Twelve lightning fast months have now blown right by us and 2014 is just a week or so away, so I figured it might be a good time to list some of my favorite feature cars from 2013. I tried to keep this down to just one car per issue but it did get away from me a few times. It's a tough thing to do, especially with so many nice, intriguing, well-built cars floating around this year. While these are my personal top picks, that doesn't take anything away from the other cars that graced the pages of HT as I put them all in there for a reason ;)
Feb/Mar - William Wang's 1995 del Sol
The plain and simple truth is we don't see a ton of del Sol projects underway. Sure, there are plenty of lowered versions sporting the requisite bolt ons, a set of wheels, and perhaps a front lip, but rarely do we see complete, meticulous ground-up builds like Williams. Mugen aficionados will recognize the authentic aero kit that includes a front bumper and sideskirts as well as a subtle rear wing that all compliment a set of Mugen MF10 wheels that slightly cover the active gate brake set up. Under the hood, no shortcuts in sight as a built K24 block is mated to a K20Z3 head in one of the most tidy engine bay packages you're likely to ever see under the hood of Honda's often forgotten 2-seater.
In 2009, I sent a photographer to shoot Williams del Sol but he asked that the shoot not run in print as he had major plans in store. Years later he popped out of nowhere with one of the most well rounded del Sol builds of all time and the rest is history.
April - Daniel Hernandez's 1997 Civic sedan
Danny's 4dr has been taken apart and reassembled more times than he can possibly remember. It's seen a few different complete color changes, a number of engine transplants and I won't even get into how many different wheels have been bolted to this sedan. For my scorecard, the final incarnation of his 6th gen was by far its greatest.
Under the hood is a well sorted K24A4 with a number of upgrades including a built bottom end with 12.5:1 Supertech slugs and Blueprint rods, Supertech valve train and Blox Spec B cams that all work toward a 257hp/196tq payoff. What really separates Danny's car from the masses is the custom hot rod flair that's sprinkled throughout. Relying on dimple die bits, shaved and relocated gas filler, and plenty of slick tricks in the engine bay, his Civic is packed with minute details that you can't possibly tally up upon first inspection. A return visit to scan the car top to bottom is necessary and even then, you're probably going to miss more than a few highlights. Draped in BMW's unique Phoenix Yellow Metallic paint, the car set a new precedent for sedan builds across the nation.
May - John Benevides' 1993 Civic CX
"No Excuses" was the title of John's feature story and I think it was a perfect fit. Born with a rare deficiency in his limbs known as Femur Fibula Ulna syndrome, John has not only adapted to his surroundings, he's excelled. Beyond just owning and tracking his K20 Civic, he also built every bit of the car with the exception of a custom exhaust system that a local shop helped him out with, but even with that part of the build he took care of the measurements and reinstallation himself. The photos in the article show John literally laying on top of the engine to get into hard to reach areas of the bay and that's exactly how he spent 2 weeks, wrenching away to complete his first K-swap. Something John stated during his write up that's stuck with me ever since: "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..." As I mentioned earlier - no excuses.
June - Hasport's 1995 Prelude
Brian Gillespie has been the Honda engine swap guru for years now and much of what he conjures up in his head ends up being produced in the form of engine mount kits in the Hasport workshop. This particular build was of great interest to me for a few different reasons. The first being, it's a 4th gen Prelude built to race and to be quite blunt, it looks angry as hell. Aggressive from every angle, the car is begging to be flogged on track. Second is obviously the boosted K24 under the hood. While most wouldn't even consider this swap, the Hasport crew has a 500+hp version all wrapped up in a stripped and caged, custom aero-enhanced package. With the help of Bernardo Martinez and Andy Hope, the car was literally finished a day before the shoot and showed up at the studio with a brand new set of Toyo RS1s that hadn't even burned the stickers off yet. One-of-a-kind, this car was destined for a cover and I'm not ashamed to admit that I badgered the hell out of Brian and Andy to get the car finished before the deadline.
June - Thomas Fitzgibbon's 1995 Odyssey LX
Ok, so June is sort of a tie between two of my favorites from that month; the Hasport Prelude and Thomas' wild, one-off, reverse-head H22 Odyssey. Pulling inspiration from the renowned Super-Touring Hondas of yesteryear, Fast Eddies Racing (Thomas and his buddy Kevin) put together something completely original and pretty damn perplexing to those that aren't familiar with the old high performance reverse-head F20s.
When I first spotted the car at Nisei Showoff one year, I looked at the engine bay, snapped a photo, then took about 3 steps toward the next row of cars. It took a moment for it to register, as an H22 swap into a mid-90s Odyssey was nothing new, but the fact that the TWM 50mm individual throttle bodies were facing forward certainly was! A few years later and the team perfected the swap but not without jumping some major hurdles and of course learning from their mistakes along the way. In the end, the Oddy runs great, was ready to shoot, and even incorporated some modern day bits like a coil-on-plug conversion. Anytime I've posted a photo or made mention of this car on the Honda Tuning magazine Facebook page, all hell has broken loose. From the killjoys stating that it's a waste of time, to the know-it-alls posting that he should have done a K swap, it never fails to bring out the "experts." One thing is for certain, if you ever have the pleasure of chatting with Thomas and Kevin about this build, it will take less than 2-minutes for you to understand how passionate these guys are about Hondas, Super Touring cars, and wrenching in general. You will not be disappointed, I assure you.
