1995 Honda Odyssey (RA1) – Wagonista – 152

July 22nd, 2010 by NZPC

Name: Chris Amaria
Age: 31
Occupation: Salesperson
Lives: Auckland

Pretty unusual JDM-themed VIP wagon you have here Chris. We’re guessing there’s a bit of a story behind it.
It’s a ’95 RA1 Honda Odyssey that my wife actually uses as her daily driver and we both use as the family wagon in the weekends. We’ve owned it since 2004, and when we got it, it was completely standard in dark blue with a factory ride height three feet off the ground.

Really? It’s hard to believe you didn’t buy it like this. So did you go into the build with a clear-cut Japanese VIP direction?
Yeah, sort of. At the time we needed a bigger car, and I had always kind of liked what people did to Odysseys in Japan. Plus, no one in New Zealand had seemed to have done anything like this before, so it was a good chance to do something different.

Working for New Zealand’s biggest Honda dismantler since forever would have made the task a lot easier for you as well.
Haha, definitely. Working at Strong For Honda I had access to a whole lot of used aftermarket JDM styling and performance parts that came in on wrecked Odysseys from Japan. No one else seemed to want them, so I thought, “Hey, I’ve got a blank canvas, let’s see what we can do.” Five years later, it’s got to the stage where I think it looks all right.

Dude, it looks bad-ass! Talk us through the exterior mods.
The front and rear bumpers and side skirts are from the Japanese VIP bodykit company Spirits. The full kit normally has door panels too. I test fitted them but didn’t like them, so they didn’t end up going on. The grille is Mugen, but I’d really like to change that to something that suits the lines of the wagon a little better. I’m not sure what the rear wing is, and even though it fits the style well, I’ll probably change that soon too. And the smooth tailgate, well, that’s actually a single fiberglass cover that has been attached over the factory rear panel.

What about the wheels? Do we spy some oh-so-VIP Fabulous Profound rims there?
Yeah, they are 18×8-inch up front and 18×9-inch on the rear. I’m not sure of the offset, but they came into work on an Accord Wagon, and luckily enough because they were multi-stud bolted straight up. They seem to fit well. It’s sitting on fairly new Cusco adjustable coil-overs front and rear, and it also runs Cusco camber arms, Cusco toe arms, a Cusco lower arm bar on the rear, Cusco front strut brace and a Cusco brake master cylinder stopper.

Sounds like a well-sorted setup then. Does it handle?
It’s not too bad now. These wagons don’t handle very well standard, and we only had it for a week like that before I changed the suspension to a Tanabe spring and Bilstein strut setup, which instantly made it feel like it didn’t want to tip over. I only went to the Cusco coil-overs so I could set the ride height to a more aggressive stance. Airbags would be nice, but nah I can’t really justify the cost of going down that road.

What about the interior? Was the full leather trim another work score?
Yep. The full interior, door trims, seats and carpet are all out a Singaporean import, which are normally much higher specced than the JDM models. I’ve also added a few other chrome and black marble trim pieces from a V6 Odyssey to finish it off.

Looking under the bonnet it’s obvious that the mods you’ve made aren’t all limited to aesthetics. Fill us in on what you’ve done there.
Originally it had the standard F22B 2.2-litre single cam non-VTEC fitted, but because it needed some work that required the trans to come out, we decided we might as well pull the engine out and drop something else in. What we’ve got is a 2.2-litre H22A DOHC VTEC out of an Accord SiR.

That’s pretty cool was fitting it an easy proposition?
Andrew Short at Rally AS did the conversion for us, mainly because he did the first swap of this type about four or five months prior. It’s basically a straight bolt-in up to the factory auto. The only thing that really needed to be modified was to add a VTEC solenoid wire into the Odyssey’s harness. The trans has about 50 more horsepower to hold than it should have, but it’s held up fine so far.

It’s a cool conversion, for sure. Are you surprised that Japanese VIP wagon and minivan styling hasn’t taken off in New Zealand, especially given how many people are infatuated with JDM tuning?
Yes and no. It doesn’t surprise me because I think vehicles like this aren’t really considered acceptable to modify in New Zealand. We’re generally very set in our ways, and I don’t think many people like to step outside the 'normal’ realm for fear of being ridiculed. Also, unless you buy an import with all the VIP bits already on, it’s expensive to modify something like this because parts are scarce and that only leaves the custom route to go down. I really don’t think people are prepared to spend a lot of money on just a cosmetically based vehicle, either. I love it though; we get heaps of comments and people asking us what it is, and you just don’t get that with a WRX or Evo.

Well said. Rumour has it that the Odyssey is not the only interesting H-badged car in your garage.
No, I’ve got Beyond 2 Performance’s old EK Civic drag hatch as well. I picked it up as a rolling body and I’m now basically in the throes of putting it all back together. It’s a pretty simple budget build, with B18C engine, B16A LSD gearbox, Tein coil-over suspension, Backyard Special-style front bumper, fibreglass bonnet, race seats and a roll cage.

Sounds like Strong has come through for you again. What’s the plan for the car?
I plan to do a little bit of drag racing, and then once I’ve sorted some decent brakes, maybe try my hand at a little bit of track work. Basically, though, I’m just building the car for myself, more as a fun car for the weekends than anything else.

That’s what it’s all about. Cheers Chris!

1995 Honda Odyssey (RA1) – Specifications

Engine: Honda H22A 2.2-litre DOHC 16V VTEC inline-4, HKS intake pipe, Trust Airinx air filter, quad tip exhaust system
Driveline: Factory RA1 automatic transmission
Suspension/Brakes: Cusco Vacanza adjustable coil-over shocks/springs, Cusco camber arms, Cusco toe arms, Cusco rear lower arm bar, Cusco front strut brace, factory 4-wheel discs, Cusco master cylinder stopper
Exterior: Spirit front bumper, Spirit rear bumper, Spirit side skirts, Mugen grille, unknown JDM rear wing, unknown JDM aftermarket taillights, smooth tailgate
Interior: Full leather interior swap, Sport Line steering wheel, Mooneyes horn button, chrome ball shifter knob, Eclipse DVD/CD 2-DIN touchscreen head unit, 2x Soundstream amplifiers, Alpine component speakers, 2x Soundstream subwoofers, white face gauges
Wheels/Tyres: Fabulous Profound alloys — 18×8-inch front, 18×9-inch rear, Nankang 225/40R18 tyres front/rear
Performance: 190ps @ 6800rpm

Chris Amaira – Driver Profile

Age: 31
Occupation: Salesperson
Chris Thanks: my wife for letting me modify her car, Strong For Honda, Jason & Neesha, Andrew Short @ Rally AS, Chris @ Cartint, Ressa @ Frank Allen Tyres Mt Roskill, Rob @ Rapid Radio, and anyone else I may have forgotten.

Words & Photos: Brad Lord

This article is from Performance Car issue 152. Click here to check it out.