The whole “green initiative” that Honda has chosen to embark on has not been met with the most favorable response by long-term enthusiasts. Instead of gearing its cars toward the younger generation of tuners, Honda has opted to direct its attention toward environmentally friendly economy cars. Hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles have taken center stage, and it’s hard to imagine that this is the same company that once created an NSX supercar and the legendary Type R. Honda is all about reducing its environmental footprint on planet Earth, so pushing eco-friendly vehicles just makes sense…for the most part. In Japan, the Civic has even been discontinued in favor of the Fit, Insight and hybrid CR-Z. While the Civic lives on in the U.S., it hasn’t exactly generated the type of excitement that enthusiasts had for older-generation Civics. There is no Integra on the horizon, the S2000s have been discontinued, and the future NSX has been placed indefinitely on the backburner—it’s just not looking very good right now for the future crop of Honda heads. Many an enthusiast has developed frustration for the Honda brand, and only a handful has learned to accept the current state of things. These select few have decided to make do with what they have and transformed their green machines into noteworthy builds.
The aftermarket automotive parts industry has also learned to cope with Honda’s decision to go green. Economic times have been rough as of late, and companies have recognized they’ll have to accept change and adapt or risk going out of business. Many of your favorite Japanese tuning companies have jumped in headfirst and are quickly developing parts and upgrades for hybrid vehicles. While the Honda CR-Z has seen the bulk of the hybrid performance upgrades, it should not overshadow the growing number of style components that have become available for the Honda Insight. The Insight is definitely the less attractive of the two vehicles, but older enthusiasts who can use the two additional doors and added space have decided that practicality trumps the sportiness of the two-seater “sports hybrid.” The Insight is by no means a high-performance machine, so many aftermarket companies have taken the alternative luxury “VIP-style” approach to modification. Japanese VIP-themed builds are all about style and lavishness, while all-out performance takes a backseat. Oftentimes you can get away with doing crazy things to a VIP build because it accomplishes a certain “baller” look. You would be surprised how quickly people forget about a vehicle being eco-friendly and environmentally safe, especially when vehicles like an Insight are sitting on large-diameter luxury wheels and are practically laying frame courtesy of custom air suspension setups.
Sunny Wong was one of the few attracted to the potential of an Insight. He has a deep-rooted love for Hondas but came to the realization that he needed something a little more tame, not only because of global warming worries, but more importantly because of the wife and child he transports. The Insight served as a perfect commuter car for the Wong family, but he knew he couldn’t just leave the car as is. Sunny, after all, is the owner of Franklin Auto Body in San Francisco, California. He is constantly doing bodywork and painting some of the top Honda builds on the left coast, including a number of Honda Tuning magazine feature and cover cars. Being that he was always surrounded by members of the illustrious ATS Garage, he knew he had to build a Honda of his own to cruise around whenever there was a local car meet or show.
“What started out as a family commuter car quickly turned into a full-on project,” Sunny explains. “I used to have another Insight, but it was a weird color, had tan interior and was just a base-model LX. A friend of mine showed me the M’z Speed kit for it and I knew I had to get it. I just didn’t want to waste it and put it on the Insight I had, so I upgraded to a black-on-black, fully loaded model. I immediately ordered the kit and came to the realization the (Insight) definitely had to be lowered. When you lower the car you have to have wheels as well, so everything just fell into place after that.”
To accomplish the Japanese VIP look, Sunny had to make his Insight incredibly low with lush rolling stock. He really wanted his eco-conscious Insight to have a closer relationship with mother Earth, so he elected to use a complete UAS air suspension system. Having ride height adjustability at the flip of a switch was favorable to Wong as he has the option to roll really low or raise the Insight up whenever his wife and daughter are in the car with him. Airbags also meant Sunny could run a more aggressively sized wheel. VIP-style calls for builds that push the limits of wheel fitment. The closer your chassis sat on the wheel itself, the better, especially when a vehicle is completely aired-down. Being an auto body expert by trade really helped Sunny in this regard because he could do any bodywork that was necessary in getting his wheel of choice to fit his hybrid. Long gone are the anemic OEM 15x5.5-inch wheels, replaced by much larger 18x8 SSR Vienna dish rollers. To get these wheels to fit snug in the wheel well, Sunny had to extend the front and rear fenders an additional 50mm.
Nothing screams “green” more than a black-on-black, slammed Honda Insight on much larger, and much heavier, VIP SSR wheels, right? We also can’t forget his addition of a 25-shot Nitrous Oxide induction kit that he did just for smiles and giggles. “Having a gas-saving hybrid is great and all, but I think this look suits my lifestyle more,” Sunny says. “That and I just really want people to stop thinking that my car is a Toyota Prius. Seriously, though, for the last time—it’s not a Prius!!”
Bolts & Washers
Nitrous Oxide Systems 25-shot fogger
18x8 +22 SSR Vienna
205/40-18 Nitto Neo Gen
PPG Jet Black paint
M’z Speed Exclusive Zeus front lip
M’z Speed Exclusive Zeus side skirts
M’z Speed Exclusive Zeus rear lip
M’z Speed Exclusive Zeus front grille
AMS rear wing
Franklin Auto Body custom-modified 50mm metal front fenders
Franklin Auto Body custom-modified 50mm metal rear fenders
Franklin Auto Body custom carbon-fiber roof overlay
Black housing headlights
Recaro Ultra Suede baby seat
Mugen rearview mirror cover
My wife Michele Poon, my daughter Liane Wong, Albert Squad, Kobe and LeBron from Franklin Auto Body, Kenneth and Adam from Wek’Sos, Kris and Ray from Mach III, Johnson and Wyman from Faxon Garage, Ryan from Rywire, Dave and Wing from MemoryFab, Dan at RCrew Racing, Ryan “Airbag Club” Der, Fred “FCB” Chapman, Jaylen Chapman
Screen name or nickname
Building Hondas for how long
All my life
Your dream car
’08 Mercedes ML, ’04 Honda S2000, ’96 Honda Civic, ’98 Honda Civic, ’95 Honda Civic, ’90 Acura Integra four-door, Mazda MPV, half of a ’70s Jaguar currently hanging on the wall at Franklin Auto Body
What’s playing in your iPod/CD/MP3 player right now
Yankee Doodle, Alphabet song, Muffin Man (because of my two-year-old daughter)
Greatest movie of all time
This Ain’t Avatar XXX