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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."