Small But Mighty: A Wide-Body Tommykaira ZZ With Honda Power

I couldn’t get in, I couldn’t get out. It took 20 minutes for three grown men to find the fuel flap release. A practical sports car the Tommykaira ZZ is most definitely not.

But then, the ZZ was never intended to be a practical sports car. And this example – a rare factory wide-body – is even further from being a sensible runabout.


As discussed in my interview with Tommykaira founders Yoshikazu Tomita and Kikuo Kaira, the ZZ was designed and engineered as direct competition for the Lotus Elise. If you are taking on the masters of lightweight fun, you must make a few sacrifices along the way.


The car’s tiny fibreglass doors are so fragile they will come off with the faintest sniff of any weight as you climb in. The clamshell roof – if even installed – offers no form of grip or support whatsoever, and the space between the narrow door sills and that roof is no wider than the entrance to a fox den. Once you are inside, however, it all makes sense.


When I did that interview with Tomita-san and Kaira-san, I didn’t have a chance to go for a ride in a ZZ, so I am glad I got to experience it this time. And this is peak ZZ.


It does feel a lot like being in a small fibreglass fishing dingy, but compared to the stock ZZ, the true purpose of this particular car is clear: Go fast, all the time, everywhere.


The roll cage takes up some precious interior space, and Tommykaira staffer Park-san and I inadvertently touched hands with every gear change. It was the most sensual experience I’ve ever had in a car during daylight hours.

But brushing your passenger’s hand is simply a byproduct of it being set up for circuit racing use. A Stack digital dash relays all the vital engine information alongside tyre pressures and system voltage. There are switches for the ignition, fuel pumps and electric fans, and a brake bias adjuster, which only adds to the race car vibes.


Where do you find such an adorable Momo steering wheel? From a go-kart store, of course.


Just inches away from the little wheel is the first hint at what makes this ZZ so special. The exposed shift linkage is a one-off piece, based on the stock ZZ component but re-engineered by Tommykaira for this car. The shift knob? That came from a Honda Integra Type R.

OK, let’s try and worm our way out of the car and look around its exterior…


Designed and manufactured by KED (Kyoto Engineering Development), the official supplier for all Tommykaira bodywork and the main workshop for mechanical repairs, the kit consists of a full front cowl and rear fender extensions. Added to this is a front under spoiler and canards, and a giant wing and diffuser at the rear.


The wide-body kit is subtle but necessary to fit a chunky wheel and tyre combo – in this case, WedsSport TC-005s wrapped in Kumho Ecsta V710s. Lifting the engine cover reveals why all that extra rubber is needed.


There she is, a 2.0L DOHC iVTEC Honda K20A engine and its corresponding 6-speed manual gearbox, dropped straight in, no rotation required. KED offers this conversion service for any ZZ owner with a death wish. With almost twice the power as the ZZ’s standard-spec Nissan SR20DE, the K-swap is not for the faint-hearted.


Park-san told me it is a relatively straightforward transplant. The main challenge is the K20’s physical height. If the Honda engine was dropped straight in, it would sit higher than the bodywork, so the space frame is modified and a dry sump fitted to the engine, which enables it to sit lower.

What does around 220hp feel like in what is essentially a 650kg go-kart? Well, put it this way… With cabin space at a premium, I initially began to wonder if a single seat and central driving position would be better.


But after a spirited drive around Kyoto, I think the car probably benefits from the extra mass added by a passenger. If it lost any more weight, the thing would never find traction over idle.


The ZZ’s previous owner used the car for endurance racing, which explains why the K-series engine remained unmodified. With its new owner, it will likely stay this way – not that it needs to be making more power anyway – but the idea is to otherwise restore the car to showroom-like condition.

Race car or road car – I love it.

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_



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Definitely not a car for midwestern Americans


Yes another Tommykaira car! Love these things!


Surely traction can't be THAT much of an issue..

Engines In the back, over the tires, I think it would hook quite well with the right tires.
Engine makes very little torque..

If turbo K20 lotus elises can find grip, so can this. I'm not taking anything away from the car I'm just picking at the writers statement.

The car is KILLER. As rare and as cool as they come when it comes to jdm


Poetic license.


This is so rad! Thanks for the feature! Enjoyed reading every second of it.


Ok...this is 10/10. I love it. I want it. What a badass little machine!!! Forgot all about the ZZ and was just talking about the ZZ2 the other day. Smart swap to go with a Honda engine in the back. AND for once the person building actually bothered to put proper tires on their vehicle.

This would be a very quick car for tight / medium speed circuits and canyon roads. Awesome!


Also wanted to say:

Great writing Toby. I skimmed through the pictures first and now reading. I like your style!




Can you ask Tomita san if they are going to reproduce the BNR34 kit? Theres probably new demand since they became US legal


Now I want to know what headlights are those. They improve the looks of the car in my books.


Love the car.

A little nitpick about the article, the K20 doesn't make even close to twice the power of an SR20DE (~200 HP vs ~150 HP). And as someone else said, let's not exaggerate the grip issues, this thing should actually hook up very well with good tyres.


Mr. San should be commended for another great project. Now I'm not sure about the RHD, but that's a personal choice.
I suspect the person who installed that wing is still honing their craft in regards to aerodynamicism. I suggest they examine carefully the "flipping toyotas" at Le Mans recently and be wary.

I remember back in the day when Speedhunters featured Tommy's yellow ZZ. That one had round headlights. That was another great article


Addendum to my previous comment:
>Mr. San
You have said the equivalent of "Mr. Sir".
Japan is a RHD country, its not really a choice.
You have no idea what you're talking about.


That wing looks perfectly fine for the car, and given how thorough the people at Tommykaira are, it's definitely functional.

>flipping Toyotas at Le Mans
Do you mean the Merc CLR? That wasn't due to the wing at the back.


Frank is very confused about aerodynamics and how they work based on previous comments. Wouldn’t listen to him or waste any time trying to educate him.


Be careful with that right hand drive stuff. Sounds dangerous


I wish these pics were also short videos too