LOS ANGELES — “Yo, now that I’m done with the photography, I’m going to push the car on the drive back through the switchbacks,” I say over the walkie-talkie. It’s part statement, mostly probing question sent with hope from the driver’s seat of the roadster. Fresh from the unveil event, no one has really beat on the prototype S2000R, other than on the dyno.
“Copy,” crackles back Mike Chang from the passenger seat of the trailing camera car, the co-founder of Evasive Motorsport and the mastermind behind the Honda. Tony Kwan, the other co-founder and gracious camera car operator for the day, is driving the SUV I just finished shooting rollers from. “Have fun with it,” says Tony.
I turn left off the coastal road into a twisty strip of asphalt that connects the Palos Verdes peninsula to the rest of Los Angeles. I shuffle from first to second gear, and my right foot goes heavy. A dull suction sound quickly sharpens to a high-pitch whistle as the turbo spools near instantaneously, sucking in the briny ocean air through the carbon fiber Mugen intake and Evasive S2000R intake manifold. The boost propels the Honda uphill uncharacteristically. With the naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter F20C engine found in factory S2000s, you have to wail the revs above 6,000 rpm with VTEC at full song for any kind of modest acceleration on the mildest slopes. Not so with Evasive Motorsports’ build.
Heading toward the first switchback, I shift early into third, letting the 306-horsepower engine from the previous-gen FK8 Civic Type R take full advantage of the 23.2 pounds of compressed air. The SUV, along with Tony and Mike, fades from the mirrors. I stab the pedal to the upgraded Brembo six-piston front and four-piston rear brakes that bite with confidence and clumsily blip the throttle with the back of my foot and shift back to second — I really need to brush up on my heel-toe game.
I rotate the Momo steering wheel counterclockwise and turn into the first switchback, making use of the upgraded chassis braces, sway bars, bushings, bump steer kit and the KW Clubsport coilovers. I jab the throttle a bit too aggressively and the rear wheels get skittish from the spooling turbos. My sphincter tightens. The metal guardrails feel mighty close. I modulate the throttle and the OS Giken limited-slip differential does its job of distributing the power to the output shafts. The custom Motec display blinks deep into the 6,000 rpms in a fraction of a second, forcing a quick shift to third.
Two more switchbacks in, and I already feel it. Damn, this car is good.
When Honda launched the S2000 back in ’99. It was lauded by journos and the public alike. The sculpted rear-wheel-drive roadster with its clean lines boasted shiny Y2K tech like a digital cluster and push-button start (that still required a conventional key, but was fresh for the time). Despite it being a convertible, the S2000 with its heavily braced chassis was incredibly adept, achieving 50/50 weight distribution. The 2.0-liter F20C engine screamed to a 9,000-rpm redline, producing 240 hp. It was almost perfect.
What the Honda lacked was torque. At 120 hp per naturally aspirated liter, the engine’s output was unheard of, setting a production car record. It would take the Ferrari 458 Italia to best that effort years later. Torque output, on the other hand, was 153 pound-feet. A 2000 Chevy Cavalier wrung out 155 lb-ft, so yes, revs were the answer.
Sitting at a red light in the ridiculously baller Recaro Podium carbon fiber seats of the S2000R, the roadster sounds stock at idle minus the tenor coming from the custom titanium exhaust. Carbon fiber door panels and Alcantara-wrapped trim pieces surround the cockpit, including the dashboard, cutting the setting sun’s glare. Engage first gear, and the Clutch Masters clutch is a bit grabby, but under light throttle, the car feels like any normal Honda, which, for an engine-swapped car running a Motec M142 ECU, is the highest of praise.
Cruising in fourth gear, the right lane is about to end, and a handful of vehicles are in the left lane. Instead of downshifting two gears to overtake in VTEC as you would in most Hondas from the era, I pour on the throttle. The boosted 2.0-liter motor zips past the traffic, effortlessly. Although the ride is a bit stiff for my middle-aged liking, the car is incredibly smooth for having been built by a shop that’s highly regarded for its tuning capabilities.
