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1997 Honda Civic - I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

You Think Putting Your Project Together Is Tough? Try This EK On For Size

Joey Lee
Jul 26, 2013 SHARE

Every year we bring you guys a Honda-dedicated issue to pay homage to the manufacturer that helped paved the way for what we largely consider today as the "import scene". Our detractors will claim that every Super Street is a "Honda Issue" but that's not true. In fact, Hondas and Acuras make up a very small portion of what we cover on a larger scale, and we're very understanding regarding your need for variety and make an honest effort to honor that. When it comes time to put together a Honda issue, though, it's usually a lot of fun because many of us started out as Honda owners; a couple of us still are. It's important to remember where we came from so being able to work on our annual Honda Issue is equally important to us.

The past couple of years have brought out a very diverse crowd of Hondas. From all points across the country and across the Pacific in Japan, our scope is wide and we're always on the lookout for great Honda builds, no matter where they come from. For this year's edition, we set off to a region that most wouldn't expect us to look: the Pacific Northwest. Not because they don't produce dope builds--in fact, it's quite the contrary. Blame it on crap weather and lack of events for not bringing these cars to light.

01 1997 honda civic 00 spec civic front end conversion Photo 2/12   |   01 1997 Honda Civic 00 Spec Civic Front End Conversion

Our mission to the Northwest was to capture two Hondas that are significant to us; one of them being the circuit-inspired Integra Type R you see on the cover and the other this utterly timeless creation by Portland resident, Yoon Saechao. We felt that his '97 Honda Civic was perfectly suited for this year's Honda Issue because it would be regarded as a quality build no matter what time period you refer to.

And, so, this is where Yoon's story actually begins: "I've always wanted a red '99-00 Civic hatchback," he says. "They were crazy expensive back when I was younger so I settled for this '97 hatchback. Three months into owning it, I did little things like lower it and installed front/rear lips. I didn't do anything crazy because I was just starting to learn how to work on cars at the time. I eventually got the hang of wrenching on my own and decided to do a B16A swap."

Things were going smoothly for this Civic project until one early morning flipped his world upside down. "I was getting ready for work when I hear a knock on my door. I opened the door to see who it was and was greeted by a police officer. He asked if I owned a Honda Civic and I replied that I did. He told me that it had been stolen but was recovered and sitting at a local tow yard. My fiancée and I were in utter shock but were relieved because we hadn't put the B16 in the car yet. I had planned to install it that same week but luckily I didn't."

09 1997 honda civic kirk racing six point rollcage Photo 3/12   |   1997 Honda Civic - I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

"I called the tow yard and they told me to bring a set of wheels with me because the car had been completely stripped. I expected the worst but decided to go check it out anyway. Upon arrival, I saw that it was far from stripped; all that was missing were the radio and some miscellaneous things. It was still fully operational and I drove it home that same day. In all honesty, I think the tow yard was trying to keep my car and totally lied by saying that it was completely stripped so that I wouldn't come for it. Good thing I went." Yoon was discouraged from working on his Civic after that. Having a car taken from you by thieves quickly changes anyone's perspective. Dealing with shady towing companies afterwards only adds to the agony. He credits his fiancée, Cindy, for helping him cope and pushing him to continue on with his project. Thankfully she did because her positive words of encouragement were what ultimately pushed him to build what you see here on these pages today.

Non-Honda people will say that this Civic is nothing special, the casual Honda owners will claim that this car looks just like theirs, and the hardcore Honda aficionados will love everything about it. The key to any everlasting Honda creation is simplicity, and not in terms of leaving the car with just Japanese OEM parts either--product selection and execution are vital. Yoon's Civic has experienced a multitude of changes to its appearance; he started out with Japanese-specific EK4 Civic SiR bumpers, but later sold it when he acquired an OEM '00 Civic front end. He never did get the '99-00 Civic he wanted, so the next best thing was the conversion. Currently, this hatchback features a variety of OEM JDM Civic Type R body parts and an authentic Mugen Type-SS front lip. The Mugen piece was pretty trashed when he bought it used. He took the time to restore it to a like-new condition before paint-matching it to the rest of the Roma Red body. A Voltex rear spoiler was installed to add more aggressiveness to the body while Vision side mirrors replace the bulbous stock pieces and streamline the rest of the car.

11 1997 honda civic mugen type SS front lip Photo 4/12   |   1997 Honda Civic - I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

If you want to talk simplicity, the "less is more" approach is equally as evident inside the Civic. All sound-deadening material was removed and the entire cabin area re-sprayed in red. Anything that resembled a plastic interior panel was eliminated along with the headliner and seats to make room for a six-point Kirk Racing rollcage. Spoon Sports products made their way inside in the form of a steering wheel and Duracon shift knob. A pair of plush Recaro SRD seats keep Yoon firmly in the driver's seat where he lives his dreams of someday owning a '99-00 Civic vicariously through a 2000 EM1 Civic Si instrument cluster.

Ask any Honda enthusiast what is of the utmost importance in any prominent Honda build and they will surely tell you that it all comes down to what rests under the hood. Not only is the motor setup significant, the execution of the bay itself is just as crucial. The B18C5 presently in Yoon's Civic is his third engine swap in six years; the first was the B16A that luckily wasn't stolen and the second a more stoutly B20. His ITR swap is the most potent of the three, assembled from the ground-up with upgraded valvetrain components, a ported/polished cylinder head and honed block. The unique runner design from the Bisimoto V3 header pulls double-duty in Yoon's bay by adding power and complementing a clean-tucked engine bay. A Rywire engine harness leaves many wondering if there is even an electrical harness at all, whereas the brake lines and 40/40 proportioning valve have been relocated under the dashboard, leaving the firewall completely bare.

