When a casting call went out earlier this year in search of the perfect car to represent Honda Tuning magazine, a major decision had to be made. We could find the highest-dollar, most hardcore force-fed monster to compete against the other magazines, or we could choose a car more in touch with our readers. Now don't get me wrong, we love well-built powerhouses with high dollar one-of-a-kind mods just as much as the next guy. But the reality is most of us don't have the money to buy even half of what those cars run around with. With Loi's Song's Sportcar Motion-built Civic, you have mostly off-the-shelf parts, with a motor combo that a large number of Honda fans can build themselves. Unlike many shops, they don't keep any secrets; they'll tell you exactly what they're running, why they think it works well, and how to get your hands on it. The K-series motor is now a staple of the Honda community, and we wanted to see what it could do against high-level competition. When we featured the white hatchback (Aug issue), it was sporting a shiny new Kraftwerks Rotrex supercharger, making over 400whp. During initial track testing, cooling and efficiency became a serious problem. The solution would be a custom intercooler and radiator setup, but, with so little time before the competition, the Sportcar crew decided to drop the forced induction altogether. This of course made a major impact on power output but insured that the car would run cool even with desert track temperatures. Now if you're slapping your forehead wondering why we'd enter a competition with a severe disadvantage right from the start, we understand completely. But think of it this way: with the Sportcar Motion Civic running naturally, it truly is representative of the majority of K-swap owners that track their cars. Here's a breakdown of some of the categories along with ways we could have improved our overall standing. These aren't excuses by any means, but rather lessons on how to be that much better in the future.
Originally, Loi built the Civic to compete in events like Super Lap Battle, while still keeping the car completely streetable. A tall order if you have any hope of making a name for yourself on a road course. When the Civic first arrived, a few of the competitors gave a look of disgust. They stated that it was a race car, and not a street car. The problem with that statement is that it's completely subjective. If they were involved in the Honda community, they would know that many of us strip the rear of our interiors, bolt in roll bars, and add wings or splitters. For us, this is just another Civic with a nice swap. Remove the stickers and aero, and you're looking at a large portion of modified street Civics scooting around Southern California. Honda Tuning Magazine wasn't trying to pull a fast one; we simply chose the car that would be best suited to prove a point. And that point is, a low cost chassis with a strong motor, balanced suspension, and expert tuning of easily obtainable parts can hold its own against a group of high-end, big-horsepower players.
With the K24 block, K20 head in N/A trim, the Civic made almost 300whp. However, this was a street car competition, which meant utilizing a catalytic convertor throughout every category was mandatory. The cat managed to choke power considerably, with dyno numbers on the day of competition measuring just 257whp on the K&N dyno. This was the lowest horsepower out of the entire competition, which was no surprise to us. While most onlookers assumed the Honda would be left in the dust, we were confident the power-to weight-ratio and well balanced Civic would still put up a fight. Just to note, the competitor with the highest horsepower that day recorded almost 700whp!
How we could have improved: The most obvious is of course the supercharger. This would have pushed power close to 400 at the wheels, and our points would have been bumped considerably (even with a cat).
Living Life a Quarter...(you know where this is going)
If there's one thing we've all learned about drag racing, it's that horsepower and torque mean absolutely nothing unless you can transfer that power to the ground. That's a little difficult when you're piloting a front wheel drive car on street tires. Practice makes perfect, and that simply wasn't an option during the event. Keeping the car on the straight and narrow wasn't a problem, but trying to hook up was almost impossible. Regardless, the Civic managed to tip-toe out of the hole and reach a respectable 13.5 @108 mph. With a set of meaty slicks and some practice runs, the car could certainly dip into the mid-12 second range, but that's not what this is about. This is about "running what you brung" and seeing what it can do. It won't be winning any SFWD class trophies anytime soon, but nevertheless, not bad for a road race/street car.
How we could have improved: A fresh set of slicks, some suspension changes, and a half dozen practice runs.
Getting Down to Business
The one area that interested us the most by far was the road race event. Let's be honest here, the Civic was never supposed to win this competition. It lacked the horsepower, featured only twin tire fire, and its chassis was worth less than the aero bolted to some of the other cars. However, this would be a gauge to measure just how well a properly built and tuned street-worthy Civic could do against the cream of the crop. With driver Tim Kuo behind the wheel, the little hatch did stay within a few seconds of the top finishers.
How we could have improved: Again, forced induction is a variable that could have offered a dramatic effect on performance. If the supercharger could be used while letting the car still run cool, the extra hundred and something horsepower could have trimmed some of the fat off the lap times.
Results and Final Thoughts
All of our Civic's numbers, as well as the competitions, are printed on the leaflet of this issue. Hindsight is always 20/20, and we, along with the other participants, can pinpoint specific events that resulted in a loss of performance in each of the categories; definitely a learning experience. One point of interest, other than cooling down the engine, the Sportcar Motion Civic required absolutely no maintenance during the event. No broken axles, no shattered diff's, not even the slightest ping from the K-series Frankenstein. That in and of itself is something to be proud of.