Francis Gosselin is the sort of lunatic who looks at a lightweight and balanced sports car like the Honda S2000 and says, “this is nice, but it could use another 400 hp.” For years, he’s been engine swapping everything from S2000s to RX-8s, RX-7s; you name it, in his Montreal-based shop Serious Swap. This is his baby: meet the 500+ whp V10 swapped Honda S2000, named Katrina.
Before the Honda purists grab their pitch forks, this S2000 was as good as dead when Francis picked her up. Originally US registered; it had just 30,000 miles on the clock when it was caught in Hurricane Katrina. According to Francis, it spent days under several feet of flood water before it was rescued and brought to Montreal. With flood damage on its title, it was immediately parted out leaving just a door and a shell. That shell sat in a local backyard for five years of rain, snow, and slush before Francis came across it. Being a longtime drifting fanatic, the shell’s fate was obvious to him when he came across it: “I knew I couldn’t register it, so I had a plan; drift car!”
Around the same time, a customer came to him looking to twin-turbocharge his 2006 Dodge Viper, but rather than boost the original motor, Francis swapped in a built engine. Then, rather than pay labor on the build, the customer gave him the original engine as payment for the job. Combine that engine, the S2000 shell, a T56 transmission and a momentous amount of custom work, and the V10 powered S2000 was born. The full list of parts used reads off like a pre-owned car dealership inventory list. The rear differential is from a Nissan 350z that’s been welded; the result of breaking eight different differentials before settling on the Nissan’s. The rack and pinion steering rack is from a Ford Mustang to allow for greater steering angle. The brake master cylinder is actually the clutch master cylinder out of a Mazda RX-8 after he experienced problems with the Wilwood master cylinder that came with the car’s big brake kit.
Wheels and tires? During his time at TOPP Drift, I watched Francis mount OEM Acura wheels, Ford Mustang wheels, and Mazda RX-8 wheels, to name a few. Like other grass-roots drifters, Francis relies on cheap used tires, and will literally go through a set in two laps of Shannonville. Photographing Francis on track was a challenge, because by the time he came around for a second lap, tire smoke from his first lap was still lingering in the air creating a smoke screen, and trying to capture any car behind him was utterly pointless.
If you spend enough time on the internet, you’ start to believe that doing an engine swap is easy. It’s not. It’s really freaking hard. Everything on this car is custom. Custom engine mounts, custom steering rack mounts, a custom toe-arm adapter to allow the Ford rack to work with Honda spindles, a custom driveshaft, custom differential mounts, custom half-shafts. That’s not including the custom wiring to allow the whole car to communicate, all the fuel line fittings, vacuum hoses, you name it. When I asked Francis how he learned this sort of complex engineering, he shrugged and remarked, “over the years, I learned tricks.”
How difficult is it to actually fit a Viper V10 and a T56 transmission into an S2000? Francis makes it sound easy. The transmission tunnel and engine bay provided enough room for the V10 and beefier transmission. The only cutting needed was done to allow the starter motor to clear the body. Has it been reliable? After three years of drifting, the only thing he’s broken has been an axle.
The actual build started just one week before the infamous Hondafest. It took three days to get the car painted with the grey and orange scheme you see today. After another three days, the car was mostly complete, just missing a wiring harness and a radiator. After it was finished shocking and offending Honda-loyalists at Hondafest, it returned home and sat untouched for another year. One week before next year’s Hondafest, the car was finally complete and ready to kill tires.
Over the years, I’ve learned that there are car enthusiasts, and driving enthusiasts, and a whole spectrum between the two. Stance guys fall into the former category. For them, a car is a work of art to be photographed and admired. Then you have guys like Francis. The hood doesn’t clear the V10’s intake manifold? Take an angle grinder and cut a hole in it. Bumpers keep breaking off during drifting? Replace them with crash bars. This car has one purpose in life: generate tire smoke and go sideways. Francis is one of those bona fide automotive legends who can make quick work of an engineering problem using an angle grinder and a tig welder; work that would have taken actual engineers months of CNC design. Katrina is the ultimate expression of resourcefulness, and the end result is badass. Something tells me we’ll be seeing more of Francis in the future — possibly at a small event known locally at Formula Drift.