It's only appropriate we pay homage to one of the Hondas that really helped shape how many builds are executed today. If you've ever heard of the terms "wire-tuck" or "shaved bay" you have this Civic hatchback to thank because it elevated engine bay customization to new heights—10 years ago!
Sure, there were a few before this that had highly-modded, tucked bays, but this particular project was the one that really helped bring the concept to an entire community of Honda enthusiasts. "JDM" Jon Tanji was regarded as the master of his craft when it came to creating custom engine bays back in those days and this was his masterpiece before he tragically passed in 2005. Chad Castelo, the original owner and builder of this blue Civic, set out to go in a unique direction when he began this build back in 2004. Drawing inspiration from American hot rod builders, he and Tanji worked meticulously to create the personification of a near perfect aesthetic Honda engine bay. Sections of the bay that were deemed unnecessary were cut, filled and smoothed-out. A one-off hand-made engine harness was then created to ensure the motor was operational while making the B18C appear as if it were a floating showpiece. The exterior would likewise be executed with detail in mind, but kept as minimal as possible to focus the attention exclusively on what the Civic had under the hood. This concept, paired with the growth in popularity of everything JDM, was a turning point for the Honda community in the 2000s and murdered the popular body-kit era of the late nineties.
Fast forward a decade, and this Civic remains virtually frozen in time. In an era that sees so many fly-by-night projects being sold as soon as they reach any measure of internet fame, it is astonishing to fathom that this time capsule endures. The two men responsible for its everlasting survival are Matthew Ye, who acquired the Civic in '06, and its current owner, Mauricio Santos. Ye, better known to the Honda world as "ICB Matt," purchased the car from Chad in '06 and stored it in his own private collection for eight years. He took the car out for a handful of events during that tenure, but public appearances were few and far between. The Civic sat quietly indoors alongside Matt's many other Hondas.
How Mauricio came to acquire the Civic years later was fairly random. "I always wanted to buy this car and bring it back home to SoCal. Porkchop (Jon Tanji) was a dear friend of mine and this Civic is an important part of his memory. When I went out to Arizona to go pick up some parts from ICB Motorsport, I presented Matt with an offer he couldn't refuse and I drove the Civic back to California where it belonged," he explained.
Like Matt Ye, Mauricio also had his own private Honda collection. He is a hoarder of '90s Hondas and this was the centerpiece to his automotive anthology. While Matt is a collector who stores his cars away, Mauricio often finds time to keep all his vehicles active and regularly drives every one of them.
"I know that Jon would have wanted the car to be driven so I try to take it out as often as I can," Santos says. "I drive it to go grab food, take my son on weekend cruises; hell, I even take it to the street races," he told us.
The fact that he can drive the car everywhere and not have to worry about it really speaks to the quality of the original build. You figure the motor would be tired and parts would be outdated by now but it continues to run like a champ. Let's not forget that the 1.8-liter is running A-Sports individual throttle bodies on an outdated Hondata S100. Santos just recently decided to upgrade to a newer S300 plug-in unit and swapped the Skunk2-equipped head for a complete Alaniz Competition unit. Even with the changes, you wouldn't suspect that anything was different because none of his upgrades affect the Civic's aesthetic appearance.
If there was an automotive museum dedicated strictly to notable Honda builds, Chad Castelo's '92 Civic DX would most certainly hold a special place there. He and the late Jon Tanji helped to lay the groundwork for how engine bays are executed and really helped to inspire creativity—past, present, and future. Of course, credit goes to Matthew Ye for protecting its legacy and to Mauricio Santos for maintaining it. With any luck, another decade will go by and this Civic will still be around to inspire the next crop of Honda enthusiasts.
1992 Honda Civic DX
Owner Mauricio Santos (Originally owned/built by Chad Castelo)
Occupation Private Honda Collector
Engine JDM B18C; Alaniz Full Competition port/polished head; Supertech valves, valve springs, retainers; JDM B16B camshafts; Skunk2 adjustable cam gears; A-Sports individual throttle bodies; Mugen 4-1 exhaust manifold; STR fuel rail; CTR N1 crank pulley; B&M fuel pressure regulator; Autolink fuel pressure gauge; Hondata intake manifold gasket; Earl's inline fuel filter, custom fuel return system; Koyo radiator; Spoon Sports radiator stays; Hasport engine mounts; 2.5" exhaust with Mugen Twin-Loop muffler; shaved engine bay with welded release holes
Drivetrain JDM ITR 4.785 final drive with limited-slip differential; AASCO 9lb lightened flywheel; Clutch Specialties Stage 2 clutch
Engine Management Hondata S300; custom tucked engine harness by "JDM_Jon" Tanji of DOHC Garage
Footwork & Chassis Tein Flex coilover suspension; ITR sway bars and rear lower control arms
Brakes Integra GS-R front and rear brake conversion; ITR brake master cylinder and brake booster; Axxis Ultimate pads; Earl's Performance stainless steel braided lines
Wheels & Tires 16x7" Mugen M7 wheels; 205/45R16 Achilles ATR Sport tires; J's Racing lug nuts
Exterior Mugen EG6 front lip; JDM headlights, corner lights, taillights, side moldings and SiR rear wing; Spoon Sports side mirrors; custom Monte Carlo Blue paint
Interior JDM ITR Recaro SRD seats, SiR gauge cluster and shift boot; MOMO steering wheel; Mugen pedal set
Thanks You my boy Javier Laorca for all the help and support; Hondata for all their great products; Joe Alaniz for building me a great cylinder head; Erick's Racing for blueprinting all my engines