Southridge grad takes need for speed to the next level

Kennewick's Reid Lunde lives in the fast lane. The 28-year-old self-taught speed mechanic has taken a 1996 Honda Civic where few imagined possible -- 171.9 mph in 8.83 seconds on a quarter-mile strip.

Rodeo fans take note: That's some kind of 8-second ride.

Lunde has made running the quarter-mile strip into a home-spun business. His speed shop on Gum Street in Kennewick, called Kaizenspeed, is all about the fine automotive art of fuel injection systems.

Tinkering with that Honda Civic has led to a bunch of innovations. The "KS tuned" brand is on everything from custom oil pans to balance shaft elimination kits -- something every Civic speed nut needs to go faster.

"The whole idea is to go faster, faster," said Lunde, a 2001 graduate of Southridge High School in Kennewick. He also has an associate's degree from Columbia Basin College, but most of what he knows about speed is self-taught.

Customers call from all around the Northwest and as far away as the Virgin Islands to learn what Lunde knows about squeezing the most power possible from a mere 134 cubic inches of combustion chamber displacement.

"Kaizenspeed is what I do every day, all day long," Lunde says.

The name is a reference to the Japanese word for continuous improvement.

The two constants in Lunde's passion are black, his color of choice for everything, and Honda's H22 engine, which is the basic building block for his ever-evolving engineering inventiveness.

"The car is how we learn. In racing you push yourself, or you lose," he said.

Lunde has another chance to win, or lose, at the Pacific Raceways Import Faceoff in Kent on Sept. 4.

He plans to win by making sure the Tacoma Speed Factory's front-wheel drive dragster lags behind his Civic's quickest time. That means defeating Tacoma's 8.72 seconds.

Lunde said they got there quicker, but he recorded the highest speed on the short run.

This time will be different, he said, thanks to higher compression pistons, adjustable front shocks and some aerodynamic sculpture work on the rear.

"We're going to be more slippery," he said.

So what's Lunde's secret?

"I sure don't put my foot on the throttle, close my eyes and hope for the best," he said.

After a decade of wrenching and driving, Lunde understands that he has to know precisely what is happening inside the engine during those metal-straining eight seconds.

"I spend hours on the dynamometer. We monitor everything. Our specialty is the principle of understanding fuel injection," he said.

"Everything" means exactly that -- taking temperatures at intake, exhaust and for turbo boost air flow, measuring revolutions in fractions of a single rotation, determining precise moments for ignition and valve positions and having weight distributed perfectly for maximum traction.

The goal is to produce the greatest amount of power and to waste as little as possible.

Running in the outlaw street class means Lunde has to have glass and headlights, a hood and fenders.

Lunde's Honda looks street legal, but oh what lies beneath that sheet metal, carbon fiber and glass.

The rear brakes have lost their iron discs and calipers, and are shod with lighter aluminum plates with go-cart squeeze boxes. The weight savings lets him put pounds up front where it aids in traction on the line.

Lunde's body weight in the driver's seat is counter balanced by 100 pounds of steel anchored to the car's front right underside. Purpose? To ensure 80 percent of the total vehicle weight is above the driving wheels.

"Without the weight, you'll just spin tires," he said.

Spin is wasted power and time, so Lunde also set up controls to limit revolutions when he's starting out in first, then into second gear. Full revs don't come until he's well off the line.

Lunde relies on a hand-picked team that includes crew chief Andy Divers; who does all the welding and sheet metal fabrication work; Nick Windom, who tinkered with him on Hondas in the backyard days; Shawn Lynch as front office manager, and Todd Cope, who transports and assists at races, and Scott Klekar as all-around mechanic.

Kaizenspeed blasted into public view in a big way this month with a feature article in Honda Tuning magazine based on Lunde's performance at the Las Vegas drags in May.

"It was the first time the car ran with all the new stuff, and we qualified second out of 51 cars," Lunde said.

Not bad for a 200 horsepower-rated factory four cylinder that now turns more than 1,000 horsepower.

Next up?

Lunde said the be-all, end-all event is to run at Englishtown, N.J., the granddaddy drag strip of them all.

All he needs are a few more quick times and about $10,000 in sponsorships.

"This is a lifestyle for a lot of people. It's not just what we do, it's what we are, Lunde said.