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1995 Honda Civic EX - Original Thinker

This One Flies In The Faces Of The Forum Monkeys

Aaron Bonk
Oct 1, 2009
Photographer: Rodrez

Craig Nelson's '95 Honda Civic Ex
What do you call a Civic owner who takes design cues from guys like Chip Foose, mounts his side-markers not in their intended OEM locations but where he feels they should have been mounted in the first place, and does anything and everything that flies in the face of conventional JDM think and internet forum monkey rationale? You call him original.

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Craig Nelson built his '95 Civic coupe to be an "all-out street car" consisting of the "best parts possible." Blah, blah, blah. What he really meant to say was that he built his '95 Civic coupe his way-taking the forum dorks' and JDM disciples' advice with grains of salt, instead doing things the way he saw fit-a digital slap in the face, if you will. No, shortsightedness and restriction to a particular genre are not traits that define Craig. JDM parts were used where JDM parts were seen fit, as was the case with USDM parts-both OEM and aftermarket-as well as the occasional non-Honda piece, like the side-marker lights he scrounged from a Volkswagen. But Craig didn't stop there. While the JDM purists cried sacrilege and scratched their heads, he went on to mount the VW lighting two inches lower than Honda's intended side-marker location-a location that Craig says "clutters the body lines." And such is the underlying theme with Toy Civic (Craig's pet name for his EJ1), one which revolves around his likes and dislikes. After all, he's the one who's got to look at it everyday.

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

Today, few '95 Civic owners can make this claim, but Craig and his coupe have been together since day one. Shortly after joining the U.S. Navy and while stationed in Virginia, he picked up the EX, fully loaded, minus ABS, and complete with Honda's original SOHC VTEC engine. It took him several years though until the car's modifications list would grow to its current state. Craig slowly began to "delve deeper" into the Honda world by 2002, helping a friend retrofit a manual transmission into a once-automatic DC2 Integra, but it wasn't until 2005 that he'd begin applying his newfound expertise to his own car. Craig will tell you that his coupe benefitted from basic bolt-ons at various stages throughout its life, like the Eibach springs installed in 1996 followed by a GReddy exhaust and DC Sports header two years later, but he'll also tell you that February 2005 marked a new era for the Civic.

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It wasn't until 10 years after the Civic's first wave of bolt-ons, which, if you must know, consisted of audio bits, window tint, and a Hondasport short shifter, that the project really began to move. In 2005, the car was stripped and re-painted its natural Milano Red hue. Predictably, Craig had the Civic's emblems removed and the body shaved. Unpredictably, Craig had the emblems hand-painted back on in a "3D floating" fashion. The idea came to him while watching an episode of Overhaulin', where legendary auto customizer Chip Foose did something similar to a '56 Chevy. But instead of giving the artist instructions to pencil in the Civic's "EX" monogram, orders were given to have the RSX's "Type S" coat of arms applied. It's right about now that the purists might say "Hey! You can't do that." While Craig realizes that an EJ1 Civic Type S there is not, the fact remains, if there were one, his car would be it.

Give Craig's Civic a once-over and the Type S namesake begins to make sense, after all, Honda's Type S vehicles are defined by sharing similarities with their Type R brethren but without sacrificing the accoutrements. Despite Toy Civic's Laskey Racing-built, high-compression, 2.0L B18C1 engine and race-inspired theme, it retains entry-level Honda amenities such as A/C, power steering, airbags, and cruise control. And with a conservative 11.0:1 compression ratio, Craig can fill his 212whp Civic with California's watered-down 91 octane without fear; he can even pass a smog test.

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Study Toy Civic closely and you'll find that it breaks the internet-forum-defined mold of what a Honda should be. A universal third brake light was molded into the trunk because, well, Craig likes the way third brake lights look; the trunk keyhole was shaved; LED taillights were added; the body panels below each taillight were grafted to their respective quarter panels; and "JDM LSD" and "DOHC VTEC" decals were positioned on the windows, which any wholehearted JDM fanboy will tell you is neither period-correct nor of correct positioning. But then Craig went ahead and added a Back Yard Special carbon-fiber front lip, Stanley JDM fog lights, and 17-inch Volk CE28Ns. The JDM elitists were appeased and, suddenly, all was right with the world as Toy Civic's gone on to take home multiple First and Second Place car show finishes up and down the West Coast. But none of this matters all that much to Craig, a guy who built his car for himself, his way, on his terms. While some may dismiss the Depo LED taillights and TYC HID headlights as "ricey," Craig will point out that the arrangement is brighter, more modern looking, and street-legal.

Htup_0910_04_o+1995_honda_civic_ex+interior_shot Photo 5/11   |   1995 Honda Civic EX - Original Thinker

Pigeonholing oneself to a specific subset of what's truly possible and acceptable when building a Honda will prove nothing more than a liability. The results are, more often than not, a lack of individuality. The answer has less to do with retrofitting Euro sport compact lighting into one's Civic like Craig did, and more to do with having the balls to do those things that, if you pay any attention to the forum monkeys, shouldn't be done at all. Original? Indeed.

