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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I chronicled the initial build of the "Victory In Sight" race-car here: Link.

We won class C at the Buttonwillow LeMons race, which means that we get automatically bumped to class B or class A moving forward. To be competitive in these classes, a little more power is needed. The stock powertrain ran pretty well, but the transmission would pop out of 4th gear somewhat often and needed a rebuild. I also had some pretty severe vibration near 90-100mph that I attributed to the super-long passenger side axle-shaft (perhaps incorrectly, but it seemed to be a poor quality unit). I considered supercharging or turbocharging the stock engine, but parts and spare engines are getting relatively hard to find and expensive so I decided on a swap. A K20 or K24 seem like the obvious choice, but I figured that if I was going to do something stupid I might as well do something VERY stupid. I found a 2006 Acura TL with a 6-speed and 180,000 miles that was rear-ended at a local insurance auction. Home it came!

I set to work tearing out the J32A3, transmission, shifter, and fuel pump from the donor car and scrapped the rest of the vehicle. I gave away the race-winning 3-cylinder engine and custom transmission and all of the spare parts for them to make room in the garage for the new project. Here are all of the main parts of the project with a brief description of what I had to do in order to make it fit and work:
1 - Mounts & Clearances
2 - Intake & Throttle Body
3 - Alternator & Drive Pulley
4 – Cooling
5 – Shifter
6 – Clutch & Flywheel
7 – Axles, Hubs, Knuckles, and Control Arms
8 - Exhaust
9 - Fuel System
10 - Engine, Wiring, & Tuning
11 - Final Results & Comparison to Previous Build

I made posts below for each section so I can update as necessary and include enough pictures to show the build in detail. Ask any questions you'd like, I keep no secrets.

89187
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
1 - Mounts & Clearances

Solid steel (no rubber at all) custom engine mounts were fabricated that use the 3 stock locations. First I needed to mill down the passenger side mount adapter that goes over the water pump pulley for frame clearance. Here is the mount before milling:
89195

During machining:
89196


Then after several rounds of 3D printed prototypes, I ended up fabricating the LH and RH mounts to use the factory mount locations:
3D printed prototype (driver side):
89197

Fabricated final version (driver side) prior to welding:
89193

Early 3D model of the passenger side mount:
89199

Final version of both Passenger and Driver side mounts after welding, prior to paint:
89200


Once these 2 mounts were in place holding the engine in position, I moved on to the rear mount, which utilized a section of leftover rollcage tubing, and also used the factory mount bolts. Here is the final mount (it's a beefy boi):
89198


I also needed to clearance the radiator support around the front head. In order to allow access to the oil fill port, I fabricated a removable center section out of aluminum angle. Here it is installed:
89202

And here it is removed:
89201


There was some very minor grinding/cutting on the frame itself to ensure proper clearance for the axle boots as well as the transmission mount. The last major clearancing task was to shift the battery box toward the driver's side on the aluminum support that runs along the back of the engine bay. I love this weird thing, it's one of those seemingly-afterthought quintessential "Insight" parts, so I decided to keep it mostly intact. I cut the front support off, shortened the leg, cut down the battery box, and welded the whole thing back on as close to the brake master cylinder as possible (I use a smaller battery than stock). I discovered that I couldn't pull the rear coils out without first removing the aluminum support, so I welded in 3 semi-circular pieces of leftover intake tubing to allow for servicing the rear cylinders easily. In this shot you can see both of these modifications:
89203
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
2 - Intake & Throttle Body

The throttle body on the engine was throttle-by-wire, and I didn't feel like figuring out how to make this work, so I nabbed a cable-pulled throttle body from the junkyard for a 2002 TL. This throttle body has the same diameter, but the bolt pattern and shape are quite different. I needed to drop the throttle body to clear the hood anyway, so I cut out 1/4" thick aluminum plates to fit each end and bought a 22.5 degree 3" aluminum elbow on Amazon to weld together into an "adapter elbow". Here is the intake manifold end:
89208

Here is the throttle body end:
89207

I also welded on a discarded 3" straight section to step up the "intake" side of the throttle body to 3" to allow for standardized tubing connections):
89206

Here is the final assembly installed:
89210


I installed an oil catch-can by welding a piece of aluminum angle onto the battery support beam for a mount and routing lines to both heads with check-valves in each line. I'm running it as a closed system so the intake is always pulling vacuum on the heads. I had to make a custom Y-fitting to run the lines the way I liked, but I think it turned out fairly clean:
89211


For the intake manifold itself, I removed the movable flaps from the inside of the intake that benefit low-rpms, as well as the actuator motor and all wiring (I am rarely at low RPMs and prefer to make things lighter/simpler). Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures. I then welded up the open holes and ground it all flat to allow for tight hood clearance.

