The company tunes and races Honda vehicles in the Super GT championship, and, additionally, sells aftermarket parts to amateur enthusiasts. It was part of partnerships that won the Formula 3000 championship in 1990 and 1991, and that eventually led to Mugen's involvement in Formula 1, from 1992 to 1999, and up to 2005 was the exclusive supplier of Formula Nippon engines.
The company specializes in tuning Honda engines, beginning with the 1200 cc Honda Civic engine, but has since developed and can now design and build both two-stroke and four-stroke engines and manufacture many of the major components.
Mugen ultimately intends to build its own road cars and the first step towards this was the creation of bodykits for the Honda Ballade CR-X in 1984. Since then, the company has produced a number of body kits for Honda machinery, culminating in 1992 in the Mugen NSX prototype.
Mugen was restructured in late 2003 following Hirotoshi Honda's tax evasion scandal, and a new company called M-TEC was established shortly in early 2004. M-TEC retained the right to use the Mugen trademark and is based in the current headquarters in Asaka, Saitama, in the northern suburbs of Tokyo and close to the Honda R&D facility at Wako, and will retain the company's existing staff but will be legally unconnected with the old firm. The newly restructured company is now headed by Mugen board member Shin Nagaosa. Nagaosa was the manager of the engineering division of the company and in recent years has been largely involved with running Mugen's NSX racing program.
In 1988, Mugen started tuning Honda engines for use in Formula 3, winning the Japanese series with Akihiko Nakaya, and in 1990 expanded their business to Europe. The same year, Mugen won its first Formula 3 championships in Europe, taking the French title with Eric Hélary, and the British crown with Mika Häkkinen at the wheel of a West Surrey Racing Reynard, which repeated the title in 1991 with Rubens Barrichello.
As F3000 became a spec-series in Europe starting in 1996 with the Lola-Judd combo, the Japanese series responded by making Mugen the sole supplier to the Japanese championship, now redubbed Formula Nippon. M-TEC lost the supply contract for the 2006 season, with the rules changing to allow Toyota associate TOM'S to join Mugen as engine supplier. Mugen continues to enjoy success in the Formula 3 circuit with its tuned 2.0 L Honda engines, having won 9 titles in Asia (8 of which in Japan) since 1988, as well as 19 titles in Europe (15 of them in Britain), and 13 in Latin America.
At the end of the year, Mugen switched to Team Lotus with plans for a new Lotus 109. The team - with drivers Johnny Herbert and Pedro Lamy (later replaced by Alessandro Zanardi) - was underfunded and the 109 chassis was late arriving. The Mugen engine, codenamed ZA5C, was not able to show its full potential and, after Lotus closed at the end of the year, Mugen switched to the Ligier team, which was then being run for Flavio Briatore by Tom Walkinshaw, with drivers Olivier Panis, Martin Brundle and Aguri Suzuki. The 3.0 L engine, conforming to the new regulations, was codenamed MF301H. The connection with Ligier resulted in Mugen's first Formula 1 victory at the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix with Panis at the wheel.
The team was taken over by Alain Prost in 1997, and the newly-named Prost Grand Prix ran MF301H-B engines with Jarno Trulli leading the Austrian Grand Prix before suffering engine failure. With Prost establishing a relationship with Peugeot in 1998, Mugen looked for a new partner and reached a two-year agreement with Jordan Grand Prix for which Mugen produced the MF201H-C engine. The 1998 season was not a success until Spa-Francorchamps, when Jordan drivers Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher scored a 1-2 finish.
The 1999 season resulted in further success with Heinz-Harald Frentzen winning twice, but then the Honda Motor Company announced that it would be returning with its own engines in 2000 with British American Racing. Mugen pulled out of F1 at the end of the 2000 season leaving Honda to supply the engines to Jordan as well.
In 2001, Mugen concentrated once more in the JGTC, the NSX winning two races, and finishing second (Mugen/Dome) and third (ARTA) in the series. More importantly, in June, the company announced development of the a new 4.0 L V8, dubbed MF408S, for the main prototype class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and American Le Mans Series. At the time, Mugen acknowledged that international sportscar racing was a new category for them. The concept of the MF408S was high power, compact size, durability and reliability. Mugen chose a 4.0 L normally aspirated engine because they felt through their experience in Formula 3 that restrictor size was key to performance. The idea was to save fuel with a smaller displacement engine, since, theoretically, restrictor size will bring power in any engine to a similar level. The main engines in use at the time were producing around 600 hp, including the turbocharged Audi and Cadillac, as well as the larger displacement BMW and the Roush-prepared Ford. Mugen excluded a turbo as this necessitated use of intercoolers to extract maximum performance, which added to the weight and reduced performance.
2002 was a good year for Mugen at the track. The Mugen-prepared NSXs won five rounds, with the Mugen/Dome team winning two races outright, which gave them the Team's championship title. The debut of the MF408S was in a Panoz chassis in the 2002 Sebring 12 Hours, first round of ALMS.
In 2004, M-TEC decided to drop down to GT300 and help train Japanese drivers for GT500 speeds. By grabbing promising drivers early in their careers, M-TEC would then be able to mold them and have definite access to future champions. M-TEC driver, Hiroyuki Yagi, was sourced from the Integra Series. Giving the drivers experience was more important than developing the car to take the championship. To this end, M-TEC simply detuned the car for the GT300 class without optimizing it for the new power level. Winning the GT300 series by one point over the ARTA Garaiya was simply an unintended bonus for a dedicated, championship-level team.
Breaking into the United States is another goal for the M-TEC team and the Mugen name. Currently, the authorized dealer of Mugen parts in the US is King Motorsports. Team director Junichi Kumakura thought racing the NSX in the United States was a great way to promote the company in a previously unvisited environment. When asked what else M-TEC would like to accomplish in America with the golden NSX, competing at Sebring and Daytona were marked as attractive goals.