Strap In the Kids: It’s a 1,029-hp Honda Minivan

Seeing a customized version of a model does influence the purchase decision of 8% of new-vehicle buyers, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Assn. and market researcher AutoPacific.

Alysha Webb, Contributor

July 23, 2014

4 Min Read
Customizer spices up meatandpotatoes minivan
Customizer spices up meat-and-potatoes minivan.

Bisi Ezerioha, founder of Bisimoto Engineering, has been a drag racer for two decades. He loves fast cars, but now he’s a family man with an 18-month-old daughter. So when he considered what Honda model to customize for the 2013 SEMA show, Ezerioha settled on the Odyssey minivan.

“I thought it would be cool if I did something more family-friendly,” he says.

The minivan segment faces serious challenges from the CUV segment, though it is showing some recovery after years of slumping sales. The model needs a new fan base, however, and with out-of-the-box marketing such as turning its minivan into a speed machine Honda hopes to convince a new generation of car buyers of the minivan’s merits.

“It was good timing to try to get some attention among the Gen Y audience, and what better way to do it than build a 1,000-hp minivan?” says Chris Martin, head of Western Region public relations at Honda North America.

Sales of minivans, once the preferred vehicle for growing families, declined dramatically from 2007 through 2009.  Demand has begun to climb again as automakers come out with sexier models, but the segment is still struggling.

“The recovery in minivan sales has fallen far short of the industry average,” says Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s

Honda has long held a top-3 spot in the minivan market but that doesn’t equate to big sales numbers. Honda sold 128,984 Odysseys in 2013, tops for retail sales, according to Martin. Sales for the first six months of 2014 totaled 63,297 units, down 4.8% year-on-year.

To make the Odyssey more appealing to those Gen Y buyers, Honda spruced up the ’14 version – which is basically the ’11 model-year minivan – by, among other changes, making Bluetooth and rear-view camera standard on some trims and installing a new front crash structure that earned a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Honda also added a vacuum cleaner, the ultimate family-friendly touch.

A Minivan Among Performance Kings

The pumped-up Odyssey stood out for its ordinariness in a parking lot filled with Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Dodge Vipers at a recent event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

Ezerioha stood proudly by his machine, however, knowing that under the innocuous minivan facade lurked a 3.5L turbocharged V-6 engine that runs on EP5 ethanol fuel and makes 1,029 hp. It’s tied to a 6-speed manual gearbox borrowed from an Acura TL Type S sedan.

The rest of the minivan – doors, windows, reverse cameras and the like – is mostly factory-issued, Ezerioha says. The seats are braided leather, however, as is the casing on the stickshift. Not to be overlooked is an air suspension that rides low – “purely for aesthetics,” he says – but can be raised in the event of a large speed bump or steep driveway.

Norm Reeves Honda in Cerritos, CA, sponsors Ezerioha, supplying the engine, some parts and cash, General Manager Brad Mugg says. The modified Odyssey was on display at the dealership for a few weeks after the SEMA show.

The partnership with Bisimoto has been in place for seven years and has paid off. “Bisi sends me all kinds of business,” Mugg says. “We have car shows and when he comes, everybody comes.”

Most people aren’t going to want a 1,029-hp minivan, Honda’s Martin concedes, but says, “Our hope is to position the vehicle as something you can personalize.”

Seeing a customized version of a model does influence the purchase decision of 8% of new-vehicle buyers, according to a study by the Specialty Equipment Market Assn. and market researcher AutoPacific.

Modifiers such as Ezerioha also have outsized influence on purchase decisions, says Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president-communications and events. “The gearheads of the world serve as a go-to person on ‘What new car and truck I should buy?’” he says.

Ezerioha, or Bisi as he is usually called, has gearhead cred. The 39-year old came to the U.S. from Nigeria to study chemical engineering in 1989, but his true love was drag racing. He started racing in 1994 and still does. Ezerioha started Bisimoto in 2006 to design high-performance parts. He has created five show cars for Honda.

The modified Odyssey already is generating business for Bisimoto, located in Ontario, CA. Since the SEMA show, he says has been inundated with requests for a similar vehicle, including 17 that seemed serious. An Odyssey such as the show car would cost $85,000 to $100,000, including the cost of the vehicle, Ezerioha says.

A $100,000 minivan isn’t within everyone’s reach. But every Odyssey owner can have a little bit of high performance, Ezerioha says. They can add an air-ride suspension, for example, or buy wind deflectors from a Honda dealer. “Even if someone doesn’t want crazy high performance, it is easy for them to upgrade.”

About the Author(s)

Alysha Webb


Based in Los Angeles, Alysha Webb has written about myriad aspects of the automotive industry for more than than two decades, including automotive retail, manufacturing, suppliers, and electric vehicles. She began her automotive journalism career in China and wrote reports for Wards Intelligence on China's electric vehicle future and China's autonomous vehicle future. 

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