It's impossible to deny the impact that the Honda Civic has had on the automotive industry since its popularity skyrocketed in the early '90s. Despite this, in America, Civics often find themselves in a negative light, usually associated with young, immature enthusiasts who have nothing better to modify. We can't say for certain what caused this negative stigma to be so widespread, but we do know that it's unique to the U.S. In Japan, it's quite different as Civics are celebrated for their motorsports accomplishments and still thought to be one of the best platforms to modify. It's very common to see a Civic alongside a GT-R or RX-7 at any given racing event and posting similar lap times despite the considerable difference in engine output. Civic enthusiasts can be found anywhere you go in Japan, but the Kansai region, with Osaka at its center, has long been considered to have one of the most unique Civic-centric subcultures in the country. We caught up with Kazuma Tsujimoto and Tsuyoshi Okada of the famed No Good Racing team to hear their stories—how they were introduced to the world of Civics and why they chose to stay loyal to the chassis for so many years.
Hondas are often viewed as the stepping-stone for car enthusiasts, a gateway into the world of high-performance cars. In that sense, Kazuma Tsujimoto's story is just about as backward as it can get. The first car Kazu, as his friends call him, bought was a '90 Toyota Crown—not a tuner car by any means, but it fit in well with his family business. From there, he went through a few American cars and trucks, and as cool as it may seem to cruise around Osaka in a big imported truck, Kazu was bored and knew there had to be more to cars. He turned his sights to Japanese sports sedans. 1JZ-powered GX81 series Toyota sedans were popping up more often on the used car market and he felt a Mark II would be a natural progression from the vehicles he had been driving.
The high-revving, quick-spooling power was a revelation to Kazu, and he was hooked. The addition of bolt-on intercooler kits and turbo upgrades soon turned into full 2JZ swaps, built engines, and serious power. This was also during the early '00s, and the Tokyo Wangan highway scene was at its peak—Osaka was no exception. In no time, Kazu made a name for himself with an Aristo project that turned out to be one of the fastest cars in his region. The 26-year-old soon reached a ceiling, though, and came to terms with the fact that he would have to travel outside of the Kansai region to grow as a builder. Within the month, Kazu packed his bags into his Aristo and was on his way to see what Tokyo was all about, which turned out to be everything and more. The highways spanning Yokohama, Chiba, and Tokyo were alive with the sights and sounds of big horsepower, bigger egos, and the pursuit of seemingly unreachable speeds on a nightly basis. Kazu continued to develop his Aristo amidst the heavy competition, eventually reaching well over 700 hp. While these power levels were enough to keep most at bay, the fastest guys on the Wangan were out of Kazu's reach. Before he knew it, a year flew by—then a second, two years of chasing an invisible goal began to take its toll. Kazu realized that this lifestyle was something that he couldn't continue forever. He began to rethink his place in the automotive world and recalled the exhilaration that he had experienced as a teenager, ripping up and down secluded mountain roads in nearly stock Civics. He began to crave the feeling of side g-forces tearing him out of his seat.
Two years after moving to Tokyo, Kazu returned to his native Osaka and purchased his first Civic, an EF hatchback. Soon after, he opened the doors to Akamaru Mechadock, which started out as a custom paint shop. Kazu was an established painter by trade and specialized in custom motorcycles. As the years went on, Mechadock started taking in automotive work as well as painting friends' and teammates' Civics out of necessity in evading the eyes of certain figures. Over the next several years, Kazu and his wife, Misaki, succeeded in growing Mechadock and established the brand as an integral part of Osaka's unique Honda culture.
When Kazu's son Daiya was born, he decided to take a step away from his passion to concentrate on raising his child—this meant selling his beloved EF to another shop, Car Make Across. When Daiya entered grade school, Kazu was in a comfortable enough place financially to build another EF Civic. Naturally, he contacted Car Make Across to see if his old EF was for sale and, although the new owner refused to sell it, he found another EF that was up for sale. Kazu saw this as an opportunity to utilize everything he had learned during his time off to build what would be, in his eyes, the ultimate Civic. The product of that vision is the blue, 240hp, B18-powered EF you see before you today. Though the time it took to build can be simply stated as two years, this Civic has a lifetime of automotive experiences poured into it. As Mechadock celebrates its 10th year in business, we are glad to report that Kazu has no regrets—realizing his dream in the place where he got his start.
