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1989 Honda Civic - The Pursuit of Happiness

To Become the Best, You Must be Able to Handle the Worst

Jonathan Wong
Nov 11, 2019
Photographer: Viet Nguyen

If you had seen Nick Higgins' Civic hatchback in its previous form, you'd think most would've stopped there. Project's done; it doesn't get any better. Fashioned after the popular kanjo style made famous by underground street racers in Osaka, it was equipped with enough JDM EF9 goods to make you think it was actually fresh off the streets of Japan. Looks to thrill, powered with a semi-built B16A outfitted with ITBs, it's the sort of build old-school Honda enthusiasts go wild for (including me). And then, one day, Nick decided to redo it from scratch.

1989 Honda Civic JDM EF9 Front End Photo 27/27   |   1989 Honda Civic - The Pursuit of Happiness

But this isn't purely a simple story of one rebuilding a car for the sake of doing so. The purpose behind it has far greater sentimental value to Nick. What began as a quest to prep a car for time-attack racing eventually became his motivation to push forward in all aspects of life despite having to face two of the most troubling times in his life: the loss of his parents.

"I'm not their biological child, but they always treated me as if I was," he explains. "They fostered me from infancy and raised me to be the man I am today. They didn't have to, but their conscious decision to provide a better life for me opened up so many opportunities. Every step of the way throughout the process of my build, they were there cheering me on."

1989 Honda Civic Skunk2 Ultra Manifold Photo 27/27   |   1989 Honda Civic - The Pursuit of Happiness

Though they were alive to see Nick complete the first phase of his Civic build, their passing shortly after and only 10 months apart from one another took a significant toll on his well-being. He felt lost without inspiration and missed his most important support network, so the project was put on hold for some time. "I lost the motivation, drive, and passion," he says. "Not just for cars, but life in general."

Nick quickly fell into a dark place, but he later realized that tragedy in life could only make him stronger. He channeled the negative energy and used it in a positive way to help him cope, rebuild his life, and complete his build. "That's why this car is so important to me; it's very sentimental," Nick says. "By completing it, I've been able to show everyone all the hard work that's been put into it. It feels amazing to have that passion for my craft back and to be motivated once again."

1989 Honda Civic Sparco Circuit 2 Racing Seat Photo 27/27   |   1989 Honda Civic - The Pursuit of Happiness

The chassis was torn all the way down and prepped for pristine show condition, ready for track action once the car reaches full completion. A new custom eight-point roll cage was fabricated by Janke Motorsports to add rigidity to the frame, and in the engine bay now sits a fully built K24 in place of the B16A with an all-new wiring setup by Rywire. It was yet another challenge Nick issued to himself, to break away from the classic B-series setup and see how far he could take a larger-displacement K-series, which EF owners normally tend to shy away from. It will be some time before the car hits the track, but we have high hopes it will turn decent lap times and put its new power to good use. Nick says there's even the possibility of seeing some type of forced induction, either in the form of a turbo or supercharger, in the near future.

When we saw this Civic at Spocom this past summer, we were floored by the amount of care and detail that went into it, crafted by a true artisan who knows how to bring his vision of automotive perfection to reality. Looking at it, you couldn't have known how deep the pain was for Nick and how much it motivated him, especially when it involved dealing with the loss of two of the most important people in his life.

1989 Honda Civic PCI Side Skirts Photo 27/27   |   1989 Honda Civic - The Pursuit of Happiness

"It's easy to paint your parents as a symbol of inspiration, which is true for me," Nick adds. "They encouraged me by showing me hard work can take you anywhere. I'm so thankful for them, and I'm honored to be their son. It's why this build means so much to me. It taught me so much about life and death, and myself. And for as long as I have this car, it will always be a special reminder to grow, persevere, work hard, and overcome hardship. I know they're looking down and are proud of me."

1989 Honda Civic EDM EF9 Headlight Photo 27/27   |   1989 Honda Civic - The Pursuit of Happiness
By Jonathan Wong
505 Articles
1989 Honda Civic - The Pursuit of Happiness
Tuning Menu
Owner: Nick Higgins
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Occupation: Auto Show Supervisor
Engine: K24A1 block with K20A2 cylinder head; 87.5 Wiseco pistons; 12.5:1 blueprinted connecting rods; ACL bearings; Cometic head gasket; Ferrea Racing cylinder head package; Drag Cartel camshafts; ID 1,050cc injectors; Skunk2 Ultra manifold; K-Tuned 90mm throttle body, fuel rail, electric water pump; Weldon fuel regulator and fuel filter; Myers Competition header; FCS Race coolant neck; XRP Racing HS79 oil breather, fuel, and coolant hoses; Vibrant oil catch can, HD clamps; 4-inch intake; Rywire titanium coil cover; Speed Factory radiator tuck; 4 Piston Racing oil pump; ATI damper pulley; Magna Fuel Pro Star EFI 750-lph fuel pump; shaved engine bay with brake line tuck, brake booster delete and clutch line tuck; Downstar engine bay washers; custom auxiliary LED lights; Hasport engine mounts; Rywire engine harness
Drivetrain: K20A2 six-speed transmission; M Factory limited-slip differential; Competition twin-disc clutch; Gear X first-fourth gears; K-Tuned race cables
Footwork & Chassis Honed Developments front roll correction ball joints; ST sway bars; Function Form Type 2 coilovers; PCI spherical bearing rear trailing arms, toe arms and rear lower control arm
Brakes: '08 Porsche Boxster front calipers; '06 MINI Cooper S StopTech front rotors; Honed Developments Porsche caliper kit; Earl's stainless brake lines
Wheels & Tires: 15x7 +35 RAYS Gram Lights 57CR wheels; Toyo R888R 225/45R15 tires
Exterior: Grand Prix White paint; JDM EF9 front end, window visors, thin side moldings, rear bumper, rear filler, taillights, and bronze glass; EDM EF9 glass headlights; Chargespeed EF9 front lip and rear wing; Birchwood carbon-wrapped front splitter; PCI side skirts; Magical Racing Type-3 mirrors; JDM Honda Access EF9 Indiglo rear garnish
Interior: Sparco Circuit 2 racing seat, six-point harness, aluminum side mounts, 600 Series seat base, R 353 steering wheel and fire extinguisher; custom black suede dashboard and headliner; Tilton 800 Series overhung pedal assembly, clutch/brake master cylinder; AiM MXP cluster; Ididit steering column; K-Tuned race-spec shifter; custom eight-point roll cage; Odyssey battery; Rywire PDM system
Thanks: Rywire Motorsport Electronics; Mike at Janke Motorsports; Wicked1Racing; Salamanca family: Lawrence, Ryan, and Eric; AIM Sports Data; XRP Racing; Ididit Inc; JT Body Shop; Tilton; HHwHH; Gilbert Villanueva; Jonathan Tangalin; Leen Customs; Downstar; Kellybuilt; Milogen Fabrications; Whitfield Manufacturing; PCI Racing; Hella Bastos; ATS Garage; FCS Race; RAYS Wheels; Competition Clutch; Drag Cartel; KTuned; Vibrant Performance; Detailed By Panem; Myers Competition; Sparco; Toyo Tires; Avila Upholstery; Honed Developments; Zach Clinga

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