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Nick Higgins' 1989 Honda Civic Hatchback

An ode to classic Japanese Honda Tuning Culture with this Well-Built Street-Tuned EF

Joey Lee
Feb 22, 2016
Photographer: Patrick Lauder

There's a very peculiar sense of brand loyalty that exists among automotive enthusiasts. Some may stray and test the waters, experimenting with other make and model vehicles, while others continue to stay loyal to the cars they love. In most cases, the ones who do stray inevitably come back to the brand they started with. There are a lot of reasons as to what brings this loyalty to light, but it most likely has to do with the sense of nostalgia and comfort that comes with having something familiar. Cars are like old friends who never leave your side when you need them, no matter how much bullshit it may put you through.

1989 honda civic hatchback osakajdm rear spoiler Photo 2/24   |   1989 Honda Civic Hatchback Osakajdm Rear Spoiler
1989 honda civic hatchback cahrgespeed ef9 sir front lip Photo 3/24   |   Looks just like a JDM EF9 Civic SiR, plus the Chargespeed front lip and OsakaJDM rear spoiler.

Dive a little bit deeper into this idea and you find guys like Nicholas Higgins. He not only is loyal to the Honda namesake, but he also has an undying love for a very particular Honda: the '88-'91 Civic, better known to most simply as the "EF" chassis. Higgins can't get enough of this Civic, and it all started with a little joyride.

"My friend Ryan took me for a ride in his '91 Civic SI hatchback back in '06," Higgins says. "It was completely stock, but there was just something so interesting about the car. I remember it being the first Honda Civic I ever rode in, but from that day on, I was completely hooked. I finally bought one two years later and slowly started to piece it together."

1989 honda civic hatchback b16a2 Photo 7/24   |   Shaved and tucked B-series bay. So clean you could eat off it!

He kept things relatively simple for his first build. A Japanese-specific EF9 SiR front end was acquired and the engine bay was slowly getting cleaned up, but things took an unfortunate turn in '11. What turned out to be an impromptu romp at the illegal street races resulted in Higgins wrecking his beloved Civic. After that eventful evening, Nicholas decided to stop participating in anything related to street racing and turned his attention to building a better version of his first EF. Call it fate or just a mere stroke of luck, but he was able to find another Civic SI hatchback just a week after the accident. There was no hesitation on his part, and he bought it right away to begin his ground-up build.

1989 honda civic hatchback desmond regamaster evo wheel Photo 8/24   |   1989 Honda Civic Hatchback Desmond Regamaster Evo Wheel

The idea was to re-create the Civic as an ode to a traditional Japanese EF9 Civic SiR, tuned for the streets as it would appear on a highway in Osaka. Higgins would then put his own twist on tradition by devoting a majority of his efforts to making the engine bay a true work of art. When you look under the hood now, you'd never think his nearly 30-year-old Civic even ran by how clean it is. Every section that surrounds the 1.6L B16A2 has been filled and shaved smooth. All the wires have been neatly tucked away via a Rywire engine harness, and the brake booster has even been eliminated to give the engine bay an overall cleaner aesthetic.

1989 honda civic hatchback honda access personal box Photo 9/24   |   1989 Honda Civic Hatchback Honda Access Personal Box

The B-series motor, as minimal as it appears, is not without its own upgrades. Under the custom-coated valve cover is a set of Skunk2 camshafts, matching Skunk2 adjustable cam gears, and Supertech valvetrain improvements. The exhaust manifold is a race-bred 1320 Performance piece attached to a classic A'PEXi muffler. The stock intake manifold and cumbersome intake arm have been completely removed; in their place is a set of 48mm individual throttle bodies originally meant for a Toyota 4A-GE from an AE101 Corolla. Custom fuel lines were made for cleaner routing to the engine, which feed 310cc RC injectors. The radiator, now absent to the naked eye, is an All-In Fab "tucked" unit that rests under the top section of core support. Custom black braided -AN hoses and fittings were installed to run coolant back into the motor using threaded water necks.

1989 honda civic hatchback ae101 individual throttle bodies Photo 10/24   |   48mm ITBs originally intended for Toyota's 4A-GE.

Higgins' Civic is everything you would imagine a JDM EF9 SiR to be, minus the steering wheel on the right side, of course. The front end is from a Japanese SiR, as are the rear bumper, mirrors, side skirts, and thin side moldings. Even all the glass has been changed over to the Japanese bronze glass. For the headlights, Higgins opted for glass housings from a European-model Civic. The only two aftermarket add-ons to the body are a Japanese Chargespeed front lip and a stylish rear wing from OsakaJDM. Once the dents and dings were removed from the shell, the entire car was re-sprayed in a newer Honda Grand Prix White. The EF9 moldings retain their factory black finish, and OEM Honda "DOHC VTEC" decals were applied to truly replicate the JDM SiR appearance.