I also made new aluminum closeout caps for the passenger end of the intake to replace the heavy steel ones, saving a whopping 163 grams! I had the scrap metal laying around and couldn't sleep one night. You have your hobbies, I have mine.
Steel closeout caps:
89204

Aluminum closeout caps:
89205
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
3 - Alternator & Drive Pulley

The factory Acura alternator was mounted onto a massive bracket that doubled as the air conditioner mounting bracket, and the alternator itself was huge and oversized for what I needed. I weighed the alternator and bracket, and including the mounting bolts the assembly came in at a porky 21.5 lbs.
89212


The position of the alternator in the stock bracket would have put it basically in the middle of the passenger headlight, so that big TL alternator had to go. We have 3 cars on our LeMons team, two of them are Geo Metros, and I like to keep the minimum amount of spare parts on hand. I had previously built a custom welded alternator bracket to adapt a 50amp Geo Metro alternator to the original Insight engine. I kept this Geo alternator, and whipped up a waterjet-able design using 3D printing prototypes and a standard off-the-shelf belt adjuster:
89214

A little more work on the mill and I had the thing securely mounted:
89215

The new alternator including bracket, adjuster, and mounting bolts weighed in at a svelt 11.02lbs:
89217


The main engine drive pulley was also a heavy unit at 7.8lbs:
89216


I opted to buy an aftermarket pulley from XLR8 and it clocked in much less at 0.86lbs:
89218


You can kind of see in the pictures above that the factory and XLR8 pulleys are both 6 ribs wide. The Geo Metro alternator is only 4 ribs wide, and my engine is VERY close to the passenger frame rail, so I opted to take the outer 2 ribs off the aluminum drive pulley with a lathe so it actually weighs a little less (I haven't weighed it after modifications). A $7 Bando belt from Amazon completes the assembly (840mm long if anyone is curious). Here is the final frame clearance with the 4-rib wide pulley installed:
89244
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
4 – Cooling

On the engine side, I replaced the factory water pump and thermostat with new Honda units and welded shut any ports previously going to the heater core. I bought some cheap-o HPS silicone radiator hoses for a TL from Amazon, and after come trimming and splicing with a leftover 1.25" straight fitting the hoses fit fine.

Against my better judgement, I kept the half-width radiator setup based on the 1992-2000 civic radiator. I upgraded from a 2 core to an optional 3 core unit to keep the mounts & fan shroud the same (and now I have the 2-core as an emergency spare if needed). I added a TON of plastic/aluminum baffles and plates to make sure that the air going into the front of the car goes through the radiator or oil cooler.
Boxing in around the oil cooler was a real pain in the ***, but I like what I came up with:
89219


This setup seems to cool fine, although I would prefer a full-width radiator for overkill reasons.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
5 – Shifter

I re-used the factory shifter and cables from the TL, however the bolt pattern to mount the shifter to the Insight does not match (the rear two bolts on the Insight are narrower and go in at an angle, presumably because the car itself narrows toward the rear). I 3D Printed some brackets to adapt the bolt patterns, and raise the shifter at the same time:
89220

Here's a different angle showing the strange angled rear bolts on the Insight frame:
89248


Here is the final version with heat-set brass inserts:
89221


This setup worked well, but at a track day I discovered that it was difficult to perform the 4th to 5th shift because the forces you become accustomed to exerting during steering make you want to jam the shifter all the way to the right and you miss the 5/6 shift gate and go into the "nothing/reverse" shift gate. To resolve this, I fabricated a rotating arm & bracket that swing into place which blocks the shift arm from going past the 5/6 gate. Here it is in the "stowed, normal driving" position:
89222


Here it is in the "race position", which effectively locks out reverse gear and makes it dead simple to shift into 5th and/or 6th gear:
89223


This arm is adjustable (the big coil spring keeps the bolt that acts as the travel limiter tight), so I can adapt it on the fly.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
6 – Clutch & Flywheel

I replaced the factory clutch & flywheel with Spec "lightweight" units. Here is the weight of the factory clutch and flywheel (heavy AF due to the dual mass flywheel setup employed by Acura to keep NVF at a minimum):
89224


Here is the Spec setup that replaced it:
89225


This included a 6 puck clutch disc, which I later swapped out for a 3 puck disc that saved a further 1.1 lbs of rotating weight.

