The tuner crowd is, at times, a funny bunch. We purchase a new vehicle for simple daily transportation and try our best to fool ourselves into believing that a new car will maintain its factory appearance and performance levels. This is especially true with our family of dedicated Honda enthusiasts. We'll actually keep a straight face as we explain our plans to "just keep it stock." Try as we will, our long-winded explanations fail to mask that twinkle in our eye as we scan our pride and joy from top to bottom, secretly visualizing every possible modification known to man.
When Darryl Lamano, of Irvine, Calif., purchased a brand new '99 Civic Si in 2000 his aspirations to maintain a factory tuned coupe lasted for about 15 minutes. "My first Civic was stolen and I needed something to drive daily," Darryl says. "I decided to lower it, add some wheels and maybe an exhaust." With the urge to tune tugging at his shirttails, he immediately began sourcing parts to separate his deep blue two-door from a sea of clones fighting for freeway space on his way to work. His initial upgrades consisted of a Ground Control/Tokico suspension, a new set of wheels and a slight improvement in exhaust flow. In search of nothing less than perfection, each of these components has been changed at least three times since their initial installation. In fact, it wasn't until 2003 when Darryl hunted down a brand-new set of bronze Mugen MF8 wheels and his dream of owning a completely Mugen-adorned Civic began to materialize.
Starting with the Civic's outward appearance, a set of JDM thin side moldings and keyless door handles were paint-matched by Custom Collisions and snapped into place. An attitude adjustment was obtained with a Mugen front lip, rear trunk spoiler and Vision Type-MC side mirrors (also color-matched). Up front, lighting was vastly improved with a pair of OEM CTR headlights and yellow JDM foglights. To drop a few pounds and incorporate some contrast, a rock solid Fiber Images built carbon-fiber bonnet was bolted on with a set of polished hood shocks. These simple changes, along with the improved rolling stock, managed to separate this sheep from the herd while still maintaining Honda's smooth factory bodylines.
After swapping out suspension components multiple times, Darryl eventually settled on a set of Tein RE coilovers backed by a Skunk2 camber kit and ITR 22mm rear sway bar. Mugen front and rear strut bars stiffen the front and rear upper chassis, while a Skunk2 tie bar cinches the lower rear. The aforementioned bronze Mugen MF8 wheels (16x7, +50) are currently wrapped in Hankook Ventus RS2 rubber of the 205/45-16 variety. Like many of the parts on this Civic, the brake system has been altered a few times as well. An ITR five-lug conversion with 11-inch front and10-inch rear rotors and Hawk HPS brake pads were eventually settled upon. A 1-inch ITR master cylinder, Earl's stainless lines and Motul fluid offer further support to the upgraded brake setup.
When Darryl began his modifications he not only thought of it as a daily driver but he also wanted to be able to take it through local mountain passes and on weekend-long track days. Darryl was intent on making improvements to the factory B16 by highlighting its attributes and maintaining reliability. A Mugen airbox and filter provide fresh air to a Skunk2 ITR "style" intake manifold and a set of Skunk2 Stage 1 cams. To further encourage flow, a Toda race header is attached to a high flow Carsound cat and RS-R ExMag cat-back exhaust. Finely tuned ST Corsa cam gears and an A'PEXi VAFC piggy backed to a CTR ECU brought peak power up to the 180 hp mark, which is more than enough to scoot this coupe to work and back and allow some high-rpm screaming when Darryl's right foot decides to break the monotony. To help harness the newfound bump in power, an Exedy clutch and flywheel were chosen, along with a stainless steel clutch line. Hasport motor mounts add rigidity to the chassis engine connection and keep the engine movements to a minimum. The Skunk2 short shifter and ES shift bushings make life easier while stirring the martini through the gears. No Mugen-inspired Civic could ever be complete without the pièce de résistance sitting atop its powerplant-a Mugen formula valve cover replaces the stock unit and adds the final touch to a freakishly well-maintained engine bay.
Step inside the cabin and you'll no doubt notice there's not a scratch or stray hair to be found; it looks as if this Civic was just manufactured last week. To spruce things up, some inspiration from the race world found its way to the interior. Continuing his Mugen theme, Darryl bolted in a set of Mugen S1 buckets via Mugen side mounts and complemented them with a suede Mugen Racing II steering wheel. Other Mugen goodies include an aluminum shift knob, billet pedal kit and red bezel enhanced white face gauge cluster.
Darryl took a tried-and-true approach to building his Civic: high-quality with carefully chosen upgrades that are just enough to cruise under the layman's radar yet draw some attention from those "in the know." With a picture-perfect Si coupe that has seen a number of different combinations over the last seven years, you'd think that this enthusiast has finally reached a state of euphoria. But alas, with a new Element SC daily driver and the itch to continue his build Darryl says, "I'm happy with where it's at now, but I'm going to finally dig into the motor with a brand new U.S. ITR block, Toda valvetrain and cams and upgrade the tranny with a Quaife LSD and 4.78 FD." Like we said, the tuner crowd is a funny bunch.