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1994 Honda del Sol Si & 1999 CR-V EX - The Nonconformist

Two offbeat Honda builds that'll have you rethinking the status quo

Aaron Bonk
Oct 30, 2017
Photographer: Sam Du

Honda's del Sol got a bum rap from the start. It never delivered on being the CRX replacement it was supposed to be. Its front-wheel-drive bones meant it'd never check the boxes for roadster shoppers. And it was never given the chance it should've gotten.

1994 honda del sol si JDM front bumper Photo 2/11   |   1994 Honda Del Sol Si JDM Front Bumper

Today, it takes a self-proclaimed nonconformist to appreciate the Civic-based targa—the sort of guy whose last car was a VW Vanagon. The sort of guy like Austin Hironaka. And Austin's all about nonconformity. You'll know it not just by his del Sol but by the CR-V he's built up that, together, are a whole lot better than any '80s Volkswagen.

Aside from that Euro bus, sticking with Honda's pedigree is protocol for Austin. But not just any Honda. "I'm an oddball, someone who has to do things differently and in my own style," he says. "The CR-V came [about] after I tried to step away from the Honda world." Which led to that Vanagon, and which led to something that'd give him that same sort of utilitarianism, only with VTEC. "I had to come up with a plan that would allow me to crack V in a Honda but still be able to drive to the mountains on a moment's notice and not worry about gettin' stuck or having to chain up," Austin says, who spends just as much time snowboarding throughout the state of Washington as he does doing things like swapping cylinder heads and bolting on coilovers.

The del Sol that came along later was the culmination of everything Austin's ever wanted in a Honda. "There were things [I'd] always dreamt about having on my builds as a kid, and I felt it was time to put all [of] them into one project: right-hand drive, five-lug, a big motor, seats, etc.," he says. "It was all a dream back then but [later] became a goal."

1994 honda del sol si k24 swap Photo 6/11   |   1994 Honda Del Sol Si K24 Swap

A goal that took shape by way of a 2.4L K-series engine that's good for just under 500 hp and with the Recaros, the Volks, and the paintwork those dreams of Austin's were made of, most of which he handled on his own. "I've been modifying everything from bicycles to RC cars to pretty much everything else I've owned since I can remember," he says about how things developed. "I grew up around my old man who's into old-school hot rods, so hot-roddin' is in the blood." In the blood since '04, at least, when Austin got himself his first of many Civics.

1994 honda CR V EX JDM rear bumper Photo 7/11   |   1994 Honda CR V EX JDM Rear Bumper

It's all those Civics that've made his CR-V what it is, though. The Type R short-block, the GS-R top-end, the Precision turbo, the Volks, the K-Sports—they're all the sort of mods you'd expect to find on something like a '92 CX and not a '99 SUV only more difficult to make happen. "At the time, nobody was hot-roddin' CR-Vs," he says about the lack of information when it came time to do things like swap the rear diff from an Element into place. "Plus, hunting for parts was damn near impossible." Impossible-to-find parts like the RHD clip he was never able to get imported and the JDM Fullmark exterior conversion that he was.

1994 honda CR V EX momo steering wheel Photo 8/11   |   1994 Honda CR V EX Momo Steering Wheel

And all of that's OK because that's what the del Sol is for with its K-swap and its overseas exterior conversion that's made up of headlights, bumpers, and fenders by way of the Japanese model. "The K engine was a totally new thing to me when I started building the motor for the del Sol," Austin says, who went through a high-compression, naturally aspirated version of the K before moving on to the supercharged mill he has now.

1994 honda CR V EX B18C engine Photo 9/11   |   1994 Honda CR V EX B18C Engine

"There are some areas that I needed help on and, luckily, I've got the right friends for the job." He's talking about the boys from SpeedFactory, who did everything from help sort through that engine build to squeeze the 486 hp out of it. And don't think for a minute that Austin doesn't use every bit of that 486 hp as often as he can. "Within the five years that this car has been on the road, I'm on the fourth motor and third Rotrex charger," he wants you to know. "I'm by no means gentle with these cars, and I drive 'em like I stole them."

1994 honda CR V EX volk racing CE28 wheels Photo 10/11   |   1994 Honda CR V EX Volk Racing CE28 Wheels

Austin isn't sweating those blown-up K engines, either. Neither the del Sol nor that CR-V is his primary mode of transportation, which means a piston wanting to burrow itself out the front of the block every once in a while for the sake of going faster is OK by him. "The car always [comes] back better and stronger than before," he says about the setbacks, "and I think it's finally there."