Hydraulically, I connected the transmission-side TL bits to the vehicle-side Insights bits and everything seems to work fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
7 – Axles, Hubs, Knuckles, and Control Arms

After looking into options that would allow me to utilize the stock Insight knuckles and hubs, I gave up and pulled junkyard knuckles from a 2002 Civic. I installed new wheel bearings, and got 36mm hubs and custom length axles from Insane Shafts to fit. I had to turn the OD of the new hubs down to fit inside my big brake rotors, and I had to make new caliper adapters as well as trim off the edges of both the knuckle and caliper to fit the calipers:
89245


Once I tried to fit the axles into the hubs, I found that the ABS tone rings were hitting the knuckle castings. I definitely want to keep ABS, so I spent a bit of time with a carbide burr and clearanced the knuckle casting to fit:
89246

The clearance is minimal, but it seems to work fine:
89247

Here's a better shot of the new caliper adapter:
89249


The 2002 Civic knuckles don't fit with the factory lower control arms since the ball joints point different directions, but Professional Awesome makes a ball joint adapter that requires some machining of the factory control arms. Here is my highly-professional setup I used to perform this work (notice the precision 2x4s):
89250


While I had the lower control arms out and being worked on, I figured I would replace the rear rubber bushings with spherical joints (available locally from Blox). I needed to shorted the misalignment adapters to fit inside the weird bracket on the Insight but otherwise the joints pressed in place of the factory bushings seemingly just fine. Here is a finished control arm with ball joint adapter and spherical bearing installed:
89251


After a track day, I did a routine underbody inspection and found that the press-fit between the anodized Blox unit and the factory control arm didn't hold and the joint had moved:
89252


On one side, this was fixed with a bit of welding, which interestingly removed the red anodizing due to heat:
89253

I managed to mess up that bore due to warping by doing this, and I ended up putting set screws in to better retain the spherical joint itself. On the other side, I skipped the welding and just installed HeliCoils and set screws:
89254


This seems to be holding for now. I'm not super happy with this setup, and will likely be changing back to factory control arms in the near future along with some custom adapters for the knuckles themselves that I recently purchased but have yet to arrive.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
8 - Exhaust

This was fun for me. The original exhaust I made for the 3-cylinder was a hacked together piece of junk that consisted of gutting the catalytic converter, gutting the rear muffler, and welding a pipe in place of the original center section. It was heavy, restrictive, and sounded terrible but it worked well enough for 60HP. I decided to up my welding game and bought some purge plugs and an extra argon tank to allow for doing a fully TIG-welded stainless setup. I enjoy this stuff.

The J32A3 uses a sort of cast-in header with a single exhaust port. I purchased some Ebay pieces that replace what was originally catalytic converters going down from these exhaust ports to the J-pipe. The one in the rear was hitting the weird Insight steering arm on the passenger side, so I notched and weld in a piece of leftover tubing to allow the corner of the steering arm to pass through part of the pipe:
89232


I bought a bunch of stainless "DIY builder kit" tubes & bends in 2.25" and 3" off Amazon and set to work. In order to package everything properly, I ended up putting flex sections in each 2.25" runner before the collector. I used a V-band coupling to hold the J-pipe to the main rear pipe. Here is the J-pipe in the mostly-completed state (the V-band fitting was later welded on to the conical piece right after the collector):
89233

From the J-pipe rearward, I followed the basic path of the stock exhaust but all in 3" stainless. I opted to cut out the rear fascia and run the pipe straight instead of kink it off to the right side of the car, for reasons that will be clear in a minute. Here is the new complete exhaust on the left, and the 3-cylinder race exhaust on the right:
89234

I later added another muffler/resonator between the one you see here and the J-pipe, but neither of them seem to do much actual muffling above idle. This exhaust it pretty loud.

