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JDM 1989 Honda Civic LX - Down Home Cooking, Sedan Style

John Perez has an obsession for collecting rare JDM parts for his EF '89 Civic LX sedan

Mar 13, 2014
Photographers: Adam Phan, Ravi Angard

"Follow the masses, or make my own path," owner John Perez tells me. I feel that brave words such as these require ample substance to back them up. Please elaborate sir. "Well I never really saw myself as someone who followed what others did. The trends always looked the same, so I decided to cut a new path and explore what I thought might be some untapped potential." But before that potential could be untapped, something first had to be cracked. As the old saying goes, "You can't make an omelet without cracking a few eggs," and thanks to one monstrously fateful crack this JDM EF Honda Civic LX now has all the proper fixings.

1989 honda civic LX JDM OEM honda front lip 10 Photo 2/11   |   1989 Honda Civic LX JDM OEM Honda Front Lip 10

This "southeastern omelet" began one fateful day in the mid '90s when John carelessly backed into a car and cracked a taillight. After stifling a fluid stream of expletives, John gathered himself and called a supplier in California to source a new EF Honda Civic taillight assembly. Luckily' they had the replacement part he needed in stock. There was only one stipulation: they were JDM taillights. John had no idea what this meant, all he knew was the price was right and he was getting both lamps, so he could have a spare lamp. But when his lamps arrived John noticed that something was amiss. These bloody taillights didn't include the parking light that came with the USDM model! Also, the amber piece wrapped around the corner of the lens for no apparent reason, thus making it impossible to replace just one side! What a pain in the ass. But with nothing to lose John gave it a try, and what do you know? Once installed, everything bolted up just fine, so John went back to his daily driving duties and forgot about his odd replacement lights. But after some time those little differences John noticed began to weigh heavy on his mind and it made him curious. What other options were out there for this car? What in the seven hells does JDM mean? John's OEM Honda Civic sedan had been just as plain as greasy over easy eggs, but suddenly these taillights he had landed were like throwing cheese in the mix. Little did John know, but his life was about to change forever. Most guys tend to pick up hobbies like golf, fishing, mountain biking, underwater basket weaving, or the extreme winter sport known as curling. But not John. He became a JDM parts collector.

2018 Honda Civic
$18,940 Base Model (MSRP) 28/40 MPG Fuel Economy
1989 honda civic LX honda access remote 03 Photo 3/11   |   JDM 1989 Honda Civic LX - Down Home Cooking, Sedan Style

True JDM parts enthusiasts who are reading this will note the JDM window visors, one-piece headlights, front bumper pole, and the power folding mirrors. You might also notice the air refiner, an authentic Mugen steering wheel, and a Mugen shifter lying discreetly amongst other highly coveted items. "People don't realize the staggering number of options and accessories that were made available for this vehicle," John tells me. "Items like the map light, the Honda personal box, and an under-seat tray are items you just never see on a 1989 Civic sedan." And then there are things like the glowing rear EF Honda Civic garnish and the glowing Gathers speakers that are only recognizable when the sun sets. But to me the best part isn't a part at all. The simple fact that everything on this car works exactly the way it should, as if the vehicle's engineers had meant for a Civic to be this finger-licking good back in 1989, absolutely thrills me beyond words.

So let's back things up, and see what was going on in John's "kitchen" back in the mid to late 1990's. Sometime after Kurt Cobain foolishly opted to blow his brains out, but well before Fred Durst suddenly realized he was secretly in love with singing George Michael covers, John had come to a realization. Everybody was swapping B16 engines into their EF's back then. Looking to buck the trend, John opted to go a different route, and his natural inclination was to make a naturally aspirated D-series motor, the meaty heart of his winning recipe. But John liked having his AC during those long, hot Florida summers, and his power steering made daily driving duties so much easier. "So I picked up a 1991 Si motor, trans, and ECU for a decent price from someone doing a B16 conversion, and then took the motor to a shop and had it completely rebuilt from the ground up," John recalls. An ACT clutch here, SRP Pistons and Eagle rods there, a JG301X camshaft paired up with JG springs, along with some titanium retainers to fill in up top. Then along came an AEM fuel rail and a matching AEM FPR, followed by some porting, some polishing, a bit of blueprinting, and finally some swapping. Out came the DPI D15B2, and enter the MPFI D16A6. But no sooner had the swap been completed, than it all went up in smoke. A small pinhole in the radiator caused the vehicle to overheat, and down she went, like a scorched sausage on the griddle.

