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1988 Honda Civic Hatchback - True Calling

Hiding From The Past Ain't Easy

Joey Lee
Aug 1, 2008
Photographer: Rodrez
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Expect Obstacles In Life. Even a 9-year-old can tell you that. What defines us is how we overcome those obstacles. This is especially true in the car-modding game where things hardly go as planned, even when carefully thought out. Some often find themselves saying that it's just not worth it, scrapping projects mid-build. There's always that crossroad where we can give it another go or stop playing altogether. This is where passions are tested. Is the juice worth the squeeze? Does the respect of one's peers mean anything? If your heart is in the game and the love of the craft is strong, then even if you quit, eventually the game has a way of finding you. That hobby that is locked away, like skeletons in a closet, will manifest itself one way or another. How this happens varies; it could be through an inspiring magazine build or just a phone call from a friend.

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Gilbert Corona knows this scenario well. "I was supposed to be out of the Honda scene after I blew up my fully built 1,842cc stroked engine in my first '88 Civic," the San Diego county native recalls. Built in 2000, Gilbert's street-drag-themed Civic made regular appearances at the then-booming San Diego street races. Sorrento Valley, Kearny Villa Road, the infamous "Firehouse," you name it, Gilbert and his ride were there. Unfortunately, daily driving and regularly scheduled 9,500rpm pulls led to the engine's untimely end, which convinced Gilbert that the catastrophic event was a sign. "All my money invested into that engine was trash, including my precious Port Flow head," Gilbert says. "I told myself I was done, no more building for me. It just wasn't worth it anymore." You might say Gilbert was over it, so he swapped in a stock B16A and put it to use as his daily grinder.

2019 Honda Civic
$21,450 Base Model (MSRP) MPG Fuel Economy

For a Honda head to pretend like he's out of the game while his friends remain devout to the brand is about as permanent of a solution as a rehab graduate who hangs out at the bar for the nuts. Staying away from the game is futile. Besides getting poked at by friends, Gilbert was reminded daily of the hobby he left behind. Luckily for him a phone call came and changed his life. "My buddy Gil Salazar gave me a ring one day and told me about this EF he spotted with a JDM front end," Gilbert says. The Civic was an unfinished project, picked and poked at by three previous owners. The results of the number of individuals and shops that worked on this car over the years were nothing to brag about. About the only thing that made the deal worthwhile was the SiR front end, TEIN coilovers, and Mugen MR5 wheels. Gilbert saw this as a challenge, purchased the Civic for $4,000, and officially welcomed himself back into the Honda game. With the car home he realized that it might have been more than what he bargained for. The gauge cluster and stereo worked but that was about it, so Gilbert dove right in and painstakingly rewired the entire car. With the electrical nightmare out of the way Gilbert transferred each usable piece from his previous car onto the new one. He was able to salvage the old car's SiR rear seats, SiR wing, and Jim Fab crossmember.

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The hatchback's exterior was painted a custom Graphite Gray and metallic green mix by Reflections Autobody in nearby Wilmington and was in relatively good shape, so Gilbert decided to complete the exterior before moving on to major engine work. Since the previous owner had already equipped the chassis with various JDM goodies the only thing that had to be done was to repair the already damaged front end. Gilbert performed automotive plastic surgery by installing another complete JDM SiR front end and also threw on a Password:JDM front lip for good measure. Gilbert took care of the remaining prep and paint duties in the confines of his own garage. Interior mods came next when Recaro SPG buckets found their way into the cockpit along with a variety of Mugen parts. Gil Salazar, who helped Gilbert find the car, supplied him with a Circuit Hero stainless steel shift knob and shift extender.

Tein HA coilovers came courtesy of the previous owner, who was a broke college student, so they remained unchanged except for modified spring rates. The stiff suspension is further upgraded with Prothane bushings and a Carbing shock tower bar. The stiff chassis rolls on 15-inch, old-school Dunlop Formula CP-F wheels with Falken Azenis rubber. Sitting behind the front wheels are '99 Civic Si brakes with CRX Si ones out back.

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Despite the man-hours devoted to aesthetics, Gilbert is quick to remind us that this is no show car. His heart lies with the racing world, which meant his Civic's heart would have to as well. The B16A powerplant sitting in the bay was discarded and a full wire tuck was done in preparation for a B20A engine. The B20A that was assembled by Gilbert is highlighted by a decked, bored, honed, balanced, and blueprinted block complete with new seals, gaskets, and a B16A head. JB Cams in Chula Vista, Calif., is responsible for the custom Circuit Hero-spec camshafts paired with Skunk2 cam gears. Gilbert further developed the head with Port Flow race springs and titanium retainers. You might say Gilbert is a one-man wrecking crew in light of the fact that he did his own cylinder head port and polish in the privacy of his own home. A-Sports 46mm individual throttle bodies sit at the helm controlling incoming airflow while an ITG foam filter strains unwanted elements from the atmosphere. A HyTech 4-2-1 header kicks exhaust gases through to a Circuit Hero test pipe and out through a super-OG HKS Sport exhaust system. An S1 cable transmission was fully disassembled, inspected, and meticulously rebuilt by Gilbert with new main carrier and mainshaft bearings. An ACT heavy-duty clutch pressure plate, Southland six-puck sprung-hub clutch disc, and a Kaaz one-and-a-half-way limited-slip differential allows the transmission to handle anything Gilbert decides to throw at it. With the engine firmly in place, the 11.8:1 B20-VTEC produces 227 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. Not too shabby for a one-man, garage-built project.

