steering wheel with blue stitching, OEM JDM ITR wiper stalk, Mugen suede steering wheel, Works Bell quick-release hub, HKB boss kit, Hybrid Racing billet DC5 shifter, OEM ITR Type RX pedals, Spoon Sports Gen 1 carbon/Kevlar seat, Spoon Sports rear-view mirror, Bride Zeta passenger seat, Sabelt 4-point harnesses, Bride rails, Cusco 5-point roll cage, BattleCraft Hyper Teardrop gear knob, JDM ITR cluster, JDM ITR amber clock, JDM ITR climate control, Defi ZD unit, reupholstered rear section, black-dyed panels & roof lining, sound deadening removed, OEM ITR floor mats

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16 comments

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1

Love a clean Honda build. Makes me miss my DC2. So hard to come by Integras now :(

Also the Evo 9, 6 and (hopefully genuine) 3 in the back look good!

2

This guy needs to understand that, in his country... Kids who work at woollies or coles make much more money than established adults, in other countries.

Subjectively... If I were making bank... I'd just drive the thing... Because somewhere, in another country, some dude is enjoying his own build, working harder for less money and he's having a good time, knowing he put in work to get it done.

3

There remains just one question, will he sell it since he's not using it? Or keep it since he build it himself?
Good timing on this article, since I almost committed myself yesterday searching for things I'm afraid to crash. Nice wake-up call.

4
Alessandro Vanarelli

So it's a show car?

5

This car is the definition of being hard parked.

6

I'd say in the end this chap may be more of an engineer/builder of sorts ...opposed to someone who loves to drive for the pure enjoyment of driving what he owns and putting cars to the use they were made for. I've owned many cars, two I never going to let be garage queens were my AP2. It was tracked heavily from zero on the clock up until 63,000kms. Since then having purchased a JZA80 that now has 200,000kms on the clock; I know one thing.... that these beautiful cars are masterpieces of engineering, and not only would you'd be doing the engineers disrespect but their vision and dream if you don't drive them the way they were meant to be driven; get out and DRIVE!! This guy should just drive it or sell it for someone who'd enjoy it.

7

I believe I ended up with a similar build. I turned my former daily into a registered track oriented car which ended up being too unstreetable. I only used the best parts and bits I could afford (no sketchy replica parts) and ended up taking it to the track. It turns out it is pretty expensive to practice this sport, so I tried going to a show for the first time... I've never felt so lame and out of place before as I did that day. I can't wait to go back to the track and risk all my JDM, AUSDM, EDM and USDM parts just for the pure sake of having fun... #YOLO

8

Ahhh yes this is a conundrum I've struggled with myself. It's hard to find the balance point of a street/track machine. I'd had to just completely separate the two.

9

Awesome Review and TOTALLY make sense even on my project car.

10

Great read, and I love the front bar and colour on this car. Never seen that front end on a DC2 before! I guess this is what happens when you get sucked into the minutiae of building a car and can't see the forest for the trees, yet I get the sense that all the hours and dollars that Frans poured into this build would have happened in that state of flow, where you lose track of time and all that matters is what you're working on. Even if the end result is ultimately too valuable to be properly thrashed, as a piece of art, learning experience and a monument to what you're capable of, I think it's worth it.

11

Good read. I was in the same place. I'd been going to less trackdays and had decided to do more car & coffee stuff. The car (Rx7 - FD3S) was fully stripped with a roll cage and was becoming a nightmare to going anywhere in. I'd already decided to dial some things back (new clutch with a normal weight pedal, vac assisted brakes).

When lockdown came I decided the cage was going and I have been piecing it all back together during the times we couldn't go out (work through the whole thing too). Just waiting on my coilover re-valving and rebuild now then it may see the light of day. Its been on axle stands since October last year !

I just hope it enables me to go out more and enjoy some back roads.

12

This well-written & illustrated article reminds me of some sage advice;

"Never race a car that you can't afford to wreck."

13

I love the owner's honesty.

14

Best website ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

15

"paralysis by analysis"... life is too short no need to overthink just enjoy your car you've built, what's the purpose of all those hours/funds and using quality parts if they weren't going to be used as intended? then the car just becomes another show car that looks like a track car.

16

Whilst this may not apply to Frans, I think some just fail to have or stick to a plan and thus poor decisions are made. From what I gather, Frans kept making the same decisions - to build an ultimate track car that could still be road registered. It seems harsher than a GT3 RS, but that's what it was inevitably going to be. Unfortunately he got too precious over it, and I'd much feel the same. However, it shouldn't stop him from driving at 8/10s on a track!

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