1989 honda civic LX mugen MR5 wheel 04 Photo 4/11   |   JDM 1989 Honda Civic LX - Down Home Cooking, Sedan Style

Not being one to give up, John sold his A6 camshaft and some other items to recoup repair costs. Once converted over to OBD-1 and retuned, the car was once again running and back on the road. To this day you can find these same internals safely incinerating fuel and putting the power to the pavement. John never banked on having the fastest Honda out there. First of all, just look at this car. It is not a track monster; it is total VIP in a Mini-Me packaged format. Second of all, John isn't stupid; he knows that there will always be a faster car. Lastly, and most importantly, he knows that fast cars on the street can kill people. The worst thing that could happen to him is if he backs into another Ford Aerostar while going a blistering 3 mph in the Whole Foods parking lot.

So here is a man who's key focus for the last 2 decades has been finding the rarest JDM and OEM parts scattered across the face of the planet. A modern day treasure hunter if you will. An Indiana Jones of the Honda world. He searches for priceless Honda artifacts and then puts them on for the world to see. "I really try and keep the car period correct while incorporating appropriate modifications where possible," John informs me. With a little time and patience John was able to score some obscure OEM 35XT decals for the trunk and doors. Wonder why John hasn't resprayed his car in the last 12 years? Well there's your answer. John wants more though, "How awesome would it be to have the umbrella holder, or the back arm rest? These are the thoughts that keep me up at night." Gone are the days when you could open up a Honda Access Catalog and order one of everything you find. After 24 years, all of these items have long since finished their production runs, so when John finds a rare item, he grabs it up. A tough lesson was learned two years ago, when he missed his chance at landing a rear bumper pole. To this day he is still beating himself up over this one missed opportunity.

1989 honda civic LX ARC filter 09 Photo 5/11   |   1989 Honda Civic LX ARC Filter 09

What inspired John Perez isn't what he sees, but rather what he doesn't see. Something has been missing from the scene, and he wanted to build something classic, clean, and completely classy. The goal was never to be the center of attention, but rather to have something so subtly elegant, that only those who actually knew what they were looking at stopped, and then looked even closer. But what I find most fascinating though, is how this whole rant of mine got started in the first place. Way before everything you see today made its way onto the car. Way before John discovered his love for all of the available (and not so available) options for this car. There was a parking lot incident in the early 1990's that left a man with a busted taillamp, and in desperate need of some replacement parts. And boy has he replaced some parts. Tasteful additions never looked so good.

1989 honda civic LX JDM EF2 front end conversion 05 Photo 6/11   |   JDM 1989 Honda Civic LX - Down Home Cooking, Sedan Style

Bolts & Washers

Propulsion
D16A6/Z6 SOHC VTEC
Hasport mounts
Z6 valve cover
Ported/polished head
SRP pistons 11:1
Eagle Rods
ARP Headstuds
Cometic High Compression Headgasket
ACT Clutch
Si Transmission
Si Throttle Body overbored to 60mm
Skunk 2 Intake Manifold
FAL Dual Slim Fan
B16 Injectors
ARC Air Intake Box
ARC Filter
DC Sport 4-2-1 Header
AEM Adj. Cam Sprocket
AEM Fuel Rail
AEM Fuel Pressure Regulator
Password JDM Battery Relocation Kit
Password JDM hood dampers
eCtune P06 ECU
Mugen Radiator CapMugen Oil Cap
Chase Bay's Grounding Kit
Downstar Engine Dress Up Bolts
JASMA Silicone Radiator Hoses
Mishimoto Low Temp. Thermostat
Wireworx Tucked Harness

1989 honda civic LX D16A6 engine 07 Photo 7/11   |   JDM 1989 Honda Civic LX - Down Home Cooking, Sedan Style

Suspension
Tein Super Street Coilovers
Ingalls Rear Camber Kit
Skunk 2 Front Pro Camber Kit
Cusco Front Strut Bar
Cusco Rear Upper Strut Bar
Neuspeed Rear Lower Tie Bar
Energy Suspension Bushings
Function 7 LCAs

Resistance
Chase Bay's Brake Booster Delete
Powerstop Crossdrilled Rotors
Russell Stainless Steel Brake Lines

