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 |   |  1998 Honda Civic Coupe - Third Time Lucky
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1998 Honda Civic Coupe - Third Time Lucky

A 12-Second Drag Racer Is Resurrected Into A Jdm Dream Machine

Evan Griffey
Mar 1, 2008
Photographer: E. John Thawley III
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Arnold Gonzalez, from Hollister, Calif., has worked all the angles on his '98 Civic Coupe. The car has been built-up and torn down on three different occasions within five years, so it's safe to say that its equilibrium has been reached in a big way. The car has gone from down and dirty dragger to Civic Type R dreamboat.

"My dad scored the car for me in June of 2003 and right away I lowered it with some cheap coilovers, did the urban blackout thing by taking off the hubcaps and rolling the stock steelies," Gonzalez says. Nearly six months later he dropped a ZEX nitrous kit on the D-series engine. "I thought it was fast; it ran 14.8 with a 60-shot. The fun lasted two months, then I blew the motor by running it out of oil," he says. Instead of rebuilding the D he decided to put in the motor he had always dreamed of-a JDM-spec B16. "I thought it was way fast with a chipped P28 ECU from Skunk2, an AEM system, Skunk2 intake manifold and a DC Sports header," he says. "I hit a 14.4 on street tires with that setup."

2019 Honda Civic
$21,450 Base Model (MSRP) MPG Fuel Economy
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Then the boost lust kicked in and Gonzalez became like a zombie in search of gray matter. He bought a T3-based turbo kit from a friend and strapped it on. A week later he was face-to-face with a CARB referee. Knowing the B16 would not pass, he ended up paying a $550 fine. He got pulled over again and was willing to pay another fine but the judge was not buying into his scheme. "I knew I had to do something about the motor so I sold it for $3,000 and bought a '99 U.S. B18B LS. Things went more smoothly at the referee this time around," Gonzalez says. While the B18 was being installed at Dave's Garage, Gonzalez set off rounding up the parts for his next boost frenzy. In fact, after getting the car signed off, Gonzalez pulled into his garage and installed a new turbo setup. The centerpieces of this kit consist of a Garrett T3/T04E turbo with a 57-trim comp wheel, a trick tubular turbo manifold and TiAL Sport gates and valves.

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Gonzalez had come a long way and he intended to swing for the fence. "The internals in my engine are completely stock," he says. "I thought everybody built their motors and hit 12s. I wanted to be different and blast 12s on a stock LS turbo motor and I did it." The combination was tuned at RedZone Performance where it pumped out 304 whp at 14 psi. Gonzalez trekked south to Bakersfield to run the car down the 1320. "The car was dynoed with the full stock muffler setup on it and when I removed the system at the track I actually lost psi," Gonzalez says. "I was only running 8.5 psi, so I was satisfied running a 12.8."

Gonzalez bought a four-door Integra for family duty and the Civic faded to the back burner. In March of 2006 the Honda was resurrected to realize Gonzalez's ultimate dream-a magazine feature.

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"I needed to redo almost everything. I saw Civics in magazines with a few JDM CTR parts, like a gauge cluster, steering wheel and seats or something, so I set out to make my EK shine with ALL the CTR parts," he says. "The car needed to be super clean as well so I had Glen at Dave's Garage do a wire tuck. Then I yanked the motor and interior and sent the roller to Fernando Sanchez in Greenfield, Calif." The engine bay was shaved and filled to further enhance the wire tuck effect. The body was smoothed, a '00 model front end was grafted on and the whole enchilada was painted Championship White and then topped with a Seibon carbon-fiber hood. While the magic was going down in Greenfield, Gonzalez was racking up the CTR parts from JDM Theory. " I went for everything, the rarest of the rare it didn't matter; I had to be a standout, a JDM standout."

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As the car came back together a JohnnyRacecar FMIC, STR fuel rail, 440cc RC Engineering injectors, Edelbrock intake manifold and a Crome-tuned ECU were added to his bag of tricks. The valve cover had received a Championship White spray and a set of rare old-school JDM Work Stark wheels.

The suspension on Gonzalez's Civic has been updated to '00 Integra GSR specs. The 21st century 'teg parts include spindles, disc brake assemblies, calipers and anti-sway bars. Dampening is a split personality proposition with five-position adjustable Tokico USA white shocks and Eibach Sportline coils in front and Omni drag coilovers in the rear.

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Gonzalez has tallied a grand sum of parts and the Civic looks to be hitting on all cylinders. We must call out the engine room: The wire tuck and metal mods are tighter than a middle seat in coach. The lack of wire looms and fuse boxes underhood leaves one to wonder if the engine will run-it's that clean looking. The painted valve cover ties it all together in a tidy fashion, although it would be cool to see the Edelbrock manifold sprayed with some Championship White.

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There is little to nitpick on this EK and we have to wonder, what's next for this pristine example of JDM dreaming? Once you realize the ultimate goal how do you feed the need? We hope the Civic will not have to endure a fourth cycle of despair and repair since it is so pure, to top it would be nonsensical. After all Gonzalez does have a four-door Integra, maybe he should tinker with it for a few years. For sure, that's the plan.

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Rockin' The Jdm
CTR red seats, CTR red carpet, CTR power door panels, CTR power switches, CTR non-SRS steering wheel, CTR gauge cluster, CTR climate control, CTR shift boot, CTR e-brake handle, CTR armrests, Spoon shift knob, Spoon engine dress up, CTR headlights, CTR side marker lights, CTR turn signals, CTR power folding mirrors, CTR thin side molding, Work Stark wheels and Potenza RE711 tires.

By Evan Griffey
272 Articles



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