All people, whether they realize it or not, are affected by cars. Some hate them and others like them, fewer still become permanently intertwined with their transportation devices. This obsession can vary from someone that considers themself an enthusiast all the way to a full-blown neurotic addiction. Thomas Strom has nicely settled himself into the latter category.
Even to the untrained eye, the level of physical cleanliness of his 20-year-old Civic is, to be put simply, astonishing. The hatchback literally appears as though it is no more than a few hundred miles old, in fact the fit and finish of the car rivals that of the brand new 370Z we reviewed earlier in this issue. The front end, headlights and all, don't even show a hint of ever coming in contact with a rock or other debris. The moldings and weatherstripping are still plush and soft. But what the untrained eye could easily overlook are all of the rare and discontinued parts that have been bolted up to this Honda masterpiece.
Before we get into the details of how and when, we must first look at why. Why would someone restore what most would consider an old, worthless, non-performance vehicle? For many EF builders like Thomas, including our very own Jon Wong and Charles Trieu, the desire to build this chassis comes from past longing. "I always wanted one of these cars," Strom tells me. "I couldn't afford one of these when they were new back in 1989." As a freshman in high school Thomas knew that one day he would own an EF. "I wanted to build this car because I've never seen a clean EF. I see EGs and EKs everyday. Building an EF is much more difficult to people who are hardcore Honda fans; they know this and appreciate it when they see one."
Prior to building this incredible example of a 4th gen Civic, Strom had started building a 1991 Si. As time went on Thomas realized several mistakes he made by choosing the 1991 model. "The `91 always felt heavy, I hated the seat belts in the door, and there were some JDM parts I wanted, such as the front seats, that wouldn't fit on the `91 floor pan." As fate would have it, the car was rear-ended and Thomas collected the salvageable parts and started looking for an `89 model.
While Thomas is now an independent Honda service specialist, he was at the time working for Auto Adventure, a large Honda and Acura wrecking yard in Portland Oregon. For additional parts, the company would often import pieces from Japan and occasionally they were able to scrounge up some new OEM JDM stuff. Luckily for Strom, he was able to source out many of the JDM components on his car brand spankin new. "Almost everything was bought brand new. The bumpers, filler panels, carpet, headliner, seals, quarter plastics, consoles, etc. are all new." Thomas elaborates, "The body parts were bought new at the dealer in Japan and put into our containers. It's hard enough to find decent used stuff."
Once Thomas had amassed an enviable amount of now extinct new-in-box JDM pieces, it was time to repaint the car. After getting the runaround for four months at the first shop he went to, Strom decided to stop by a local shop with a good reputation for painting spectacular customs. "I went to Speeds Auto Body and talked to the head painter Ron Herman. When I walked into the shop he was buffing out the paint on a `65 Chevy Malibu that he had painted two days beforehand. I told him I was looking for someone to finish my car that would treat it how it deserved to be treated," Strom explains. "I told him that it was my hot rod, my restoration project." And with that, the two agreed on a price and a month later the Civic adorned a new Championship White paint job, free of any flaws.
From that point the car was mostly finished. The engine configuration is continuously changing. I honestly cannot recall all of the different motors Thomas told me had been in the vehicle, but I do remember that at one point there was a fully-built Endyn race engine in the car that was currently sent back at the time of the shoot for a rebuild. You'll notice Thomas is very keen on Mugen wheels, with three sets shown in this article. Owning all of these wheels myself (at one point), I must admit he has superb taste. Thomas, I'm sure, is very aware of this and he takes great pride in his car.
He says, "The time, effort and money it took to acquire each and every part for my car was worth it in the end. Every time I drive this car or take it to a show, the reactions I get from people is awesome. I'm proud of what I accomplished. I enjoy talking to people about the car that know what they are looking at. I get guys that drive EGs and EKs coming up to me and saying I never really liked EFs, but cars like yours have definitely changed my mind. Each and every piece of the car has a story to it." When asked if he would ever consider selling the car Thomas sternly replied, "It's not for sale, I'll die with this car."
1989 Honda Civic si
Owner Thomas Strom
Hometown Vancouver, WA
Daily Grind Automotive Technician
Under The Hood 1.8L naturally- aspirated DOHC VTEC B18C; JDM CTR Cams; ITR head milled .030, milled crank pulley; Toda timing belt; Blox 68mm throttle body, intake manifold (powder coated wrinkle black); RC 320cc injectors; Aeromotive A1000 fuel pressure regulator; Walbro 190LPH fuel pump; Golden Eagle Pro Series fuel rail; AEM intake (powder coated wrinkle black); RSR Ex-Mag exhaust; Thunderbolt 2.5" catalytic converter; Mugen 4-2-1 B18C header w/heatshield, oil cap, radiator cap; Spoon Sports cam gears; MSD 6A blaster SS coil, 8.5mm spark plug wires; NGK spark plugs; Moroso 5 quart oil pan; Fluidyne radiator; Tenzo Mugen replica valve cover; Samco radiator hoses, Hondata intake manifold gasket, Endyn oil feed adapter kit, block breather/catch can kit; Mooneyes fuel pressure gauge; Password JDM black washer kit and hood damper kit
Drivetrain S80 GSR transmission; Quaife ATB 1.5 way LSD; Buddy Club shifter; Circuit Hero shifter extender; Clutch Masters FX300 clutch kit; Gear Speed carbon coated synchros; LS 5th gear
Stiff Stuff Tein SS coilovers w/EDFC; Progress 22mm sway bars front and rear; Spoon Sports front and rear strut bars; Energy Suspension master bushing kit with trailing arm bushings; Dark Star Racing traction bar; Skunk2 front camber arms; Function7 rear lower control arms; SPC rear camber adjusters
Stoppers Civic EX front knuckles and brakes; JDM SiR rear brakes; PBR ceramic pads; Earl's stainless steel braided lines
Rollers Custom black 15X6.5 +42 Mugen MR5 Final Version, Silver/Polished 15X6 +42 Mugen NR10, Black/Polished 15X6 +38 Mugen CF48; Falken Azenis RT 615 tires
Outside Championship White paint job; rear bumper filler panel key hole relocated; emblems removed; EF sedan rear door handles (no key holes); JDM EF9 SiR front end (front bumper/hood/fenders/headlights/bumper lights/bumper support) side skirts, rear bumper w/lips, rear spoiler, thin side moldings, taillights, VTEC center panel, mud flap set, bronze windshield, bronze door windows, bronze rear quarter windows, bronze hatch glass; Honda Access optional foglights, moonroof visor, mid-wing; Password JDM smoked amber side markers and corner lights, carbon-fiber front lip
Inside JDM EF9 SiR front and rear seats; new factory carpet, interior panels, headliner; USDM optional lower radio console and armrest; AEM wideband gauge (in glove box); TEIN EDFC controller (in clock hole); Mugen sports type steering wheel (SW3), pedals; TWM M1 Abrams gun metal shift knobICE 2000 CR-V head unit; Rockford Fosgate 6.5" door speakers; JDM Gathers rear speaker pods
Props The guys I worked with at Auto Adventure (Honda and Acura wrecking yard), Jeff Heidler (JDM importer), Gary Fifield (friend and fellow mechanic), Franc Lyons (Lyons Technical Machine), Mike Locicero (Import Transmission Exchange) and Ron Herman (painter)