Printer Image

Designcraft Debuts K&N-Supported AWD Turbo Honda Powered Bugeye At LA Auto Show

The turbo Honda powered Bugeye Sprite gets a final polish for the LA Auto Show opens to the public

The turbo Honda powered Bugeye Sprite gets a final polish for the LA Auto Show opens to the public

Sometimes things just work out when you drive the long way home. Just ask Minh Ta. Minh would drive past the Designcraft Fabrication shop slowly and take a peek at what Gary Castillo and his crew were working on. Eventually Minh stopped at the Westminster, California, shop and a conversation ensued about what Gary could do with the 1960 Austin “Bugeye” Sprite that Minh had hanging around.

We’d be surprised if you’ve heard of Gary Castillo of Designcraft Fabrication before as much of his best work is displayed under someone else’s name. What happens is that a marketing firm will approach an automaker about building an attention-getting show car for SEMA or other auto show. Once the marketing company gets the approval and the money, they turn to Gary to convert their sketches into actual working show vehicles.

In Minh, Gary found an excellent partner. His only condition was that the Sprite be converted to AWD. As Gary pondered his options, he recognized it was going to be a tight fit on a car with only an 80-inch wheelbase. His solution was to take a FWD engine and transmission and mount it longitudinally. This way the six-speed transmission’s diff operated as the center diff, with front and rear differentials at each end from a Nissan GT-R and with that arrangement met Minh’s requirement.

The massive K&N Filter can feed more than enough air than the turbo KA20 needs

The massive K&N Filter can feed more than enough air than the turbo KA20 needs

After that, according to Gary, whatever he and his team came up with for ideas on how to build the car, Minh gave him the go-ahead - clearly demonstrating his trust and patience as the build took a year-and-a-half.

The engine is a Honda K20A, well-known for its capability of producing prodigious power while retaining reliability. The only internal engine mods made were JE pistons and K1 connecting rods. Outside the engine, a Garrett GT3076 turbo has been fitted with Turbosmart 33 mm wastegate and blowoff valve. The ECU is from Hondata with a RYWIRE harness. The intake, fitted with a sizeable K&N filter, the exhaust system, and the dump tubes were all fabricated by Designcraft. Fuel is fed from an ATL fuel cell in the trunk through AEM 440 LPH pumps.

“We tried to keep as much of the original frame as possible,” Gary explained. A tough task when you’ve at least tripled the horsepower that the car was designed for. A subframe was created that further stiffened the stock structure and is visible in a few places: the double-hoop roll bar and the replacement of the transmission tunnel by four steel tubes, for example. The shift linkage was designed and fabricated in-house and the shift knob features a Bluetooth control of the Rockford Fosgate system that includes three 10-inch subs.

The single center-mounted iPad serves as the complete instrument panel for the Bugeye

The single center-mounted iPad serves as the complete instrument panel for the Bugeye

In the cockpit, all vehicle operations are controlled via an embedded iPad. The iPad runs two apps, one from Switchpros that controls the functions of the car like fuel pumps and ignition, while the other serves as a “glass cockpit” with integrated tachometer, speedometer, and engine function gauges. Driver and passenger fit snugly into specially-modified vintage racing seats from Sparco, with the driver facing a Sparco steering wheel.

Creating a modern suspension inside the confines of such a small car was another major hurdle. At the front, a pushrod system was fabricated at Designcraft, right down to the control arms, steering knuckles, and cantilever shock arrangement. At the rear is another custom set-up, with the shocks mounted between cockpit and truck and operated via long pushrods. Because of space limitation, and the lightness of the car, Gary was able to use Suzuki RM125 coilovers all the way around. Braking is via four-piston Wilwood calipers at the front and two piston calipers at the rear.

Walk around the exterior and among the first things you’ll notice are what appears to be enormous wheels and tires stuffed under the Sports Car Motion overfenders. But it’s an optical illusion, as the Sprite is so small. At the front 205/40R16 Falken tires wrap 16X9.5-inch custom HRE wheels, while at the rear slightly larger 225/45R16 tires from the Japanese manufacturer are mounted to 225/45R16 HREs. Because the open diff in the Honda transaxle now serves as the transfer case, the Bugeye can accommodate different diameter tires without tearing the drivetrain apart.

Custom narrow Sparco vintage style seats were installed in the snug confines of the Bugeye's coc

Custom narrow Sparco vintage style seats were installed in the snug confines of the Bugeye's cockpit

A KSR vent has been fitted the hood and the entire car is finished in a striking paint combination of Valspar Silhouette Mica Black with a Nantucket Grey stripe. A four-inch acrylic deflector serves as the windshield, so it might be a good time for Minh to invest in a pair of vintage aviator goggles.

In its first day on the show floor, Gary reported the Bugeye attracted a lot of attention from a variety of different audiences when the doors opened to the public at the 2017 LA Auto Show. Admirers ranged from older fans of classic sports car fans to younger street tuners and drift fanatics. “Everybody is really digging the car,” as Gary so succinctly put it.

Gary wanted to make sure he thanked the Designcraft crew who worked so hard over the long 18 months this project required: Tony Ruiz, Sean Adriano, David Lim, Steve Chan, Kenny Chieu, Eric Song, Alan Viado, Salvador Reyes, and the man so awesome he needs no last name, Caesar.

Minh and Designcraft may well be bringing the Sprite to the K&N World Headquarters where we’ll have a chance to get more detailed photographs, perhaps roll it up on our dyno, and maybe even take a turn behind the wheel and report the experience back to you. Stay tuned!


K&N PRODUCT SEARCH     WHERE TO BUY K&N


K&N Blog Home