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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi guys - I'm new to the forum here but I have been a lifelong Honda fan and was always fascinated with the Insight. I've lived all around the world, but I live in Fremont, CA now and for the last 2-3 years have really enjoyed cheap endurance racing (24 hours of LeMons, Champcar, Lucky Dog Racing, etc) so when I came across a “free” Insight chassis I jumped at the chance to build it into an endurance car. I'm an engineering manager at Tesla Motors and generally know what I'm doing under the hood. I figured I would start a thread here to capture some things I've done with my car, as well as gather the wisdom of this community to help me with some struggle points I'm bumping up against.

I’ll be editing and detailing the first couple of posts here out soon.

Car details:
The chassis is a 2001 Honda Insight 5-speed that I picked up from Craigslist for free. It was already missing the 144V battery and seats, and the engine had bent valves in the head. I also picked up a spare engine from the owner for $105 (the amount of cash I had in my pocket at the time) of unknown origin or mileage. I stripped the car down to the absolute most basic chassis components by removing everything unnecessary, including all sound-proofing materials and extraneous body brackets. I gutted the driver and passenger doors in preparation of installation of a roll cage and welded the tops of the doors shut using aluminum sheet metal to keep the doors rigid. I also gutted the hood inner for weight reduction, which I cannot recommend doing as it's VERY floppy now but I am using hood pins so it shouldn't matter a great deal as long as I'm careful when opening/closing. I took one look at the wire harnesses during dash removal and decided that I would rewire the car entirely and use a Megasquirt ECU to control the engine. I am currently finishing the custom dash wiring now, the rest of the car is wired and the engine is running but not yet tuned. My goal for this build is to make the simplest, lightest vehicle I can and install a monster engine into it later on. I had a full roll cage installed by John Pagel at Evil Genius Racing in Davis, CA. It is mainly bonded and pinned in place using Aston Martin body repair epoxy, tested to exceed the strength of a welded steel plate. The seat is a Kirkey series 65 all-aluminum road racing seat, bolted to Corbeau sliders for 3" of for/aft travel using custom fabricated aluminum mounts to re-use the stock seat bolt locations.

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2001 Honda Insight
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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Drivetrain details:
For now, I am using the stock engine and transmission but plan to eventually turbocharge it, swap in a K20/K24, or both. I am controlling the engine with a Megasquirt MS3Pro Evo and an Innovate LC-2 wideband controller. I currently have the VTEC solenoid wired up to always be engaged with the ignition on, forcing it to act like a traditional 4 valve per cylinder engine.

I am looking for advice regarding transmission options, as I hear the stock gearing is pretty terrible for performance applications.

The driveline mounts were all cracked & torn, so I cut out any offending material and filled them with urethane using a kit from Suspension.com.

I removed ALL of the hybrid components. This posed a number of challenges:
1. Problem: The IMA motor is an integral part, acting as an adapter between the crankshaft and the flywheel.
Solution: I went to town with a sawzall and angle grinder and extracted the central "hub" and had it balanced by the local crankshaft shop.
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2. Problem: The IMA motor and DC-DC converter act in place of a traditional alternator. Removing them left the car with no 12V charging system.
Solution: I designed and fabricated a custom alternator mount to utilize a 50 amp Geo Metro alternator (to commonize spare parts with another of my team's race cars).
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3. Problem: The car has no torque without the electric motor.
Solution: TBD
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Wheels/Tires/Suspension/Brakes Details:

Wheels/Tires: Running Koenig "Dial-in" 15x8 wheels (+25 offset) with Hankook Ventus R-S4 tires. Currently I'm running 195/50R15 tires but have tested fitment with 245/40R15 tires and they will fit with a 12mm spacer on the front axle. I plan to upgrade to the wider tires once I add power.

Brakes: We've had issues with melted front brakes on our endurance cars before, and I didn't want to repeat this mistake. I decided to upgrade the front rotors to 11.75" AP racing rotors, aluminum top-hats for a Miata with the center bored out, and Wilwood ultralight 4-piston calipers. I designed a custom bracket to adapt the parts to the car and had it waterjet/machined to fit this setup.

Stock setup (passenger side):
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Current Setup (driver's side):
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I have retained the factory ABS module and wired it up to function independently. We'll see how it works and if I keep it.

Suspension:
Front is modified front struts, with the factory perches removed and Ground Control springs & perches welded in place at a slightly lower than normal height to allow for better adjustment at my weight. I've cut and rewelded the bottom knuckle hole on the struts to allow for a few more degrees of negative camber. It is currently sitting at about -3 degrees of camber in front but will be able to adjust it up to -6 using cam bolts.

Rear is setup using the Ground Control coilover kit with GAZ adjustable shocks.

Front springs are 660lbs/in Eibach from Ground Control
Rear springs are 425lbs/in Eibach from Ground Control
 

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Interesting. You can get some "wisdom" on one transmission option from this thread:


This approach provides much better ratios.