1989 honda civic LX JDM OEM honda front lip 08 Photo 8/11   |   1989 Honda Civic LX JDM OEM Honda Front Lip 08

Wheels And Tires
Rebarreled Mugen MR5's 16x8 +30
Falken 205/45-16
Mugen MR5's 15x6.5 +38 (Spare Set)
Falken 195/50 R15 (on the Spare Set)
Mugen MR5 Center Caps
Mugen MR5 Lug Caps
Mugen Lug Cap Key
Muteki Lug Nuts

Exterior
JDM EF2 Complete Front End Conversion
JDM OEM Honda Front Lip
JDM OEM Amber Side Markers
JDM OEM Fenders
JDM OEM Headlight Buckets
JDM OEM HoodJDM OEM One Piece Head Lights
JDM OEM Tail Lights
JDM OEM Power Folding Mirrors
JDM Light Up Front License Plate
JDM Zenith Grounding StrapJDM JAF Badge and Decals
JDM Parking Decal
JDM 35xt Limited Edition Door Decals
JDM 35xt Trunk Decal
Honda Access Rear Fog Lights
Honda Access Bumper Pole
Honda Access Round Stanley Front Fog Lights
Honda Access Window Door Visors
Honda Access Rear Light Up "Civic" Garnish
Honda Access Civic Car Cover
Honda Access Front & Rear Mud Guards
Honda Access Spoiler w/ Brake Light
Honda Primo Banner
Mugen License Plate Bolts
Downstar Engine Bay Dress up Kit
Custom Exhaust w/ HKS Muffler

1989 honda civic LX mugen shift knob 06 Photo 9/11   |   JDM 1989 Honda Civic LX - Down Home Cooking, Sedan Style

Interior
Mugen SW3 Steering Wheel
Mugen Race Pedals
Mugen Shift Knob
Honda Gathers Radio
Honda Gathers CD PlayerHonda Gathers Rear Deck Speakers (GS-5310)
Honda Gathers Hanging Speakers
Honda Access Air Refiner w/ Remote
Honda Access Seat Tray
Honda Access Personal Box
Honda Access Map Light
Honda Access Arm RestHonda Accesss Switch Plate
Honda Access Front Fog Light Switch
Honda Access Rear Fog Light Switch
Honda Access Power Folding Mirror Switch
Honda Access Parking Pole Switch
Honda Access Civic Floor Mats
Circuit Hero Shifter Extender
C's Short Shifter
NRG Quick Release
NRG Short Hub
VDO gauges
AEM UEGO Wideband Air Fuel Gauge
JDM Radio Bezel w/ Ashtray & Cigarette Lighter
JDM Broadway Mirror

Props
My Family, Stacy & Trae TeamV2Lab, Xavier at Wireworx, Chris at ODB Welding Werks, Elton "Baba" Ravi Angard, Adam Phan, David at MemoryFab, and everyone who has helped me source parts throughout the years

1989 honda civic LX mugen MR5 wheel 11 Photo 10/11   |   1989 Honda Civic LX Mugen MR5 Wheel 11

Owner Specs

Daily Grind
Co-Owner and Principal Designer at Hota Design Studio

Favorite Site
efcivicsedan.com, nwp4life.com, stickydiljoe.com, d-series.org

Screen Name
89civicracer

Building Hondas
Since the early 90s

Dream Car
Acura NSX

Inspiration For This Build
My facination for JDM parts specific to this car

Future Build
track ready EF9

Retromod Mania

After racking up over 336,000 miles, John's Civic is still driven to shows all over Florida and it is still painted B37M, an OEM Honda color for the 1989 Civic sedan. Over the years, this guy has bolted on countless OEM and JDM parts to give his car as much period correct flare as possible. That being said, John did take a few liberties when it came to the motor and the wheels. The motor being an upgraded, fully built A6/Z6, and the wheels being re-barreled to 16x8-inch +30 Mugen MR5s. Funny thing is, these upgrades still look like they belong on the vehicle from the factory. Retro is the name of the game here people, and this ride sure does shine with style. But it is not done by any means. John's passion and appreciation for this unloved and outdated sedan is something that he just can't shake, and he'll forever be looking for those JDM accessories to make it all come together one day.

1989 honda civic LX honda access rear light up civic garnish 02 Photo 11/11   |   JDM 1989 Honda Civic LX - Down Home Cooking, Sedan Style
Micah Wright
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