This is one of those times when I assess where I am with this project, and it’s admittedly disheartening. Project Riceball has not moved under its own power for nearly a year, and some of the trick components I was previously so excited about have therefore been left outside to gather dust or surface rust. Let me catch you up: Back about this time last year, I took the car up to a shop that had done a pretty decent job on an engine swap for me a few years ago. I was happy with their work, they knew me, and I was happy to give them more business. We talked over ripping out the worthless drivetrain currently occupying the cavity under-hood. I knew this would be a significant commitment in time and budget. But I was enthralled by the idea of a K-series churning out above S2000 power in a chassis at hundreds of pounds less.

Did I expect to have it finished and running by this time? Not a chance. But I was also not anticipating that the beefed-up rear end from Weir Performance would take over four months to be removed, shipped to California, have new axles, ring gear, and a badass diff thrown in, and sent back. Since Weir was so backed up on work, my car has sat on jack stands like so, looking the saddest it ever has:

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In the meantime, I’ve been agonizing over the benefits of an AP1 transmission versus the unit from the AP2—one is a bit cheaper, more readily available, and has largely the same gear ratios as the later transmission. However, the mileage on an AP2 would likely be lower, it has carbon synchros (improved over the brass in the AP1), and the ratios of fifth, sixth gear, and the secondary gearing reduction seem better suited to the 2.4 liters of displacement on offer from the K24 it’ll be mated with, rather than the gears that allow the AP1 S2000 to rev to 9,000. So, I told the shop to scour their sources for parts, pray at the altar of Soichiro Honda, whatever it takes—just find me an AP2 gearbox.

(“Thanks, Obama.”)

With that settled, I’m down into the hell that is adding up the rest of the necessary parts; things like the engine and transmission mounts, transmission adapter, custom flywheel, new clutch kit, engine management, fuel system… the list keeps going, unfortunately. All I can do while I wait is dream up more stuff that I need to buy before this car is complete. But the upside is that all of these parts will be new or far less used than what was in its place, and they should be more focused to handle the stress of me wailing on the car trying to get it sideways. Unlike a stock S2000, I’m confident that the tires will spin with authority once this is all together and working—the 1.5-way diff and small-ish contact patch should make that a simple matter of stomping on the throttle like the Hulk just saw a spider.

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And you see, that’s the next serious problem that I need to consider: once this car is finished and running, I’m still going to be the same clueless n00b that I am currently. My views of this project quickly ballooned from “Hey, I can throw it around ‘till it breaks” to “Shit, it’s already super-broken—time to go crazy on replacement stuff.” But my experience has stayed stagnant—God, once I show up to a drift day event, I’m likely to be laughed off the lot for spending obscene amounts of money when I have about as much drifting experience as Eddie Griffin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFyZoPlqMAg

(Ah, “Undercover Brother.” You thought I was going to reference him crashing an Enzo, didn’t you? But seriously, this is a fantastic opening.)

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So what have I learned in the past year? Not much, in the way of the art of getting sideways. But instead, I’ve learned something about myself—I’d much rather part with money than leave something the way it is, especially stock, apparently. I think Frankenstein had the right idea, as I’m gravitating toward something that should be every bit a monster in its own special, torque-less way, and I’m smiling at the thought of how a Honda engine will help to give my Toyota back that rev-happy, screamer of a heart that it was known for originally. Well, if I’m honest, likely not quite as much of a screamer as you might think. The rod-to-stroke ratio of the K24 isn’t nearly as good as either S2000, so to keep the piston acceleration, side-loads, and rod angle from tearing the engine apart at high RPM, I’ll likely ask that my tuner set the redline at about 7,500 RPM. I’m not chasing dyno queen peak power numbers, and I need this thing to take a beating.

What’s next, you ask? Hopefully, the shop finds an AP2 transmission, I buy the necessary adapter, mounts, and such—then they can mock up the placement for the engine and drivetrain, and see if modifications are needed for the trans tunnel. Due to Murphy’s Law, I’m expecting those modifications will be their own source of aggravation. Following that, measurements for a custom driveshaft are in order, and I need to settle on a choice of clutch and flywheel that will mate with this mess. Once that’s tackled, the black magic that is wiring, engine management, and gauges on the dash must come into play. Oh, and the fuel system needs attention—from the tank itself to the fuel pump and lines, I’m sure. If I can get halfway through that list without curling into a ball in the empty engine bay, I’ll call it a win. Until then, I get to dream while everyone else that I know spends their money on useful things (like cars that work).