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1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

We submit the tale of 2 ED6 CRXs from divergent worlds crossing paths in pursuit of similar JDM-inspired, K-powered sickness.

Jan 16, 2007
Photographer: Rodrez
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One of the most encouraging things about being a sport compact enthusiast in the 21st century is that it is exceedingly easy to commune with others who have the same automotive vision. We brought up the phenomenon in last October's Detonation, particularly as it pertains to clubs and the Internet, and continue to marvel at its power to create unlikely relationships. Among car people there is truly a type of courtesy between strangers, in essence, that you seldom see anywhere else.

It is through a common passion for CRXs that Ryan Basseri and Chris Scarangella met. Both had a history with the venerated hatchback, but without the scene would likely never have crossed paths. Basseri runs his wiring harness business, RyWire, from San Jose, Calif., while Scarangella is a student in Toronto, Canada. Had it not been for the Northern California CRX Club, of which both are members and Basseri a leader, none of what you're about to read would have ever happened.

Their story begins in October of 1999. That's when Basseri purchased his first '89 CRX Si. He fell in love with that car and showered it accordingly with all the typical aftermarket affection and a B18C swap. Tragically, the car was crashed on the way home from the Southern California CRX-po meet in 2005, an unfitting end to a beautiful six-year relationship.

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The silver lining was that the insurer of Basseri's whip was willing to work with him because the car was so clean and heavily invested. From that point on, he knew he had to get another Rex and make it even better.

After selling all the salvageable parts from his wrecked hatchback, Basseri had the funding for a new project. Shortly thereafter, while studying in Bangkok, Thailand, for about a month, Basseri searched Craigslist for a candidate CRX. A K swap was in its future, so the car had to have an SiR front fascia; the JDM front is required to clear the K engine. As soon as he returned Stateside, he picked up an '89 DX for $1,900 and drove it home. It had the SiR front, tails, Si seats, and an EDM Rover engine swap, a D16A8 (Honda sold motors to Rover in the '80s and '90s, basically a twin-cam ZC with a different valve cover). The interior was factory blue and otherwise stock.

The work of sourcing parts and modifying the car then began. Having only Hasport and Pacman to contact for guidance at the time, Basseri was fundamentally on his own as far as composing a parts list. He bought components that he thought would work, and over time began to build the car in his head. He even kept a notebook to jot down random swap ideas.

0702_ht_12_z+1989_honda_CRX+engine Photo 3/18   |   1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

For a mill, Basseri went to Jeremy at Redzone Performance in San Jose, where he hooked up the JDM DC5 engine. He then cobbled together a fueling system and did the wiring, which took even less time to figure out than he planned. Using the factory pin-out from the DC5 "e" plug, and continuity checking wires on the main harness for the c101 plug, he was able to make an ECU jumper that incorporated the missing plugs into his factory harness.

0702_ht_15_z+1989_honda_CRX+front_view Photo 4/18   |   1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

There were other challenges, too, like the radiator. Basseri opted for an aluminum EG Civic exchanger placed on its side, and the end tanks re-welded in the correct positions. Keeping the hood stock was also a goal, and was achieved by trimming the webbing from the SiR bonnet and running a larger AEM pulley coupled with a 39-inch belt that is routed only around the alternator, crank, and water pump. Finally, to maintain the stock center console, Basseri had Karcepts develop its first EF shifter relocation kit on his project.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Admittedly a dorky, dated adage, but also a truism; indeed, you see examples of it all the time in our world. Whether it's an aftermarket company trying to crack the secrets of a new powerplant, or some kid at a track day trying to rig the motor together just to get one more lap-as long as a car guy's around, you can bet there'll be no shortage of resourcefulness.

That is essentially how RyWire got off the ground. Ryan Basseri was simply trying to make engine swaps easier for himself and his friends by engineering functioning hybrid wiring harnesses. His R&D was essentially done on his personal vehicle and those of his buddies. Before long, he began to contract his services to locals. Little did he realize how much growth potential his side project would have.

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Now 2 1/2 years strong, RyWire is a thriving business specializing in wiring harness conversions, sub-harnesses, adapters, and other parts that facilitate Honda engine swaps. Basseri has other types of customers, too, like the guy that wants to leave his engine in but make it more tunable by using an older version OBD ECU. Add to this, owners of vintage, pre-OBD cars who want to update to OBD-I, and you start to get a sense of what kind of work RyWire is known for.

In order to come up with a workable wiring kit, Basseri normally needs to know which engine and ECU will be used, in addition to the year and make of the vehicle receiving the swap. In situations where only the ECU is being changed out, both the new and old harnesses need to be sent to RyWire. Once he has the info and parts, Basseri says he can turn around a harness conversion in 1 to 3 days (pretty remarkable, if you ask us).

These days, RyWire is doing so well, Basseri has zero time to focus on little else but work. He reports that he's sending out lots of packages every day, has tons of orders, and the phones are still ringing off the hook. Part of that success may be related to the fact that he's 1 of only 2 companies specializing in these kinds of parts for Honda swaps, the other being Hasport (and we understand their rivalry is friendly). It's gotten hectic enough that Basseri's had to bring in help, subcontracting his jumpers to an assembly house.

