Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Small but Mighty!

 Text by: Ben Photos by: Ben

As I was driving to the photoshoot location, I suddenly felt a great amount of pressure coming from the car behind me. The roaring sound of an engine venting pressurized air with every release of the accelerator was daring me to step on it, pushing me to go faster. Yet, glancing in my rear view mirror only showed me an innocent-looking little car. A metallic blue Daihatsu Copen. A kei car. Sounding like the trumpets of apocalypse. Pushing me.

At 3.4 metres in length, 1.5 metres in width and 1,2 metres in height, the Copen does not just look small in a rear view mirror, it is simply outstandingly small. It would actually look legit parked at the food or a kid’s tree house. I am sure most people who walk by one take a peek inside just to check if the driver has bicycle pedals hidden in the footwells. Yet as small as it might look, the Copen was built this size on purpose to fit within the Japanese kei car regulations.

At the end of the Second World War, many Japanese could only afford motorbikes as cars were out of their financial reach. In an effort to push the car industry forward, the government created the kei car (small car) segment. Kei cars are limited in engine displacement and physical size and claim benefits such as lower taxes on the purchase price, road tax and insurance. These small cars have since leaked out of Japan, although only to selected markets.

The Daihatsu Copen is an FF platform powered by a 660cc Turbocharged engine. The numbers are set: 64 dwarf ponies sit under the hood, accompanied with 110Nm of torque. Nothing mind blowing there coming from the motorbike-sized engine, yet considering the 810kg of the car, things are actually bearable.

Yet bearable is never enough (isn’t it?) and this Copen’s owner, Rian, wanted more out of his two seater hard-top convertible. He thus started digging for some go-fast bits he could add to his toy-on-wheels to turn it into a pocket rocket.

Research became want, and want became reality as the parts made their way to him.

Rian was seduced by the ‘cute’ looks of the Copen, thus chose to keep both the exterior and interior of the car unmolested, and decided to keep his midget-sized car a sleeper, only tinkering under her skirts in search of a better handling and, of course, more power.

With the goal to hit 100 horses at the wheels, Rian set about replacing the stock intake in favour of an Apex’i open pod filter and upgrading the stock turbo to a HKS DX7 with a Blitz blow-off valve and customized intercooler piping leading to a D-Sport Intercooler. Rian loves his bigger snail, and claims that the expected obvious difference in power it gives makes it the best mod he has done to his Copen.

The engine oil now has its own cooler and to complete the heat-fighting needs, Rian dropped in ATF cooler to prevent the 4-speed automatic transmission from overheating under the strain of the extra power.

An HKS EVC along with a Pivot oil and water reader with fan functions help Rian keeping things in check from behind the wheel, and an Apex’i turbo timer ensures a proper cooling down of the turbocharged engine after a drive.

To complete the power hunt, the 660cc engine expresses itself through a straight through, dual pipe exhaust setup.

Rian trust the managing of his upgraded engine to a GReddy e-Manage Ultimate piggy-back ECU and took his Copen to the dyno for a tune with hopes of hitting the 100whp mark. While he did not reach his targeted goal, the kei car now pumps out 96whp. Close enough, I say! With a power-to-weight ratio of 118.5 horses per ton, Rian’s pocket rocket can show its tail pipes to cars such as the Suzuki Swift Sport.

Following the wise saying that power is nothing without control, Rian opted for DSport suspensions and changed the stock wheels for original 15” Volk Racing RE30. The classic seven double-spoke rims are shod with Federal 595 Evo rubber sizing 165/55/15 on all four corners. Wanting to stand apart from the crowd, he then decided to spray his rims bright pink. While some might argue about the manliness of such a color choice, Rian loves the contrast it brings to the dark blue paint of the car, as well as the attention it grabs.

Indeed, both the nature of the car and its color choices draw stares, and Rian says he often has people asking if they could take pictures with his car, or girls asking if they can sit in (guys, we need to learn from this!). This is indeed true as during the photoshoot, the Copen drew quite a number of stares from kids coming up close to take a peek, girls checking the car out with a smile, and even from a man who walked up to Rian asking how much he’d want for it.

Rian never regretted selling off his old Suzuki Swift 1.5 for the Copen. While he had to give up on the rear passenger seats of the Suzy, he just can’t get enough of driving with the top down, not to mention the superior power of his blue and pink toy.

Rian’s little pocket rocket might look cute and innocent, but with his setup, his pony on steroids can put up quite a show, and I believe that more than one driver has already been smoked by this inconspicuous little kei car.

Rian would like to thank his awesome friends at Wild Wild West Swifts for giving him a chance to keep up with the Swift Porks!

Drive Layout
Max Power

660cc Turbo Charged
Apex’i open pod air filter
Straight through, dual pipe exhaust setup
Cooling Systems
ATF cooler and Oil Cooler
D-Sport intercooler
Blitz B.O.V.
Pivot oil and water reader Apex’i turbo timer
GReddy e-Manage Ultimate

Volk Racing RE30
Federal 595 Evo 165/55/15


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