The continued growth of USDM car culture in Japan is an intriguing one. What started out as just a mere meshing of styles by a couple of individuals has developed into a national movement. In its infancy, USDM style lacked true understanding by Japanese car enthusiasts. They collected ideas from whatever they saw on the Internet, and some of the styles they attempted to reproduce weren't always what true American import car culture was about—they were just the flashiest. Car guys in Japan were just attracted by whatever was the furthest from their norm. It wasn't until the last couple of years when they really started to understand what high-caliber builds were about here in the U.S.
USDM style has grown exponentially in Japan these last couple of years because of the Internet. Today, USDM fanatics in Japan can adapt our styling cues every single day. The lines of communication are plentiful and enthusiasts here are more than willing to provide knowledge, photos, video, and more whenever needed. Our tuning philosophy is better understood because it is documented daily and is readily available to the world. Information, however bountiful, is only as valuable as it is interpreted. If there were a group of enthusiasts from Japan that truly "get it" and understand USDM Honda styling, it would be the guys from Tactical Art. Located in a small shop in Osaka, the Tactical Art crew has long been immersed in USDM car life. You've actually seen a couple of their builds before in Super Street. When they first started modifying their own Hondas with this particular style, it was largely based on what they saw via the Internet. It was a fusion of traditional Osaka chic and budding trends from the U.S. Within the past two years, they have elevated their work to new heights and are now one of the go-to shops in Japan for complete USDM-themed builds.
What you see on these pages might seem a bit "simple" for many of you who regularly encounter modified EK Civic hatchbacks (especially in white), but you have to consider where this car came from and how it came together. In Osaka, it's pretty rare to see a well-rounded build of this caliber. Most Hondas in that region are typically race cars or race-themed vehicles that resemble the old Civic one-make races of yesteryear. You'd be surprised if you woke up one day and expected to see a Honda that was built from the ground up with a custom engine bay, paint, and interior work. It's not like they have an inability to pull it off, it just isn't a norm that is characteristic of their car culture.
Even rarer than the overall execution of this EK is what rests beneath the hood—a 2.0-liter K20A engine from a DC5 Integra Type R. K-swaps aren't new to the Japanese, it just isn't nearly as commonplace. In America, K-swaps are the standard in this decade. You pop a hood of any major Honda build stateside and you'd almost be surprised to not see a K in an older Honda. Japan, however, is a little different. You don't see very many K-converted Hondas overseas because they just aren't affordable, or even practical to do. Over there, you actually have to buy the entire car just to get the engine from it! Yes, you read that correctly. You can't just go and buy a used engine like you can here. This makes the swap incredibly expensive, and then you also have to worry about ditching the donor car afterward. In this case, Tactical Art was left with an engine-less ITR shell after the swap.
But back to the EK... If you were looking at the engine bay without any previous knowledge, you'd assume this was a build from North America—it is just that spot-on in execution. Though the layout holds true to its original Japanese right-hand drive roots, the engine bay has been tailored to utilize USDM aftermarket components. The factory intake manifold has been replaced with a Skunk2 Pro Series piece and the entire motor is adorned with a catalog of K-Tuned products. The custom fuel system from the regulator, filter, and lines all the way to the rail itself is from K-Tuned. Hidden by the firewall is a K-swap-specific exhaust manifold also from K-Tuned. Electrical wiring is an essential part of every USDM Honda build, so Atsuki and Yasu from Tactical Art opted for a complete Mil-spec engine harness from Rywire. The radiator may appear to be missing visually, but the Rywire core is actually slant-mounted under the core support. "Tucking" the radiator away from view is a popular approach here in the States and is quickly rising in popularity throughout Japan.
The exterior, if anything, is proof that our style exchange has come full circle. Here, we never received the EK9 Civic Type R chassis that was available in Japan, so many enthusiasts spent time re-creating their Civics to be EK9 clones. Since Tactical Art was attempting to create a USDM-styled EK project, it only made sense to have the car resemble an EK9 CTR—which, ironically, is not that uncommon in Japan. You'd think it was easier just to start with an EK9 platform, but no, these guys wanted the full American experience and reimagined their own CTR clone using an EK3 (base model SOHC VTEC-E) chassis. From there, they added a '99-'00 Type R front end and rear spoiler, but added their own little twist by re-spraying the entire car in an Audi hue known as "Suzuka Gray." The wheels, as you'd expect by now, are also American-made, forged, 16-inch CCWs. Giving the Civic its aggressive ride height are dampers of Tactical Art's own branding.
Like every great car build, no matter what geographical region, there is always a personal touch that sets it apart from the rest. With Tactical Art's latest and greatest, they called upon their friends from 9010Design to reupholster every inch of the interior. With Hondas like this, you would usually just gut the interior, install a rollbar/'cage and swap in some racing buckets. They sought to go in a different direction by redoing the interior in black suede with white stitching to match the Bride Stradia II seats. Everything from the dashboard all the way to the trunk panels have been wrapped tightly in classy suede. This EK3 even has custom audio, which is highly uncharacteristic of your typical U.S. Honda build.
If there was one car that epitomized USDM car culture in Japan in 2014, this K-swapped EK from Tactical Art would be the prototype. To be perfectly frank, they nailed it right on the head. When we first encountered this build, even we were shocked by just how far their understanding of our style had progressed. They could transport this Honda to U.S. shores today and it would feel right at home. Not only would it fit in, it would also stand above most others, thanks to its quality and execution.
1999 Honda Civic
Owner Motoki Tsubouchi
Location Gifu Prefecture, Japan
Occupation Tactical Art
Engine 2.0-liter K20A (DC5 Integra Type R) swap; Hasport EKK1 engine mounts; Skunk2 Racing Pro Series intake manifold, throttle body, oil cap, low profile valve cover hardware kit; K-Tuned 4-2-1 swap header, fuel rail, A/C & P/S delete kit, upper coolant filler neck with -16AN coolant hose fitting, -16AN coolant hoses, heater hoses, billet fuel pressure regulator, fuel filter, fuel gauge, fuel hoses, fuel fittings; Rywire Mil-spec engine harness with quick disconnect/disconnect plate, brake proportion valve relocation kit, S2000 clutch master cylinder kit, tucked radiator with radiator fan
Drivetrain OEM Y2M3 six-speed manual transmission
Engine Management Hondata K-Pro
Footwork & Chassis Tactical Art coilover suspension; Function7 rear lower control arms
Brakes reconditioned OEM EK4 brakes
Wheels & Tires 16x8.5" +21 front, 16x8.5" +16 rear CCW D11L wheels (satin black faces with gold ARP hardware); 205/45R16 Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tires; EVS titanium lug nuts
Exterior JDM '99-00 EK9 CTR front bumper, front lip, front grille, rear hatch spoiler; OEM USDM Civic headlights, taillights; OE Audi Suzuka Gray paint; engine bay sprayed in Tactical Art Gray
Interior upholstered in black suede with white stitching by 9010Design; Bride Stradia II Japan Edition seats, seat rails; Takata Race Series safety harnesses; NRG steering wheel, short hub, quick release; K-Tuned billet shifter box; Carrozzeria NAVI AVIC-ZH0099 head unit; Audison Voce K5 speakers; Rywire Mil-spec iPhone charger
Thanks You Tactical Art; 9010Design; Rywire Motorsport Electronics; Skunk2 Racing; Downstar Inc.; Evasive Motorsports; The Chronicles; Phaze2/Phaze2 Japan
Web Exclusive Photos