Due to my location, I would like to attend events at Laguna Seca Raceway which typically requires that your car be under 90db. The measuring station is on the right side of the track, so many people with race cars install a "Laguna Pipe" to redirect the exhaust away from the measuring station. I added another V-band near the rear of the car so I can install either a straight tip or the Laguna Pipe (which is bolted with custom hangers to the rear bumper). Here is the Laguna Pipe under construction, which consists of a flex section, a "Thrush Hush" chambered muffler, and a SuperTrapp disc muffler at the tip:
89236

Here is the completed setup after paint and bumper trimming:
89237

This setup failed to reduce the exhaust note below 93db so I need to do some further work here. I intend to turn the exhaust "up" more at the tip (around 11 o'clock position), because I believe the current setup bounces sound off the left wall of the track right back to the sound measurement station. More to come on this.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
9 - Fuel System

This is a deep rabbit hole that I only scratched the surface of. The factory TL engine used a returnless setup. The factory Insight used a return-style setup (although the CVT models used a returnless setup). For reasons that I can no longer fathom, I determined that I needed aftermarket fuel rails in order to make the engine use a return line (I didn't). I purchased a set of fuel rails from P2R, a cheap-o -6AN stainless hose & fitting kit from Amazon, and an Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator from Summit Racing. I added an Ebay fuel pressure sensor to the extra port on the regulator. Here is the under-hood setup:
89226

And another angle:
89227


I disassembled the Insight's fuel sending unit and swapped the pump from the TL, with no other changes to the sending unit and lines (I re-used the factory hard lines).

Through extensive testing and troubleshooting, I discovered that the front 3 cylinders (#4, #5, and #6) fuel injectors were clogged. This is likely due to sitting in the insurance yard for month before purchase. I borrowed a fuel injector cleaner setup from a friend, and with extreme confidence I pumped a lot of fuel injector cleaner through the system and each injector. The cleaner I chose (Berryman injector cleaner) dissolved the hose that came on the apparatus and filled the injectors with even more gummy junk. Here is the hose and a few chunks of what used to be the inside liner of it:
89228

And here is what I used to dissolve the hose (be warned if you attempt this yourself):
89229

I had some leftover stainless & teflon fuel line from my Amazon kit, so I whipped up a snazzy new line for the DIY fuel injector cleaner and went back to town:
89230

After pumping a ton of cleaner through each injector (forward and back-flushed) I believed I had the injectors in tip-top shape. I took the car to a track day at Willow Springs and was experiencing issues with the engine drivability including occasional smoke and even fireballs coming from the exhaust. I was also fighting a failing throttle-position-sensor that day so it was difficult to diagnose, but immediately after getting home I pulled the injectors out and sent them off to the professionals at RC Fuel Injection. Here is the report of their pre-and post cleaning cleaning status:
89231

Yikes! After re-installing the injectors for the umpteenth time, I think I finally have the fuel system working properly.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
10 - Engine, Wiring, & Tuning

The engine itself is mostly bone-stock. I did a compression test, leak-down test, and took bearing clearance measurements to confirm that everything is within Honda's recommended limits. The only thing I really changed was the toothed wheels for the crank position and cam position sensors. Here is Honda's factory setup for the crank position sensor:
89240

For whatever reason, there are two "missing teeth" sections about 90 degrees apart. In order to get this work with the MegaSquirt ECU, it needed to have only one missing tooth. Back to the welding table we go:
89241

A little welding and a little filing later and one of the missing teeth was replaced:
89242

On the back of the cam gear, there were 3 teeth sticking out that the cam position sensor picks up. I ground off two of them so that only one is left (no pictures unfortunately). This now gives the ECU the proper inputs to control the injectors and ignition.

The engine block seems to be made of some kind of aluminum/magnesium blend and 3 of the engine-to-trans bolts stripped before their proper torque value as I was putting it back together. These may have been pre-stripped by someone who previously changed the clutch. Either way, I preemptively added HeliCoils to ALL of the bosses on the engine and transmission so hopefully these all hold:
89239


89238


The rest of the wiring was pretty straight-forward, with the exception of the cam and crank position sensors. After many hours of trying different things (and burning out one expensive crank position sensor), I discovered that Honda likes to put the pull-up resistor in their ECU instead of the sensor itself for these engines. After adding a 1k resistor to each sensor, all is right with the world.

