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1991 Honda CRX HF - The Commuter Cruiser

The life and times of an unprecedented CRX phenomenon

Aug 10, 2018
Photographer: Grant Cox

All Richard Martinez wanted was a beater with a bike rack. A basic build featuring a B16 head and B20 block with just enough jump to make it fun. Fresh out of the Marines, he bought a bucket of a Honda CRX for $600 for nostalgia's sake, not knowing that the people he hung out with would prompt a build bigger than anything he could have imagined.

1991 honda CRX HF g4 composites fender flares Photo 2/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF G4 Composites Fender Flares

At the time, Richard had dropped the motor for a quick bay respray at his dad's shop, and while there a buddy was able to cajole him into semi-shaving the bay—a decision that required the car to make its way to a different garage. While there, the same guy kept stressing the significance of a K-swap, but being that Richard had just come out of a bank-account-crippling DSM build, the thought of spending any large sum of money on a car just wasn't in the cards.

But the prodding continued and eventually the CRX owner began looking into the K-series, a move that revealed initial financial numbers weren't nearly as imposing as previously predicted. Richard's rationale was that if he could do most of the work himself and gather used parts willy-nilly when available, expenses wouldn't amass as quickly. So that night a set of Hasport mounts were ordered from Rob Reinen at Prayoonto Racing, and the build began.

1991 honda CRX HF K24A2 swap Photo 6/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF K24A2 Swap

With the mounts welded in and the engine bay smoothed out, it was time to get Daniel Stoicescu to tackle a complete color change. But right away there was a problem. Richard was suffering from a debilitating bout of color indecision anxiety, and being that his sister's TSX had recently faded to a repulsive shade of pink, the thought of respraying the shell in its original coat of Rio Red presented more problems than solutions.

1991 honda CRX HF xenon side skirts Photo 7/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF Xenon Side Skirts

Although black was the preferred first choice, its delicate nature was anything but inspiring. So Richard started looking at other dark colors, eventually coming across an EG hatch that had been coated with Spruce Mica Green. Although thoughts of seeing this dark shade on a CRX remained questionable at best, he ultimately opted to go all in and sprayed the bay himself, a decision that helped with progress considerably.

Unfortunately the rest of the car was still in pretty rough shape, and with dents and dings galore demanding attention and Richard's limited bodywork skills presenting obvious problems, contacting Joshua Talburt over at PUDS Paint/Fab & Collision proved to be a wise decision.

1991 honda CRX HF racetech RT1000 bucket seats Photo 11/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF Racetech RT1000 Bucket Seats

After receiving a summer's worth of attention, and amassing an armada of K-swap goodies, Richard was finally able to pick up the car and trailer it home, complete with one of the nicest paint jobs he had ever owned. Upon arrival back home, the minty-fresh CRX owner immediately took to installing suspension parts, wheels, and a wide array of OEM rubber seals, weather stripping, and finishing trim. Being that many of these parts had been discontinued, there were some notable gaps in the factory-spec lineup, but at least the most important pieces were accounted for and in place.

1991 honda CRX HF sir front end conversion Photo 12/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF Sir Front End Conversion

By this point, Richard had everything but the motor, and when his sister's TSX tranny shit the bed one afternoon, he was quick to offer her $1,500 for the entire car. Dropping the engine and selling the shell for some spending dough soon gave way to refreshing the motor without opening it up. This move may have saved some headaches, but the manual tranny he had procured had a chipped final gear, a fix that was looking quite expensive. Luckily, a close friend who was a former tech at Honda and a CRX enthusiast himself, offered to help out, and before long Richard found refreshed internals and an OBX limited slip sitting inside the six-speed. Painstakingly slow may have been the process to date, but it was all coming together. Finally, as the wiring from CJs Wiring arrived, good friend Marvin Rodezno came to the aid for final assembly.

Completed and cruising in style, the unboosted 'Rex was a blast to drive, but things kicked into high gear following an insurance settlement after an inebriated broad pulled out in front of Richard's daily-driven Jeep one fateful day. With additional funding in hand, it seemed time to go balls-deep with forced induction, which proved to be more of a headache than expected.

1991 honda CRX HF rear bumper Photo 16/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF Rear Bumper

After a string of sleepless nights rifled with creative cursing, along with a moment's notion of burning the entire car down, Daniel Stoicescu was brought in to tackle intercooler piping woes prior to the CRX's debut at Wekfest Chicago '17. Reactions proved to be nothing short of spectacular, and to this day Richard still can't believe he took home second place for Best Civic. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before, and with the show wrapped up, finishing touches seemed inexplicably close.

