As times have changed and styles have evolved, there has always been one constant—the parts supplier. Without guys who communicate with manufacturers around the world, we wouldn't have a whole lot to work with. This was especially the case in the '80s and '90s when acquiring parts from overseas wasn't as easy as doing a Google search. The number of importers was few, demand was high, and prices were at a premium. If you could get ahold of certain aero or engine upgrades from Japan, you were willing to pay almost anything. It made "J-style" or "JDM"-inspired tuning fun, cool, and sought after. Today, the Internet has opened up many lanes of communication for enthusiasts to buy JDM goods whether directly or through an importer or online retailer. There are plenty of large companies that can help you, but you also have guys like Matthew Bouchard. Matt is the owner of M's JDM Motors in Los Angeles and is a one-man importing machine. That means, not only does he run his business day to day by himself, but he also travels to Japan to personally select every component that he imports—and we assure you it's only the best stuff enthusiasts want! A bit soft-spoken, he isn't the type to thrust himself or his cars into the spotlight. So when his '88 Civic made its first and only public appearance toward the end of '14, you can imagine how blown away we were. His Civic was so well rounded and possessed many facets inside and out that you would think he's been building masterful Hondas for decades.
"Pretty much every car that I have ever owned has been a Honda," Matt told us. "I came from a family that drove nothing but Hondas, so I was always exposed to them. The '88-'91 Civic just appealed to me the most because I love the classic, boxy, '80s look—that, and I love how [Japanese] EF9 parts are incredibly rare these days, even in Japan. Just because you have the money doesn't mean you can get your hands on them. You have to search and search hard. I took it as a personal challenge."
The Civic he envisioned building was never a doubt, it just took several years to finish because he had his business as a priority. What added to the downtime was Bouchard's willingness to start from a completely blank slate. For example, the project started by stripping the entire car apart until the chassis was bare metal. It was then cleaned via a rigorous acid-dripping process, and then every nook and cranny was meticulously painted inside and out. Once the canvas was reset, Matt began assembling his own vision of an EF9 SiR.
The shell is the only part of the car that's an original North American Civic DX. All bolt-on body parts, from the bumpers, fenders, to the glass are J-spec EF9 SiR pieces hand-picked by Bouchard. The dated trim and moldings have all been exchanged for brand-new OEM components. Aftermarket add-ons are minimal, but make no mistake they are very rare pieces. A Chargespeed lip that he found years before made its way out of his office stockpile and onto the front bumper. The side mirrors, which are a vital piece to any Honda build, are other endangered parts from Top Fuel Japan. When we say "endangered," we mean they may be the only set left in the world.
Of course, any Honda nut can appreciate the beautifully restored exterior, however, all areas underneath the surface have received the same amount of attention. The suspension and all of its inner workings are more than just your typical fly-by-night chopped springs and blown shocks. Meister R coilovers from the U.K. bring the car down a few inches. Attached to the bottom of the dampers are custom-fabricated drop forks from ASC Speed Metal, which allow the car to lower an additional two inches while maintaining proper suspension travel. The craftsmen from ASC are also responsible for the front toe arms and chrome-moly front traction bar. To keep everything tightened up, all bushings have been upgraded with polyurethane versions. While on his many travels to Japan, Matt managed to strike a deal on a set of mint DAMD Lover Soul wheels—a personal favorite of his and extremely hard to come by in the U.S. Peeking through the black wheel faces are Wilwood four-piston brakes.
Bouchard's resto-modded Civic looks and rides as good as any EF you can dream of, but perhaps the most delicious piece of the pie is the powertrain. The pristine, mild-mannered exterior is contrasted by a heavy-breathing B18C sourced from a '99 Integra Type R. A Portflow head features Supertech guts and a set of Skunk2 Tuner series cams. Mounted to the head and pulling in serious airflow is a set of 48mm Jenvey individual throttle bodies. The dated OEM distributor unit has been ditched for a T1 Race Development cam trigger setup affixed to the front part of the cylinder head to control ignition timing.
The "engine room," as the Japanese like to call it, is not short of any rare commodities, either—a Maxim Works header is mounted to an even more rare Mugen Teardrop muffler. Not many have heard of Tabata before, but cooling efficiency is significantly improved thanks to a full-sized EF9-specific radiator. Finally worth noting, a MoTeC M4 standalone management system makes all these moving parts work in unison.
Builds like this come around as often as most of the parts on Matt's car—almost never. We could sit here and list out every intricate detail on his build, and there wouldn't be enough pages in the magazine to cover it all. It is just that good. Guys like Mr. Bouchard are needed in our community, not because they help to bring parts in, but they also have the passion and ability to create custom builds that will inspire others for years to come. While shooting the car, he made it a point to let us know his favorite part of the entire build—EDM (European Domestic Market) door panels that have left-hand drive power window switches instead of the JDM panels. Matt, your favorite feature is the door panels?! That's simply another reason why the attention to detail and parts selection on this build are insane, and exactly why guys like Matt belong in our annual Honda Issue.