"Three years later, and a lot of man-hours in my garage, produced the car you see now. All the work was done by me with little to no help from anyone," Gilbert says. "I'm done for now; I want to take a little break from building and take it to the track for some stomping." Gilbert's Civic should remain proof that one can never fully be over it or simply walk away from a hobby that once pulled at the heartstrings. Gilbert Corona is a guy who just happened to be down and out and tried to trick himself into believing that he was done. A couple of years later he escaped from his garage with something truly amazing.

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B20-VTEC engine
B16A cylinder head
Hasport engine mounts
RS Machine cast pistons
Bored, decked, and blueprinted block
Balanced internals
Hastings piston rings
B16A water pump
GSR timing belt
B16A oil pump
Baffled B16A oil pan
ARP rod bolts
Ported and polished head
JB Cams Circuit Hero camshafts
Skunk2 cam gears
Port Flow valvesprings
Port Flow titanium retainers
ITR lost motion assemblies
ARP head studs
Modified B20A head gasket
Endyn crankcase breather
Golden Eagle LS-VTEC kit
A-Sport 46mm ITBs
Circuit Hero TPS adapter plate
Golden Eagle vacuum log
ITG foam air filter
Walbro 190lph fuel pump
RC 370cc fuel injectors
BDL fuel rail
Earl's fuel filter
B&M fuel pressure regulator
Steel braided fuel lines and AN fittings
Marshall fuel pressure gauge
NGK spark plug wires
Hondata ECU
HyTech Exhaust 4-2-1 header
Circuit Hero test pipe
HKS Sport exhaust system
Fluidyne radiator
Mugen fan switch
Mugen thermostat
Carbing coolant reservoir
Samco Sport radiator hoses
S1 cable transmission
ITR flywheel
Hasport shift linkage
ACT heavy-duty clutch pressure plate
Southland six-puck sprung-hub clutch disc
Kaaz one-and-a-half-way limited-slip differential

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TEIN HA coilovers
2G Integra antiroll bar (front)4G Civic Si antiroll bar (rear)
Prothane bushings
Ingalls front camber kit
Carbing front shock tower brace
Jim Fab crossmember and traction bars
2G Integra knuckles
CRX Si trailing arms

6G Civic Si rotors
6G Civic Si pads
6G Civic Si calipers (front)
CRX Si calipers (rear)
Earl's steel braided lines
JDM SiR proportioning valve
ARP extended studs

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Rims And Rubber:
15x6.5 Dunlop Formula CP-F (+32 offset)
205/50-15 Falken Azenis

Custom gray and metallic green paint
JDM SiR front end
Password:JDM front lip
Password:JDM fenders
JDM SiR side skirts
JDM SiR front mudflaps
JDM SiR taillights
JDM SiR rear spoiler
Spoon Sports-style mirrors
JDM SiR taillights
JDM power-folding mirrors
Circuit Hero towhooks

Recaro SPG seats
Wedge Engineering seat brackets
Mugen SW4 steering wheel
Mugen horn button
Mugen hub
FET quick release
Mugen pedals
Circuit Hero stainless steel shift knob
Circuit Hero shift extender
CRX dashboard
JDM SiR power windows
JDM SiR door panels
JDM SiR gauge cluster
JDM SiR climate control unit
Defi rpm, mph, oil, and water temperature gauges

Dad and Mom
Circuit Hero family
Gil and Willy Salazar
JB Cams
Art and Sergio
Port Flow
Church Automotive Testing
Marc Tran
Revenge Motorsports

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San Diego, Calif.

Most Played In The Ipod:
Nas "Take it in Blood"

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Favorite Kicks:
Reebok classics

Recent DVD:
I Am Legend

Bogus traffic ticket:
Back-to-back ref tickets

Mac or PC:

Favorite non-Honda:
Ferrari F50

Porn star pick:
Jenna Jameson in her prime

Hottest model:
Mercedes Terrell


HASport Performance
Phoenix, AZ 85040
Torrance, CA 90503
Golden Eagle Manufacturing
San Dimas, CA 91773
HyTech Exhaust
Irvine, CA 92618
By Joey Lee
243 Articles



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