As you have found, the valves are operated in a VTEC mode, with the second intake opening at just over 3,000 RPM if memory servers. You might be able to improve bottom end torque by "pinning" the mechanism so that both intakes are always open - just a guess. You might also be able to advance the cam a bit, either with an offset pin on the cam or and offset key on the crank. You pretty much need engine dyno work to really slice that thin variable.

Looking at retaining the IMA housing as a spacer, I'm sure that you have noticed that the stator windings can simply be unbolted and removed if you machine the rotor as a spacor like you did.

Don't know whether you racing class allows hybrids or not, but the CVT version operating in hybrid mode has made some pretty impressive European rally cars when the hybrid electronics have been hacked to provide 40-50% more
"assist." Member retepsnikrep in the U.K. has extensive experience with this approach. We also have a member who autocrosses a CVT.

Interesting to contemplate:)
 

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Different engine, but I tried activating VTEC at a much lower RPM on my K24 engine and lost TONS of torque down low. Factory operation was at 6500rpm. With another 15 degrees of cam advance I was able to activate VTEC as low as 4250rpm and see some gains in the mid-range, but below that it was terrible.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Interesting. You can get some "wisdom" on one transmission option from this thread:


This approach provides much better ratios.

As you have found, the valves are operated in a VTEC mode, with the second intake opening at just over 3,000 RPM if memory servers. You might be able to improve bottom end torque by "pinning" the mechanism so that both intakes are always open - just a guess. You might also be able to advance the cam a bit, either with an offset pin on the cam or and offset key on the crank. You pretty much need engine dyno work to really slice that thin variable.

Looking at retaining the IMA housing as a spacer, I'm sure that you have noticed that the stator windings can simply be unbolted and removed if you machine the rotor as a spacor like you did.

Don't know whether you racing class allows hybrids or not, but the CVT version operating in hybrid mode has made some pretty impressive European rally cars when the hybrid electronics have been hacked to provide 40-50% more
"assist." Member retepsnikrep in the U.K. has extensive experience with this approach. We also have a member who autocrosses a CVT.

Interesting to contemplate:)
I've effectively pinned the VTEC mechanism by hard wiring the solenoid to the ignition 12V signal. Advancing the cam is worth looking into if I keep this engine in the car.

I removed the stator long ago, and for further weight reduction there is a signal wheel bolted to the back of the flywheel that can also be removed if disabling the IMA system.
 

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You said modified front struts. Are they stocker's that you modified or from some other car? If they are stock, I'd be interested in getting the Big Brake adaptor drawing from you! I want my car to be a fast, fun daily and big brakes are on that list. Along with the K20z3 and matching 6 speed. lol.

I will be keeping an eye on this build! Looking great so far!
 

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One more question, do you have a part number for the Aston Body Repair epoxy? Trying to find out if it's available for purchase or not.
 

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I've effectively pinned the VTEC mechanism by hard wiring the solenoid to the ignition 12V signal. Advancing the cam is worth looking into if I keep this engine in the car.
I can't speak for the ECA1 but on most VTEC engines this isn't recommend, because you end up with very low oil pressure at low revs, in addition to a loss in torque. Not a problem in your case?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
You said modified front struts. Are they stocker's that you modified or from some other car? If they are stock, I'd be interested in getting the Big Brake adaptor drawing from you! I want my car to be a fast, fun daily and big brakes are on that list. Along with the K20z3 and matching 6 speed. lol.

I will be keeping an eye on this build! Looking great so far!
I modified the stock struts but the brakes don't need any modification to the struts or knuckles to fit. Below is a picture of a red 3d printed mockup of the final adapter I made roughly showing how it utilizes the stock caliper mounting bolt holes. You would need to run large enough wheels & tires to clear the brakes. Below is a picture of the 15" wheels I'm running and these almost touch the inside of the rim. Some 15" wheels won't clear. I'll gladly share the big brake adapter models/drawings I made. I've got some leftover aluminum stock and could somewhat easily get another set or two made if anyone was really interested. Fair warning: the brakes I purchased are NOT CHEAP ($650 for the rotors + custom lathe work + $250 for the calipers + $100 for the stainless lines + custom welded brackets + $200 pads) and the adapters would be at least $250, probably more, to have made again. The brake setup is over $1,100 total just for the fronts. This is a race car however, and race brakes are $$$$ and that's expected.
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One more question, do you have a part number for the Aston Body Repair epoxy? Trying to find out if it's available for purchase or not.
I asked John for it, and he reports that it is 3M 07333.

