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 |   |  1988 Honda CRX & 1996 Honda Civic DX - Keeping Up With The Casters
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1988 Honda CRX & 1996 Honda Civic DX - Keeping Up With The Casters

Engine Swaps, Track Time, And What A Father And Son Build Is All About

Andy Anderson
Jun 1, 2009
Photographer: Henry De Kuyper
Htup 0906 01 o+1988 honda CRX+roadrace air dam Photo 1/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

For as long as either can remember, Sam and Nick Caster's lives have revolved around cars. Growing up, the father and son pair lived and breathed them-didn't matter what kind. If they weren't reading automotive magazines, they were playing racing games or collecting die-cast metal toys. They did it all.

"Nick and I always did car stuff together, it was something we had in common as he got older," Sam says. "We both liked them-it didn't matter what kind, as long as they were nicely done."

Htup 0906 02 o+1996 honda civic DX+driver side rear quarter view Photo 2/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

As Nick came of age in San Jose, California, Sam brought home a handful of different cars. "My dad had cool cars before he had kids," Nick says. But having kids didn't slow Sam's hunger for tasty autos. He had a '69 Triumph T6, a not-so-sleek Ford Ranger, and a Mercury Cougar XR7 with a beastly 351 Cleveland under the hood. These and others gave Nick a preview of the performance end of car ownership.

Flash forward to 1996 when Sam decided that he needed a smaller, sportier car to maintain some sanity-and some fuel-during his 100-plus-mile, daily commute. Enter the Civic DX coupe.

The Civic became Sam's new commuter car. Conveniently, it was during this time that Nick, off at college, began reading up on the art of Hondas and develoing his own enthusiasm for them. "I thought it was a really cool car," Nick remembers, "so after a while I started bugging him to make some changes to it."

Htup 0906 06 o+1988 honda CRX+koyo radiator Photo 3/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Sam had already decided that he wanted to give his four-banger Civic more of a punch-mainly to pass campers and trailers during his long drive but also to add a few extra horses just for fun. After talking with Nick, the pair decided on an AEM cold-air intake. A couple of months later, Nick came up on some lowering springs through a friend, and those got thrown on the Civic.

All of the modifications on Sam's car made Nick yearn for a Honda of his own. It wasn't long after that he got what he wanted when he found an immaculately clean, obsessively maintained '88 CRX DX.

"I bought it from a professor at my college, the original owner," Nick says. "This guy had two full file folders of maintenance records-every time the thing went to Jiffy Lube, every time it went to Honda, he kept the receipt. It seemed it had been garaged its whole life."

No more than a few days later did Nick start searching for a decent shop to perform the engine swap. A B18A1 from a '91 Integra was selected-the basic dual cam, non-VTEC-which he knew would be BAR legal (a B18C was later swapped in). But with so many shops doing engine swaps back then, finding the right one was more difficult than finding the car itself.

Htup 0906 18 o+1996 honda civic DX+fluidyne radiator Photo 7/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Both Sam and Nick were avid readers of Sport Compact Car magazine, and they both remembered reading about a SoCal shop called Holeshot Racing. "We had seen some of their shop and customer cars in some issues a while back, and after checking them out, we both decided this place was putting out some quality work; we could trust them," Nick says.

Holeshot ended up doing the swap, and gained a couple of long-term customers: Nick and Sam Caster.

"I felt so good about the shop and the work they did there. Even after the swap, if something was up with the car and I needed something done-since I was new to cars and just learning everything-I would still drive all the way down to let them do some work on the car," Nick says.

Htup 0906 13 o+1988 honda CRX+spoon sports knob Photo 8/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

So Nick was now cruising in his newly swapped CRX, thanks in part to Sam as well as Holeshot Racing.

"From the beginning (post swap), it looked mean and performed even meaner but was still nice enough to take to a meet, yet I could go beat on it all weekend at the track and it still didn't look like some ugly, beat-up race car," Nick says. "Overall, I liked the color most. I've yet to see another CRX the same as mine."

Nick started spending quality time at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in beautiful Kern County, California, where he'd speed around the track and enjoy his new ride. He even found some time to face off with Sam and his Civic on the drag strip. Nick prevailed, though the two had identical reaction times.

"You know, he may be a better driver than me now," Sam says, "but I'm the one who taught him everything he knows about driving a stick."

But Sam and Nick both knew that Nick's win wasn't just due to talent-after all, he had a swap.

"After Nick's swap, I started thinking about doing a swap in my car, since I didn't need the car for long-distance commuting anymore," Sam says.

Htup 0906 12 o+1988 honda CRX+toggle switch Photo 12/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Sure enough, a few months later Sam's Civic was sporting a newly swapped B18C5 ITR engine, with a little help from the nice people down at Import Auto Pros. After a few more minor modifications, Sam decided that he was done with his Civic-he had run the gauntlet of parts. Though he still takes it to meets and races, the Civic is no longer a commuter. It's all for pleasure when it hits the road, and Sam really just likes sitting back and listening to the quiet purr of the ITR.

