The '99 Si is a special year in the long running Civic family. A strong, almost cult-like following, it's the Electron Blue Pearl version that is synonymous with the 1.6L coupe that boasts a high revving, 160 horsepower powerplant that most would never consider swapping out for something else. Then again, Miguel Paz Alameda of Jacksonville, Florida, isn't just anybody, and his EM1, nicknamed "Penny," isn't just any old car. If you're anything like me, you probably assume that the nickname is due to the car's copper-like color, but in fact, it's because, as Miguel tells us, it left him with but a penny in his pocket.
As great as the original B16A2 is, Miguel simply wanted more. More power, more torque, and with that of course, comes more money. To get started, a set of engine mounts would be needed for the K20A2 powerplant to find its new home. Simple enough, right? Well, at times, engine swaps tend to become complicated matters. "I did not know what I was getting myself into. Everyone was telling me which kind of engine mounts to buy." Miguel initially purchased a set of mounts that didn't fit. Ultimately, he learned that a K-series swap in an EM1 called for a subframe from a '92-'95 Civic or a '94-'97 Acura Integra. "I thought I was going to just drop my engine in, bolt it on, and go," he laughs.
Miguel contacted local junkyards in search of a subframe, but soon discovered junkyards aren't too keen on selling just an intact subframe while there's still a usable engine on the donor vehicle. While searching, a friend with a '95 Civic sustained a major rear end collision that resulted in an insurance claim being filed and the car being totaled. The insurance company scheduled to pick up the Civic and Miguel states, "I asked if he was sure the insurance would not reject the claim with the subframe missing." His friend said that it was not a problem, to take the parts he needed, and to not worry about paying for anything. "I quickly came over in my truck, unbolted what I needed, and off I went."
As the process continued, another hurdle got in the way. An incorrectly pinned aftermarket engine wiring harness complicated the final stages of the build. Further agitating the situation was the eight-month waiting period for the problem to be rectified. The electrical mystery was solved after Miguel and his friends worked tirelessly for weeks before an upcoming car show and they were determined to have the EM1 up and running for the event. They tooled away until 3 a.m., napping before heading off to work only to return after punching out for the day. The crew performed a basic diagnosis; gas, fuel, battery, etc., and unfortunately, the K20A2 did not run well. Fortunately, Miguel's roommate was in the process of putting together a K-powered CRX. The team swapped sensors, Hondata K-Pro engine control units, and other vitals, but the Civic remained unchanged. Finally, someone decided to swap the engine harness from the CRX with the Civic to see if wiring was in fact the issue. Sure enough, the variable timing control and alternator sensors were pinned incorrectly. Problem solved.
With all of the guesswork and testing, Miguel was unable to make it to the show and though the car ran better, something seemed off-it was still running a little on the rough side. He decided to get the Civic tuned the following week, where his tuner discovered yet another wiring issue. This time the MAP sensor was incorrectly pinned, but that wasn't the end of his wiring woes. During a drag race event months later, the TPS sensor wiring loosened up, and although a quick fix in reality, in total, the aftermarket harness resulted in four operating issues and plenty of headaches. The ordeal seemed like a nightmare, but in Miguel's eyes, the overall impact resulted in a learning experience. "You do not know everything about cars. You think you do, but you don't." Miguel admits that this was his first K-series build and the overall project was challenging.
Miguel prefers a simple, user-friendly interior, but on the outside, he made a number of changes, most notably the Blaze Orange Metallic paint job and a set of unique wheels. Made-to-order in Miguel's choice of sizing, the J-Line SDMSL2 rollers took quite some time to reach their new owner. He adds, "I have never given $2,200 for something and not had anything in my hands for six months, lol!" The car often changes wheels depending on the venue and the day's activities. Drag racing, car shows, Sunday cruises, this EM1 enjoys all of the above. Friends are quick to ask if he plans on selling the J-lines to which he responds, "No! They make the car."
Long-term plans are simply to maintain the vehicle with perhaps a new wheel setup, maybe a new part here or there, but nothing major-the current phase is likely to exist for the foreseeable future. "I love my car. I wish it was a bit quicker but I love it and I won't get rid of it. I don't build and part; I build and continue to modify." Miguel does understand and appreciate the value of a sacred car after all. Testify.
Bolts & Washers
Hybrid Racing mounts
Headwork by Dover Cylinder Head
'06 TSX camshafts
Ferrea 5000 Series valves
Crower dual valve springs
Crower titanium retainers
Karcepts 3-inch air intake system
RBC air intake manifold
HyTech 4-1 exhaust manifold
Custom 3-inch exhaust system
Vibrant Performance 3-inch exhaust
Walbro 255-lph fuel pump
K-Tuned fuel lines and fittings
K-Tuned fuel filter
K-Tuned fuel pressure regulator
K-Tuned fuel rail
K-Tuned fuel pressure gauge
Koyo Dual core aluminum radiator
Hybrid Racing radiator hoses
Buddy Club short shifter box
Competition Clutch Stage 3 clutch
Fidanza 8-pound flywheel
Hondata K-Pro engine control unit
Function and Form Type II coilovers
Blackworks Racing LCAs
Blackworks Racing rear subframe brace
Blackworks Racing rear subframe tie bar
Vibrant Performance rear shock tower bar
Front: Tenzo R cross-drilled rotors
Stainless steel brake lines
Wheels And Tires:
J-Line SDMSL2 16x8 +20
205/40-16 Nitto Neo Gens
Blaze Orange Metallic paint
Shaved engine bay
Type One front splitters
SRR bumper quick release
RSX-S front seats
'02 Civic steering wheel
Skunk2 Racing 10th Anniversary shift knob
CTR shift boot
Custom rear seat delete
Custom leather wrapped trunk cargo cover
Mom, Katherine Alameda, Friends, John Moore, Chris Pagan @ ODB Welding Werks, Austin Smith and Scott Kepple @ Identity Design, Dan Straastma @ River City Powder Coatings, John and Mike @ K-Tuned, David Cordell and Tim Schultz @ Hybrid Racing, Kindred Impulse
Inspiration For This Build
Hybrid Racing's K-Series del Sol