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 |   |  1985 Straman Convertible Honda CRX - Rag Top Rex
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1985 Straman Convertible Honda CRX - Rag Top Rex

From Pizza Boy Dream Car To Topless Reality

Aaron Bonk
May 1, 2008
Photographer: Henry Z. DeKuyper
Htup 0805 01 o+1985 straman honda CRX+straman coachworks convertible Photo 1/16   |   1985 Straman Convertible Honda CRX - Rag Top Rex

There are those things that never should have been and those things that never came to be that should have. The automotive world abounds of the former. Donks come to mind. So do Wright brother-inspired boy racer wings and Lambo doors on anything other than Lambos. Convertible conversions should fall neatly into place here too but somehow don't anymore. No, we're not excluding silly minivan chop-top conversions but, as for first-generation CRX ones, consider those excused. This is all because of Florida native Steve McClesky and auto customizer Straman Coachworks. Steve's CRX is by no means an anomaly though. Straman whipped up a good 310 Honda convertibles in the mid-'80s. Other customizers followed suit but Straman remains the original rex converter. Of course, Steve's is a Straman.

If you remember 1984, then it's likely you remember the hype surrounding Honda's newest sports car and the convertible conversion frenzy stirred up by Road and Track magazine. Steve does. He was hockin' pizzas out of his Pinto wagon for Domino's when he first took a liking to the 'vert. Unfortunately, even in the '80s, pizza money and new cars didn't jive, not to mention with Straman-converted ones at that. Steve later settled for an '86 DX, which was then traded for an '87 Si. Dreams of ragtops still haunted the delivery boy at night but the realities of a pizza-funded bank account always seemed to circumvent such dreams.

Htup 0805 04 o+1985 straman honda CRX+greddy front strut tower bar Photo 2/16   |   1985 Straman Convertible Honda CRX - Rag Top Rex

Life got in the way and 15 years or so went by before Steve happened upon an '85 convertible CRX ad. Fortunately for him, the pizza trade gave way long ago to a career as a Honda master technician, which, needless to say, is a bit more lucrative then delivering pies for a living. Steve refrained from excitement during the hour-long trip to visit the car. He fully expected some "backyard hack job" but what he found was a genuine Straman-converted rex. Yes, the seats were torn, the wheels were dorky and the steering wheel was funny looking, but Steve bought it anyway.

Yeah, it took him 15 years to acquire his very own Straman CRX but it only took Steve a year or so to build it up to his liking. In many respects, his DX is the epitome of era-specific. The 14-inch Mugen CF-48s prove as much as do the Lightspeed Racing torsion bars and rare Honda accessory center reflective rear panel.

Those familiar with the '85 DX know that it's carbureted and those familiar with 20-year-old carburetors know they can be finicky. A B16A engine swap would be nice, Steve thought, but he'd first have to source one and then deal with the carb-to-EFI conversion. As luck would have it, a fine specimen of a B16A was already tucked away in the corner of Steve's garage, awaiting installation into his other CRX, a '91. As you might imagine, plans quickly changed and he decided to focus his attention toward the first-generation along with that B16A.

Htup 0805 05 o+1985 straman honda CRX+JDM CRX steering wheel Photo 6/16   |   1985 Straman Convertible Honda CRX - Rag Top Rex

Even swap experts will agree that first-generation DX B16A swaps are no picnic. Despite Steve's master technician status the swap still took a good 12 after-hours days and weekends. To be fair though, there's a lot involved. An '88 Integra engine harness paired with two '87 CRX Si body harnesses were used to create an injection-friendly loom. High-pressure fuel injection lines were routed throughout the chassis and a pickup was installed in the gas tank. Keep in mind, all this did was convert the car to EFI status-the engine swap had yet to begin. As the savvy might expect, Hasport engine mounts and axles were used but, prior to that first-generation Integra hubs were bolted up. The Integra hubs feature provisions for larger axles and also accommodate the EG rotors and calipers and AEM pads later installed. Speaking of stopping, Steve decided to forego the more common rear-disc swap and instead fit the HF's lighter aluminum drums in place. The engine went in as expected and a super-rare set of TEIN Super Street Medieval Pro dampers, scored from, was bolted all around for an arguably well-rounded swap. Shortly after, the ECU and distributor were upgraded to OBD-I status for a soon to be reliable ride. The ol' rex fired up and all was good...for a while anyway.

