Finding That Perfect Balance of Street And Track


It’s safe to say that Angel Pena, owner of this supercharged 2008 Acura TSX, has a “type.” Having been enamored with Acura’s entry-level sedan ever since it was first introduced, he knew right away he’d get his hands on one, and eventually, he did just that. Today, a decade later, he’s moved on to his second TSX chassis and managed to find a picture-perfect combination of what so many others often strive for: an almost completely street-legal build that’s tame enough for the street yet can hold its own on the track.  

Right Car, Wrong Color

That initial purchase, a 2005 Carbon Grey version of the TSX about a decade ago, proved to be everything he imagined, though it was simply the wrong color. Angel adds, “My dream was always to own a white TSX. This year I found the perfect shell: 2008 model in white with a black interior.” The chase for that tough-to-locate color combo and, more importantly, one that met his high levels of expectation led to Tennessee. Angel and the owner came to an agreement and the shell was then shipped cross-country, arriving safely at its new Southern California home.

Having already pieced together quite the build prior to acquiring the new chassis, Angel didn’t have to hit the web to start sourcing parts, as he had the ideal donor car in his grey ’05, which was packed with suspension and performance goods that he simply had to remove and install on the new purchase. The vision for this build was exactly the same as before, “My Goal was to have a great, reliable daily/track car that can be California legal. My TSX venture has gone through many changes, but within time, I have found my balance.”

The OEM+ Formula

From the outside, the OEM+ look and feel are apparent, with the almost required grill, front lip and back-dated headlight swap to Euro R spec for a more seamless look – minor changes that make a major difference in modernizing an otherwise aging USDM front fascia. On the “Plus” part of the equation, to even out the efforts of the front splitter, of which its origin Angel notes is completely unknown, there’s a carbon fiber J’s Racing wing. The rear addition might take away from the sleek, OEM look, but the trade-off of a controllable rear end at speed on track days is certainly worth it for Angel. The lower portion of the rear is capped with a Euro R lip that partially covers a pair of titanium exhaust finishers, courtesy of Mugen.

Wheels Make the Car

When Angel arrived at the studio, the first thing that stood out to me was the wheel and tire setup. Classic bronze CE28s on a white Honda rarely, if ever, fail to deliver. It’s an iconic look and one that’s been used plenty of times before and refuses to age. In Angel’s instance, the sizing of the wheels and tires up front had me doing a double take.

There’s no extreme camber or Braille-script fender markings, and from a distance you might think it’s a pretty standard setup. Get closer and you’ll notice there’s quite a bit of tire under those factory arches, as Bridgestone RE71Rs measuring 275/35 are wrapped around the 18×9.5 Volks up front, with 245/40s mounted to a 1-in. narrower rear wheel for a proper FWD stagger.

The Bait & Switch

Part of the transition from the grey TSX to this white version involved a number of suspension components, and rather than doing it in piecemeal fashion, Angel dropped the entire subframe on both cars and pulled the ol’ switcheroo, saving quite a bit of time. The bevy of upgrades included Feal coilovers loaded with Swift springs, ASR 32mm rear and OEM TL-S front sway bar combo, various arms and ball joints, all in excellent condition, which now do their work beneath the newer chassis. A big brake rear conversion and Spoon Sports front calipers are joined by StopTech rotors and Carbotech XP12 pads that make brake fade a thing of the past.

Stickin’ It to The Man

Building a car in California that is 100-percent street legal is a tall, if not impossible, order. The powers that be have been adamant about attacking even the slightest change to a vehicle, even if it doesn’t have an effect on emissions. Angel’s TSX toes the line with its modified exhaust that, incidentally, is very quiet, and when you lift the hood, you’re eye-to-eye with bolt-on forced induction – usually a no-no in these parts. His Comptech supercharger, however, carries a C.A.R.B. E.O. designation, as does the brand’s header, making them legal on Cali streets, though there are additional pieces under the hood that might be cause for alarm if he’s lucky enough to be chosen by the right officer. Regardless, Angel has carefully chosen power upgrades that are effective while making an honest attempt to stay within rather ridiculous state guidelines, which is no easy task.

