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1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better

A restomod hatch that stood above the rest at Spocom Anaheim 2019

Jul 30, 2019

You still see them scurrying down the freeway, often dented, faded, a little rusty, and almost always fitted with an exhaust tip far too large for what's under the hood. The ED/EF chassis Civic, now over 30 years old, long served as a staple in the import community. Before that popular movie series came along (that was not in any way a rip off of Point Break but with gaudy cars) and changed the landscape, the boxy little '88-'91 Civic hatchback was a major factor in attracting new faces to the aftermarket movement.

Nick Higgins 1989 Honda Civic k24 swap Photo 19/19   |   1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better

Lightweight, easy to mod and incredibly affordable—even for an entry-level vehicle—it was destined to be a smash hit with the youth market and they were everywhere, in every level of modification. Hard to believe that in order to build one these days, with three decades of abuse on deck, you'll probably need to take a restoration x modified approach.

Nick Higgins 1989 Honda Civic Passenger Side Rear View Photo 19/19   |   1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better

Nick Higgins knows the fourth-generation Civic inside and out, top to bottom, and front to back. He's built and rebuilt the hatch you see pictured and, in its previous life, ended up in the pages of SS. Since then, the ITB B-series is gone, much of the interior was ditched, and the attention to detail that was highlighted in the original article has been stepped up significantly for version two of this long-term build.

Nick Higgins 1989 Honda Civic JDM EF Front End Conversion Photo 19/19   |   1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better

Stepping away from the two-tone original look, the side and bumper moldings were color matched this time around and a bulkier midriff achieved with a set of aluminum PCI side skirts that extend downward an additional few inches and, once again, received their fair share of paint for an uninterrupted flow. Fifteen-inch @Raysmsc Gramlights 57CR fill the spotless wheel wells. Up front, the JDM front-end conversion from the previous build remains in place, as it should, but it too has been slightly altered with the addition of a carbon-fiber splitter under the Chargespeed lip.

Nick Higgins 1989 Honda Civic Interior 01 Photo 19/19   |   1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better
Nick Higgins 1989 Honda Civic rollcage gussets Photo 19/19   |   1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better

The interior of Higgins' initial build-up retained the factory panels all around, even carpeting, though the rear seats had been removed. Today, the cabin evokes a purposeful, slightly angry, glimpse at the sign of the times as many of the tricks pulled off are used in time attack and serious track cars. Stripped to a bare shell before being painted to match the exterior, a single bucket seat replaces the dual reclinables from before.

Nick Higgins 1989 Honda Civic rywire PDM system Photo 19/19   |   1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better
Nick Higgins 1989 Honda Civic Whitfield Racing Door Card Photo 19/19   |   1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better

The dash, which only maintains its upper portion which has been suede-wrapped, redirects the spotlight on the K-specific billet shifter, Tilton pedal assembly, AIM digital cluster, and a cleverly laid out ECU and @Rywire_motorsport_electronics PDM display. On either side of the front half are @Whitfieldmfg aluminum door cards while a custom roll cage complete with beefy gussets laces the entire sector. For us, the interior could be considered the best part of the car ... if only it weren't for that delicious bay arguing against that thought.

Nick Higgins 1989 Honda Civic k series swap Photo 19/19   |   1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better

Having gone the way of the K for this rebuild, Higgins applied much of what he learned the first time around to a setup that's one part all-out functionality and one part eye candy. Mesh the two together incorrectly and you're left with a mess, but do it well, like this, and you've got something that has people coming back for seconds and thirds. From the shaved bits and hidden portions that keep you guessing, to the Rywire harness and high dollar XRP lines that swoop across the passenger side of the K-swap, Higgins' bay is a taste of tried and true with a sampling of what many will look to for direction over the next few years.

Nick Higgins 1989 Honda Civic Rollcage Photo 19/19   |   1989 Honda Civic: Making a Good Thing Better

It's tough to build something that really stands out the first time, and even tougher to make it happen during the rematch. Nick Higgins, over the last few years, found a way to outdo himself with a restomod Civic that we chalked up as being one of the very best builds of Spocom Anaheim 2019.

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