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1988 Honda Civic DX - EF’n Awesome

Building the Perfect EF9 SiR-Themed Hatch Goes Beyond a Few JDM Parts

Joey Lee
Oct 5, 2015

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.

1988 honda civic dx jdm ef9 sir side skirts Photo 2/18   |   Complete JDM EF9 front end with authentic Chargespeed front lip and Vision Technica turn signals.

"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."

2019 Honda Civic
$21,450 Base Model (MSRP) MPG Fuel Economy

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.

1988 honda civic dx b18c swap Photo 6/18   |   1988 Honda Civic DX - EF’n Awesome

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.

1988 honda civic dx mugen sw3 steering wheel Photo 7/18   |   Flipped up, the Mugen SW3 steering wheel is absolute money.

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.

1988 honda civic dx aim mxl strada digital display Photo 11/18   |   How often do you see an EF with an AIM MXL Strada digital display?

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.

1988 honda civic dx damd lover soul wheel Photo 12/18   |   Gawd DAMD! Rare 15-inch DAMD Lover Soul wheels with Wilwood stoppers.
1988 honda civic dx custom hard fuel lines Photo 13/18   |   Custom hard fuel lines with a modified OE tank. Just wow…
1988 honda civic dx jdm ef9 sir rear bumper Photo 17/18   |   1988 Honda Civic DX - EF’n Awesome
1988 honda civic dx bride zeta iii seats Photo 18/18   |   1988 Honda Civic DX - EF’n Awesome
By Joey Lee
243 Articles
1988 Honda Civic DX - EF’n Awesome
Tuning Menu
Owner: Matthew Bouchard
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Japanese Parts and Engine Importer
Power: 220 hp; 147 lb-ft of torque
Engine: '99 1.8L B18C swap; Portflow cylinder head; Skunk2 Tuner 2 camshafts; T1 Race Development cam gears, cam trigger; Supertech dual valvesprings, titanium retainers; ARP head studs; Hasport engine mounts; Jenvey 48mm tapered individual throttle bodies, fuel rail; Aeromotive 340 Stealth in-tank fuel pump, fuel pressure regulator; 440cc Bosch injectors; custom bent stainless steel fuel lines and fittings; Earl's fuel filters; Maxim Works Japan 4-2-1 exhaust manifold; Mugen EF9-spec Teardrop exhaust; catalytic converter delete; NGK Iridium IX spark plugs; K-series coil-on-plug conversion; Odyssey PC680 battery; Tabata Japan EF9-spec radiator; HPS silicone hoses; Hayden radiator fans with custom aluminum shroud; J's Racing fan switch; Richewerks custom engine harness; shaved/wrinkle black valve cover; Mugen bolts; Downstar bolt kit
Drivetrain: '99 S80 transmission with 4.7 final drive and helical LSD; Exedy/RPS six-puck sprung clutch; TODA Racing flywheel; K-Tuned shift lever
Engine Management: MoTeC M4 standalone; AIM MXL Strada digital display
Footwork & Chassis: Meister R Zeta R coilovers with Swift 10K front/8K rear springs; EF8/9 front sway bar, front lower control arms; CR-X Si steering rack; ASR rear sway bar, end-links; Cusco ST strut bars; Function7 rear lower control arms; Skunk2 rear camber arms; ASC Speed Metal front toe control arms; custom 2" drop forks, chrome-moly front traction bar; SPC rear tow control arms; Energy Suspension bushing kit
Brakes: Wilwood front four-piston calipers, rotors, pads, proportioning valve, master cylinder, brake booster, reverse-mount drop-down pedals; Hawk rear pads; custom lines
Wheels & Tires: 15x7" +35 DAMD Lover Soul wheels; 225/45R15 front, 205/50R15 rear Toyo Proxes tires; Project KICS lug nuts
Exterior: JDM EF9 SiR front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, rear spoiler, rear roof spoiler, front fenders, thin side moldings, trunk hatch, hood, headlights, taillights, bronze windshield, door glass, 1?4 glass, rear hatch glass, door decals; Chargespeed EF9 front lip; Vision Technica bumper lights; Top Fuel Japan Aero Power Mirrors; custom Blue Metallic Glasurit paint
Interior: Cusco rollcage; Bride ZETA III seats; PCI seat rails; CROW Enterprises Black Edition harnesses; Mugen SW3 steering wheel; ASR EF/DA steering hub; Works Bell Rapfix GTC tilt hub; MXP titanium shift knob; EDM EE9 SiR console, door panels with power switches; Pioneer DEH-X6700BT head unit; Carrozzeria front speakers; Gathers Honda Access optional speaker pods
Thanks You: my good friend Brian Skor who spent endless hours on this build, without him this build would not have been possible; my family for always being understanding of my passion for Hondas throughout these years; Kurt Hebding for being there no matter what; Julian Tan Ink Runners for all the help during the early stages; Mitch at ECO SHINE; Hung at HPS Silicone Hoses; Charleston (ASR) A-spec Racing; Richewerks; Takeru Tojo; Masaki Fukuda; L2p Japan Family; Ron Partain Co; Paul's Custom Cycles; Josh and Jonathan at Deeds Performance; Rob and Robbie at RPS Clutches; Allen Camero at RevHard; Hugh at Evasive Motorsports; JHPUSA; Mark Sutakajana at 427Garage; Frank at Downstar Garcia; Joey at The Chronicles; and all the Honda enthusiasts that kept me going



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