The best thing about starting from scratch is that you can put everything you want into the car, and leave out anything unnecessary. Even though creating something from nothing requires significant effort and man-hours, Ricky Hertel and his brother-in-law Pete Nogaj would not be deterred while working on this one-of-a-kind '95 Honda Civic Coupe.
Honda Tuning: Was this your first time modifying a Honda?Hertel: Actually no, I have had five Hondas, four were ej1 or ej2 coupes. The first car that I actually got my hands on was a gem; a '95 Civic EX, rust free Milano Red, perfect interior, and an almost mint body '95 Civic Ex. I did a lot of research beforehand and started with a swapped B18B motor from H-motors. The car had a nice suspension setup with Ground Control coils and AGX shocks. It ran a low 15-sec. pass on a self-tune setting. I had another plan to do an LS motor with a turbo, but that soon ended when I crashed the car on a rainy day. The car skidded over 100 feet on bald tires. With this Civic, my brother-in-law Pete got involved with the build since he is the co-owner of the car. He has great knowledge on building cars.
HT: How long did it take you to build the car, and what was your goal? Hertel: Our goal was very clear. Both of us wanted to build a car that isn't so much focused on the whole "JDM trend." This is why we wanted to use a lot of non-Japanese parts, but still using high-quality parts. We wanted the car to look modest and not be an attention whore. We wanted our attention to come from the details we put in the car. Another big part of the goal was to make the car a street/race car that would be extremely fun to drive. Also, we wanted to be able to present the car in certain show events. Even though it might not be wild looking like some other show cars, it does very well and generates a lot of attention, because of the quality of workmanship and attention to detail that we put into this build.
The actual build went by fairly quick, mostly because during that time I didn't have anything going other than working two jobs. The total time it took was nine months from start to finish. Most of the grunt work was on the body. We had to replace both full quarter panels and shave the engine bay. All of this was done during the middle of winter inside my garage. After that we brought it to the body shop. It took them four months to get the body exactly how we wanted it. Both my brother and I were very picky and anal when it came to painting the car, the shop probably hates us by now! I think the build itself was the most enjoyable part for me. Everything else that follows, like all of the shows, races, and cruising, are just added bonuses.
HT: I see that the k20a was your choice of poison. Any reason why you wanted to go this route? Hertel: Well mostly because it was the new demon child of swaps. Back when we started building the car, the Acura RSX had been out for some time and this swap was coming out full force. Pete and I both fell in love with the fact that you can get a 12-second all-motor car and still have the reliability of an Acura RSX. For a 12-second ride and still get 26 mpg, now that's awesome! Another thing we liked was the flexibility of the motor. We knew that if we tossed in some cams and a minor port with some ITB's, it could push 250+ whp all motor.
HT: As we all know during build up; problems occur causing long and sleepless nights. Did you run into anything like this? Hertel: Nothing really too crazy, most of the time I just stayed up late because I wanted too! I have this problem when I get focused on something so much that I lose track of time. Maybe this is why we got the car done so fast. I do remember one time my buddy Chris and I were up for hours pulling the sound deadening tar out of the car. Everyone knows how much fun that is. This was winter time too so it was hard to keep the tar soft. It was a big pain in the ass, that's for sure. To make the time fly by we just talked about our dream plans with the car and what not. Anyway most of the time Pete and I pulled all-nighters since the car took a lot of work and we wanted to make progress. Again most of that work was on the quarter panels. I mean a car just doesn't look right when you can see right through it.
HT: Wow, that's determination for sure. Now that you guys have the car finished any future goals? Hertel: Future goals; I might move on to something a little higher end like an S2000 or move into the Audi world. I'm not sure yet, I might not even build another car! Obviously finish college and get a nice job for sure.
HT: Awesome. Well, best of luck to you and your brother. Last question: any advice to the "do it yourself" tuners out there? Hertel: Never forget your roots, always keep truckin' no matter what. Find a way to get it done because the outcome is so enormously amazing. No matter how much money is spent you'll always enjoy the finished product.
bolts & washers
Ricky Hertel and Pete Nogaj's 1995 Honda Civic EX
K20a2 out of a '02 Type S RSX six-speed transmission, Hondata Kpro ECU, DTR/SSR fab 4-2-1 race header, RBC manifold with adapter plate stock RSX type S TB, Golden Eagle fuel rail, BDL Industries alternator pulley, Russel fuel lines and fittings, Hasport hose insert, Custom painted gold valve cover, Walbro 255lph pump, Spec stage 4 clutch, OEM axle combo, Suja 1 clutch line, Hasport K EG mounts, Hybrid Racing conversion harness, Karcepts shifter box kit, 3-inch Kteller exhaust piping kit, Vibrant 3-inch flat black oval muffler, Heeltoe auto NRG cell battery
Front Omni power 12k sports, Rear Omni drag coilovers, Front Omni upper control arms, Omni rear shim kit, Rear Omni lower control arms, Full-race traction bars, Energy Suspension full bushing kit
Rims & rubber
Spun Supermesh in 15x6.5, Front BFG 225 50 15 Drag radial, Rear BFG 225 50 15 Geforce KD, Skunk2 lugs
Rear disc conversion from a Integra GSR, Brembo x drilled and slotted rotors all around, PBR Axis ultimate pads
Subaru Java Black Pearl paintjob, Full half car section quarter panel replacements, Brand new OEM fenders, Full-race six-point cage, New glass/moldings/trim Honda OEM all around, OEM mud flaps, JDM thin side moldings, JDM headlights, JDM fog lights, JDM side markers, JDM corners, Shaved engine bay, Full wire tuck, battery/fuse box relocation, Clutch reservoir relocation
JDM Type R six-speed shift knob, Buddy club racing buckets, Sparco rails, German Civic gauge cluster 220kph, Full interior repaint, G-force racing camlock harnesses, Custom center console, Custom red carpet, Recovered suede door panels
Pioneer DEH-4800MP headunit, Alpine Type S door speakers and rear speakers
I'd like to thank, first and foremost my brother-in-law Pete Nogaj for building such a beast with me, and my buddy Chris for helping so much. Everyone else: Charlie from TopSetup, Brandon and Jason from Suja 1, everyone who helped me with parts, k20a.org, and all my friends/family for support. Most importantly, the fans of the car. It's really basically the best thing in the world to hear compliments about the car in general and the work put into it.