I well remember my first experience with an HKS-tuned car. It was a 1998 Toyota Supra, the last of the breed, built as a showcase of the Supra's latent potential as a very tunable super car. All HKS did was change out the suspension, wheels and tires and make improvements to the engine's air-moving capabilities (airflow meter, exhaust, intercooler and turbo upgrades). The result, if I remember correctly, was an exercise in sheer terror. I got to take a hot lap in the car with one of my colleagues, and I'm sure there are still fragments of my fingernails embedded somewhere in the car's leather and vinyl cockpit.
HKS has been turning out impressive project cars here in the United States for nearly 15 years, since the American branch of the Japanese aftermarket firm first opened its doors in 1986. Raw material for these projects has ranged from your average, everyday domestic market offerings like Civics or the aforementioned Supra to strictly Japanese-spec unobtainables like the Nissan Skyline GT-R. In recent years, HKS has expanded its product lines to accommodate American cars, European imports and SUVs in addition to the traditional Japanese compact cars.
The car pictured here is a 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, and has, to date, undergone not one, but two project car facelifts in the HKS garage. It was the company's booth car at the SEMA show in 1995 and the L.A. Auto Show in 1997. During this period of time, it sported a quasi-drag setup; quasi meaning it looked like a drag car, with a fully stripped interior, rollcage and racing slicks at all four corners, but didn't have the motor to match. Ryan Nufable, a sales supervisor at HKS USA, saw the car before he ever went to work for the company and decided he would like to own such a vehicle. When he actually went to work for HKS, he learned that the car had been returned to factory condition and was up for sale.
Nufable's aims were not to make some fire-breathing, track-only vehicle; his goal was to make a fire-breathing, street-legal daily driver. As even the most dull-witted pseudo-tuners know, the key to straight-line acceleration and overall speed is the car's engine. Accordingly, Nufable attacked the Eclipse's engine bay with an array of bolt-on parts from HKS, most prominent among them being intercooler and turbo upgrades. The stock turbo has been replaced with an HKS GT25 Sport Turbo Upgrade, a T3/T25 hybrid with nine clipped turbine blades as opposed to the stock unit's 10. These blades, which are also slightly larger than those on the factory turbocharger, combined with GT-style wheels, allow for slightly increased airflow, which translates, in turn, to a significant increase in engine output.