1991 honda CRX HF borgwarner S257SX E turbo Photo 17/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF Borgwarner S257SX E Turbo

The car still needed a few basics, like getting more than just a base map onboard the ECU. Calibrating it properly and putting some additional intercooler clamps in key places while visiting Alex Pagan at Humble Performance helped significantly. After swapping a few reversed boost lines, Richard was rewarded with a healthy 410 hp and 318 twists of torque.

Once tuned, it became obvious that controlling a rampant CRX was completely different than handling a 500-whp DSM. Thus the traction battle began, with G4 Composites' first set of American CRX flares spearheading the attack, followed by wider 949 wheels and Toyo R888R tires all around.

1991 honda CRX HF sir front end conversion Photo 21/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF Sir Front End Conversion

There are few things left to do to the car other than cruise around and appreciate what the last two years have rewarded Richard with in exchange for all of the headaches. Fortunately for the supportive community, a passenger seat was placed in the car as well, so rewards could be shared equally amongst all. A wise move if you ask us, considering that the little Honda two-seater was intended to be enjoyed with friends and family, and used as a beater with a bike rack in the first place.

1991 honda CRX HF sir front end conversion Photo 25/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF Sir Front End Conversion
1991 honda CRX HF sir front end conversion Photo 29/32   |   1991 Honda CRX HF Sir Front End Conversion
Micah Wright
50 Articles
1991 Honda CRX HF - The Commuter Cruiser
Tuning Menu
Owner: Richard Martinez
Hometown: Bentonville, AK
Occupation: Professional Car Transporter
Power: 410 hp; 318 lb-ft of torque
Engine: K24A2 engine swap; RBC intake manifold; BDL fuel rail; FIC 1,000cc injectors; AEM fuel pressure regulator; GM flex fuel sensor; ported RBC manifold; Walbro 255-lph fuel pump; PLM sidewinder manifold; BorgWarner S257SX-E turbo; Turbo Guard screen filter; AGP Turbo T3 turbine housing; TiAL wastegate, blow-off valve; Rampage Fab intercooler; custom intercooler piping; VW Corrado radiator; Hybrid Racing 70mm throttle body; K-Tuned billet hall effect TPS, AC/PS delete, thermostat housing; 1320 Performance 3" downpipe; Thermal 3" exhaust; CJs Wiring Mil-spec harness; tucked headlight wiring; mild shaved bay; Odyssey PC680 battery (relocated to trunk)
Drivetrain: K-Tuned RSX shifter; Race-Spec shifter cables, transmission mounts; Action Clutch Ironman clutch kit; OBX Helical limited-slip differential; Fidanza 8lb aluminum flywheel; RSX Type-S axles
Engine Management: Hondata K-Pro V4 ECU tuned by Alex Pagan
Footwork & Chassis: PIC Performance coilovers; Skunk2 front upper control arms and camber kit; J2 front lower control arms; BWR rear lower control arms and camber kit; Si rear sway bar; rear strut bar; K-Tuned traction bar; Energy Suspension master kit; Si spindles
Brakes: Fastbrakes 11.3" front rotors; GS-R calipers; Si rear disc conversion; Goodrich tucked brake lines; '91 Civic EX master cylinder
Wheels & Tires: 15x9" +36 front, 15x8" +36 rear 949 Racing 6UL wheels; 235/50R15 front, 205/50R15 rear Toyo R888R tires; Karcepts 36mm swap hubs
Exterior: SIR front-end conversion; G4 Composites wide fender flares; Xenon side skirts; ViS carbon-fiber hatch; Y&S Lexan hatch glass; Hush Performance cowl hardware; Toyota Spruce Mica Green paint
Interior: Racetech RT1000 bucket seats; PCI seat brackets and mounts; K-Tuned shifter box; Circuit Garage shift knob; Momo Monte Carlo steering wheel, hub; Haltech IQ3 dash; AutoPower four-point roll bar; G-Force five-point harness; S2000 push start; AEM air/fuel gauge; Sony head unit and speakers; Si door panels; H3R Performance fire extinguisher
Thanks: "Nikita Wellner for not saying anything when I kicked her car out of the garage for over a year; Marvin Rodezno for performing all of the wiring; Daniel Stoicescu for fab work; Alex Pagan for tuning; Rob Reinen for providing knowledge and parts; and God—without him nothing is possible."

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