Don And Brian Kuehl's '91 Honda CRX DX
A funny thing happened on the way to the internet-all of the sudden, it became useful. Fact-to-bullshit ratios have begun to err toward the side of truth; forum monkeys are regularly questioned for, well, what forum monkeys bring to the table; and the number of bedroom engineers who insist that boosted cars must undisputedly be paired with longer gearing, that H-series engines are simply too heavy for Civics, and that converting your Integra to RWD is requisite to going fast are all but diminishing. And that's a good thing as far as the Kuehls are concerned.
Don Kuehl wanted little more than to build a Honda with his son, Brian. Trouble was, it wasn't that long ago that Don wasn't entirely fond of the Honda brand. As you might expect, he'd fooled around with the obligatory domestics, like a '55 Ford Thunderbird that was outfitted with a Pontiac engine of all things. It didn't take long, though, for those sentiments to readjust themselves, especially once an '05 Pilot and '07 Civic Si made their way to the family's insurance policy. And so the question had less to do with what kind of car Don and Brian would build and more to do with what kind of Honda it would be.
The answer was a '91 CRX, and the reasons why won't surprise you. Honda enthusiasts have lent themselves to the CRX lineage for the last 25 years because of its light weight, capable suspension, and its willingness-no, scratch that-eagerness to be modified. Don and Brian's justification toward the CRX was no different. After all, there are few cars on the planet that'll do what a properly modified CRX will do, like embarrass 911 Turbo owners yet deliver you home to write a check for that insurance premium that's more on par with an '80s Fiat.
But perhaps best of all, 25 years worth of CRX tuning's dropped the learning curve for the masses. Recipes for daily driven, K-swapped CRXs that can hold their own on the track are no longer industry secrets. The information's out there, so long as you can sift through the forum monkey nonsense. Don and Brian could.
The Kuehls began their CRX search in earnest and all but settled on a nearby Si until they happened across an automatic DX...for a buck. Yes, it was an automatic. Yes, it had that dingy blue interior that was, at best, questionably attractive 20 years ago. But perhaps you didn't hear that last part-it was a buck. Interiors can be swapped and auto-to-manual conversion procedures are no secret. And that's really where this project begins-under the hood.
Don's engine checklist was short but strict. It had "K-series" written all over it. It had to remain naturally aspirated. It had to be mated to a six-speed gearbox. And it had to have the performance-oriented version of i-VTEC that lets the exhaust cam have the same kind of VTEC fun as the intake side. Oh, and he didn't want to reposition the engine lower or modify the hood, which meant any taller-deck 2.4L was also out of the question. And so a Japanese-spec K20A Type R engine was sourced from JHPUSA along with Hasport engine mounts and the usual K-swap suspects, like Karcepts bits, a Hondata K-Pro, and a Rywire engine harness. Of course, anything Honda precluded by a big, red "R" typically comes at a price but, when considering the K20A, it's worth it. Compression measures in at 11.5:1, resulting in 220 hp-enough to satisfy most and leave little cause to break open the bottom end for internal modifications. As a matter of fact, this particular K20A satisfies Don and Brian's power wants to such a degree that simple bolt-ons, like a Karcepts cold-air intake, Six Sigma Racing header, and Tanabe Concept G exhaust suffice. And suffice they do-tuned, the K delivers 217 whp at full song, a marked improvement considering the initial 220 hp figure is the engine's estimated flywheel horsepower.
The Kuehls hail from Windham, New Hampshire, not Los Angeles, California. Windham is not known for shops catering to K-series engine swaps. Windham is cold. The former gave Don and Brian cause for embarking on their own CRX-building journey while the latter, well, likely made the journey a smidge more treacherous than for the guy in Santa Monica. The two's northeasterly location also contributed to their CRX not falling prey to the predictably repeated JDM theme. No, Don and Brian's CRX proudly displays its U.S.-spec front fascia, tail lights, and interior bits. Things like Full-Race traction bars and Skunk2 lower control arms were paid for in lieu of Japanese-specific clocks and coin holders. It's for all of those things that haven't been changed that make this CRX so different.