Nick is no different. Occasionally, he'll go out for a quick jaunt in the streets, but it's pretty much just a track car like his dad's. Nick has plans to build a second CRX, this time one for his dad. He bought the car a while back, but the two haven't gotten to it just yet. But keep your eyes peeled. Someday, while cruising to your next meet, you just might see this father and son duo rolling up together in two tricked-out, track-ready CRXs. You won't even know what hit you.

Nick Caster's '88 CRX

Htup 0906 14 o+1988 honda CRX+VIS carbon fiber hood Photo 13/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Bolts & Washers

B18C engine
Innovative mounts
Koyo aluminum radiator
Samco Sport hoses
Fastline Performance oil pan baffles
Mugen radiator cap
Skunk2 Stage 1 camshafts
ITR valve springs
ITR retainers
JG adjustable camshaft gears
Vision carbon-fiber spark plug cover
Walbro 190 lph fuel pump
Golden Eagle fuel rail
Earl's fittings and lines
Summit Racing fuel filter
Sard fuel pressure regulator
AEM cold air-intake
Skunk2 intake manifold
Maxbore 64mm throttle body
JG Edelbrock headers
Redshift exhaust
Omnipower test pipe
JDM GS-R transmission
Fastline Performance shifter
Energy Suspension shifter bushings
Exedy Stage 2 clutch
ACT lightweight flywheel
ITR 4.7:1 final drive gear

Htup 0906 03 o+1988 honda CRX+B18C engine Photo 14/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Omnipower coilovers
MFactory rear upper control arms
DC Sports rear upper tie bar
Skunk2 lower tie bar
Skunk2 rear lower control arms
Innovative front crossmember
ITR rear trailing arms

Htup 0906 04 o+1988 honda CRX+volk CE28 Photo 15/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Hawk HP / Porterfield R4S pads
Wildwood Dynalite calipers
ATE Super Blue fluid
Earl's steel-braided lines
ITR rear disc brakes

Rims & Rubber:
15x7 Volk CE28 (+43 offset)
205/50-15 Falken Azenis 615
15x7 Team Dynamics Pro 1 (+40 offset)
205/50-15 Hankook Ventus Z211
ARP extended wheel studs
949 Racing lug nuts

Autopower four-point roll bar
VIS carbon-fiber hood
PCI rear wing brackets
C-West aluminum rear wing air dam (street) air dam with splitter (track)

Bride Zeta III seats
Wedge seat brackets
Crow six-point harnesses
Mugen steering wheel
Spoon Sports shift knob
Summit Racing kill switch
IOport rearview mirror
IOport camera mount
Cookie Monster co-pilot
Pioneer speakers
Pioneer head unit
Fire extinguisher

Htup 0906 10 o+1988 honda CRX+crow harness Photo 16/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Sam Caster
Ryan at Rywire
Graham at Redstone Motors
Brian at PCI
Woody at Hoodfab
Innovative mounts
All the 'Squatches'
Warren at Accurate Powdercoat

Owner Specs

San Jose

Daily Grind:
Ethics and compliance officer

Htup 0906 11 o+1988 honda CRX+c west wing Photo 17/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Favorite website:

Building Cars How Long:
7 years

Favorite Kicks:
Converse Chuck Taylors

Dream Car:
Ferrari F40

Build Inspiration:
Track cars... all of them

Can't Miss TV:
Cartoon Network's Adult Swim

Sam Caster's '96 Civic DX

Htup 0906 21 o+1996 honda civic DX+SiR headlights Photo 18/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Bolts & Washers

B18C5 engine
Innovative mounts
Fluidyne radiator
Holley fuel pump
AEM cold-air Intake
AEM bypass valve
DC Sport ceramic 4-1 headers
A'PEXi World Sport exhaust
USDM ITR transmission
Exedy Stage-1 clutch

Htup 0906 20 o+1996 honda civic DX+B18C5 Photo 19/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Skunk2 Pro-S coilovers
ITR antiroll bar
ASR rear subframe brace
Spoon Sports front shock tower bar
DC2 Integra rear trailing arms

Earl's steel-braided lines
DC2 Integra rear brakes

Rims & Rubber:
15x7 Enkei RPF1 (+41 offset)
205/50-15 Kumho Ecsta SPT
949 Racing lug nuts

Htup 0906 17 o+1996 honda civic DX+enkei RPF1 Photo 20/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

OEM SiR front lip
OEM SiR headlights

JDM ITR Recaro seats
Recaro seat sliders
Speedware Motorsports seat brackets
Pioneer head unit
ITR shift lever boot

David Nguyen
Import Auto Pros
Nick Caster
Paula Caster
Ryan at Rywire

Owner Specs

Ridgecrest, CA

Htup 0906 16 o+1996 honda civic DX+OEM SiR front lip Photo 21/21   |   HTUP-090600-026-33-CRX

Daily Grind:
Air Traffic Control

Favorite website:

Building Cars How Long:
11 years

Favorite Kicks:
Hitec boots

Dream Car:
Ferrari F-430

Build Inspiration:
Nick Caster's CRX

Can't Miss TV:

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