1994 honda CR V EX AEM gauges Photo 11/11   |   1994 Honda CR V EX AEM Gauges

The del Sol isn't at the top of too many people's Honda wish lists, and the CR-V isn't the first thing you think of when you go looking for the proper home for that Type R block of yours. And that's pretty much how Austin wants it. "I had already had a few EGs and everyone else was running the same chassis. I had to do something a little different."

By Aaron Bonk
408 Articles
1994 Honda del Sol Si & 1999 CR-V EX - The Nonconformist
Tuning Menu
'94 Honda del Sol Si
Owner: Austin Hironaka
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Occupation: general contractor
Power: 486 hp
Engine: K24 engine transplant; Hasport engine mounts; K20A2 cylinder head; Drag Cartel camshafts; Ferrea valves, springs, retainers; Wiseco pistons; Eagle connecting rods; King engine bearings; Under Pressure Racing intake; Skunk2 70mm throttle body; RBC intake manifold; SpeedFactory intake manifold gasket, MAP sensor, intercooler, intercooler and exhaust piping, radiator; Kraftwerks supercharger system; GReddy Type FV blow-off valve; Under Pressure Racing header, oil catch can; Vibrant Performance muffler; K-Tuned fuel rail, fuel pressure gauge, thermostat housing, idler pulley; 1,000cc Injector Dynamics injectors; Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator; Spoon Sports radiator cap; K-Tuned idler pulley; Optima battery
Drivetrain: TSX transmission; Civic Si limited-slip differential; Competition Clutch stage-four clutch and lightweight flywheel; Wilwood clutch master cylinder; Hasport axles
Engine Management: Hondata K-Pro; Hiro engine wiring harness
Footwork & Chassis: Function Form Type 2 coilovers; Skunk2 front and rear camber kits; Integra Type R front and rear sway bars; Function7 rear lower control arms, rear subframe brace and endlinks; Energy Suspension master bushing kit; custom Spoon Sports front shock tower brace; Cusco rear shock tower brace; K-Tuned traction bars
Brakes: Spoon Sports calipers; Brembo rotors; Earls steel-braided lines; Wilwood master cylinder
Wheels & Tires: 16x7" +33 Volk Racing CE28 wheels; 205/45R16 Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 tires; Work valve stems and extended lug nuts
Exterior: JDM bumpers, doors, fenders, trunk fill, third-brake block-off, headlights, side markers; Seibon carbon-fiber hood; APR carbon-fiber mirrors; PIAA fog lights; custom paint by Hiro
Interior: right-hand-drive conversion; Recaro Pole Position seats and brackets; Status harnesses; Personal steering wheel; Checkered Sports steering wheel hub; Spoon Sports shift knob; JDM floor mats, instrument cluster, fog lights switch
'99 Honda CR-V EX
Power: 450hp
Engine: JDM B18C Type R short-block; B18C1 GS-R cylinder head; Wiseco pistons; Eagle connecting rods; BLOX camshafts; Supertech valvetrain; Skunk2 adjustable cam gears, intake manifold, radiator hoses; SpeedFactory MAP sensor, intercooler and piping, exhaust manifold, exhaust, muffler; Precision 5432 turbo; GReddy Type S blow-off valve; Turbosmart 45mm wastegate; DMH electronic exhaust cutout; BDL fuel rail; 1,000cc Injector Dynamics injectors; Koyo radiator; Spal cooling fan; Circuit Hero spark plug cover
Drivetrain: Competition Clutch heavy-duty pressure plate, stage-four disc, lightweight flywheel; custom MFactory front limited-slip differential; Element rear differentialr
Engine Management: Hondata S300
Footwork & Chassis: K-Sport coilovers; BLOX rear lower control arms; Addco rear sway bar; Ingalls front and rear camber kits; Circuit Hero front and rear shock tower braces
Brakes: NSX calipers; Brembo rotors and pads
Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5" +35 Volk Racing CE28 wheels; 225/40R18 Yokohama S.Drive tires
Exterior: JDM Fullmark front and rear bumpers; JDM fenders and smoke vents; OEM roof rack; Westin bull bar; PIAA driving lights and fog lights
Interior: Recaro Speed seats; Momo steering wheel; NRG quick-release adapter and slim steering wheel hub; BAM Shifts shift knob; AEM gauges; Pioneer head unit and speakers; Boston Acoustics subwoofer



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