I had the master plan of collaborating with a group of buddies to build a 1999 Honda Civic "EK" hatchback. It would've been a joint venture with the guys from the NorCal Honda crew ATS Garage, my good friend Phillip Trinh and myself. The project started as a $1,500 fixer-upper, needing virtually every major component to the tiniest detail replaced - we're talking a single-cam D-series that was barely running, and a halfway gutted, halfway rotting interior that'd been sitting out in the sun for years. Basically, a bonafide shitbox, but it had a lot of potential
Within the first month of kicking off "Project EK", we came out of the gates flying, having already installed A'PEXi ExV coilovers and refinished a set of old school 15-inch SSR Type X wheels (published in our first build update). After that, progress halted and the project slowly became an afterthought as we all got too busy with our own lives and careers (I'm guilty as charged). Guess you could say the EK was put on the backburner for at least a few years.
Determined to see this Civic come to fruition, Phil took it upon himself to take the reins and ATS and myself stepped down from the project. Today, after five years, I'm happy to announce that Project EK is finally finished and looks and drives better than any of us could've ever imagined!
The mission for the project was to introduce a simple and clean Honda build from the ground-up, that didn't cut any corners. It's been done a million times, yes, but we just don't see nearly as many examples like we used to, with many seasoned enthusiasts and car builders moving on to newer, higher-dollar performance cars, luxury sedans and also realizing their childhood dreams in the form of a JDM legend (Skyline GT-R, Mazda RX-7, Acura NSX, etc. ). A beaten-up Honda Civic hatch that would require a bit of work and resourcefulness is not on everyone's wish list, but our plan was to not give up on the EK and to inspire.
A secondary goal for the build was to legalize it in the state of California using a JDM engine. If you can't drive it on the street without the worry of getting fined or impounded, what fun is that?! Underneath the hood is a common 1.6-liter JDM B16A, which aren't too difficult to find; however, in the state of Cali, it takes a little extra effort to pass Smog. Making it official on paper requires swapping over emissions controls and other components to allow the motor to pass with flying colors, which Phil accomplished by locating a U.S.-spec ECU, oil pump, crank angle sensor, EVAP canisters and other tidbits. Most of these parts were borrowed from donor engines or found in junkyards. It's not like finding a needle in a haystack, but takes a little legwork.
In addition to clearing California's Smog check, Phil did his due diligence to strengthen the B-series by adding larger pistons and Supertech valvesprings and retainers, before completing the setup with a DC Sports header, A'PEXi air filter and Hasport engine mounts.
Aside from the engine, you'll notice the rest of the car looks brand new and that's because Phil went to great lengths scouring for excellent condition replacement parts (every molding, gasket, seal, etc.) at wrecking yards, Facebook marketplace, HMO (shoutout to Steve), Craigslist - you name it. Keeping the EK OEM+, he opted against body kits or fitting any parts that might be "too race" for the theme. The exterior is comprised of styling components from a JDM Civic Type R plus power folding mirrors from a European EK4 model. The chassis features CTR sway bars and Integra Type R brake calipers, while some aftermarket help was called on for things like the EBC rotors and pads (Type R spec), Voodoo13 rear lower control arms and R Crew subframe brace.
Inside, you won't find any race bucket seats or tiny steering wheel, but more OEM+ goodies like the Recaros and Civic Type R wheel, rear seats and door panels. Keeping the radio OG is a JDM Gathers double-din with a foldout TV which plugs in and works with the U.S. radio, no problem. He's also replaced every OEM piece and panel to look and feel practically as fresh as it did 30 years ago, not to mention the A/C turns on like a charm.
The final piece of the puzzle was the paint, and it's the question Phil gets asked the most. While the car was down getting the engine rebuilt, Priola Body Shop in San Mateo was responsible for spraying the EK shell its stunning shade of Fashion Grey, which is typically something you'd notice on a 911 GT3.
In conclusion, there were a couple of lessons to be learned with this build. First, come up with a definitive plan and budget when building a project car with partners. It's no one's fault this EK didn't get up off the ground for several years, but people get busy, and with no deadlines and clear responsibilities outlined, it fell through the cracks. The second lesson is that not all Honda builds, let alone project car builds, need to have a lot of power, custom body work or to be the hottest thing on social media. Phil's EK is one of the most modest, street-legal Honda builds that has surfaced in the last few years. It's basically a left-hand-drive JDM Civic Type R (sans motor), or a '99 Civic Si-spec hatchback. It has a minimalist approach with a restrained amount of aftermarket influence, which is perhaps why it strikes a chord with me. It's executed well and has enough presence to draw a crowd at a local car meet or a large-scale event like Eibach Meet. It also demonstrates there's a lot of ways to build cool shit in this car scene, even if it's a so-called "played-out Honda hatchback" that's been done a million times over.
EK INSPIRATION FROM THE ARCHIVES
Tactical Art Japan's 250whp B-Series Wonder.
Legit EK9 Civic Type R with nothing but Spoon parts.
Tastefully tuned and Type R-powered 2000 Honda Civic.
|Car:||1999 Honda Civic (EK)|
|Owner:||OWNER Phillip Trinh|
|Hometown:||San Francisco, CA|
|Engine:||JDM 1.6-liter four-cylinder DOHC VTEC B16A 2nd generation engine swap; 82mm P30 pistons; Supertech valvesprings and retainers; DC Sports 4-2-1 one-piece stainless header; A'PEXi air filter; Koyo radiator; Hasport mounts|
|Drivetrain:||B16A five-speed manual transmission with GSR 5th gear; Exedy stage 1 clutch; ITR flywheel|
|Footwork & Chassis:||A'PEXi N1 ExV 32-way adjustable coilovers; JDM CTR front and rear sway bars; R Crew rear subframe brace; Voodoo13 rear lower control arms|
|Brakes ITR:||front calipers; EBC slotted rotors and Yellow pads (spec for Type R front and EP3 Civic Si rear); Russell stainless lines|
|Wheels & Tires:||15x7" +35 SSR Type X wheels polished by LAX Wheel Refinishing; 195/55R15 Toyo Extensa HP tires|
|Exterior JDM CTR:||front lip, front grille, headlights, rear lip, rear wing, flat moldings; EDM EK4 power folding mirrors; Porsche Fashion Grey paint by Priola Body Shop|
|Interior:||Recaro Confetti SR3 front seats; JDM EK9 CTR N1 steering wheel, rear seats and door panels, shift boot; Gathers double-din radio with fold-out TV|