It was a short six years ago that we featured Tommy Fitzgibbon's amazing reverse-head H22-powered 1995 Honda Odyssey LX minivan, and as much as we'd like to say every story that has ever been published by Tuning has a happy ending, life just isn't like that. Sometimes bigger, more pressing responsibilities have to be prioritized—sometimes you can't avoid the "adulting"—and it's then there is no way around pushing projects aside—like a car build, no matter how beloved—to the margins of life until you can return to it, if you're lucky.
Tommy can now count himself one of the lucky ones, thanks to his family and a dedicated group of enthusiast friends who think very highly of the Odyssey owner, and didn't want to see the unique minivan go to the scrapheap of forgotten project cars. We pick up the story a couple of years after our articles ran on the van and the reverse-head H22, so around 2015-ish; at the time, due to some personal issues, Fitzgibbon was unable to keep up the car's registration and upkeep, and so it sat for two years, all the while racking up nonoperation fees. Discouraged by the non-op ta, Tommy began to lose hope he'd ever be able to bring back his racy Honda family hauler. He unloaded the Odyssey on friends Alan Craft from Fat Four Customs (FFC) and Daniel Hill from Werd Werx (and owner of this sick CB7 Accord we featured) probably thinking he'd never see the thing again—but little did he know Alan, Daniel, and others would put a plan in motion to properly reunite the two.
Craft and Hill are both part of The Accord Collective (TAC), and the original plan for the van (for them, anyway) was to reverse engineer and improve what Tommy had done for the Odyssey's five-speed manual transmission conversion. Fitzgibbon wasn't the first to do the swap in Honda's first-gen. minivan, but he perfected it, and when it started to look like Tommy had given up on the van, Accord Collective's DJ Djoko suggested the guys from TAC go all in and rebuild the Odyssey. Given how much time, money, and sweat Fitzgibbon had poured into the project, it just didn't make any sense to let it go to waste.
The core "resurrection" team to tackle the project included Accord Collective members Hill, Craft, Djoko, Ralph Vega, Stewart Guillen, and Corwin Hoogland, with a major assist from Renae Fitzgibbon, Tommy's wife, who was instrumental in throwing Tommy off the scent, and in general running diversion as the guys schemed and worked toward completing the job. She needed to provide the cover because this entire effort was done without Tommy's knowledge; his friends were rebuilding his prized project car completely in secret, and aimed to surprise Fitzgibbon with the refreshed Odyssey at the 2018 edition of the Cali Accord Meet.
It took roughly a year of planning for the group before the project started to move forward in real, substantial steps, primarily because everyone was volunteering their time and doing work when they could squeeze it in. Daniel took on a big chunk of the responsibility, housing the vehicle at his shop, Werd Werx, in Anaheim, Calif. which is where all the work took place, but indeed everyone on the team had their duties. In one final bit of planning, six months before the squad laid hands on the minivan they went over to Tommy's for what he thought was an average barbecue, but in reality they used the cookout to pick Fitzgibbon's brain (as sneakily as possible) about which parts he absolutely had to keep from his Odyssey.
The guys hatched a plan to replace the Odyssey's shell with another one in order to circumvent those pesky non-op fees, and since the original van has always been one-of-a-kind, there would definitely be some bits from it worth keeping. In effect, this was the biggest replacement part—the entire van (sans motor, suspension, and a few other items).
Among the raft of new parts for Tommy's Odyssey is the latest version of the FER Performance 5-speed manual shifter box and manual transmission conversion kit from FFC. The laser cut box is bent out of 6061 aluminum and serves as a platform to raise the transplanted shifter off the floor. Fat Four's trans swap kit also comes with a Wilwood clutch master and pedal assembly, clutch slave and stainless line for it, AN fittings, and solid bushings for the shifter baseplate.
FFC and Werd Werx teamed up for the front big brake kit, which highlights Hill's expertise as a brake caliper restorer of the highest order. In fact, if you head to Werd Werx's Instagram, your eyes will be assailed by photo after photo of beautifully restored and powder-coated brake calipers in a wide array of glossy candy colors. For this job, Daniel went with a blue that matches the color in the van's Racing Hart Type-C rims, and further customized with the wording "Sgt. Fitz," Tommy's nickname in the military.
Custom billet extended damper top hats from Fat Four were used at all four corners to provide shock travel clearance for the suspension of the lowered Odyssey (and replace the old set), and an FER Performance forward shock tower brace was also sourced from FFC to help tie together the front part of the Honda.
Elements like the HASport CDH1 engine mounts for Accord H-series and engine bay hardware from FFC brought simple, effective function to the Odyssey's engine compartment, as well as shiny surfaces to catch the eye.
In a build with so many rare components, the Mugen body kit stands out as one of those items on the Odyssey that is pretty dang near impossible to replace. Since this project was built to eventually go to the track, and no one particularly cared for the idea of the Mugen kit getting destroyed after a day on said circuit, the team came up with some compromises—like the JDM OEM front lip, hand carried to the US from abroad, or the one-off PCI side skirts. PCI sells a universal length and usually people cut them down, but this crew had to have them extended, and they got the tallest ones PCI makes—5 inches tall—because van life.
On a Saturday in March 2018, Hill got everyone to meet at the shop and begin the process of tearing down both Odysseys (the original van and the "donor" van) and start slowly either moving parts over or installing them for the first time. The donor minivan came with a run-of-the-mill F22B6 inline-4 engine, which was summarily kicked to the curb once it was yanked out.
The two images above show the exhaust plumbing from the cars, the top image OE and bottom the side-exit custom version on Tommy's Odyssey. The guys decided to keep the custom exhaust, Hill having his metal fab guy clean it up and fix a crack in the piping.
A deep dive under the wheel wells reveals neglected brakes and suspension—TEIN coilovers up front, Megan Racing coilovers in back—including some severely worn out rubber bushings. We already touched on the FFC BBK that's going in, and in addition to that the team will press in new bushes and polish up the coilovers a smidge.
Retaining much of the Mugen body kit for Tommy's Odyssey meant transplanting the kit's side mirrors, as well as swapping liftgates in order to keep the rear roof spoiler (and old-school HT sticker). Fitzgibbon also mentioned he wanted to keep the Type-C wheels, which the team will clean up before remounting.
The Recaro Sport front buckets were definitely keepers, and the team also swapped over the A-pllar gauge pod and AFR meter, steering wheel adapter hub, quick-release, and MOMO wheel, and the Tuffy center console
We saved our last few pics to give a special shout out to Ralph Vega, who was the master at cleaning and piecing together a presentable set of interior panels and carpeting. Since the donor van was cleaner than Tommy's, the guys decided to use its interior, but Ralph still stripped down the cabin until it was just sheet metal and factory insulation. He took all the plastic panels and carpeting home, cleaned it up (in the pictures you can see him using a steamer to clean the van's floor), then brought everything back, all on his own time and dime.
PART 2: We document Tommy's van coming back together and its 2018 Cali Accord Meet surprise reveal, as well as grab some parting beauty shots of the van in its new trim.