Sometimes in life it's not where you start, but where you end up. In the world of tuned street cars, few rise higher with the kind of frequency that DX-model Civics do, the lowliest low of a line-up cast from a cut-rate commuter mold. Other cars make big transitions, too: a carbureted SR5 Corolla can be morphed into an injected GT-S; a 240SX converted into a JDM Silvia; and an SC300 can be Supra swapped. But for Honda fans, it starts with the DX.
The whipping boy of the Civic family, the DX's measly 106 hp, zero-VTEC powerplant gives the word "anemic" a bad name, while its limited upscale amenities make the commute feel like punishment. But like a lot of us believe, anything with an "H" on the hood has unlimited potential. If the Civic didn't, it wouldn't be the most heavily supported import on the road today.
Albert Yau rolls the Windy City in a JDM Civic Type-R-inspired EK Civic that rolled of the assembly line in DX trim. As is often the case, this car was made possible by the tragic demise of another. "My passion for building this hatch began in '98 when I crashed my beloved '95 Civic coupe," says Yau. "During that time, my dream car was the Japanese Civic Type-R. I loved everything about it, how it looked, how the bodylines flowed on the car, its track-inspired design and engineering... all of it. Back in '99, the import scene was just starting to pick up here in Chicago but it was still lagging a bit compared to cars on the coasts, so I went right to the source and set-off to build something that mimicked cars that were being built in Japan. The JDM phenomenon wasn't really that big yet, so I decided to build something that Chicago wasn't used to seeing."
Yau began to stockpile rare JDM gems as he searched for the right car. It turns out that the DX is the most logical platform. Why pay for a VTEC engine if you plan to scrap it for a Type-R B18C? He bought a brand new 2000 DX hatch and started wrenching.
But his creation needed to be adaptable. "I think the biggest challenge for me was to build a car that was elite yet safe enough to drive on the streets of Chicago," says Yau. "I work for the Chicago Public Schools as a hardware technician and my job requires me to travel throughout the city. Some of the 'hoods here in Chicago aren't exactly the safest spots to be parking a tricked out car. So, the EK had to be streetable and ready to handle the rigors of daily driving while avoiding the flashy body kits and not placing too much importance on the overall exterior of the car. I've had front and rear lips stolen on several occasions, beer bottles thrown at it, radios and subwoofers stolen... The mentality going into this project was to keep it looking as simple as possible and just drive it everyday proudly so that all the JDM Civic Type R mods would give that custom look without the flash."
Consequently, every trim item on the shell has been converted to CTR status with a Mugen roof spoiler and VIS carbon hood thrown in for good measure.
The under hood has both more flash and more substance than the body. Yau says, "The car has been through three motors, one notable favorite being the Civic Type-R B16B powerplant. I was never able to get it running correctly so I ditched that idea and upgraded to the current motor, a JDM B18C-R. Being a novice at motor installations, the hardest and most annoying obstacles were getting these JDM motors to run correctly while getting them OBD-II compliant. It's just been a pain to work with."
The B-series bullet has been fortified with Toda Spec-B cams, Toda springs, Supertech valves, a Comptech intake, JDM header and a Mugen exhaust system. Tuning was achieved with a custom programmed P28 ECU and an APEXi V-AFC II piggyback fuel computer.
In the flash department we find a Mugen valve cover, Cusco cooling plate, Mugen strut tower bar and number of other touches.
Yau knows his ride best, so we asked him about its highlights. "I believe that suspension and chassis-related mods make the most difference in your driving experience. I always tell people the most 'feel' for your money is spending it on good suspension parts like the Tanabe Sustec Pro coilovers because it changes the way your car handles dramatically."
"Also, I went from a stock motor with a 55-shot of nitrous that I used daily-and squeezed through one bottle per week for an entire year-to a stock Civic Type-R B16B engine to finally a Japanese ITR B18C-R with a Toda Spec-B package. That's quite a transition. And, who doesn't love power under the hood?"
Honda JDM is defined by Mugen and aside from the Mugen 'bling factor,' Yau loves how their parts blend form and functionality. Driving the streets of Chicago can be pretty demanding on the rims, which is why the forged mf-8's were his rim of choice. They've withstood thousands of potholes and he has never dented or pinch-flattened a tire on any of them.
Yau's plan for the Civic is to pass emissions annually and leave it the way it is. "In my opinion, the JDM Honda scene became too saturated, too quickly. It's hard to build standout Hondas nowadays. As for the future, I'll just enjoy the ride and hopefully hit the track whenever the ice thaws."
Bolts & Washers
Albert Yau's 2000 Civic DX Hatchback
Yau's JDM B18C-R engine is all stock below the head. The valvetrain has been augmented with Toda Spec-B cams, Supertech valves, Toda springs and a Toda belt. Fuel has been addressed with RC Engineering 310cc injectors, an A'pexi V-AFC-II computer and a custom programmed p28. Bolt-ons include a Comptech icebox cold air intake, JDM 4-1 header, 2.5-inch high-flow cat, Mugen cat-back exhaust, OEM dual core radiator, Cusco cooling plate and Energy suspension polyurethane motor mounts.The driveline has been enhanced with a JDM 4.7 final gearACT sport clutch, an Exedy flywheel and a C's short throw shifter.
Rims & Rubber
Stout 16-inch bronze-hued Mugen MF-8 rims wrapped with Yokohama ES100 tires are willing and able to stand up to the ice-ravaged roads of Chicago.
Chassis stiffening has been addressed with Mugen front and rear shock tower bars, a Comptech sway tie bar, a JDM Civic Type-R front LCA and sway bar, a carbon-fiber C-pillar bar, a JDM A-sports fender frame brace and a Jim Fab front traction bar. A Tanabe Sustec Pro coilover suspension and Sprint Suspension rear camber kit provide damping and maximize the car's contact patch.
A Fastbrakes 11-inch big brake front kit and upgraded rear disc brakes featuring Brembo cross-drilled rotors and Hawk HP brake pads increase the Honda's stopping power.
Outside: The DX was transformed to JDM status with Civic Type R (CTR) body parts. Yau added a CTR rear lip, a CTR front lip, a CTR front grille, CTR side markers, CTR OEM door visors, CTR non-folding mirrors, CTR headlamps w/super yellow daytime lights and JDM 7000k super yellow HID headlights. All body moldings and mirrors are paint matched. A Mugen spoiler and VIS carbon-fiber hood round out the body-tuning program.
Inside: The CTR rally cry is heard in the cockpit as well. Yau has installed JDM Civic Type R (CTR) Recaro seats, a JDM CTR airbag tray, a JDM CTR titanium shift knob, a JDM CTR shift boot, a JDM CTR vent pocket, a JDM CTR Momo steering wheel, JDM CTR power window door panels, a JDM CTR gauge cluster (in kilometers), JDM CTR floor mats, JDM CTR red carpet, USDM Integra Type-R rear seats, a USDM ITR armrest and Mugen pedals.
Entertainment is provided by an Alpine 9385 glide-control head unit with iPOD controller that signals Alpine 6.5-inch 3-way front speakers and Alpine 6x9 Type R 2-way rear speakers. An Alpine 800watt 5-channel v12 amp powers the separates and the Alpine Type R DVC 12-inch subwoofer with sealed box.
I want to thank all my boys at Team Slowspeed who helped me through all the years and props to the guys at TopSetup and Whipfactory.