The Kuehls' CRX was bought, built, and delivered to the streets in just 333 days, several of which were spent in freezing temperatures within the confines of an unheated garage. The pair often find themselves attending local autocross events with the distinct satisfaction of knowing that they did everything themselves, despite the two's reasonably newcomer status to the Honda world, to which they'll both credit the internet and its vast expanse of worthwhile-despite the worthless-information. Apart from the Subaru WRX blue paint that was applied by New Hampshire's own Automotive Custom and Collision, the Rywire engine harness that was dropped off at their door, and the Hondata K-Pro that was ever so carefully tuned by nearby Kinetic MotorWorks, both father and son can be credited for the build. Neighbors were not called upon to weld the Hasport bracket in place. The TEIN coilovers-and alignment, for that matter-along with the AEM fuel system and rear-disc conversion, were completed in their garage...in the freezing cold.
A funny thing happened on the way to the internet-all of the sudden, somebody learned something from it. The Kuehls, once rather green to Honda performance, have transcended into quasi-experts of the K swap phenomenon. And they've got a website to prove as much. The family's site, www.crxkswap.com, exists to educate those considering their own '88-'91 Civic K-series engine swap; it even sheds light on their own build. Forum monkeys and bedroom engineers beware, you're being outnumbered.
Bolts & Washers
ITR K20A engine
ITR 6-speed transmission
Hasport engine mounts
Karcepts power steering removal kit
Karcepts cold-air intake
K&N cone air filter
Six Sigma Racing 4-2-1 header
Tanabe Concept G exhaust
AEM fuel filter
AEM fuel rail
AEM fuel pressure regulator
Hybrid Racing radiator
Rywire engine harness
Odyssey PC680 battery
Fidanza aluminum flywheel
Fidanza 3.2 four-puck Kevlar clutch
Driveshaft Shop Level 0 axles
Karcepts shifter mounting kit
Buddy Club Racing Spec shifter
TEIN SS coilovers
Full-Race Pro Street traction bars
Orijin Motorsports front upper
control arm bushings
Progress 22mm front anti-roll bar
Skunk2 rear lower control arms
Skunk2 rear camber kit
Neuspeed 22mm rear anti-roll bar
Special Projects Motorsports rear
trailing arm bushings
Cusco Type ST front shock tower brace
EMRACING rear shock tower brace
Wilwood four-piston calipers (front)
Wilwood 11-inch drilled/slotted rotors (front)
Integra calipers (rear)
Fastbrakes 10.9-inch drilled/slotted rotors (rear)
Hawk HPS pads
Fastbrakes steel-braided lines
'90-'91 Civic EX master cylinder
'90-'93 Integra (non-ABS) proportioning valve
Castrol GTLMA fluid
Subaru WR Blue Pearl paint
Fiber Images carbon-fiber hood
CRX Si front lip
Sparco Fighter seats
Sparco seat brackets
Momo Jet Black steering wheel
Momo Pit Stop e-brake handle
Momo e-brake boot
Momo Stealth pedals
'06+ Civic Si shift knob
RedlineGoods.com shift boot
Autopower four-point roll bar
Schroth Rallye Cross harnesses
Custom carpet kit
CRX SiR gauge cluster
AutoMeter Cobalt tachometer
Kenwood/Alpine stereo system
Tony and his brother
Your Dream Car:
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i-VTEC vs. i-VTEC
In typical Honda fashion, consumers are given their choice between two kinds of VTEC. Problem is, somebody over at Honda named both of them "i-VTEC." Enthusiasts have developed their own labels to differentiate the two, though, like "the good i-VTEC" or "the crappy version." The differences between the two are small but noteworthy. In short, they're all "intelligent," hence the "i" in i-VTEC, and benefit from up to 50 degrees of dynamic camshaft phasing, albeit some engines have a much smaller adjustment window of only 25 degrees. But that's where the similarities end. Lower-end K-series engines feature VTEC only on their intake camshafts, not their exhaust sides, and incorporate it in a two-lobe fashion unlike nearly every other iteration of VTEC previously introduced.