Bolts & Washers

2.0L B18C1 engine
Innovative Engine Mounts
K&N air filter
Professional Products 70mm throttle body
Hondata intake manifold gasket
King Motorsports intake manifold studs
JDM ITR 4-1 header
Benen exhaust manifold heat shield
King Motorsports exhaust manifold studs
T1R 2.5-inch B pipe
Magnaflow 2.5-inch catalytic converter
Mugen twin-loop muffler
ITR camshafts
BDL camshaft gears
ITR valves, ITR valve springs
Crower titanium retainers
Port Flow headwork
ARP head studs
Cometic headgasket
STR camshaft seal
Skunk2 VTEC solenoid cover
Comptech spark plug wire cover
JDM ITR valve cover
BDL oil cap
Toda timing belt
STR dipstick
Benson's 84mm sleeves
Micro-polished B18B1 crankshaft
CP Pistons 11.0:1 pistons
Eagle connecting rods
ARP crankshaft pulley bolt
DC2 ITR oil pump
Mugen oil pan
Spoon Sports oil drain plug
PWR radiator
Samco Sport radiator hoses
Mugen fan switch
ARC thermostat
FAL cooling fan
Benen radiator stay
STR fuel rail
AEM fuel pressure regulator
Vision Motorworks fuel pressure gauge
S2000 fuel injectors
Walbro 255lph fuel pump
Russell AN fittings and lines
NGK platinum spark plugs
Spoon Sports spark plug wires
Hondata S300 engine management
DC2 ITR transmission
Integra RS/LS Fifth gear and final drive
ACT clutch, Toda chromoly flywheel
Quaife LSD
ARP clutch and flywheel hardware
Inline Four steel-braided clutch line
Spoon Sports transmission drain plug

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Neuspeed/Bilstein coilovers
Neuspeed rear anti-roll bar
Energy Suspension bushings
Skunk2 front and rear camber kits
Neuspeed front shock tower bar
JDM DC2 ITR five-lug conversion
Acura TL wheel studs

Power Slot rotors, Hawk HPS pads
Spoon Sports twin-block calipers (front)
ITR calipers (rear)
DC2 Integra booster
DC2 Integra master cylinder
EH Civic proportioning valve
Goodridge steel-braided lines
Castrol synthetic fluid

Rims & Rubber
17x7.5 Volk CE28N Time Attack (+43 offset)
205/40-17 BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW 2
Project Kics R26 Neo Chro lugnuts

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Custom grille
Hand-painted emblems
Universal third brake light
Fuba antennae
Thin side moldings
Mugen license plate bolts
Backyard Special carbon-fiber front lip
TYC HID one-piece headlights
JDM Civic fog lights
VW side-marker lights
Depo LED taillights

Custom gauge cluster
JDM amber clock
Various JDM switches
EP3 Civic Recaro seats
Wedge Engineering seat brackets
Custom floor mats
Custom suede interior
Alpine/Polk audio system
JDM DC5 Momo steering wheel
Faux carbon-fiber dash kit
Momo Stealth pedals
Momo Combat carbon-fiber shift knob
Momo leather shift boot
Momo Pit Stop E-brake handle

Family, Friends, Neighbors James Callahan Team Hybrid Syndicate Automotive Concepts Laskey Racing Port Flow Design GearSpeed Pacific Honda parts dept. Majestic Honda Acura Carland

Htup_0910_09_o+1995_honda_civic_ex+side_shot Photo 8/11   |   1995 Honda Civic EX - Original Thinker

Owner Specs

Daily Grind:
U.S. Navy

Favorite Website:

Screen Name/Nickname:
Toy Civic

Htup_0910_10_o+1995_honda_civic_ex+rims Photo 9/11   |   1995 Honda Civic EX - Original Thinker

Building Hondas For How Long:
Since 1995

Your Dream Car:
'09 Corvette ZR1

Build Inspiration:
This and that

Htup_0910_11_o+1995_honda_civic_ex+exhaust_shot Photo 10/11   |   1995 Honda Civic EX - Original Thinker

What's In Your Ipod/CD/MP3 PLAYER RIGHT NOW:
Classic Rock

Greatest Movie Of All Time:
Office Space

What's With That Gauge Cluster?
What do you do when you want a white-face gauge cluster like the JDM one but with an imperial-calibrated speedometer like the USDM one? Oh, and it's gotta top out at 145 mph like the UKDM one. You make it yourself. Craig did. Toy Civic's hybrid gauge cluster looks like the JDM EG6 or EG9 cluster...from far away...but is so much more than that. It features an 8,500rpm redline, has cruise control- and VTEC-indicator lights, and its numerical display reads in imperial units, not metric, so Craig doesn't have to multiply kilometers by .62 in his head when he wants to know how fast he's going. And since it's based off of his Civic's original gauge cluster, his mileage remains intact, which ensures that all remains squeaky clean for when the time comes to sell his Civic.

Htup_0910_13_o+1995_honda_civic_ex+steering_wheel_shot Photo 11/11   |   1995 Honda Civic EX - Original Thinker


Laskey Racing
Anaheim, CA 92806
Mackin Industries
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Camarill, CA 93012
By Aaron Bonk
413 Articles



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