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HTSpec TSX Redeux: Part 3, Our impressions and a trecherous drive

  • Posted: 02-26-2014 11:25 PM
  • HTSpec TSX

Having freshly completed our drivetrain upgrade with minimal time to give it a proper shakedown, we headed from our remote home-base in the Portland, Oregon metro area to Vancouver, British Columbia. This was to be an 800-mile round trip which, we expected, would be pretty uneventful. Mostly highway running with some mixed city driving. Still, taking such a trip after having just gutted and restored the entrails of a car gives one pause.

In fact, the car felt great. Aside from a curious looseness in fifth gear and the occasional faint whine on decel, everything seemed tip-top. Shifts are clean and quick, with a smoothness reminiscent of shifters we’d felt on cars much newer than ours. That legendary Honda shifting is back. Ratio changes require very little effort and can be banged off so quickly we catch the revs as they fall rather than suffer the pain of lost momentum. If course much of this is due to the uber-light flyhweel.

The shifting played very well with the rigid clutch disc which was always ready to snap to attention whenever the pedal was popped. Driving this TSX with its shifting so smooth and fast and clutch action so hair-trigger reminds us of our friend Lucas’ DSG-equipped Audi A3. Granted, a pure manual will never have all the advantages of a dual-clutch gearbox. But, this is well up there.

The other, more performance-oriented, aspects of the job also added dynamic improvements. The light AASCO flywheel allowed added horsepower from the CT Engineering header to contribute a significant pull through the rev range which was considerably more attention-getting than before. On the few freeway onramps we were able to exploit, the car accelerated with a ferociousness that had us happy to have upped the game of the drivetrain. Granted, this is no racecar; yet there is a gratification that comes from having so much connection to a drivetrain and suspension which are elated to be working out in the field (recall, the HTSpec TSX has more than a rigid clutch disc to eliminate slop: Also fitted are polyurethane Innovative engine mounts and a partial-spherical front suspension).

The trip to Canada was quick and uneventful. Cruising the streets of Vancouver was a simple enough task; as simple as it could be we suppose. Stop and go and turn and brake and swerve. The infamous light-weight flywheel had always been something we were cautious with recommending to the average consumer because the momentum stored in flywheels helps keep the engine from bogging and stalling when a clutch is disengaged. Since a lighter flywheel has less mass than a heavier one, it carries less momentum. Therefore it has less kinetic energy to help get a car off the line. Mistakenly concerned with reduced torque, many people are steered away from this mod.

We are happy to announce that the AASCO flywheel not only was a pleasure to drive (we suspect due to the K24’s healthy torque curve, which is less dependent on flywheel momentum) in all scenarios we had it in, but it seemed to help alleviate the responsiveness that the car lacks having been equipped with a drive-by-wire system. That is not to say more revs are not needed to get the car going cleanly, or that we never stalled along the way as we grew to relearn our driving technique to compliment the new part. But the change to a feather-weight flywheel was not nearly as intrusive as it previously was assumed to be. We’ll take a different approach in selling this item in the future; away from cautious optimism toward enthusiastic praise.

Winter in the Pacific North West (or the PNW if you are local) is relatively mild. Snow is rare and when it comes it dusts without causing severe impact. This, except for the odd year we get dumped on. With more than a foot to drop over Portland, and us 400 miles away in Canada, the situation was looking a little dire for our return trip. The HTSpec TSX is equipped with wide summer ties and rides on a lowered suspension. Snow and ice were sure to spell doom for the street-runner.

The trip home commenced with an ominous pitstop for gas and a snow shovel, requested from the home-base. This was because MrsHeeltoe was unable to leave the house what with all the snow around. Upon pulling off the highway we were met with the first appearance of snow. In only a half-inch of snow, the HTSpec TSX was having trouble getting traction to accelerate and brake. If things were to get much worse this trip might need to include a layover. But, we pressed on.

Thankfully, the snow we’d encountered was only at the higher altitude in Bellingham, Washington. Once off and running again, we didn’t see more snow until we were well past Centralia and approaching "the other" Vancouver. But when we did, it was an eye-opening experience. A "dry line" formed as traffic wore a snowy layer to the asphalt, creating treacherous ridges for a lowered car with summer tires to traverse.

Safety dictated driving at a reasonable speed, but there are those who drive comically slow. Passing was risky but necessary if progress was going to be made. On the other side you have drivers speeding, tailgating, and begging to cause a pile-up. As expatriated Southern Californians, these conditions are pretty new for us. But, it doesn’t seem very hard to balance one’s ability with the capability of their hardware and the conditions they are driving in. It’s the old eighty-twenty rule.

Squinting in between scummy swipes on the windscreen became entertainment for the miles. The game was made that much more amusing as we headed straight into the low, southern winter sun without sunglasses.

Having passed through Portland and headed west on highway 26, we were fortunate enough to have queued up in traffic behind a series of plows. We had a 30 mile-per-hour escort all the way to our exit, but once off the highway the conditions went downhill steeply. The roads out in the country are not cleared regularly, yet the road is mostly flat because of all the trucks and Subarus that have drivetrains to make it through unimpeded. It is hard to tell where the road is, let alone which lane is the left and which is the right. Before braving these roads, we decided to pit stop and clear the windshield.

That’s when this picture was taken.

Our friend Reza from the interwebs commented that our wheel fitment was a “Perfect rim and tire size.. Nice set up man!” That’s when I realized we were going for the yet-to-become ubiquitous Hella-Slush spec. There are actually two or three inches of snow packed into the wheel wells. Crud all down the sides of the car and caked on the floorpan. What a mess!

As we pulled away from the station, it became immediately obvious that without the freshly installed MFactory differential, this section of the trip would be a catastrophe. Both wheels worked in unison to propel the TSX up to a top speed of slow, and kept us on the straight and narrow for the remainder of the trip.

As we suspected, the closer to the shop we got the worse conditions became. As new snow began to fall, the less frequently traveled roads became more rough and rutted. Then we finally happened upon the neighborhood street where we had one last grade to claw up.

The most difficult part of the entire trip? Getting up the drive to the garage. Seven hours of driving had us reeling as the final thiry feet was a struggle the entire way. We would not have made it without a limited-slip differential.

Swervy tire tracks show just how much wheelspin we were getting on the basically flat driveway. Sawing the wheel back and forth was the only way to get enough bite from the tire-cicles to make it to shelter.

But we made it. And here we were, ironically thankful that our emergency drivetrain work needed to be performed before the very trip that would have turned out a lot more difficult to complete without it.


03-04-2014 12:35 PM at 12:35 PM
Love it! reminds me of the drive from Bellingham to SoCal bringing the Mfactory EK back!!
02-28-2014 10:35 AM at 10:35 AM
This sounds more like a survival trip.. glad you made it unscathed! I tend to think of a LSD as helping deliver power in turns during spirited driving but I enjoyed your reminder that it adds a bit of safety during adverse conditions as well.

Keep up the good work!
patrick lamontagne
02-28-2014 08:48 AM at 8:48 AM
awesome writing keep going u do an amazing job

patrick from Montreal, Canada

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