0702_ht_17_z+1989_honda_CRX+tail Photo 6/18   |   1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

"But even then, I really don't have time to work on my car because I'm wiring like crazy," he explains. That would be the down side to necessity being the mother of invention, always being in demand. Somehow, though, with RyWire's profile growing as it is, we don't think Basseri minds too much.

A year before Basseri started his project, Scarangella had picked up his Rex for $6,000 Canadian less than 12 hours after it went into the Car Trader magazine to be sold. Because of road salting, rust-free CRXs that have all of their original metal and no Bondo are very rare in Canada; this Rex was apparently never driven in the winter. Scarangella took it home and immediately removed all the stickers and Mugen wing, which was sold on eBay.

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The parts chase was on. Scarangella first bought a new center console, and then found a Euro-market VT (SiR) front bumper in the UK. It then sat for over a year until Scarangella had pieced together the rest of the front. He bought headlights from a guy on the message boards who was connected in Japan. So that the hood would close properly, he needed the radiator support from any JDM Civic that came with the SiR-style front (EF3, EF4, EF6, EF7) but not a B16 motor, as the bulkhead on those cars was slightly different. He found what he needed at a local importer, along with a pretty beat up hood that would have to do until he could order his carbon VIS grip.

Scarangella really dug the look of the flush wing that came on the European non-VT models, so he bought one from a friend, Bas, on the forums in Holland; soon after, he also purchased the taillights. At about this time, Scarangella had sourced a Canadian-only CRX SE from another friend and got the red and black European LHD door cards in the deal. Then, when Bas visited from Holland, he managed to score some mint condition LHD power window switches. Scarangella bought Civic sedan power window regulators and installed everything together.

During the first year, it became clear that the stock D16A6 wasn't cutting it. At about this time, Hasport had released the EF mount kit for the K-series. Scarangella had been an avid fan of the K20 and had been reading up on it for months at k20a.org. Others were making 220 to the wheels with K-Pro engine management, a good header, and an unrestricted exhaust. The 6-speed close-ratio transmission with 4.765 final drive ratio would be a hoot in a 2,000-lb. car. It was then he realized he had to have that motor.

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As a guest of the CRX Club, Scarangella flew to the 2005 Northern California CRX-po and stayed part of the time with Basseri. At that time, Basseri had just crashed his black CRX Si and bought another white one with plans to do the same K swap. While he was in Cali, Scarangella started buying parts for the transfer, like the Hasport mounts and axles. That's when the pair came up with the idea to have Scarangella come down and spend some time in NorCal to do the swap and build his car.

Over the next few months, Scarangella had parts shipped to Basseri's house. Then on Christmas day, Basseri flew up to Toronto, and by the next afternoon the duo had left, headed for California. On the way, they made a detour to Los Angeles to pick up brand new Mugen NR10's from Ernie Uy.

Within days of arriving in San Jose, the A/C and D16 were removed, and the engine bay cleaned up. Scarangella procured a lightweight battery from HeelToe and already had it mounted in the rear of the car. For a radiator, they used a Dodge Neon non-A/C exchanger that turbo guys have been using for years in EFs. Flipped upside down, the waternecks were in almost a perfect position; the stock DC5 upper hose was even utilized.

0702_ht_05_z+1990_honda_crx+steering_wheel Photo 9/18   |   1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

Basseri employed his fuel system design, and the only thing left to get was the actual drivetrain. It was ordered from Steve at H-Motors Online, and once it arrived it was a matter of dropping it in and putting everything together. Scarangello then found a guy in San Diego selling seats he had always wanted, carbon Kevlar Spoon buckets.

The car was fired up and driven on St. Patrick's day. Idle was surging, this being a common problem with the IACV, but worked its way out on the drive to the SoCal EF meet in LA the next morning.

0702_ht_06_z+1990_honda_CRX+front_view Photo 10/18   |   1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

The final touch on the swap was a custom aluminum 3-inch exhaust made by Scarangella's friend John Ward at ICON Auto Parts in Florida. Ward even fabricated a bracket to hold the muffler. Scarangella says the exhaust sounds incredible, with the fast, high-revving K sounding like a cross between a car and a bike. As a bonus, Ward gave both Scarangella and Basseri custom oil caps that would clear the hood.

Interestingly, both projects ran about the same in terms of expense, made about the same power, and both are headed to the track next. Neither owner has plans to quit just yet, and Basseri even says this is only the beginning. He's already updated his ride since our photo shoot with paint, a wire tuck, IPS cams, an S2K gauge cluster, and Mugen RNR rims, and is eyeing a race exhaust, seats, and harnesses. Scarangella wants to make his Rex lighter, install a roll bar, and build a K pushing 300 hp.

In spite of the plans, both guys are pleased having accomplished what they did. In Basseri's hatch, the interior is very much as it was from his beloved second-gen. CRX, near new, right down to the floor mats, while the exterior betrays nothing, basically asserting the car as a sleeper. While his car is currently down, Scarangella is proud for just having done the project; this was his first engine swap ever, and as he admits, "Without Ryan, I would have never been able to do it, because it's pretty complex."

