Project cars often stall and can remain unfinished for countless reasons. Some of these reasons might actually prove valid; however, the majority of them are most likely excuses. Excuses are like cancer to progression. Funding and time seem to be the most commonly used and probably the most truthful rationale for delaying development-at least to a certain extent. Individual circumstances also factor into the equation. Will the project car be safely housed in a garage or exposed to street parking next year? Are original wheels in the cards, or is the budget only going to allow for replicas? What about dyno time and tuning-a critical part of the project's finished state? Physical limitations of the human body are rarely heard of when it comes to building a Honda, and that's what makes John Benevides of Barrie, Ontario, Canada, and his black K-powered 1993 Civic Hatchback all the more intriguing and inspirational.
You've undoubtedly seen a thousand K-swap Civics in print, online, and in person, but we're quite sure you've never met a builder quite like John. Diagnosed with Femur Fibula Ulna Syndrome, John has taken it upon himself to overcome life's everyday challenges but, more specifically, has built a car that he's quite proud of, and for good reason. His work is spot-on, and his ability to adapt is second to none. The title of this article is "No Excuses," and that's exactly how John lives his life.
John introduced himself to the K series with his current setup but not before devoting an entire decade to the beloved B series. Although he enjoyed the horsepower he was able to produce with previous B engines, he felt he could achieve even greater figures with a more current version of Honda's powerplant lineup. He performed the majority of the work himself, along with a little help from some friends. "I did everything except the exhaust. I had it shortened three inches." Not one to toot his own horn, John actually had a hand in that as well. He'd marked up the exhaust with his own measurements, took it to a local shop, and instructed them to cut along his marks. Then he headed home and installed it.
What makes the engine swap even more impressive is the fact that the whole process was completed in less than two weeks, no doubt a product of proper planning. "The first three days were spent sitting back and mapping everything out before I even touched the car." The engine upgrade was one of the more complex modifications he has done himself, especially since he was dealing with his first K swap. "The wiring was pretty much straight forward. Overall, the engine itself, mounted 180 degrees from my B16, and getting used to all of the new sensors, grounds, axles, the shifter-that was all new to me."
Modifying the shifter tunnel almost destroyed the shell. John purchased a cutout template. The process is needed to accommodate the position of the K-series transmission and components. He began cutting and just happened to take a glance at the adaptor plate lying on the floorboard. He immediately stopped cutting. He glanced back and forth and realized the cutout was upside down. "I almost freaked out! But luckily I caught the error in time." One simple oversight almost killed the entire project.
The purpose of this build was to create an EH2 that could compete on the track and be comfortably driven on a daily basis. That is why each area of the car is slightly modified but there are no extreme upgrades in any one area. The K20A2 received a Karcepts intake with AEM filter, a Private Label Manufacturing exhaust manifold, and the aforementioned Thermal R&D exhaust setup. The exterior has modest yet effective enhancements like an Si front lip and EJ6 side skirts. The interior features updated front leather GS-R seats and rear leather RSX-S seats. A Civic Si gauge cluster also freshens up the dashboard. Several suspension enhancements including GS-R front/rear antiroll bars, Energy Suspension bushings, and PIC Performance rear upper control arms allow for controlled lines through tight turns. Mugen MR5 wheels paired with Toyo Proxes rubber keep the hatchback firmly planted.
John spends countless hours in his home garage wrenching on his Civic. He also performs work on his family's and friends' cars. Strangers passing by have pulled into the driveway and asked for help. The unusual high volume of cars, mainly custom Hondas, parts, pieces, tools, people, and late-night gatherings prompted someone to call the local police and report a possible chop shop. On a night with five friends hanging out and working on their cars, local policemen decided to join. The police searched around the garage and began asking questions. The policemen left after John showed proof of ownership for the engines and cars. John still laughs about this incident.
In closing, John wanted to add some words of encouragement. "The only limits we have are the ones we place on ourselves. You can't do everything at once, but with enough determination, you can actually do anything, even if that means doing it differently than everyone else. The doctors told my mom I would never be able to walk or write..." You won't hear any excuses from Mr. Benevides.
Bolts & Washers
Avid Racing engine mounts
AEM fuel filter
Karcepts air intake
Private Label Mfg. exhaust manifold
Thermal R&D 3-inch exhaust system
Thermal R&D 3-inch test pipe
Walbro 250-lph fuel pump
Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator
Golden Eagle fuel rail
NGK spark plugs
DC5 RSX-S radiator
K-Tuned upper radiator hose
Russell lines and fittings
Hondata K-Pro ECU
Hybrid Racing engine harness
PIC Performance coilovers
PIC Performance 12K front springs
PIC Performance 10K rear springs
DC2 GS-R front antiroll bar
DC2 GS-R rear antiroll bar
Energy Suspension bushing kit
PIC Performance rear upper control arms
Brembo brake rotors
EG brake calipers
Russell brake lines
Si front lip
EJ6 side skirts
Modified shifter tunnel
Removed OEM passenger-side engine mount
Si gauge cluster
A'PEXi auto timer
DC2 GS-R front leather seats
DC5 RSX-S rear leather seats
MOMO 320mm suede steering wheel
Skunk2 Racing shift knob
Grip taped pedals
Pioneer head unit
Mom, Dad, Jim, Matt, Jonathon, Tyler, Dan, Trai, Mark Wanzel, Eric @ Teknotik, UpNorth Imports
Inspiration For This Build
Wrenching and Racing...Regardless
JT: What exactly is Femur Fibula Ulna (FFU) Syndrome?
John: FFU is a very rare limb deficiency that occurs during the nine months of pregnancy. There are zero known causes or conditions that are known to cause this, and as was in my case, only noticed late in the child's development. As well, there aren't any cures to this condition. It mainly affects the upper right side of the person including lack of development of the thighs, femur, and forearms. Out of the known cases of FFU, there is a very high majority of males being affected.
