Spoon is one of the most well known and established specialist Honda tuner in the world. When I have the opportunity to visit Tokyo to cover the 37th Tokyo Motor Show, it was the perfect opporunity for me to also visit Spoon which is head-quartered in Tokyo. Thanks to the help of one of my readers, I was able to arrange; in the capacity of a journalist; to visit the Spoon head office to have a tour of its facilities and also to interview the man himself - 'Mr Spoon' Ichishima Tatsuru.
Spoon is located in the city of Ogikubo in Suginami-ku, Tokyo. They are very well known for their high quality aftermarket parts for Hondas so my original objective for the visit is to check out the latest products from Spoon, especially for the latest generations of Honda's performance models and hopefully to get an idea of the R&D process to goes to create them. In addition, the Spoon S2000 is famous in the racing scene so I was also eager to get an opportunity to check it and other Spoon racing cars close up. In the event, I am happy to say that I actually got a little bit more than what I expected.
As their name suggests, Spoon Sports is now a public listed company, known officially as Spoon Co., Ltd in Japan. Probably everyone will know that the founder Ichishima Tatsuru was originally a racer. So just like Honda themselves, racing has always been in Spoon Sport's blood. The first car that Ichishima-san raced was a Honda Civic and this car is shown in the photo on the right. Ichishima-san himself is justifiable proud of this car and made a special point to highlight it to me during my tour of the Spoon facility. It's a 3rd generation Civic hatchback which was sold around the 1985-1989 time frame in Japan. Stock, this model came with a 125ps 1.6l ZC DOHC PGM-Fi engine (rated at that time in gross unit of 135ps). Of course Ichishima's Civic is way more powerful than that !
The Spoon head office itself is a multi-storey building of 4 storeys tall. The ground floor is more or less used as a warehouse, the office takes up 1 floor with another serving as a garage housing tons of mouth-watering cars (actually I am still wondering how they manage to get all those cars up there !). The Spoon R&D facility takes up another floor by itself. The R&D floor I was taken on a tour of was very well equipped with machining tools of all types. A lot of hard-core R&D goes on in this floor. To illustrate the level of detail they go into for their R&D, Ichishima showed me a component of the CV Joint which was polished and lightened. This is done to allow the CV Joint to operate much smoother and is important in endurance racing. Next I was shown a B-series cylinder head which was ported and polished so that each cylinder have the exact same measured volume (under controlled temperature).
When I first got to know about Spoon, it was through their excellent range of aftermarket parts for Hondas. Many of the parts were for the B-series engines and Spoon had parts for most of Honda's performance models, right from my DA6 to the DC2 Integra and EK9 Civic Type-R models. The most famous of these parts was the quite legendary Spoon Ventulli (Ventrulli) Plate which is a special intake manifold gasket with ventrulli ports and then later the famous Spoon Stroker Kits for B16 and B18s which increases the engine's stroke to make it 1.8l and 2.0l respectively. Spoon's famous stroked-up B18CR displaces 2.0l and delivers 240ps in NA form !
Then, sometime last year, HOT VERSION featured a Spoon tuned EK9 Civic Type-R that had a unique Spoon developed 'crank brace'. The video showed how the brace is similar to that on the F20C on the S2000 and how it allowed the B16B that was equipped with this brace (and the appropriate oil pan) to rev to an unbelieveable 12,000rpm ! That video have a very lasting effect on me. To me, the eptimode of the all-time super-modified Honda engine will be one that can rev to the magic 10,000rpm figure and beyond and this was the first one I have seen to do that.
These examples perfectly illustrates the quality level of Spoon developed parts for Honda tuning - i.e. supremely high and extremely hard-core. With the new generation of K and L series engines and Honda performance models, I was eager to find out what new, wild and wonderful parts Spoon have developed.
Of all the Spoon parts that I know about, the B16 12,000rpm block brace is perhaps the most 'important' to me. Other than that championship white Spoon EK9, I have never seen another streetable Honda that can rev to 10,000rpm reliably. The EK9 in the HOT VERSION video broke down half way in the Ebisu 'battle' however. So the question inside me yelling to get out was what happened to that crank-brace product, does it really work and of course can we actually buy it or not ?