July (tie) - Jimmy Nguyen's 1991 CRX HF and Son Nguyen's 1990 CRX Si
Both of these cars landed on the cover of the July issue for a few reasons. First, and most obvious, is the fact that they're both CRX's and there simply aren't many nicely maintained 88-91 era Civic/CRXs floating around. And second, finding 2 in the same region with unique engine set-ups was just too perfect.
Jimmy's HF features an H2B swap with TWM throttle bodies and while most expect the dimensionally larger H22 to look as if it were shoehorned into the CRXs chest cavity, Jimmy's swap is clean and well organized.
Son's black Si is fitted with an F23 block, H22 head, B16 transmission, K20 intake manifold, and D-series ECU. The mix of various engine families results in a solid 250+hp and similar to Jimmy's engine bay, the less is more approach was taken and the result is simplicity in appearance, but in actuality, quite a complex build.
Both cars are fitted with JDM front-end conversions, period correct wheels and neither is adorned with any spur of the moment trends or gaudy additions that either owner will regret in 10 years.
August - Speedfactory Racing/Sipes Bros. 1993 Civic VX
Speedfactory Racing has made a name for itself as a front-runner in the ever-evolving world of competitive drag racing on both the turbo and all motor fronts. This particular car managed to land at the top spot earlier in the year with a blistering 9.81@137. I'd featured the car years ago and the Sipes Bros at that time, having joined forces with Speedfactory Racing, vowed to work their way to the top of the food chain and they did just that.
What started as a K24 is now a 90mmx106mm 2.7L monster that pumps out over 400whp. Big 67mm Kinsler ITBs and a custom Speedfactory airbox are situated for direct airflow thanks to a set of Prayoonto Racing "Gangsta Lean" engine mounts. Custom Skunk2 prototype cams and Ferrea roller rockers keep things moving toward a Speedfactory Racing custom header that exits through the passenger side fender. Power is put to the ground with an Albins 4-speed dogbox while AEM's Infinity management system calls the shots. Watching and listening to this car as it turned the rollers on the dyno was an experience that I won't soon forget.
September - King Motorsports' 1992 Prelude
I'm pretty sure people were a bit thrown off when they flipped through this Prelude's feature and saw the absence of an H22 valve cover. If it's a racecar, shouldn't it use Honda's infamous VTEC system? Not in this case as the car was built to remain within strict SCCA guidelines. This particular car is special as it was one of five pre-production VTEC model Preludes to land on U.S. shores many years ago. After its stint as a press review car, it went on to change hands frequently, but remained as a competitor in SCCA E Production class and managed to win every race in its division by 1999. And yeah, that was done with the H23 under the hood. Gunmetal 15x7 TE37s wrapped in Hoosier slicks supply the traction and the eye searing orange paint scheme is just plain awesome. With a ton of history under its belt, the King Motorsports team rebuilt and commissioned the car for track duty once again; what's not to like?
October - Ryan Basseri's 1986 Civic Si
When Ryan, aka Rywire, traded his CRX for this 3rd gen Civic shell, I knew he was thinking about doing something special. What I didn't know is that this car would garner so much attention worldwide. The starting point was great; an '86 Civic in pristine condition that was coming out of the body shop after a complete respray. Ryan's thought was, why not incorporate some of the cutting edge electronic technology that his company has become so synonymous with, into the older chassis?
B-series engine swaps into the tight confines of the 3rd gen aren't unheard of, they've been done time and time again. The difference with Ryan's car is the addition of Kinsler individual throttle bodies that rely on drive-by-wire technology, controlled by AEM's Inifinity-8 management. To push the motorsports electronics front a little further, Ryan eliminated the cars electrical relays and instead incorporated a Racepak Smartwire programmable power distribution module (PDM). Racepak's IQ3 digital display tops off the old-meets-new configuration and with just a few appearances during the summer, this little Si became rather iconic in a very short period of time.
Winter - B&C Performance's 1992 Civic
RWD and AWD converted Civics and Integras have been coming out of the woodwork in recent years but few have laid down the type of performance that B&Cs Civic EH chassis has. Using a mix of OEM and aftermarket AWD goods, the team has managed to piece together a package that has served them well on track, catapulting them into the 9s. Along the way, through trial and error, they've come up with a formula that works and that they can replicate. Customers are now bringing their Hondas to them for the AWD treatment.
Under the hood is a built K24/K20 combo with a Precision 6262 T4 snail hanging off of a Sheepey Built exhaust manifold that produces just over 600hp. As the research and development continues, B&C Performance is only getting faster.