Dual Personality

The factory K24 longblock remains almost completely stock internally, other than the additional safety measure Angel took in adding a 4Piston Racing ported oil pump. The power figures, afforded by the tuning keyboard strokes of KV Tuned, measure 353 hub horsepower, with 250 lb-ft of torque. More than just a grunt engine in a naked bay, just about all of the factory appointed pieces and accessories are still intact so that this TSX remains entirely street friendly.

That doesn’t mean Angel skipped out on the extras, having incorporated titanium pieces from Chasing J’s and Speedfactory Racing along with a slick, low-profile Hybrid Racing dip stick on a muted, matte black powder coated valvecover. It’s the sort of setup that’s user-friendly and makes more than adequate power while remaining completely reversible.

Essentially the opposite of the exterior, the sedan’s cabin puts more emphasis on track-minded goods as compared to OEM, with the rear seats long gone and, in their place, an Autopower 4-pt. roll bar, which includes an integrated harness bar to anchor twin Schroth harnesses. The bulky factory seats might as well be bags of cement, and in their place now are lighter, far more athletic Bride Zeta III Japan buckets.

You’ll find a few more titanium touches inside with fresh hardware and a Chasing J’s horn button applied to the Momo steering wheel and a Hybrid Racing titanium extension that bridges the gap between Hybrid’s latest TSX adjustable short shifter and their 130R Delrin shift knob.

Finding That Balance

We don’t get ahold of a large number of TSX builds, and Angel Pena’s 2008 model definitely stands out. Rather than an on/off switch of modifications that can never be undone and a loud, obnoxious bark, or the familiar “wheels and a drop scenario,” this TSX steps things up considerably with every crucial area of the car upgraded accordingly while never straying too far from the sporty, OEM sedan feel that initially drew Angel in.

2008 Acura TSX Specifications and Details

Engine Hasport mounts; Comptech supercharger built by JonBond Performance, header; Merc Racing J37 throttle body; Z-industries custom blower pulley; 4Piston Racing oil pump; custom pie-cut intake; Snake Bite Acura MDX crank pulley; throttle body adapter; IMT after cooler; Mugen titanium exhaust; Koyo Rad aluminum radiator; Samco hoses; AEM fuel pump; ID1000 injectors; Hondata FlashPro tuned by KV Tuned; Checkerd Sports battery tray; Interstate mini battery; Radium catch can; Chasing J’s titanium coil pack cover, oil cap; Hybrid Racing locking dipstick; GReddy rad cap; Rywire ground kit; Downstar hardware; Speedfactory Racing titanium manifold and valve cover hardware
Drivetrain Exedy HyperSingle clutch, flywheel; OS Giken differential
Suspension Feal 442 2-way coilovers; Swift springs; ASR 32mm hollow rear sway bar; Acura TL-S front sway bar; PCI front control arm bearings; TrueHart upper controls arms; GodSpeed rear camber kit; Ingalls rear arms; J’s Racing fender bracing, lower ball joints; Spoon Sports rigid collars front/rear; Comptech titanium front tower bar
Braking Spoon Sports front calipers; rear big brake conversion kit; StopTech front/rear slotted rotors; Carbotech XP12 front/rear pads; stainless lines
Wheels & Tires Volk CE28 18×9.5 +34 front, 18×8.5 +30 rear; Bridgestone RE71R 275/35 front, 245/40 rear
Exterior Euro R front and rear lips, front grill, grill badge, 2003-05 headlights; J’s Racing rear wing; Unknown front splitter
Interior Bride Zeta III Type L Japan seats; PCI seat rails; Schroth Racing 6-pt. harness; Momo Monte Carlo leather steering wheel; WorksBell hub, GTC tilt; Euro R pedals; Hybrid Racing shifter, shift knob, titanium extender; Zoom Engineering Monaco 240mm mirror
Thank You HeelToe AutoMotive ( Marcus And his Family ) for all the support since day one; RivalMachine (Gabe and Dan); Hybrid Racing (David); ASR Parts (Charleston and his Wife , OH! and their Dog; GhostWorks (James); Art of Attack; Corner3Garage; Tony Jackson; Cesar Pina; Gino Rodriguez; Homies at Jst4ffn; and I can not forget my lovely wife, Eleanor…or she will be mad!



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