Stubbornness can be a difficult trait to overcome. For Jonathan Walsh overcoming this would be life changing. His obsession with cars began with his first build, a 1994 Mazda MX3 that was featured in Import Tuner and was also an extra in the movie 2 Fast, 2 Furious. The main problem Walsh realized at the time was that the vehicle was completely unreliable. "I had turbo'd the Mazda and that led to many driveability problems," he admits.
While considering other cars he only had one rule, absolutely no Hondas. Jonathan explains "I hated Honda's just because they were everywhere at the time and I was hardheaded and did not want to give them a chance." Fortunately for Jonathan, his girlfriend held no prejudice towards the brand and ended up purchasing a '00 Civic EX herself. When Jonathan's car was down he would ride in the Civic and slowly came to his senses. Seeing as how his girlfriend was doing nearly all the driving he points out "that's when I realized these Honda's are really reliable cars."
Eventually he would purchase a Civic of his own, the one you see today, but at the time it was a very different car. "I bought it for $5,000," Walsh tells me, "It was red, with an automatic singlecam, and had a Buddy Club kit molded on." Needless to say, to start with a car like that and end up with the vehicle he has today is not only an accomplishment... it's a miracle! While most people would completely avoid this type of project, Jonathan got hands-on with his creation.
The inspiration for the redesign would come from a close friend. Never having been in a DOHC VTEC-powered vehicle and a previous Honda-hater, Walsh had no idea what he had been missing. "I went with a friend to Orlando to look at a car for him," he elaborates, "It was a DC2 Integra with a JDM front and a Type R motor. When we test drove it, I fell in love with VTEC." After one drive Jonathan managed to contract the all-addicting Honda drug and knew what he had to do with his Civic. "It was intense, I had to have a Type R motor."
Up until this time Walsh was still holding on to the few scraps of his automotive prejudice. After the VTEC experience, the last pieces hanging on by a thread were completely removed from his mind. He had remained the owner of the aforementioned Mazda because he wasn't quite sure of Honda's performance capabilities prior to the test drive. As soon as possible, he listed the MX3 for sale. "I sold it for $10,000 and bought a B18C Type R."
After making a fire-sale on the Mazda, and collecting all the parts for his must-have swap, something occurred to Jonathan. He didn't know how in the hell to do an engine swap. So like any hardcore enthusiast he did what he had to do... he paid someone to swap it. Only kidding, Walsh would never even consider the option of the easy way out. "I did a lot of research," he explains, "I ended up installing the motor and manual transmission in my garage with no power tools. I also had to rewire the harness. That was not so much fun but I learned a lot about Hondas."
And thus the passion was ignited, as it is for many fellow Honda builders after completing their first swap. Fortunately for Jonathan his newly-found passion would turn into newly-found luck as he would soon lose his job. "A couple of months [after I did the swap] I got laid off. And with the LITTLE knowledge I had about Honda, I got a job at the local Honda dealership [and] I am still currently employed [there] as a tech." With the passion turning into a career, Jonathan was now around Hondas five days a week. Gaining experience and knowledge at his new job, Walsh started plotting his next moves in the build of his hatchback.
"The car was pretty fast at the time," Walsh tells me, "[but] I was tired of the car looking like a piece of junk." Not only had his preference in cars changed over the course of a few months, but his preference in modifications was also altered. The molded-on body kit that was once thought to be cool, and no doubt the main reason behind the initial purchase, now revealed its true value... "junk." Working with a friend, Chris Kirchner, the duo would painstakingly complete the task of removing the molded kit and all the material used to adhere the stock body to the fiberglass "enhancements."
"Unmolding duraglass is not a fun, clean, easy or quick process," he confirms, "But a lot of hard work later the car was back to a stock body." The next thing to do once the body was again recognizable was a new paint job. Championship White is a color synonymous with Type R vehicles and Honda in general. For Walsh, it would be the only color that was fitting for the look he had in mind. Once again his friend Chris stepped in to help and laid the paint down.
