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1996 Honda Civic

Taking the B16B to Another Level

Richard S. Chang
Oct 1, 2000 SHARE

Here’s a little secret. In the automotive magazine world--in which Super Street loosely belongs--putting a white car on the cover is universally accepted as the newsstand equivalent to producing a crack pipe in a police station and then asking for a light; very counterproductive. According to the rules of publishing, white cars don’t sell. It doesn’t matter what they’re packing on the inside, they are just too plain, too simple. We don’t agree. In the world of imports, Honda Championship White is just as eye-popping as a rainbow of pastels, mostly because it lends a hint as to what’s under the hood. And when you’re talking about a Civic Type R like this month’s cover car, that means a rare B16B powerplant. And, to us, that means everything in the world.

OK, so it’s not a Japanese Civic Type R, but owner Sunny Lau made sure it would be the closest thing to it in the States. It has an authentic B16B block and transmission with limited slip differential. It’s turbocharged with a genuine Top Fuel turbo kit and outfitted with an original Buddy Club Civic EK body kit. Trust me, this is just about as JDM as you can get without switching the car to right-hand drive.

The B16B is truly one of the legendary motors from Japan, partially due to its high level of performance and partially due to its exclusivity this side of the Pacific. Rated at 185 hp at 8,200 rpm and 16.3 kg/m at 7,500 rpm, it is, by far, the most impressive 1.6L engine in the world. This one came complete with motor mounts, axles, and shift linkages (which are gold in Japan). Also included in the engine package was a matching VIN badge and a Civic Type R gauge cluster. The only thing on the engine that’s not genuine Civic Type R equipment is the throttle body, which comes from an Integra Type R.

When Sunny first drew up conversion plans for his 1996 Civic, he knew he was going for a full JDM build-up. And what the B16B is to engines, a Top Fuel turbo kit is to blowers. They aren’t sold in the States, so having one guarantees uniqueness. And as the Top Fuel team has proven in Japan and in the States, the kits perform--big time. Unfortunately for Sunny, he had to wait a little longer for the Top Fuel turbo kit.

"It was shipped to England by accident," says William Law at V-Spec, the SoCal tuning shop that dropped in the B16B and performed the turbo installation. "Top Fuel has all its customer deliveries on a list, and it sent Sunny’s turbo kit to the company listed after V-Spec, which was in England."

When V-Spec finally did receive the kit, it had to fabricate the proper piping to complete the package because the entire Top Fuel kit consists of only the Blitz KKK (K3T) turbocharger and wastegate and the custom manifold. Nothing else. Sunny also had V-Spec install an XS Core intercooler, a custom fuel pump from Top Fuel, a Blitz EK spec exhaust, and 534cc injectors. At the moment, Sunny keeps the car tuned loosely. And don’t expect him to meddle with much. It took way too long to get the B16B and the turbo kit for him to risk a major kaboom anytime soon. Even so, he estimates around 300 hp at 8,000 rpm. V-Spec also gave the suspension the full Type R treatment, swapping in Integra Type R control arms, a full five-lug conversion, and an A’pex Competition Race coilover set and N1 pillow mounts. The car sits 3-inches lower than stock and rides on 17x7.5 Blitz Techno Speed Z1 wheels and 215/40ZR17 Dunlop W10 tires. At the time our illustrious cover photographer Wes "Hang 10" Allison photographed the car, it had Integra Type R front and rear brakes with stock pads and lines. But that has since changed. As you read this right now, the Civic is stopping on KRP rotors and V.I.S. braided lines.

By now, you must have noticed the splashes of carbon fiber all over the car. Sunny owns and operates Sunny Styling, a carbon-fiber fabrication shop, where he does all the work. On his Civic, he deserves credit for the accents on the hood, front chin spoiler, rear wing, and the custom center-gauge console inside. The console holds three Blitz gauges and a Dual SBC boost controller. Of course, the seats are red to replicate the real thing. The only difference is that Honda furnishes its Type Rs with Recaros; Sunny has Sparcos. Other than that, the Civic is a mirror image of the original, from the JDM steering wheel to the titanium shift knob. Even the headlamps are of OEM Type R specifications. How can one tell? Look closely. They are slightly smoked. Those from even an SiR in Japan are fully clear. It’s easy, if you know. And Sunny knows.

But achieving Type R status is one thing. Going way beyond it, as Sunny has with this car, is another. He estimates the cost of the buildup at around $20,000. You can bet most of that went into the motor and the turbo kit (which alone goes for about four grand). Some of the funds also went into beefing up the factory stereo system. Sunny swapped in a Clarion (VRX-8271) head unit and a (CDC-635) six-disc changer, a 90W Alpine four-channel amp, 5.25-inch Boston Acoustic separates, 6x9 Rockford Fosgate Punch two-ways, and a 12-inch woofer in a false floor in the hatch.

This winter, most show cars and race cars are back in the garage for secret modifications that will shoot them beyond the competition next year. For show cars, styles roll in and out. Wild paint. No paint. Loud graphics. No graphics. Two-tone interiors. Single-color interiors. The ones on the cutting edge always project what the others will be doing and then go the other way. The ones beyond the cutting edge, the true individuals, do their own thing regardless of their peers. These guys build with a deeper purpose, a passion to fill the gaps in their thirsty souls. They don’t care if their cars draw attention. They just do it and move on. Future flossers take a cue from Sunny. Find your purpose, do it, and move on.

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By Richard S. Chang
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