Article by Robert Sixto. Photography by Joel Chan, Brian Bassard and Gil Folk.
Taken literally, the acronym JDM means nothing more than Japanese domestic market, describing cars and/or parts for those cars sold within Japan domestically. In the realm of the modified lifestyle, it holds a deeper meaning. Here in the US, the JDM movement can be equal parts philosophy and fetish, as some will go to great lengths to acquire from Japan the most obscure and rare parts to modify their cars. In terms of styling, there is often an affinity toward simplicity within the circles of the JDM fanatics who often opt for near OE looks and clean lines over wild body kits. In the performance ring, JDM often stresses harmony when improving the car, maintaining the original intent and spirit of the car. Regan Yu with his NSX ticks many of these same boxes, but stands out because of the overall ethos of his approach to the build. You see, Regan is a passionate enthusiast, but he also possesses a keen sense of value and an ability to recognize quality. It is a trait that serves him well in his professional life in commercial real estate, and that same trait has paid dividends in his approach to building his NSX.
In the automotive realm, Regan is no stranger to quality cars having owned some of the best around: various Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes Benzes as well. So it is telling that he would pick up his NSX nearly ten years ago now, and still happily own it today after many other cars have come and gone (And to hear him speak of it, he has no intention of giving it up any time soon!). Perhaps it should be no surprise, but many may forget just how groundbreaking the NSX was.
From inception the NSX challenged the exotics from Italy and Germany and did so with incredible usability and without the more temperamental nature (i.e. unreliable) that was expected from exotics of that time. It is a car with genuinely historic significance, but Regan, being of the modlife persuasion, was not going to approach it as a curator of a museum piece. He would instead evolve the car over several years, forging it into what it has become today. All the while he would steadfastly hold to his principals of insisting on the highest quality components available, but maintaining the original spirit of the NSX as an extremely usable and reliable supercar. It was about building a car that was greater than the sum of its parts, and that was to be his mantra for the years to come. The amount of effort and commitment that Regan put into his NSX is staggering, spending years carefully researching components and even creating custom solutions where there were no suitable options available for what he wanted.
Aesthetically, the theme is very simple and understated. With a 2002+ model year front end conversion, TypeR-style engine cover, NSXR rear spoiler and OE JDM tail lights, it has a more updated and, overall, slightly more aggressive look.
Suspension and chassis upgrades are numerous; the centerpiece in the handling department is the rare DG5 coilover suspension. The DG5 kit is a product developed by the "Drift King” himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya (a legendary pro driver in Japan who personally owned and modified his own NSX for use on street and circuit). The coilovers, like the car, are steeped in JDM sporting heritage. Tsuchiya’s involvement in developing the kit has created a suspension that is perfectly adapted to both street and circuit. Regan sites as evidence of that how spot-on the damper settings are, providing just the right mix of compression and rebound damping.
On the subject of streetability, a low-slung sports car can be problematic when driving in and out of driveways and over speed bumps. To this end, Regan actually developed and built his own custom lift kit that allows raising ride height at the flip of a switch. Another set of custom bits come by way of the tightly knit NSX community in the form of various noncompliance bushings, end links and clamps from TiDave. These serve to further tighten up the chassis and the handling by swapping compliant rubber bushings for solid metal pieces. There are numerous other suspension upgrades including an OE NSX TypeR front sway bar and chassis brace, with a sprinkling of Dali chassis support. This recipe is the result of years of track and street use, some trial and error, and an ever-present desire to enhance rather than drastically change the spirit of the NSX. Braking is handled by two important upgrades: Regan maintains ABS with an upgrade to a 2000+ model year ABS modulator, but also a Greddy/Grex big brake kit on all four corners. Keeping brake fade at bay is critical on a car that will often see a dozen or so track days a year, and a set of STMPO front brake ducts further help to keep things cool. This NSX is no aging museum piece; Regan uses it for what it was built for and is frequently pushing its limits at the track!
Regan eventually became comfortable pushing the NSX hard on the track, and with the chassis well sorted, saw fit to add power. One critical and sometimes overlooked component is the oil pump gear. Regan imparts the wisdom that, should this gear fail, it could mean turning a fun track day into a very expensive tow home and an engine replacement. To avoid such a catastrophe, a Toda Racing oil pump gear was called upon to provide bulletproof performance and allow the utmost confidence the NSX’s heart will keep beating strong. By Regan’s admission it was not a cheap option, but you either pay for quality now, or pay for lack of quality later. Also keeping things reliable under harsh conditions is a one-off radiator made by MASIV. Another piece of the build brought about by the help of the NSX community and, specifically, Wilbert Yuque of MASiV. This copper and brass radiator has proven to keep temperatures low under the most extreme conditions with the only drawback being added weight. Regan is happy to deal with a slight weight penalty in return for the reliability and ease-of-mind that the cooling capacity brings.
Keeping things cool is a must with a Comptech supercharger and headers tucked into the tight NSX engine bay. Forced induction also necessitates the need for more fuel, and here Regan entrusts OE components for the longevity and reliability they bring. The Denso pump in particular is not the least expensive option, but this choice was driven by Regan’s experience on track. Having had another less expensive "high flow” pump start to weaken in the midst of a hot lap was reason enough to justify paying up for quality. Not happy with the exhaust options available for the NSX, Regan again went the custom route. Taking a cue from BMW, and a set of BMW’s actuators, this NSX now has variable exhaust valving that activates with boost. The result is an exhaust that is quiet when driving civilized, but screams on the track allowing maximum exhaust flow and power.
A stand-alone engine computer being a must, Regan chose the best: the HKS FCon. Ties to OE reliability are strong here too, as HKS actually owns the rights to the NSX’s computer source code. The quality mantra applies to people and expertise as well. Regan managed to get an R&D tech from HKS, Jon Kuroyama, to have a hand in the tuning once it was time to hit the dyno. It does not get much better than that, and the result is a tune that is as dialed in as if the NSX came supercharged from the factory.
The results really are amazing, it is a clinic on "modifying done right,” and you can pour over the spec sheet and realize how well thought out the car is. You won’t find any fat to trim, or any throw away parts, everything is of the highest grade and complements the total package. Regan feels the car is "complete” as of now with no future mods planned, and we could not much disagree. This NSX truly has become a special car that is greater than the sum of its parts and a fine example of JDM done right. Well done, Regan.
Special thanks to:
MASIV high performance radiators
Build at a glance:
Comptech Autorotor supercharger
HKS FCon iS w/ Tune
HKS iF sensor control unit
Water injection kit
A.S. Motorsport phenolic intake and CTSC manifold gaskets
OS Giken STR2C clutch
Toda Racing oil pump gear
Comptech CARB approved headers
STMPO oil pan baffle
MASIV high efficiency race radiator
Odyssey racing battery
Dali short shift kit
RYU custom variable exhaust system
OE 2002+ NSX ABS modulator
Greddy/Grex 4 wheel big brake kit
STMPO front brake ducts
Dali SS brake lines
Front and rear aluminum beams
Type R front sway bar
Type R front chassis support
Dali chassis support
DG5 coilover suspension with Sprint springs
TiDave noncompliance front clamps
TiDave noncompliance rear bushings
TiDave adjustable sway bar end links
RYU custom suspension lift kit
Recaro Pole Position seats
TiDave harness bars
Carbon Composites customer OEM center console
Alpine EX10 Bluetooth hands free control center
Alpine S370 Touchscreen monitor Exterior
Full OE 2002+ front end conversion
Type R-style rear engine cover
Shark II antenna base
NSXR rear spoiler
OE JDM taillights
Advan RS wheels/Volk Racing CE28n wheels