I can't speak for the ECA1 but on most VTEC engines this isn't recommend, because you end up with very low oil pressure at low revs, in addition to a loss in torque. Not a problem in your case?
VTEC is a misnomer on these cars. On a "normal" VTEC honda, VTEC does what its name implies and varies the timing and lift of the valves. This effectively means that the car "switches cams" at the VTEC point to a cam that would otherwise run poorly at low rpms. Other cars achieve this with variable angle cams and other interesting mechanisms. In the first gen Insight, with the VTEC solenoid not engaged, the engine simply doesn't open one of the two intake valves to improve fuel mixing until you hit a certain rpm (3000ish). At that rpm, the solenoid is engaged, and the engine then opens both intake valves because it needs this volume of air to produce any more power. The VTEC system in the Insight does not vary the timing or lift like a traditional VTEC system does. Opening both valves all the time just makes the engine run like a "normal" engine which will just use more fuel. I won't spend much time below 3000 rpm anyway so I went for the simplest solution.
 

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Thanks for the info!

I'm still deciding if I want to adapt RSX struts (which comes with it's own pile of issues) or stick with the stock strut and adapt brakes, dampers, and springs.

If I went with the RSX struts there are a plethora of brake kits and coilover options.



When you get this motor running you've got to post some video of it revving! I've often wondered how much fun this little 3 banger could be with a small turbo and much less rotating mass!
 

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What I mean to say is, even with the solenoid receiving constant 12v, there typically isn't sufficient oil pressure to lock the pin, and when the solenoid is active but not engaged it basically acts as an oil bypass from critical bearings and journals. Experiments I did with an old D series and feeding 12v to the solenoid didn't actually result in engagement until almost 3000rpm. I'm sure it would engage a little earlier on the Insight, but again, I'd advise some caution and maybe attaching an oil pressure gauge to see just how much you're losing.

As for torque, you bring up a good point and I really don't know that leaving the second valve open would result in the same massive torque loss as running the higher lift and duration cam profile, at low RPM.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
What I mean to say is, even with the solenoid receiving constant 12v, there typically isn't sufficient oil pressure to lock the pin, and when the solenoid is active but not engaged it basically acts as an oil bypass from critical bearings and journals. Experiments I did with an old D series and feeding 12v to the solenoid didn't actually result in engagement until almost 3000rpm. I'm sure it would engage a little earlier on the Insight, but again, I'd advise some caution and maybe attaching an oil pressure gauge to see just how much you're losing.

As for torque, you bring up a good point and I really don't know that leaving the second valve open would result in the same massive torque loss as running the higher lift and duration cam profile, at low RPM.
That's a valid concern, I'll have to get some active oil pressure monitoring set up and see if I'm causing any issues with it set up like it is. I can't run the engine for a few more days though, I swapped in a Mishimoto two row radiator for an EG civic, then ordered the proper adapter hoses, and now am stuck waiting on them to arrive. I'll have to see if I can get an oil pressure sending unit from somewhere timely, the stock Insight engine only has an oil pressure switch.
 

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Yeah, good point about keeping both intake valves open at low RPM, that may not result in improved torque at say 2500 RPM. I guess one would either have to get the engine on a dyno, or experiment a bit. I think better transmission ratios would possibly help a great deal more in a race car. That way, you could always keep the revs above 3.000 RPM or so, and car would not bog down in low speed turns. With the current ratios, the car has a really "nasty" response below something like 3,000 RPM with a racing like driving style.
 

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This really interests me. I wouldn't be concerned with the 'low RPM oil pressure' thing in a pure racing application as one is never going to let the car stay down in low revs for long (all the Honda's I know in serious racing including our S2000's use some form of 'vtec killer'); oil starvation in corners is more of a concern depending on engine, pan, pickup, etc.

To original poster .... what kind of endurance series is this for? I didn't see anything in the thread. I'm really peaked by this idea as I could see taking an Insight and keeping the low hp engine, IMA and modifying the ability to boost (MIMA or IMA-C&C style) and just with some real grip and suspension mods for actual handling I think this could do well in something like Lemons or Champ Car ...... put in a fuel cell and go for looooooong stints at a turtle pace. If you could go something like 2-3 times the number of stints of a typical Miata or E36 in one of those crapcan series that could really make for an interesting attempt (beef up the battery pack and be able to do massive electric capture and assist. The only thing I'm usure of is how much work would be required, or even if possible, about the 'endurance' of so much rapid discharge and recharge of batteries for the IMA.
 

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VTEC killers don't lock the solenoid active; they are either a set of cams with a VTEC-like profile on the low cam, or a set of rockers which are always locked together.

The benefit is that you get more oil pressure at high RPM from not having the VTEC solenoid active, can remove the solenoid, get a lighter camshaft with fewer lobes, and remove all of that heavy moving rocker assembly. As long as you never have to drop below the point where you're losing torque, you'll benefit from an engine that has a lot less rotating mass and more oil pressure.

EDIT: Some further reading about the history of them shows that VTEC killer cams were originally created so Hondas could compete in classes that did not allow multiple cam profiles.
 
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