Inspired by his new Type R paint scheme Jonathan went to town converting every other stock piece in his way to CTR spec. The highlights of the list would include: headlights, carpet, all interior panels, gauge cluster, front and rear seats and to ensure a fitting silhouette, the infamous rear wing. As the project was headed towards what most would consider completion, Walsh got power hungry. With the cost coming down for K series engines he was now contemplating a second transplant.
"[At first] I was going to rebuild [the B18C], but I saw a few videos online of K-swapped cars running down Camaros and Evos," Jonathan says. So after some pondering, he figured if he'd completed the B swap with such little experience the K swap should be a cake walk. "With a few more Honda swaps under my belt, and a facility to work with power tools, I decided to try and attempt a K swap," Walsh tells us. After making the big decision, he purchased a K swap and started preparing the car for its new heart.
While the engine was out he decided to clean up things here and there. A wire tuck was completed and the brakes were upgraded with a massive Project M big brake kit with 11.75" rotors. Although the car will undoubtedly continue changing, Jonathan feels fairly content with its current form. "I love driving it, it's reliable, gets great gas mileage, handles amazing and is really fast on the straights." In the end, the car wasn't the only thing that changed as Walsh went from serious Honda-hater, to a fully-blown addict/technician. "I guess you could say that Hondas have changed my life."
1996 Honda Civic DX
Owner Jonathan Walsh
Hometown Melborne, FL
Daily Grind Honda Technician
Under The Hood 2.0L naturally-aspirated K20A; Port-matched cylinder head, RBC intake manifold and header; Walbro 255 fuel pump; Denso 410cc injectors (from Acura RDX); AEM fuel rail, fuel pressure regulator; Custom fiberglass intake pipe; HKS 3" air filter; Max Bore bored throttle body; Vibrant 3" turbo exhaust; R Crew header; Denso Iridium spark plugs; Fluidyne radiator; ARC oil cap, plug cover; TEIN hood struts; shaved engine bay, wire tuck, brake line relocation, fuel line relocation and battery relocation; Odyssey battery; Mugen thermostat, fan switch; Hondata intake manifold gasket
Drivetrain JDM DC5 ITR 6 speed transmission; 4.95 final drive; Gator stage 3 axles; Exedy clutch; Buddy Club short shifter; TWM Bronzoil shifter cable bushings
Brains Hondata K-Pro
Stiff Stuff Tein RS coilovers; JDM EK9 CTR 26mm front sway bar; Carbing 3 point front strut bar w/master cylinder brace; Next Miracle Cross bar rear brace w/all optional sections; Energy Suspension master bushing set; Cusco front and rear lower tie bars; Function 7 rear lower control arms
Rollers 16X7" Volk CE28 Time Attack edition wheels; 205/45/16 BFGoodrich KDW tires
Stoppers Project M 4 Piston race calipers (front), 11.75" SCR Pro front rotors, PM brake pads (all around) and stainless steel lines.
Outside Championship White paint; Mugen front lip; ARC splitters; Honda/Raybrig yellow fog lights; JDM CTR rear lip, side skirts, side moldings, rear wing, headlights, grill, taillights; TL HID headlight bulb retrofit; '99-00 front end conversion (bumper, fenders, hood, grill, headlights); VIS carbon-fiber hood, carbon-fiber hatch; Spoon carbon-fiber mirrors; antenna block-off plate
Inside JDM CTR Recaro SRD front seats, rear seats, carpet, floor mats, door panels, dash vent, climate control, cup holder, gauge cluster, steering wheel, pedals (Type-Rx), A/B/C pillar covers, rear panels, door sills, e-brake, armrest delete, shift boot; ARC Ti shiftknob
ICE Gathers VXD-032CI w/navigation; MB Quart 51/4" front coaxials, 6X9" rear coaxials; Honda 1" tweeters
Props Brian Duong @ Mackin Industries, Donavan Griffith @ Vibrant Performance, Billy @ Kami Speed, John @ LHT Performance, East Central Power and my new wife Kristy Walsh
WWW arcinter.co.jp (ARC); mugen-power.com; project-mu.co.jp; rayswheels.co.jp (volk)