Menace to Society
The bosozoku of Japan have long been an anomaly. By definition, these groups of young men and women are said to simply seek the disruption of normal life for everybody else. It's common to see these bikes modified with huge front headlight fairings—sometimes extending several feet into the air, enormous rear seats that sway back and forth as the rider weaves in and out of traffic, and exhaust systems seemingly designed only for the purpose of making as much noise as possible. It's easy to dismiss these individuals as nothing more than an annoyance, especially surrounded by a culture in which politeness is paramount. But it's not that simple...
Now, we aren't saying that these individuals are completely justified in their actions, but rather that it's all too easy to forget that perspective changes everything. Once we take a look into their daily lives, it becomes clear that their primary objective is not simply to bother others. Much like how we as car enthusiasts don't install upgraded suspension components and lower our cars just to slow down the person behind us when scaling a steep driveway, the bosozoku don't make decisions purely based on whether or not it will result in some sort of nuisance.
As we start by changing the question from, "Why are they so loud?" to "What drives them?" the culture becomes far more relatable—the reason is passion. These individuals are passionate about their motorcycles, the work that has been put into them, and the time that is spent with others who share their enthusiasm. As expected, meets and cruises are often organized in the name of gathering people who share their interests. These cruises are referred to as "touring," and it was at one of these events that motorcycle enthusiast Tsuyoshi Okada caught his first glimpse of yet another form of passion—the world of modified Civics.
As Tsuyoshi's group gathered in a parking lot, one of the usual members showed up in a beat-up Civic instead of his bike. Normally, such an occurrence would be quickly forgotten, however, something about this Civic really left an impression on Tsuyoshi. Perhaps it was the paint scheme—bold lines and contrasting colors. Perhaps it was the window nets or the straight pipe exhaust—the sound that this car produced was distinct, high pitched, and violent. As the touring continued, Tsuyoshi asked his fellow motorcycle enthusiasts about the car, what it signified, and what it was used for. The answer painted a picture of freedom and excitement that was oddly familiar. He learned that this car was one of many like it and that groups of them would drive together up in the local mountains and on the elevated highways of Osaka.
When the opportunity to buy an EG Civic of his own arose, Tsuyoshi jumped on it and paid $500 for the car. The first drive was all it took for him to understand why so many people stuck with the old Honda chassis despite its age. His treks up nearby mountains increased in frequency as he learned to push the car harder and faster.
Since this impulsive purchase of his first Civic, Tsuyoshi has now owned five others. Currently, however, Tsuyoshi only has an EG and this EF—a car that he purchased several years ago in rough shape. Since acquisition, this EF has been completely reworked—all body damage has been repaired and a fresh coat of paint has been applied. Tsuyoshi pointed out to us that the paint scheme is his favorite aspect of this car. It was modeled after an old Clubman race car, and the colors have been modified from the original white, gold, and red to a distinct combination of purple, yellow, and red. The rest of the car was refreshed with a new engine and transmission along with a few supporting parts to extract as much power as possible from the B16A. The suspension and brakes are upgraded with SiR and Mechadock components, and the interior is gutted—save for the dash and a couple of seats.
It may be human nature to jump to the conclusion that any loud exhaust on the street is a targeted attack at people's well-being. However, by allowing ourselves to see the world from a different perspective, we can understand that an experience that may last a few seconds for us is an experience that can bring a lifetime of joy to another. For Tsuyoshi, by choosing not to disregard the Civic that made its way into his life by pure chance, he's allowed his newfound passion to drive him further into the world of cars, eventually opening his own shop, Shine Motor. And though his shop is full of cool cars, tucked away in a corner are a couple of his motorcycles done up in a distinctly obnoxious style. Tsuyoshi tells us that he still rides them on a regular basis. His love for cars didn't detract from his passion for motorcycles; cars simply gave him yet another perspective from which to view the world.