Splashed across the lower portion of the windshield on Ernie and Jenny Pillado's '02 Civic Si is a banner for the crew Show Stoppers USA. More than a simple affiliation sticker, the labeling also accurately reflects what happens when people-car nuts or not-see the hatchback for the first time. The Si literally has the power to stop others in their tracks, and Ernie illustrates his point with a funny little anecdote on the day we interviewed him for this article.
"I pulled the car out [to drive around] today, and I got pulled over," he starts. "The officer had never seen an EP3 before. I had to explain to him it was a show car and that I only drive it once in awhile. I thought he was going to give me a ticket, which is the last thing I need, but he was just amazed. He was cool with it; he let me go. He just wanted to see what the car was all about."
We're guessing that's how most react when they see the sick Milano red rocket-what is up with that car? And how can I mod my ride to get me out of tickets? We pondered these subjects and more when we spent a few minutes with Ernie going over the finer points of his and his wife's resplendent EP3. Keep reading.
HT: How did you see things turning out? Was there a goal for this build?EP: [The Si] was a project for both my wife and me. Modding cars is kind of a hobby for us, so when we got the car we jumped into it, at first building it to our taste. Then we started attending car shows and seeing some of the themes people were using. We really didn't know what we were getting into when we bought the car, but once we saw what others were doing [with the hatchback] we adopted a JDM look. We had to see what others were doing before we figured out what we would do.
HT: Sounds like there was no hard and fast plan for the project, it just sort of evolved as time passed.EP: Pretty much. We just began with stuff we liked. I mean, what we have now-all the JDM stuff-is to our taste.
HT: Did you have to make any compromises for the little lady? Any arguments ever erupt over parts?EP: A lot of times it was a debate. There was always a little discussion, but in the end we both had to compromise. I have an '01 Civic that I'm swapping a Type-S motor into, so I kinda know a little more than she does. She's still learning, so when it came to deciding on tuning elements, she would always give me the lead.
HT: You bought the Civic in late 2002. Did you begin messing with it immediately or was there a lapse in between taking ownership and wrenching?EP: The month after we got the car we put on the suspension. It's funny-we got the car for such a good deal, the dealer thought they were going to be able to sell us on an extended warranty and LoJack system and all that. I was working for Best Buy at the time, and I remember telling the sales guy we wouldn't need the warranty. He insisted that we would need it, to which I said, "Dude, next month you probably won't even recognize the car. I'll end up voiding the warranty with what I want to do, so trust me, I don't need it." A month after we bought it, it was already changed, rims and suspension-it was pretty much a project in the making.
HT: We see you installed a stage 1 Rev Hard turbo kit.EP: Chuck from ShowStoppers USA had an EP that I fell in love with. I was planning to go all motor, and he had a buddy who was also all motor, and Chuck had a turbo car. I drove both and the turbo car was a totally different experience. At that point I thought, I gotta go turbo. It's true what they say, once you go turbo, you never want to go back. That's also what I'm doing with my '01 Civic project; definitely doing a turbo for that.
HT: For setup, you started with a set of Skunk2 coilover sleeves, but then changed to the Progress Competition coilovers.EP: When we started going to car shows, we needed just the minimum. You can't really go to a car show on 18's and not have the ride height lower. It would look weird, so I went with something basic just to get by. If you're tuning, you might as well do it right, which I should've done in the first place. The Progress stuff is very nice. When I drove down to San Diego, it was a smooth ride, no complaints.
HT: You also switched wheels, rolling on Gram Lights after starting with Racing Hart C5s-why?EP: The C5's were perfect because the car was originally silver. When I got it painted, I had to get something that would go with the new color. I was thinking about going with Advans, but they don't make 18's in a 4-lug. The Gram Lights look great with the 4-piston Rotora brake kit behind them.
HT: Where'd you get the car painted?EP: The car was painted at a shop here in Ventura, Calif. It's called Hanko's Autobody. Hank and Abdula are the best. They normally do lowriders. They used to be in Santa Barbara, but since they moved to Ventura they've been spraying a lot more imports. They're like to the go-to guys around here.