I specifically asked Ichishima about this EK9 and the Spoon crankbrace. He explained that the intention of having that EK9 reviewed is just to create awareness of Spoon's development. According to Ichishima, Spoon has already been using the crankshaft brace in their racing cars since 1986 with considerable success. The product is actually listed in the Spoon catalog (part number 11200-16B-G01) as the Spoon Block Brease (Block Brace) and is meant to be used together with a Spoon aluminium oil pan specially designed to retain the proper ground clearance. However Ichishima himself do not see the product as a big deal. It is merely another part that goes to make a complete Spoon engine and which itself is again just another important component of a whole Spoon car.
When I continue asking about Spoon parts, Ichishima told me something I was unprepared for and initially very confused to hear. He said "Spoon is not interested to sell parts". It took a while for me to understand the exact meaning of this but what this really means is that Spoon do not sell parts in isolation but focuses on the whole car. Ichishima's vision is for Spoon to be the "number 1 developer of good car" - not good product, but good car. That is, the product are just means to an end - the car itself. However, this 'no longer sell parts' objective also means that Spoon no longer sells retail but services their customers through a network of dealers country and world-wide. This is what Ichishima has charted for the future of Spoon.
So Ichishima's tour of Spoon for me did not have much focus on Spoon parts at all. And neither did Ichishima wanted to talk much about any specific parts. The car is the final end-point and the parts are only the means so he focussed mainly on his cars.
My first exposure to Type-One was in BEST MOTORing INTERNATIONAL volume Two where drift-king Tsuchiya and Hattori reviewed several modified cars that included a Type-One EF9 Civic SiR which had a B18CR and gearbox swap. There it was revealed that Ichishima was the tuner and thus the owner of Type-One. At that time, it was confusing because Ichishima is well known for being the Spoon founder so many enthusiasts including me started to wonder why he suddenly created Type-One. More and more Type-One Hondas appeared in BEST MOTORing and HOT VERSION. In the end, one of the questions burning inside me was the relationship between Spoon and Type-One and whether Ichishima had any special reasons to create Type-One and effectively start all over again building up its name.
After asking Ichishima this question, he proceeded to take me on the Spoon company van to the Type-One building which is located not very far from the Spoon building. Upon reaching the Type-One building, everything became clear to me. Recall that Ichishima's vision for Spoon is no longer as a retail seller but as an R&D factory. Spoon parts are to be sold to customers via Spoon appointed dealers. Furthermore, Ichishima sees the tuning of a car as a complete whole, not as a collection of parts. Thus Ichishima's vision of a Spoon dealer is not as a parts trader but rather as a complete car tuning specialist. They should not just sell a Spoon product in isolation but rather see it as a component of a whole modified car, properly tuned for maximum performance. Thus the mystery is cleared; since Ichishima wants Spoon itself to be an R&D and manufacturing facility, thus he formed Type-One to provide his vision of the preferred Spoon dealer - i.e. a specialist Honda tuner.
The Type-One building is a double storey building very unlike the Spoon building. The ground floor is a proper workshop, with hoist, alignment and other facilities. Upstairs is the showroom office and doubles up as a garage. Here is something more familiar to the enthusiast with proper displays where Spoon parts are put on display complete with description and price tags.
Type-One has since gained quite a reputation for itself over a short period of time which goes to show how high Ichishima's reputation is in Japan. According to Ichishima, upwards of 250-300 cars gets tuned at Type-One over the typical month. And while I was there, the cars on the ground floor workshop included two S2000s, 1 DC2 ITR, an EK9 CTR and 1 Accord Euro-R. It was here in Type-One too that I met Nobu-san, a real-life japanese Honda enthusiast. Nobu-san was in Type-One to get his S2000 suspension system fitted and tuned. I had a quick interview with him, in order to get a spontaneous and candid view of Spoon's reputation amongst japanese Honda enthusiasts. Read the short interview transcript on the left.
