During our recent excursion to the Pacific Northwest, we made sure to stop by to visit some local legends of the Honda community. As you witnessed a couple months ago in our annual Honda Issue, we already had some cars lined up to be shot. We just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see some of these Hondas that everyone had been raving so positively about over the years. The Northwest has long been known to be the sleeper of the American Honda community, providing a home for some of the better Honda builds that we just never saw in person. When we were finally given the chance, we certainly were not disappointed.
To be honest, we are completely aware that Steve Kwan’s Civic has seen print before—we just don’t care because this build is that good. He manages to go through so many different setups that it ends up looking like a new build every couple of years anyway. Sure, bring on the “it’s just another Civic” comments. However, anyone in the know should ultimately recognize Steve’s Civic as one of the all-time “greats.” Its look has inspired several other car builders to go the same way in building their projects as well.
Now, you may be wondering what makes this 1996 Honda Civic so great. Well, quality is the name of the game here. Parts selection and execution—all in the name of quality—is the key. Steve has a good understanding of that, and credits his friends as well as other enthusiasts for guiding him towards the right path. His capacity to seek, acquire and collect incredibly rare Japanese market parts is another skill that also helps to add to the legacy of his build. Just to give you an example of what he’s had in his collection over the last couple of years: Mugen cluster, SS front lip and EK wing, MF10s, multiple sets of Volk Racing wheels, numerous sets of Bride seats, two different sets of Vision Technica side mirrors, both Seeker 1 and 2 spoilers, an incredibly rare Neo-chrome NEXT! Miracle X bar—and as a reminder, yes, that is just a sample of what he’s had the last few years. It’s safe to say that he’s never been one to not try something new.
This current rendition of his Civic is undoubtedly his personal favorite. We would say that it is his “best” but it’s difficult to make that claim because of his other setups. It really depends on what theme you prefer more, and if you ask Steve, this is probably as close as it’s going to get to what he would claim as his best. When we met up with him in Seattle to shoot his car, he was actually a bit hesitant because the centerpiece of his new look, a rare First Molding carbon hood, had not come in yet. The hood was purchased with intentions to match the First Molding front lip or “Flugel Plate”. Another important addition to the exterior of this hatchback is a rare Sergeant rear diffuser that’s mounted to a JDM OEM Civic Type R rear bumper; the front bumper and side skirts are also original CTR pieces. He, at one time had the CTR rear wing to match but he ditched that and two other Japanese Seeker wings for the Zeal Type 1 spoiler he has now. Giving the Desert Sage Metallic hue some contrast are flat black Desmond-produced Spoon SW388 wheels. The ashy finish of the 16-inch wheels is mundane compared to the rest of the build but it helps to highlight the custom gold Endless 4-piston big brake calipers behind each front wheel.
Knowing his history, one would expect the interior to be equally as spectacular as the outside and it does not disappoint. The center sections of his Bride Zeta III seats have been replaced with red Hyper Gradation padding, yielding a look similar to Mugen S1R bucket seats; the red also matches the JDM CTR carpet and door panel inserts. A baller Mugen FG360 steering wheel is mounted to a Splash hub and rare Mr Alex quick-release unit. Mounted to the dashboard where a Mugen instrument cluster once stood is a STACK ST-8130 digital display. The skeletal structure inside the cabin is a Cusco 8-point roll cage that Steve had re-coated in a Glacier White finish to match his Carbing strut bars and engine valve cover.
Style is an integral aspect of his build but that doesn’t imply that Steve hasn’t spent an equal amount of time under the hood. Not only has the engine bay been tucked clean and paint-matched, the K20A heart is also fully-built. Initially the plan was to keep the already potent 2.0L engine relatively stock, minus the basic bolt-ons, but a mishap at a weekend track day resulted in a spun bearing, ruining the block. He was able to find a sleeved K20A block locally and elected to build it with stronger guts. The Type R cylinder head endures in OEM form but a custom cold-air intake mated to a Honda RBC manifold helps to drive more airflow within. The custom fuel setup on the firewall with quick disconnect fittings offers a glimpse at Steve’s madness when it comes to attention to detail—but...you really need to look closer to notice the little things, like his use of rare discontinued hose clamps, to truly understand his madness. Even the littlest of details like the bolts that hold his CTR headlights in place have been replaced with 12-point ARP hardware and beauty washers.