The interior, like the engine bay, has its own custom touch. The dated stock seats were eliminated and Higgins now sits comfortably in low-mounted Bride Stradia IIs. A MOMO Monte Carlo steering wheel provides a much tighter grip on corners, and behind the wheel is a digital instrument cluster from an S2000. When we asked Higgins what he liked most about his EF, he easily responded with how much he enjoyed how the car sat. Bringing the Civic closer to the tarmac is a set of Function & Form coilovers. Thick 50-series Falken tires give it that beefy, functional look, while around the tires are lightweight 15-inch Regamaster EVO wheels. Peeking out through the front wheels are JDM EF9 SiR brakes.

1989 honda civic hatchback ap1 s2000 instrument cluster Photo 14/24   |   1989 Honda Civic Hatchback Ap1 S2000 Instrument Cluster
1989 honda civic hatchback ap1 s2000 push start button Photo 15/24   |   A li'l modern touch with an S2000 cluster and push-button start.

It can be said that a man's loyalty can be tested with the temptation to build something newer or "better," but Higgins seems a very devoted EF stalwart. He continues to add subtle changes to his build every year, and the evolution of his SiR-styled Civic seems never-ending. Higgins credits his continued fascination with this particular Honda to his friends, who also happen to be diehard Honda guys. As he explains, "I knew I was meant to build this Civic. I had a plan, a vision, and I challenged myself to create it. I have a great group of people around me who motivate me every day. With them, I learned to always do things the right way the first time. Never do anything half-assed and the end result will always be better."

1989 honda civic hatchback skunk2 black series cam gears Photo 16/24   |   The head features Supertech valvetrain components, as well as Skunk2 camshafts and cam gears.
1989 honda civic hatchback bride stradia ii low max seats Photo 20/24   |   1989 Honda Civic Hatchback Bride Stradia Ii Low Max Seats
1989 honda civic hatchback 1320 performance race header Photo 24/24   |   1320 Performance race header connects to an A'PEXi muffler.
By Joey Lee
241 Articles
Nick Higgins' 1989 Honda Civic Hatchback
Tuning Menu
Owner: Nicholas Higgins
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Occupation: Shipping and Receiving Preload Manager
Engine: 1.6L Honda B16A2; 1320 Performance Race header with Megaphone; A'PEXi exhaust with 2.5" piping; 310cc RC fuel injectors; Civic Type R crank pulley; Skunk2 stage 2 camshafts, Black Series cam gears, VTEC solenoid cap; Supertech valvesprings, retainers; Toyota AE101 48mm individual throttle bodies; Hasport engine mounts; QTP electric cut-out; custom fuel line tuck; Circuit Hero spark plug cover; All-In Fab radiator
Drivetrain: S4C hydraulic five-speed manual transmission; Exedy stage 1 clutch
Engine Management: Hondata S300
Footwork & Chassis: Function & Form Type 2 coilovers, lower control arms; Suspension Techniques sway bars; BLOX rear trailing arms, spherical bushings
Brakes: JDM EF9 Civic SiR front brakes; Wilwood brake booster delete; custom brake line tuck; Goodridge braided brake lines
Wheels & Tires: 15x7" Desmond Regamaster EVO wheels; 205/50R15 Falken Azenis RT615K tires; RAYS lug nuts
Exterior: JDM EF9 Civic SiR front-end conversion, projector fog lights, power folding mirrors, side skirts, DOHC VTEC door decal, thin side moldings, window visors, rear bumper, taillights; UKDM glass headlights, rear garnish panel; JDM bronze window glass; Chargespeed EF9 SiR front lip; OsakaJDM rear spoiler; Honda Grand Prix White paint
Interior: Bride Stradia II Low Max seats; AP1 S2000 instrument cluster, push start button; MOMO Monte Carlo steering wheel, steering hub; JDM EF9 armrest; Kenwood radio, component speakers; Mugen pedal set
Thanks You: my family and friends; ATS Garage; All-In Fabrication; Cookies SF; JT Auto Body; Function & Form Autolife; Falken Tire; Hellabastos; Qu1ckworks; RedZone Performance; stickydiljoe.com; Rywire; OsakaJDM; the Salamanca family, who got me into the EF game

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