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.
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."
"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.
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.
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."