When Charlie Rhyu made the trek from Palatine, Ill., to do some autocrossing and catch the JGTC (now Super GT) 2004 race event in Southern California, he had no intentions of crashing Best Motoring International's "American Touge Showdown" video production. He certainly never dreamed his '92 Civic CX would later compete in the Showdown and damn near win it.
Rhyu wasn't invited to the event, which put Japanese über-drivers Keiichi Tsuchiya and Manabu Orido in cars built by America's leading J-car tuners. He couldn't resist attending as a spectator when he learned the BMI guys were filming the day after Super GT, but in the back of his mind he had the idea of competing.
A series of mishaps and chance connections made Rhyu's idea a reality as organizers allowed his hatch of simplified proportions to run alongside some of the best Japanese car tuners in the country. It was nothing short of a flat-out testament to the fruits of his labor.
Aspirations of traveling cross-country and winning races weren't on Rhyu's radar from the beginning, though. He simply wanted a B-series engine swap for his '91 Si.
"I was gonna build the crap out of that car," he says. When he learned that bolt-in engine mounts kits weren't yet available, and that cutting and welding were necessary, he sought out an EG chassis in which the B-series transplant was a true bolt-in affair. After much Internet research, Rhyu's Civic gave refuge to a B18C1 engine and Integra Type-R gearbox.
Not interested in cracking open the engine for more power, the GS-R powerplant later made room for an ITR powerplant. "That did me well ... for awhile," Rhyu says.
Shortly after the RSX's introduction, Rhyu caught wind of a K-series engine that found its way under the hood of an EG. He consulted Dan Phan of Rcrew, who knows a thing or two about the K-series, for guidance. Phan directed Rhyu to a stash of K's in the back room. At the time, little was known of the K-series.
"What the hell are these?" Rhyu asked the first time he saw the K20A. "There's no way- no way-this will work."
Rhyu left Phan's with a JDM K20A Type-R.
His timing was a mixed blessing. K-swap mount kits were still unavailable, keeping the engine's cost in the affordable zone. But unavailability still meant no mounts, so Rhyu waited seven months until Hasport released its kit, then quickly proceeded with the transplant. Rhyu says the K20 is the culmination of everything he felt lacking in the B-series: the square bore/stroke relationship, 2.0 liters of displacement, variable cam timing.
Anxious to debut the swap, Rhyu put out word that he'd be attending an upcoming drag race. The car did well at first, then was sidelined by a broken axle. After a new set of Hasport axles, the Civic posted a best e.t. of 12.28. But as much as Rhyu loves a good quarter-mile pass, he'd long dreamed of road racing the hatch. Having spent most of his money on underhood power, he slowly began to tweak suspension and braking to match the newfound horsepower.
With the chassis up to spec, Rhyu made arrangements to enter a Southern California autocross event, planning to convoy with friends from Illinois to California, enter the event and catch the Super GT race later in the week. The prospect of financing a lengthy drive and taking two weeks off from school and work wittled the convoy down to just Rhyu and a passenger.
Undeterred, he made the trip, competed in two races and checked out Super GT before attending the American Touge Showdown. A mishap for Team Vishnu's EVO VIII inadvertently led to an open spot for Rhyu's Civic. He happened to be in the right place at the right time, and his car placed second in a field that included Comptech's NSX and S2000, Hasport's K24 supercharged EP3 and an AE86 Corolla with F20C motor swap.
Both Tsuchiya and Orido took turns behind the wheel of the car, raved about it's balance and power, and ultimately ranked it second only to XS Engineering's WRX STi.
"The driver loved my car," Rhyu says. "To see the Civic out there on the track was like a dream."
Charlie Rhyu's 1992 Civic CX
As proprietor of Palatine, Ill.-based tuning facility, Top Setup, Rhyu was armed with the know-how and the contacts for a potent build-up. Dan Phan of Rcrew suggested the K20A and later rounded one up for him. The internals remain untouched. Forgoing a B-series engine overhaul was one reason why Rhyu turned to the K in the first place. Bolt-on power adders remain modest and include a K&N air filter, an Rcrew Race Version exhaust manifold and a Top Setup three-inch race exhaust.
Fuel concerns are addressed through a multi-pronged approach consisting of a DC2 fuel pump, AEM fuel rail and SARD fuel pressure regulator. A Hondata K-Pro engine management system regulates air/fuel mixtures and optimizes timing events.
Hasport engine mounts support the K20A within the confines of the EG chassis and the six-speed Type-R transaxle transfers torque to pavement with the help of Hasport stage two axles. The OEM clutch was swapped in favor of an Exedy.
A'PEXi N1 coil-overs prop up the hatchback while rear camber concerns are addressed with an Ingalls alignment kit. Prothane bushings replace OEM issue for additional stiffness. Rhyu went factory with the GS-R front sway and shock tower bars, and ITR lower control arms and rear sway bar.
Front and rear brakes were swapped in favor of GS-R units. The fronts are further beefed up with Power Slot rotors and GS-R calipers loaded with Hawk HP Plus pads. A DC5 brake master cylinder pumps Motul RBF 600 fluid through the system.
Rims & Rubber
Rhyu selected a set of 15-inch Kosei K-1s with 38mm offset (4x100 bolt pattern), weighing 13 pounds each, then wrapped them in Toyo RA rubber sized at 205/50-15.
Outside: Stock. Original paint.
Inside: Despite its daily driver duty, the Civic's interior is stripped to the bone. A Sparco Pro 2000 offers a place for Rhyu to plant his ass, while a JDM Type-R Recaro does the same for his passenger. Sparco harnesses keep them strapped in during heated blasts.
A Kenwood head unit and Boston Acoustics front speakers offer an alternative to the sweet exhaust note.