What Steve Kwan has created is the archetype of how a clean, very intricate and timeless custom car should be built. Nowadays, some would say his Honda is “cookie-cutter” but the scene has shifted a great deal over the years. Steve comes from a time when you still had to do research to find a part and the means to bring it over from Japan. He’s built himself a hell of a Honda and he’s created the mold for so many others to follow.
1996 Honda Civic
Owner Steve Kwan
Hometown Seattle, WA
Occupation Pro Community League basketball player
ENGINE 2002 Honda 2.0L K20A; Hasport EKK2 engine mounts; ARP head stud kit; Golden Eagle head gasket and fuel rail; RC 750cc fuel injectors; TODA Racing timing belt, timing belt tensioner and oil pan; RS Machine bored engine block and 89mm sleeves; CP pistons and custom piston rings; Carrillo Pro-H connecting rods; balanced/blueprinted K20A crankshaft; Spoon Sports magnetic oil drain bolt; custom 3-inch cold-air intake; HKS air filter; Honda OEM RBC intake manifold; Karcepts intake manifold adapter; Hondata intake manifold gasket; BDL hose clamps; Walbro 255lph fuel pump; SX Performance fuel pressure regulator and fuel filter; Starlite Aeroquip fuel lines; Russell quick disconnect fittings; Marshall fuel pressure gauge; Earl’s fuel fittings and fuel lines; R Crew Racing exhaust manifold and exhaust; Denso Iridium spark plugs; Visteon/C&R radiator, radiator fans; Samco Sport cooling hoses; Mugen thermostat; custom powdercoated glacier white valve cover; ARP 12-point bolts w/black beauty washers; FEEL’S carbon-fiber coil cover and oil cap; AEBS radiator hose clamps; Hybrid Racing PNP harness and plug/play harness; Odyssey PC680 battery; Chasebays engine tuck harness
Drivetrain K20A Type R 6-speed manual transmission; Competition Clutch Stage 2 clutch and flywheel; Torco manual transmission fluid
Engine Management Hondata K-Pro
Footwork & Chassis Tein RE coilovers (14K/10K); K-Tuned traction bar; 26mm front sway bar; Comptech rear sway bar and endlinks; Carbing 3-point front strut bar and rear strut bar; Function7 rear lower control arms; Cusco Safety 21 8-point rollcage
Brakes Endless Racing 4-POT custom gold front brakes, front/rear Street brake pads and brake lines; Mugen front/rear brake rotors; FEEL’S brake master cylinder; OEM ITR 5-lug conversion
Wheels & Tires 16x8" +45/16x7" +35 Desmond Spoon Sports SW388; 215/40R16 and 205/40R16 BFGoodrich g-Force Sport; Project Mu lug nuts; APR extended wheel studs
Exterior JDM OEM Honda EK9 CTR front bumper, rear bumper, side skirts, headlights and taillights; First Molding carbon-fiber Flugel Plate and carbon-fiber hood (not pictured); Sergeant rear diffuser; Zeal Type 1 rear spoiler; Glasurit Desert Sage Metallic paint; Phillips 4300K high/low HID kit; Spoon Sports carbon-fiber side mirrors
Interior Bride Zeta III seats w/Bride Hyper Gradation center seat pads and seat rails; Takata safety harnesses; Mugen FG360 steering wheel, shift knob and pedal set; Splash steering hub; Mr Alex quick-release; OEM Honda EK9 CTR door panels and carpet; Retrofitted 2000-spec dashboard; STACK/SARD ST-8130 instrument cluster
Thanks You My girlfriend, Nathaly, Trik Speed, all the Northwest homies and the homies that helped me with my car, all the Cali homies, Colin (cjm), Joey Lee/StickyDiljoe and The Chronicles, Teddy (FX Auto Design), Justin (Rroyal Garage), Matt at ICB Motorsport for all the help, Mike and Tony at Evasive Motorsport, Jeremy (lowpro), James at Speedfactory for the tune, Peter Leng for helping me out with the motor, Debbie at powdercoating inc, Jeff at JMI, Dave at RS Machine, Albert at Automation LED, Derek (dizzle), Tom at Discount Tire; Thanks to everyone for the love and support