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You're probably asking, what happened to Scarangella's Rex? Priorities, friends, priorities; in order to afford going back to school, he had to sell the long block, trans, and axles, so the CRX is actually parked right now. He assures us, though, "When I finish school, I'll be building it up better than before." And there'll probably be more than a few fellow enthusiasts by his side making sure that he does.

Bolts & Washers
Ryan Basseri's '89 CRX DX
Chris Scarangella's '90 CRX SI

Propulsion
Go: Under hood, stock K20A long blocks are secured to both chassis via Hasport's mounts, and both breathe in through custom fabricated intake tubing and cone filters. To handle any fueling issues with the swaps, the duo is running Golden Eagle rails, AEM pressure regulators, and Hondata K-Pro engine management.

In terms of exhausts, each owner had a slightly different approach. Basseri routed his down a Hasport header and through GReddy plumbing equipped with a Magnaflow cat. Scarangella's is a touch more elaborate, the Canadian employing a 4-2-1 Danny Tran Racing manifold, custom aluminum 3-inch piping with a Burns Stainless muffler, 200 cell high-flow cat, and a 12-inch polished resonator. The system was designed and fabbed by John Ward at ICON Auto Parts and weighs only 17.5 lbs.

0702_ht_11_z+1990_honda_CRX+engine Photo 12/18   |   1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

Each mill came complete with a JDM LSD-outfitted Y2M3 gearbox. Motivating the gears in both are ACT Heavy Duty clutch discs and pressure plates. Power for either is transmitted through Drive Shaft Shop axles, stage 1 in Scarangella's and stage 2 in Basseri's.

Evidence: Basseri took his K to Dyno Spot Racing, where Laurence was able to extract 222 hp and 160 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. Scarangella relates, his combo made a similar 221 and 156.

0702_ht_09_z+1990_honda_crx+mugen_nr10 Photo 13/18   |   1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

Rims & Rubber
Scarangella festooned each hub with 15-inch Mugen NR10 rims on Falken Azenis RT-615 rubber, sized 205/50 15. Basseri opted for 16-inch bronze Volk TE37's wrapped in 215/45 16 Toyo Proxes 4 grippies.

Stance
Scarangella set up his ED6 chassis on Ground Control coilovers and Koni Yellow dampers, Basseri on Eibach Sportline springs and Tokico Illuminas. Handling is further tuned on Scarangella's CRX with a Neuspeed rear stabilizer bar, while Basseri keeps his alignment in check through an Ingalls camber kit. Both are running Energy Suspension bushings and a Full Race traction bar.

Resistance
Basseri sprung for some Goodridge lines, front and rear Fastbrakes 11-inch rotors, and DC2 calipers with Hawk pads for added stopping power, throwing in a DA Integra master cylinder and ATE Super Blue fluid for good measure. Unfortunately, because of a lack of resources, Scarangella was unable to upgrade his stoppers in time for our photo shoot.

0702_ht_13_z+1990_honda_crx+rear_view Photo 14/18   |   1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

Fashion
Outside: Both owners tried to maintain a level of OEM-ness to their respective rides. For his hatch, Basseri hooked up a JDM SiR front fascia, SiR tail lamps, and has since had the factory Frost white sprayed over in EDM CRX VT Charcoal gray metallic. He also performed an Audi HID headlamp conversion.

Scarangella kept the stock white and even had it freshened in 2000. In addition, he sourced a JDM front end, amber fog lights, side-markers, and new rear trim pieces. Out back he honors the Euro market with EDM taillights and a spoiler that came standard on most non-VT CRXs. Honda Access window visors from ICB Motorsports and an OE sunroof visor complete the factory Honda thread, supplemented by a Password: JDM carbon-fiber EF8 front lip and VIS carbon SiR hood.

Inside: Basseri tackled the cabin remodel by converting the blue DX setting to Si black. He fleshed out the motif with a pair of '90-'91 CRX Si seats, a Mugen SW36 steering wheel, JDM SiR gauges, and a Karcepts shifter relocation kit with a JDM DC5 knob secured to the shifter.

0702_ht_14_z+1990_honda_crx+front_view Photo 15/18   |   1989 and 1990 Honda CRX - Different But The Same

With nearly the same canvas, Scarangella instead went with Spoon Sports carbon Kevlar buckets, a Mugen FG360 steering wheel with center pad, a similar JDM SiR cluster, and a silver Mugen shift knob. He also installed some Mugen Sport pedals, an OEM armrest, limited edition CRX floor mats, a JDM road flare, and EDM left-hand drive VT door cards with window switches and working power windows.

With nearly the same canvas, Scarangella instead went with Spoon Sports carbon Kevlar buckets, a Mugen FG360 steering wheel with center pad, a similar JDM SiR cluster, and a silver Mugen shift knob. He also installed some Mugen Sport pedals, an OEM armrest, limited edition CRX floor mats, a JDM road flare, and EDM left-hand drive VT door cards with window switches and working power windows.

Sources

Rywire
Garden Grove, CA 92843
240-479-9473
http://www.rywire.com
Bob Hernandez
711 Articles

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