Honda's motto is "We Love Racing". Befitting it's status as one of the premier Honda tuner specialist, Spoon too is heavily involved in racing. Competition builds up character and skills better than anything else. And being an ex-racer himself, Ichishima recognises this very clearly. Like all of the largest tuners in Japan, Spoon is actively involved in professional racing.
Of the many racing cars in the japanese domestic scene, the Spoon Super Taikyu S2000 is perhaps the most well-known. Then earlier this year, Spoon also built an Endurance Racing Fit 1.5 which was highlighted in HOT VERSION. So one of my objectives in my Spoon visit is check these two cars up close. In the event, I got a little bit more than what I bargained for because Ichishima was very excited about his latest project, his Spoon Endurance Racing Accord Euro-R !
First your city, then your country, finally the world ! This phrase must have been ringing in Ichishima's ears when he enthusiastically introduced me to his current project, the Spoon Endurance Racing Accord Euro-R. Spoon is currently building two units for participation in professional racing; one for the Japanese Domestic circuit and the other, expanding his scope of competition, Ichishima is building it to put in his challenge in the U.S. Endurance Racing scene. When I was there, work was going on at full steam on his Spoon Accord Euro-R which he told me is going to participate in a '25 hours' Endurance race in the U.S. on December 7th 2003.
All of the Spoon race cars were kept on a special garage floor in the main Spoon building. The cars I saw there included Ichishima's original 1985 race-Civic, the famous Spoon Super-Taikyu S2000, the Spoon Racing Fit and the aforementioned Spoon Racing Accord Euro-R. During the 'side-trip' to the Type-One building, yet another Accord Euro-R donned in Spoon's distinctive blue and grey racing livery was on the workshop floor. This one I believe was to be used in the local (japanese) domestic racing scene.
The Spoon Super-Taikyu S2000 was put up on a special platform so I didn't have a chance to take a lot of photos. The Spoon Race Fit however was taunting me from the little corner where it was parked so I poured over it, taking a lot of photos. I was still in the 'blur' frame of mind when Ichishima showed me the Spoon Accord Euro-R in the Spoon building so I didn't take a lot of photos of that but by the time I was in the Type-One building, I specifically ask for Ichishima to give me time to take photos of the one there. For this article, I put up the few pictures I took of Ichishima's 1985 Civic and the Spoon Super Taikyu S2000. But for the Spoon Race Fit and Accord Euro-R, I have so many photos that I think its much better that I present them in follow-up articles. Rest assured, these articles will be available in a very short while. After all, the Spoon Accord Euro-R will be racing in the U.S. come December 7th 2003 and I am sure TOVA readers will love to have the opportunity to take a close look at the car before then.
This Spoon visit was the highlight of my visit to Tokyo, in many ways being even more exciting than the Tokyo Motor Show visit itself. It is hardly surprising of course because the visit to Spoon represents a much overdue trip back to basics for me and TOVA, i.e. back to coverage of the hard core enthusiast scene. Certainly the garage floor of the Spoon building has the highest concentration of super-modded Hondas I have ever seen.
My visit to Spoon too re-assured me of the very high quality from Spoon parts. Just like Honda and Mugen themselves, competition breeds excellence and certainly if any of us wants to buy Spoon parts, especially for the Integra, Civic, S2000, Fit/City, and the Accord Euro-R, I am now very confident that we cannot do any better than to get Spoon parts. The parts are all R&D'ed from the heat of professional level competition and then adapted for the legality and practicality required for street-use and surely there's nothing better than to get a part that was developed from what was used in a very competitive racing car !
This visit to Spoon is my first to an established and internationally known tuner. Of course my dream is to have more of this in the future; but this visit is a real eye opener for me. It showed me how a professional tuner works, with proper R&D facilities and with focus on active professional level competition. It was an entirely new level of experience from the amatuer enthusiast scene or the formal official Honda scene that I have been used to. I have enjoyed this eye opening visit tremendously and I hope you have enjoy reading about it too.
Next Article in this series : Spoon Race CL7 Accord Euro-R !.
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