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1998 Honda CR-V - Putting The “Fun” Back Into “Functional”

A suspension lift and 475 hp say this is not your girlfriend’s CR-V

Aaron Bonk
Sep 9, 2016
Photographer: Danny Nguyen

Tony Newton doesn’t belong to a sorority. There isn’t tennis gear stashed in the back of his ’98 CR-V. Nor is there a yoga mat, and he sure as hell doesn’t schlep his Pomeranian to the dog park on Sunday mornings like Honda’s mid-’90s product-planning committee thought he would. That’s mostly because Newton isn’t Honda’s ideal CR-V owner, and well, he doesn’t own a Pomeranian either.

Turbo honda crv overhead Photo 2/25   |   Turbo Honda Crv Overhead

Check out any recent Honda-related event coverage, especially on the East Coast, and you’ll no doubt notice a rather peculiar influx of CR-V builds. Typically slammed and often times sporting excessive camber, Honda’s first generation, utilitarian people mover seems to have caught some steam within enthusiast circles. This particular build however, isn’t what you’d expect from a late ‘90s crossover.

Moroso bseries honda oil pan Photo 3/25   |   Moroso Bseries Honda Oil Pan

Newton’s CR-V doesn’t fit into whatever preconceived mold you and the Instagram monkeys think it ought to. There’s no multi-stage paint job beyond what Honda laid down some 20 years ago, and in fact this crossover’s hue is anything but shiny. Faded and prone to random chipping, it’s certainly seen better days. There are no carbon fiber bits and pieces randomly attached to the body and you won’t find one of those NASA-constructed rear diffusers from a completely different make, shoehorned under its rear bumper. No attempts were made at shaving anything underneath the hood unless absolutely necessary and there was no tucking or hiding of factory components. The wheels are low priced, easy-to-replace replicas that Newton will shrug at the next time one (or more) of them is damaged by his off-road antics. In a community filled with die-hard builds and over-the-top trends, the goal here wasn’t to build a neck-breaking social media darling, but rather try something a little different and a lot of fun.

Custom turbo crv downpipe Photo 4/25   |   Custom Turbo Crv Downpipe

Horsepower has a funny way of making everything better, and in the case of the first-generation CR-V that was offered only with Honda’s bottom-rung, non-VTEC 2.0L, Newton’s prescribed 475 hp makes it all kinds of better. Here, the low-flowing original B-series head was chucked in favor of the GS-R’s—a routine affair by today’s standards, but a requisite for the sort of power he was after. “I got the car [to be] a daily driver [and] ride around [in] for a bit before [considering] selling it to make a profit,” he says. “I thought it would be fun to throw a VTEC head on it, [but] I couldn’t drive down the street without hitting VTEC!”

Turbosmart blow off valve Photo 5/25   |   Turbosmart Blow Off Valve

The worthiness of a proper sleeper wasn’t lost on Newton, who scoured eBay for the necessary bits to turbocharge that B-series at which time, he admits, “It just took off from there.” All of which led to the sort of goods you’ve got to have to make anywhere near 500 hp, like the Comp Turbo compressor that’s good for 20 psi and the Hondata S300 that, at the hands of tuner Armen Bourmaian, makes it all work. Like so many before him however, Newton got a little too throttle happy and the stock 2.0L block called it quits.

Aem electronics boost gauge Photo 6/25   |   Aem Electronics Boost Gauge

To freshen up the powerplant, the same VTEC head was used but this time an LS block, complete with RS pistons and Scat rods, made its way under the hood. Knowing that none of Honda’s differentials are designed to carry this kind of power, Newton found that a ’08 Element carried a bit more strength than his CR-Vs, and would put up more of a fight. And though the CR-V has exceeded expectations up to this point, Newton is on the hunt for another bump in power; he adds, “I plan on installing a new motor so I can crank up the boost some more - shooting for 600 hp.”

Lifted turbo crv sunburst Photo 7/25   |   Lifted Turbo Crv Sunburst

Right around the time Newton’s AWD and turbocharged utility starts appealing to your sensibilities you realize that, along with that engine bay that’d be exiled from just about any “shaved-and-tucked” thread, this CR-V’s ride-height also blacklists it from any sort of stance festival. But unlike the army of Tacomas on all-terrains and TE37s that seldom experience any sort of dust-up this side of pussyfooting past whatever construction site emerges upon them, Newton’s CR-V has a purpose. Its Eibach springs and Bilstein shocks that are perched up an inch-and-a-half up front and two in the rear say so, as do the 29-inch tires that show as much wear as that turbo that huffs in its 20 psi worth of air. “I was convinced by a couple of friends to lift it since I've already had a lowered Honda,” he says about the custom spacers. “Plus, you don't really see this done too much here in SoCal. I like being different.” Along with the planned horsepower goals he’s set for himself, Newton will be adding some additional accessories to make camping stints a little more convenient, like an OEM roof rack, basket and external gas can holder (to hold additional e85).

Lifted honda crv rear rolling Photo 8/25   |   Lifted Honda Crv Rear Rolling

Newton isn’t your typical CR-V owner by any means and his CR-V isn’t anything that Honda, you, or anybody else ever expected – and it couldn’t be any more perfect.

TUNING MENU – 1998 Honda CR-V
OWNER: Tony Newton
HOMETOWN: Moreno Valley, CA
ENGINE: 475hp / 325 lb-ft torque; GS-R cylinder head; LS block; RS Machine pistons; SCAT connecting rods; ACL Race engine bearings; ARP head studs; Skunk2 Racing throttle body and intake manifold; Comp Turbo turbocharger; Turbo-Guard air filter; Sheepey Built intercooler and piping; Turbosmart blow-off valve and 38mm wastegate; Turbo Elements exhaust manifold; Sheepey Built downpipe with electronic cutout; Grams Performance fuel pump and 1,000cc/min. fuel injectors; AEM fuel rail; custom half-size radiator; SPAL cooling fan; Hondata S300 engine management; Clutch Masters FX500 clutch; ’08 Element differential
FOOTWORK & CHASSIS: Bilstein shocks; Eibach springs; custom 1.5-inch (front) and 2-inch (rear) spacers; Energy Suspension front lower control arm bushings; custom solid rear trailing arm bushings
WHEELS & TIRES: 15x8 +20 offset Rota Grid wheels; 235/75-15 General Grabber AT2 tires; one-inch wheel spacers
EXTERIOR: OEM CR-V side rails and bull bar; PIAA lights; custom projector headlights; Wells window visors
INTERIOR: JDM CR-V steering wheel and clock; ’99 Civic Si instrument cluster; Grams Performance wideband controller; AEM Electronics boost and oil pressure gauges; Pioneer head unit

Future mods new engine with more power; OEM roof rack; custom roof basket; Makspeed custom skid plate and external gas can holder; catch can; coil-on-plug conversion; possible paint or vinyl wrap
THANKS: My friends, Hefty Avila, Martin Delgado, Nate Schaefer, Anthony Mendoza, and Carlos Rodriguez for help along the way; Driver B from DFR for building my bottom end; my tuner, Armen Bourmaian; Alex and Charlie from Sheepey Built for banging out this one-of-a-kind kit; most importantly, my girlfriend, Yuri Neira

Lifted crv front mountainside Photo 9/25   |   Lifted Crv Front Mountainside
Crv piaa fog light Photo 25/25   |   Crv Piaa Fog Light
By Aaron Bonk
371 Articles

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