Who is Evasive to motorsports?
Tuner is a term that’s bandied about in the aftermarket. People have been called that for bolting on exhausts and lowering springs. Evasive Motorsports, however, embodies the truest sense of the word. Since opening in 2002, Mike Chang and Tony Kwan, longtime friends turned cofounders, have built vehicles tuning not just the engine, but the suspension as well. Balance is their philosophy. In the early years of their business, time attack, a circuit competition that focuses on clicking off the fastest lap time, was burgeoning in the JDM scene. Think F1 qualifying sessions.
Evasive cut its teeth in the sport, building Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions, Toyota 86s, Nissan GT-Rs and, of course, Honda S2000s. Time attack class wins and records were set. Notably, Evasive Motorsports’ purpose-built S2000RS put down a blazingly quick 1:41.2 lap time at Buttonwillow Raceway’s 13 clockwise configuration, making it the fastest S2000 at the circuit, if not the country. For context, a sub-2-minute lap time is respectable at Buttonwillow. A new Porsche 911 GT3 runs a 1:54.8 at Buttonwillow, and a million-plus dollar McLaren Senna stops the watch at 1:43.48. Mike and Tony’s little Honda roadster beats both of them with room to spare.
Parlaying their track experience, Evasive Motorsports began campaigning at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2013. Their team took first in the Unlimited Class in 2020 with a Toyota 86 and finished as the fastest EV in 2022 with a Tesla Model 3, both with Formula Drift Champion, Dai Yoshihara, behind the wheel. The S2000R is the culmination of their experience.
R for restomod
It started as a wild idea over dinner with Mike and his friend — what if you took a modern turbocharged K20C1 engine and stuffed it into a 2,800-pound S2000? The hypothetical of a Type R variant of the S2000 turned into a three-year long R&D pursuit for him and the shop crew.
“Of all the cars we’ve built, the S2000R has been the trickiest,” said Mike Chang. “It’s not the Civic Type R engine swap, tuning the Motec to make it all run right, or sorting out the chassis that’s hard, we’ve done that before. It’s stripping the donor car to its bare shell, painting it and putting it all back together so it feels like it came from the Tochigi factory. Chasing down every squeak and rattle from every new replacement OEM part and getting the fit and finish of the custom S2000R pieces to be perfect have been a lot of work and countless hours of troubleshooting.”
Those custom pieces include Evasive Motorsports S2000R carbon fiber front lip and 25mm wider front fenders paired with a Honda 20th Anniversary Edition S2000 front bumper with bespoke bumper extensions. The S2000R rear wing, hood and trunk lid are all carbon fiber, and Spoon aero mirrors replace the factory units. The entire car has been sprayed in the iconic Honda Championship White, and a set of forged 18×9-inch EVS Tuning 52R wheels shod in 255/35R18 Yokohama AD09 tires finish off the look.
Pricing hasn’t been set, but Mike estimates the S2000R will start at $250,000. He’s still calculating the costs and staffing required to build the production units, but he plans on announcing the price on the website soon. Enthusiasts might balk at that figure, but a tremendous amount of labor goes into a ground-up restoration, full paint job, new Type R engine from the factory, Motec ECU, carbon fiber parts, and chassis and suspension improvements developed from 20 years of track testing the S2000. Considering what Mine’s charges for a restored Nissan Skyline GT-R or Singer for one of their impeccably built 911s, the number makes sense. More so considering S2000 CRs are going for $110,000 at auction.
The sun is waning as I near the rendezvous point where I’m supposed to meet up with the Evasive boys. It’s hard to think of any car as perfect, but the S2000R might be it for me. It’s so well-sorted and incredibly fun while also being engaging to drive. For the Honda enthusiast who appreciates both the old and new performance vehicles it creates, the S2000R is a treat that spans those generations and brings them together in an utterly amazing sports car.