If you're tired of dumping Benjamins into your Honda then stop going to Honda meets. This is, after all, where the seeds of envy develop. Such was the case for Steve. It was at a local CRX meet where he laid eyes on another first-generation, also with a B16A swap, only turbocharged. John Wilson, friend and owner of LHT Performance, was called upon to help deal with Steve's forced-induction frustrations. Under the auspices of John, a Garrett GT2871R was mated to a custom LHT exhaust manifold and complemented with an LHT intercooler and GReddy Type RS blow-off valve. Blow-ups have been avoided with the addition of a Walbro fuel pump and Precision 550cc fuel injectors bossed around by a Hondata S100. All of this is good for 265 whp mind you.

Htup 0805 06 o+1985 straman honda CRX+intake filter Photo 7/16   |   1985 Straman Convertible Honda CRX - Rag Top Rex

Steve doesn't drag race the 'vert and he doesn't track it. No, it's simply too precious for that. A dust collector it is not though. Steve tells us that he does fire the CRX up just about every sunny day, which in his part of Florida, is more often than not. Could one possibly expect less from a guy who's waited 18 years to own something only 309 others have? We think not.

Bolts & Washers

Hasport mounts
USDM ITR camshafts
USDM ITR valve springs
USDM ITR intake manifold bored throttle body
Walbro 255lph fuel pump
Precision 550cc fuel injectors
USDM ITR fuel rail
Custom fittings and lines
NGK spark plugs
K&N air filter
Garrett GT2871R turbocharger
LHT Performance intercooler and piping
GReddy Type RS blow-off valve
LHT Performance custom turbo manifold
GReddy SP muffler
S1 cable transmission
Clutchmasters Stage 3 clutch
ITR flywheel
Hasport axles
Hondata S100

Htup 0805 02 o+1985 straman honda CRX+straman coachworks convertible Photo 11/16   |   1985 Straman Convertible Honda CRX - Rag Top Rex

TEIN Super Street Medieval Pro dampers
Lightspeed Racing 24mm torsion bars (front)
TEIN springs (rear)
Energy Suspension bushings
GReddy front strut tower bar

1G Integra brake swap (front)
EG Civic calipers (front)
AEM pads
Goodridge steel braided lines
OEM Honda DOT 3 fluid
'91 Civic EX four-door master cylinder
'91 CRX booster
'87 CRX HF aluminum drums (rear)

Rims and Rubber:
14x6 Mugen CF-48 (+40 offset)
195/60-14 Falken Azenis

Htup 0805 18 o+1985 straman honda CRX+LHT performance piping Photo 15/16   |   1985 Straman Convertible Honda CRX - Rag Top Rex

Straman Coachworks convertible conversion
BMW rear spoiler
JDM taillights
EDM corner lights
Honda accessory center rear reflector panel
JDM foglights

S2000 seats
JDM CRX steering wheel
JDM CRX digital dash floor and trunk mats
GReddy turbo timer
Prosport gauges

Honda optional equipment CD player
Pioneer speakers
Honda optional equipment subwoofer

LHT Performance
Marcus at

Owner Specs

Bradenton, Fla.

Htup 0805 14 o+1985 straman honda CRX+straman coachworks convertible conversion Photo 16/16   |   1985 Straman Convertible Honda CRX - Rag Top Rex

Most played in the iPod:
Duran Duran

Favorite kicks:
Too damn old to worry about shoes

Recent DVD:
Family Guy: Blue Harvest

Bogus traffic ticket:
Louder than stock exhaust

Mac or PC:
An ancient PC

Favorite non-Honda:

Porn star pick:
They have names?

Hottest model:
They do too?


GReddy Performance Products
Irvine, CA 92618
HASport Performance
Phoenix, AZ 85040
Torrance, CA 90503
Garrett Turbo
Denver, CO 80216
LHT Performance
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
By Aaron Bonk
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