JT: What are some common misconceptions of FFU?
John: Many people assume that it could be related to drinking, smoking, or drug use during or before pregnancy, which is false. My entire DNA is the same as found in any other healthy baby born today. Very little is still known about it today, and even after doing my own research over the years and trying to relate it to possible FDA drugs used in the past, I still have not been able to come to a solid conclusion as to what causes the condition.
JT: How did it affect your childhood?
John: Growing up from birth with a condition such as this usually doesn't take a toll on the person until they start school, where all of a sudden you're singled out unwillingly just based on physical appearance. In kindergarten and early elementary school, the other kids would always have their questions and make comments acknowledging the fact that I was different. Knowing that I very well was different wasn't so much of the issue. Knowing I would never be able to change that took a toll on me mentally for quite a few years. For the most part, the other kids accepted me. I always had a close group of friends who accepted me for who I was and treated me no differently. The odd times [increased] as I grew older. A few kids would try to get me mad by teasing me and name-calling. But it wasn't anything I hadn't heard up to that point.
JT: Did it impact your ability to write and walk?
John: At birth, doctors told my parents I wouldn't be able to walk easily due to my height at the time. I am 3 feet 6 inches now. [Doctors] had recommended they perform a surgery of my feet, which would rotate my feet and ankles 180 degrees, and then adapt the use of prosthetics. Their goal was to essentially turn my ankles into knees. Thankfully my mom declined any sort of altering surgeries. For most of my school career I used a wheelchair. I started out with the manual push ones, and at about grade five, I acquired an electric wheelchair. At that point I didn't walk much and my leg and ankle muscles had started to get weak. By grade nine, freshman [year in] high school, I still had an electric wheelchair and rode an accessible bus to school. When I started grade 10, I decided enough was enough and began leaving the wheelchair home. Slowly I started regaining my stamina by walking everywhere I went, with the exception of walking home. As far as writing, I did learn to use a regular pencil and pen at a young age, as my parents wanted me to learn to adapt myself, and not the world around me, because after all, you can't change everything. As I grew up, and personal computers and laptops became more accessible, I had a laptop for classes and homework. I believe the last test I performed a few years back showed I could type between 34 to 36 words per minute transcript. So my ability to use a computer is uncanny in my opinion. But at the end of the day, I still prefer a pencil or pen when I have the opportunity.
JT: At what age did you get into cars?
John: It was always something I had a passion for since birth. As the years progressed, it got worse. Maybe because it was and still is the ultimate mode of transportation, which benefits me a lot, or just something that was meant to be. There are a lot of things about me that not a single person can answer, including myself, and the passion and love for cars, trucks, bikes, skateboards, or anything else with wheels, [cars] have always been that one thing.
JT: You learned how to use tools in a unique way. How so?
John: Pick it up, and use it. Didn't matter what it was, as a child I used to just sit and study people, watch how they did things, and carefully study how they used their fingers to manipulate certain objects or items. Seeing as I only have four joints on my left hand with two fingers, and only two of those joints, [which are] knuckles, can be moved at will, I had to learn quickly how to use the same items in the same manner, just hold it differently. I still remember picking up a pneumatic impact gun for the first time, pulling the trigger, and watching it go spinning out of my arms. It's all trial and error-that's it. Of course, though, there are certain things I can't or just straight up won't do [or] attempt to use just because I know it would be too difficult to handle safely. Take a gas-powered handheld chop saw, for example. Regardless of how badass that tool may be, I'll let other guys lug that thing around!
JT: You approach racing and driving differently. What are the differences?
John: Everyday driving consists of my leg extensions that I wear all day [anyway]. They allow me to reach the pedals of almost every car. The Myo-electric arm that I have, the hand opens and closes in a C-like shape, is used mostly for those days where I just want to drive casually on the street. The arm itself was specifically developed to be used for a manual transmission car. [It allows me] to keep one hand on the wheel at all times on the track. Some may ask, why not use it all the time? My answer is always [that] I don't need to. When I'm driving my car around the streets, anyone who has driven with me can attest that I am a good driver; I shift with my left hand fast enough that taking my hand off the wheel for that split second has zero effect on my control of the car as my eyes are still on the road. However, on the track, given the higher speeds and g-forces, it's necessary for me to use my arm. I just wish I had installed power steering in my car when I did the swap. A couple hours start to take a toll on my left shoulder.
John: My dad and I have collected enough tools over the years, more so him, that we pretty much have everything we need. I'm confident we could start a frame-up build and not have the car leave the garage until it needed an alignment or a tune. My cars have only seen a shop to get two things done-alignments and safeties. One wall, about 20 feet long, is completely rammed with toolboxes, cabinets, shelves, and boxes of tools. With a full compressor setup in my garage, welder, Oxy-Torch, brake bend, hoist, engine stand, etc., I'm pretty much only limited to my own creativity when it comes to getting stuff done.
JT: What would you tell someone with FFU or some other physical difficulty of working on their cars or even driving them?
John: It's not what you're doing. It's how you're doing it. I think that is one of the biggest things people like myself and the tuning hobby have in common. It's good to understand how someone else did something, but doing it your own way is the true definition of original.
JT: Any last thoughts or comments?
John: I would honest to God love the opportunity for a shop to give me a chance at doing what I love professionally. I understand the risk that people see when I get looked at. But my dream is definitely to own or work for a shop like So-Cal Speed shop, Sport Car Motion, or any other garage that is moving forward in this industry. Doesn't even matter where they may be located. Thanks again to everyone involved both at Honda Tuning and here at home. Sincerely, the Carbon Canuck, AKA HCR.