Honda turns Odyssey minivan into 500-hp mountain climber

Although its hard to tell from the cars it builds today, Honda has a long, glorious history in motorsports, from its founding through the Senna years and the original NSX up to the hot-hatch heyday of the '90s. After a long hibernation, those sporting instincts have begun to re-emerge, from the upcoming revival of the NSX to its role building engines for IndyCar.

None of which explains why Honda and its partners have taken an Odyssey minivan and turned it into a 532-hp beast that will race the dangerous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb later this month. Some ideas are too good for reasons.

Honda has gone whole hog for Pikes Peak this year, the 91st time the mountain has held its annual festival of speed, fielding 11 different vehicles from a Fit EV and a Le Mans-quality NSX to a Honda TRX450 ATV.

But even among the menagerie of metal that throws itself on and off Pikes Peak every year, the Odyssey will stand out. Built in part by workers at Honda's Alabama plant where it's assembled, the Odyssey's 3.5-liter V-6 has been blessed with a righteous Garrett GT35R turbo, more than doubling power to 532 hp (at the wheels) and 460 lb.-ft of torque.

The Odyssey also gets a few race bits — RPF1 wheels, upgraded Brembo brakes, competition springs and the limited-slip differential from the Acura TL — but in most respects appears as if it could still haul the kids to the gelato place if they can fit around the roll cage.

Driving duties for the mountain assault will fall to Honda IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud, who notes that the Odyssey now sports nearly as much power to its front wheels as his race car produces on the weekend. Pagenaud can't sleeepwalk through his climb; even experienced drives have suffered some nasty crashes falling off the mountain. But if the mountain Odyssey acquits itself well, it could help Honda get its performance mojo back — or at least offer some inspiration on how to make those gelato trips faster.