HT: Looking back, what was the biggest headache in piecing your project together?EP: The one area that was a real pain in the butt was the Buddy Club 1 [body kit]. The US-spec reinforcement bar didn't fit, so we had to buy the Japanese-spec bar. That took a good six months to get here. I was at the point where I just wanted to get rid of the kit and go with something else. I came home from work one day, and I had totally forgotten about it, and my mother-in-law told me I had a couple big boxes come in. The new part fit, but after that it only lasted another eight months before I changed my mind about the body kit.
HT: So what's next?EP: Under the hood I already got a few things that didn't make the photo shoot: Tanabe strut tower bar and Carbing oil catch tank. I've also got Takata harnesses on order, and I'll likely go with Bride seats. My brother-in-law is stationed in Japan, so I'm trying to have him snag me a Type R steering wheel.
Bolts & WashersErnie & Jenny Pillado's 2002 Civic SiPropulsionThe Pillado Si is all about bolt-on power, and rocks a Rev Hard stage 1 turbo kit to prove it. The system is based around a T3/T4 pump and includes an RH manifold, intercooler, charge piping, and intake. Managing various pressures in the setup are a TiAL wastegate and Vortech blow-off valve, and K20A3 exhaust eventually heads out via an HKS Hi-Power cat-back exhaust. A Hondata ECU re-flash helps the NGK Iridium plugs and RC Engineering 440cc injectors work optimally. To get the EP3 to hook up, Pillado plugged in an ACT stage 1 clutch and a set of Energy Suspension poly engine mount inserts.
Also under the hood, a grip of dress-up tweaks. HKS represents with its Limited Edition oil and radiator caps and a grounding kit attached to the Buddy Club racing spec battery, while a carbon Kevlar spark plug cover and reservoir sock make up Spoon contributions. The carbon intake manifold cover is a Vision product, while the valve cover comes straight from a Type R.
Rims & RubberHoused in each wheel well are 18x7.5 Volk Gram Lights 57S shoes armed with Falken Ziex 215/35/18 rubber.
StanceEP3 ride height is established with a foursome of adjustable Progress Technology Competition coilovers.
ResistanceReigning in momentum is a Rotora big brake kit made up of calipers, enlarged rotors, and stainless braided lines. The calipers are prepped with Axxis Ultimate pads.
FashionOutside:Hanko's Autobody in Ventura sprayed the EP3 in two tones, black on the roof and Milano red everywhere else. To the color, the Pillado's augmented cosmetics with a Buddy Club 2 aero kit, carbon-fiber Mugen "style" wing, hood, and mirrors, and a CF trunk lid. Japanese car culture is honored with JDM headlamps, side markers, wind visor, and "H" emblems, with a bit of UK flair in the way of a Type R badge to boot.
InsideThe turbo setup necessitated the use of added electronics in the cabin, namely a GReddy turbo timer and Profec-B spec II boost controller, and Autometer carbon-fiber boost gauge. Red DC5 Recaro seats flossing Sabelt 3-point harnesses pop visually from an otherwise dark interior.J-spec finishing touches consist of a Spoon Sports shift knob and JDM road flare.
ICEFiring from custom enclosures in the hatch are dual 10-inch JL Audio W3 subs mounted alongside 2 JL amps, a 300/4 and a mono 500/1. A Kenwood CD/DVD deck with flip-out monitor and a 7-inch screen mounted in the rear hatch provide visuals to match the sounds.
LoveThe Pillado's send it to Chuck and Rocky Hernandez at Show Stoppers, Hanko and Abdula at Hanko's Autobody, Jaime and Hector at Street Sound Plus, La Familia: Brad, Darling, the three little ones, Ricky, Serge, Sergio, Lela, Cecil, Sheila, Frank, Lisa, Max, Eric P., and Ab with Nadakai projects. A very big special thanks goes to their big brother Juve and loving mom Velia.