You've read about it time and time again, and as the import enthusiast generations transition to adulthood and establish themselves, the story becomes all the more common. We're referring to the phenomenon surrounding die-hards who pour their paychecks into their Honda build early on, before being forced to deal with life's pressures or opting to sell their car in search of something a little more civilian-like. Try as they might, once the taste of Honda's unintended, almost synergistic OEM cross-chassis partnership is discovered, along with a bottomless aftermarket parts bin, it's a tough grasp to escape and always lives in the back of their mind. Later on, they realize something is missing and start searching for that car they never had a chance to build or perhaps the one that got away.
Robert Tellez is all too familiar, having always had a thing for the Honda brand, cutting his teeth with various Accords and Civics. But like so many others, growing up and taking on more responsibility, like family duties, mortgage payments, and bi-weekly trips to Target, can often overshadow weekend-wrenching marathons with your best friends. Robert adds, "Growing older, I moved on to other platforms, like a BMW 335i, Evo X, and now a 991 Carrera S, but I always loved the Honda platforms. Ever since I sold my last Civic Si hatchback, I knew I had to get another some day."
That some day arrived rather unexpectedly when Robert was scrolling through the "EF Heaven" Facebook group page and became smitten with a '90 Civic for sale. It was modified tastefully, in excellent condition according to the photos and info posted, an even possessed the sort of power he was looking for. "I came across this hatchback with a K-swap for sale, and it was perfect since my last hatchback had a B18C swap and I knew the K engine was something I wanted," he recalls.
The only problem Robert could find was the car wasn't anywhere near his hometown of Monterey Park, California, but rather 2,200-plus miles away, in Indiana. "Using my travel points, I flew to Indiana and drove to a corn field airport hanger to meet up with the owner and builder, Joe G. I fell in love with his work. He knew during our testdrive that I was the right person for his baby." A deal was struck and an arrangement with Reliable Carriers Inc. had Robert's new K20 Civic delivered to his driveway in November of last year.
Joe G's work on the '90 chassis included the aforementioned swap, but it's not the hack job you might assume when you see an older Honda for sale on social media. In fact, it was quite the opposite, with work that was detailed and well sorted enough to make you immediately understand why Robert jumped on a plane and flew across the country.
Pop the carbon-fiber J's Racing hood and the K20A2 is certainly the attention-grabber, but as you take a closer look, it's the custom additions in the bay that end up stealing some of the spotlight. Additions include a Shayspec dimple-die core support that plays off the coil pack cover, pie-cut intake piping, and, on a smaller scale, the contoured dipstick that replaces the plastic OEM piece. A Wireworx tucked engine harness snakes through the shaved bay and keeps a low profile while the valve cover, reworked in gloss black, received a custom old-school touch with some precision pinstriping.
Having spent so many years around Hondas, Robert knows that in most cases, less is more. Rather than taking on aggressive aero mods that wouldn't translate well to street driving, the classic, boxy lines of the ED/EF chassis are mildly accentuated with a carbon lip and Newbspeed add-on wing that won't look outdated years down the line. Fender-friendly 15-inch Volk Racing TE37s coddled by Falken's RT615Ks offer a perfect fit thanks to Koni shocks that carry Ground Control sleeves fitted with QA1 springs.
Getting caught up with a race-themed build is all the rage these days and, if not necessary, can interfere with a functional interior. To that end, this ED's cabin has all the native trim and panels t Honda deemed necessary-but with a few twists, like the JDM rear seats and CRX dash transplant. To complement the OMP steering wheel, Robert bolted in a set of old-school Recaro adjustable buckets that help keep the Civic as user-friendly as it is capable.
Coming full circle, Robert took some time off but eventually went back to familiar ways with a Honda build that has plenty of options for progression. He even noted that he's amassed a list of upgrades that will soon be making their way to the Civic, including a little aesthetic, like the J's Racing rear wing and steering wheel he's proudly hoarded, while on the performance end, a shiny set of ITBs is slated for install. Try as they will to step away entirely, but in the end, they always come back.