Ryan O'hara's '04 Civic SI
For many, cars hold a special place in the heart. No matter how ugly, rusted, or decayed they may be, they're what get us from points A to B; they're responsible for late-night cruises, long weekends of wrenching, and even longer friendships. Wherever they may lie now, whether junked and cubed or sold off to someone else, you can never forget your first.
Ryan O'Hara agrees. He fell in love with his first car and loved it until the day it died. Shortly after pocketing his freshly laminated license, Ryan longed for a car of his own, more specifically, something of the Honda variety-maybe a CRX. But his parents thought otherwise, suggesting a Ford, a Geo, or some other domestic. Despite the advice, Ryan's mind was set on the CRX, and there was very little that could be said to convince him otherwise.
After months of searching, he found a mint condition model for sale, which in hindsight was far from mint. "It had a crappy re-spray, shoddy bodywork, and lots of rust," Ryan says. "On top of that it was an automatic, bad for racing but good for me, since at the time I couldn't drive stick." But as a good owner should, Ryan loved that CRX as-is, blind to its laundry list of imperfections.
"After buying it I was pretty much hooked," he says. "I joined some Honda forums and was able to see what others were doing to their cars."
As a poor college student with little funds for mods, Ryan took pride in simply owning the car and keeping it clean. And for months, that's just what he did. He washed, polished, degreased, and maintained his new toy-waiting for the day when he could do more than give it baths-which came sooner than he expected. One fateful winter evening, no more than 30 seconds from his doorstep, Ryan's CRX began overheating. Still a noob to the car world, he kept driving. Bad idea. "I heard some sort of explosion from my engine bay; there were fumes everywhere, fluid shooting out of the hood. Turns out the radiator overflow tank had exploded and my head gasket had blown. My engine was shot," he says.
After careful research and sleepless nights, Ryan decided that the best thing he could do for his wounded CRX was to give it new life in the form of a DOHC ZC engine transplant. A couple of weeks later and the car was back on the road, two cams and all. "It was like a totally new car," he says.
But the newly swapped engine brought with it a new fire inside of Ryan, and he was hooked. Following a few minor mods, he decided that he needed something newer. The car was close to retirement age after all. "Once I started looking for a new car I knew it had to be a Honda; considering the fact that there were hardly any EP3s on the road, my decision was easy. I thought it would be cool owning something unique," he says. But finding an EP3 was tougher than it seemed. The model had been discontinued in Canada, where Ryan resides, and local dealerships had limited supplies. After a seemingly endless search, Ryan stumbled upon exactly what he wanted. He snatched it up as quickly as possible, drove it off the lot, and with that began a build that would last for no less than four years.
"I had plans to make some changes before I'd even purchased the car. I didn't like the look of it with the tiny stock wing and, without the lip kit, the front end looked kind of minivan-ish," he says.
With little money and even less time, the body kit was completed knock-off style with cheap parts that never quite fit right. It satisfied him for the time being. "I realized I could buy an entire knock-off lip kit, painted and installed, for half the price of the real stuff. It was easier and quicker to finish the car that way," Ryan says reluctantly.
An HKS Super Power Flow intake and some lowering springs were bolted on soon after-the first of the Civic's mods-along with a few minor interior upgrades, which only furthered his quest for perfection. Ryan's proud to say that he did the majority of the work himself along with help from some friends as well as Speedtech Racing Development out of Calgary. "The guys that did the engine swap on my CRX ended up working at Speedtech when it opened, so I knew someone there, which naturally helped a lot when it came to sourcing parts. Over the years, they kept randomly finding parts in Japan for the EP3. They'd call asking if I'd be interested in them. Of course, I always was," Ryan says.
A short time later, the knock-offs began showing their true colors and began to deteriorate. Ryan had to do something to preserve the uniqueness of his EP3, and shoddy body mods were no way to ensure such things. As such, he broke down and spent the dough, picking up fresh, clean, and genuine parts. After re-doing the car for what seemed like a lifetime, Ryan finally had the hatchback looking like it should. He threw in some Recaro seats, a new rear wing, a race header, and a new mid-pipe, but the most unique part is, of course, the Air Walker front lip, which he just happened to come up on-the shop's last one in stock. Lucky guy.
Hard work paid off for Ryan for the first time in 2006 when he placed First in a local car show's JDM category. "I always thought my car was nice, but at the show there were some really nice S2000s, 240s, and other JDM-style imports that could have easily won. I didn't think I was that deserving," Ryan says.
But what at first might have seemed like a fluke became reality once again as Ryan took home top honors the following year. "After two wins, it occurred to me that winning the first time wasn't a mistake. I was pleasantly surprised to win the second time and thought I deserved it," he says.
Ryan's EP3 has had a number of starring roles over the years. From a rare and elusive lot model to a two-time show queen to a daily-driven commuter ride, he still can't say the car is finished. "I'm planning to supercharge the engine pretty soon, and after that I'm hoping for a big-brake kit and some suspension work. I'm always changing my mind, there's so much. Maybe it's just time to upgrade to another Honda," he says,
And this seems to be Ryan's style: build a car to perfection or drive it into the ground, then get something new and start the process all over again. It's an insatiable thirst that can never quite be quenched. It's a relationship that's familiar to all of us. When is enough enough? When does it stop?
Bolts & Washers
J's Racing radiator cap
HKS Super Power Flow intake
Spoon Sports N1 exhaust
Custom mandrel-bent mid-pipe
Vibrant Performance resonator
Spoon Sports carbon-Kevlar spark plug cover
TEIN Basic coilovers
SPC camber kit
J's Racing front shock tower brace
Spoon Sports engine torque dampener
Rims & Rubber
17x7.5 Volk Racing CE28N (+50 offset)
215/45-17 Falken Azenis RT-615
Muteki lug nuts
JDM CTR front bumper
JDM CTR projector headlights
Air Walker front lip
JDM CTR side skirts
OEM Honda Factory Performance rear wing
VIS CTR-style rear lip
JDM Honda Access window visors
Golden Eagle rear tow hook
JDM Recaro Sport seats
Pioneer head unit
Takata four-point harnesses
Mr. Alex titanium shift knob
JDM CTR shift boot
Parents and brother
Everyone at Southern JDM
EK2.0 (the E-Mack)
Kenny and Rage2
Henry Z. Dekuyper
Will at Speedtech
Everyone else that made this possible
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Building cars for how long:
Black Nike Dunk SBs
It's just a fun hobby
Can't miss TV:
Calgary Flames hockey
For the most part, automatic transmissions suck. But for the elderly, those who like to eat tacos while sitting in traffic, and those who never quite figured out the whole clutch engagement thing, they don't suck. For everyone else, it's five or six manually operated gears or nothing. Consider the facts: manual transmissions can yield better gas mileage, are typically more stout than automatics, give drivers better control over engine speed, and provide a more hands-on approach to driving. If performance is a concern, do the swap and never look back. Fortunately, converting most late-model Civics, Integras, Accords, and Preludes to manual-transmission status is a relatively bolt-on affair. Besides the transmission, make sure to get the proper ECU, pedal assembly, mounts and brackets, shifter assembly (linkage or cables), clutch master cylinder and slave cylinder (if applicable), clutch and flywheel, clutch cable or hydraulic assembly, and gauge cluster. Thanks to companies like Hasport and Rywire, conversions have never been easier.