03 1997 honda civic spoon sports gen 2 steering wheel Photo 5/12   |   1997 Honda Civic - I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Perhaps the greatest aspect of Yoon Saechao's Civic build is that it was built entirely from his garage at home. It's a throwback to the days when all custom vehicles were created with character inside a garage, with help from friends and not assembled by a shop. The front end installs, multiple engine swaps, stripping of the interior, installation of new parts, and even paint were all done at his house. The drive that he needed to accomplish his goal of finishing this was from Cindy and his family. Yoon reveals, "I almost sold this car and even thought about parting it out at times, but they kept me going by reminding me that all the time and money I invested was worthwhile. If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't have made it this far."

Tuning Menu
1997 Honda Civic

Owner Yoon Saechao

10 1997 honda civic CTR rear lip Photo 9/12   |   1997 Honda Civic - I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Hometown Portland, OR

Occupation ASE-certified tech (in-training)

Engine 1.8L B18C5; ported/polished cylinder head; BLOX Type-B camshafts and 12" slim radiator cooling fans; OEM ITR cam gears and valves; Supertech dual valve springs and titanium retainers; ARP head studs; Golden Eagle cam cap cover; bored/honed 81.5mm block; 5mm-over ITR sleeves; RS Machine pistons; Hasport engine mounts; welded block guard; Go-Autoworks air intake; OEM B16A throttle body, fuel pressure regulator, fuel rail and pulleys; Walbro 255LPH fuel pump; Precision 440CC fuel injectors; Chasebays in-line fuel filter kit and steel braided clutch line; Bisimoto Engineering V3 exhaust manifold; NGK spark plugs and spark plug wires; Odyssey PC680 battery; Koyo radiator; Spoon Sports radiator hoses, radiator stays, reservoir covers and radiator cap; powdercoated valve cover and engine brackets; Rywire Mil-spec engine harness, charge harness, ground wires and coolant overflow tank; Downstar Inc. V2 hardware; Carbing cooling plate

Drivetrain Y21 manual transmission; Exedy 3-puck clutch; Quaife limited-slip differential; OEM S2000 clutch master cylinder; Gearspeed carbon-coated synchros

Engine Management Chipped P28 ECU

04 1997 honda civic B18C5 Photo 10/12   |   1997 Honda Civic - I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Footwork & Chassis Function and Form Type 1 coilovers; OEM ITR 22mm front sway bar; '00 Civic EX front lower control arms; ASR 24mm rear sway bar and subframe brace; BLOX adjustable end links and front/rear camber kit; Rigid 3-point front strut bar; Function7 rear lower control arms; PCI spherical rear trailing arm bushings; Hard Race lower ball joints; powdercoated front and rear trailing arms

Brakes Spoon Sports Twin-Block front brake calipers; Hawk front/rear brake pads; Goodridge brake lines; OEM Honda 40/40 brake proportioning valve; Integra GS-R brake master cylinder and brake booster, ITR 36mm 5-lug conversion; Rywire proportioning valve relocation kit; Checkerd Sports S2000 master cylinder spacer

Wheels & Tires 16x7" +42 Desmond Regamaster EVO; 205/40R16 BFGoodrich tires; BLOX extended wheel studs; T1R lug nuts

Exterior Roma Red paint; Mugen Type-SS front lip; '00-spec Civic front end conversion, taillights, rear Honda emblem and mirror base plates; OEM CTR front grille, headlights w/city lights, thin side moldings, rear bumper, rear lip, window visors and wing base plates; Voltex GT wing; Vision Type-DC side mirrors

Interior '00 Civic Si gauge cluster; Integra rearview mirror assembly; CTR airbag delete; Recaro SRD seats; Crow safety harness; Spoon Sports Duracon shift knob, wide rearview mirror and Gen. 2 steering wheel; Checkerd Sports steering boss; Odyssey PC680 battery and battery tie-down; Downstar Inc. V2 bolts; Kirk Racing six-point rollcage w/optional door bar and X-bar

08 1997 honda civic recaro SRD seats Photo 11/12   |   1997 Honda Civic - I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Thanks You I want to thank my fiancée, Cindy Saetern-if it wasn't for her full support, patience and help, I wouldn't have a car to show you guys right now; big shout-out to all my family and friends that helped me through this build; my son, Tye Saechao; my cousin, Atim Saechao for always being my right hand whenever I needed it; my brother, Torn Saechao; Khae Saechao, Aleks Holovcuk, Andrew Williams, Bounmy, Lil Peter Bobby (R.I.P.), RC-iBrian, Ramon Rios and his family, Rick and Omar, John, my detailer; Carlos, Frank Burke, Terry aka T2, Rick Keomuangtai, EK Squad, Rywire, and of course, Stickydiljoe!

WWW bisimoto.com; blox.com; go-autoworks.com; hasport.com; rywire.com

02 1997 honda civic desmond regamaster EVO Photo 12/12   |   02 1997 Honda Civic Desmond Regamaster EVO
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By Joey Lee
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