With everything sorted, I took the car to BlackTrax performance here in Fremont and Jei did a fantastic job on their Dynapack dyno getting maximum performance and driveability out of the setup:
89243
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
11 - Final Results & Comparison to Previous Build

Power: The original engine, after being tuned, was dyno'd at 60HP at 6240rpm and 60lb*ft of torque at 2660rpm (measured at the wheels).
89189

The new engine, after being tuned, was dyno'd at 273HP at 6500rpm and 243lb*ft of torque at 5000rpm (measured at the wheels).
89188


Weight and weight distribution: With a full tank of fuel and all of the race-specific stuff installed (aerodynamic undertray, cool-suit cooler, radio, etc), the car weighs 1,750lbs. This is basically 660lbs on each front tire and 215lbs on each rear tire, yielding about a 75%-25% weight distribution. The power-to-weight ratio is 6.41 lbs/hp. For reference, a 2020 C8 Corvette's power-to-weight ratio is about 6.8 lbs/hp.

Gearing: The original transmission was terribly geared for track use, so I swapped gears 1-3 and the final drive from a Honda Fit to create a pretty decent hybrid. The new transmission is a 6 speed unit, and the 3-5 ratios line up nearly identically with the previous ones with the exception of having an additional gear as well as being able to rev to 7,500rpm instead of 6,500rpm. The power falls off at 6,500, so the ideal shift point is probably around there anyway.
89190


Traction: The new transmission is equipped with a Torsen-type limited slip differential, so traction should be massively improved. 245 series tires are fit at the front of the car, and 205 series are fit at the rear.

Front Suspension: The front sway bar had to be removed, but it was tiny so it remains to be seen how badly it will be missed. The same springs were kept along with the factory junkyard modified struts.

Rear Suspension: Unmodified from previous.

Fuel Economy: TBD, but certainly horrible compared to previously. I am investigating installing a 22 gallon fuel cell to be more competitive in endurance racing to eliminate fueling delays.
 

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"If I was going to do something stupid I might as well do something VERY stupid."

This, I suspect, is the motto of almost every, single person on this forum. Starting with me!
 

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2006 5MT Insight w/ warm air intake, grid charger and more!
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This thing is a work of art, sweet build!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
What race series will you run this in? Surely that is no longer a lemons ($500) car...
The whole donor TL only cost $875 and after selling the parts from it (cats, battery, wheels & tires, Brembo brake calipers, etc) and getting the residual scrap value I only had about $200 in the engine, trans, and shifter. The majority of the rest of the car is all junkyard parts (knuckles, throttle body, etc). I got the chassis for free. Remember that wheels, tires, brakes, driver comfort, and all safety gear is exempt from the $500 limit. Most of the parts on this car were hand made from scrap metal or cheap-o Amazon parts. If you value my time at minimum wage or above, it’s a VERY expensive car. Luckily my time is free. The biggest $ items here are the axles and the clutch, which aren’t crazy expensive if you shop/negotiate wisely.

All that being said... if you believe that most LeMons cars cost $500 I have a bridge to sell you. You’ve obviously not been to a LeMons race recently. “Cheaters” are prevalent, and overspending the $500 is overlooked if you do something interesting (see Viper drivetrain in Rolls Royce for example). Shut up about it or we won’t post the details of our builds publicly.
 

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Wow, this is an ambitious build. I was never really a fan of putting the V6 in a Civic or, as in this case, an Insight. I do admire the skill required to do so. What is the handling going to be like with that weight in the front of the car?
 

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The whole donor TL only cost $875 and after selling the parts from it (cats, battery, wheels & tires, Brembo brake calipers, etc) and getting the residual scrap value I only had about $200 in the engine, trans, and shifter. The majority of the rest of the car is all junkyard parts (knuckles, throttle body, etc). I got the chassis for free. Remember that wheels, tires, brakes, driver comfort, and all safety gear is exempt from the $500 limit. Most of the parts on this car were hand made from scrap metal or cheap-o Amazon parts. If you value my time at minimum wage or above, it’s a VERY expensive car. Luckily my time is free. The biggest $ items here are the axles and the clutch, which aren’t crazy expensive if you shop/negotiate wisely.

All that being said... if you believe that most LeMons cars cost $500 I have a bridge to sell you. You’ve obviously not been to a LeMons race recently. “Cheaters” are prevalent, and overspending the $500 is overlooked if you do something interesting (see Viper drivetrain in Rolls Royce for example). Shut up about it or we won’t post the details of our builds publicly.
It's been several years since I have followed LeMons. I didn't know the cost was less scrutinized than it used to be, that's why I asked if you were moving to another race series. Sounds like I opened a can of worms I didn't intend to.

Regardless, thanks for sharing the details of your build. Some of it will be useful for me with my k24 swap. I'm building it to GRM $20XX challenge rules, so I know you can recover a lot of costs by selling off parts that won't be used.
 
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