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1998 Honda Civic - Trial By Fire

By Any Means Necessary, This Coupe Was Destined For Greatness

Brian McGurk
Feb 1, 2010
Photographer: Pat Lauder

Julian Cordova's '98 Civic EX
As the old saying goes, we all start somewhere. The lucky ones get to wrench with their uncle, or some other form of role model from the time they're knee high, and adopt whatever rare, mint condition, chick magnet their mentor had when they were a teen. For those of us unlucky enough to live in reality, if we want a nice car, we build it. And since they don't teach Hot Rod 101 class in elementary school, finishing your car is a harsh lesson in trial and error. Julian Cordova, J.Co to his friends, of Hughson, CA, was never a Honda guy. But when he first got his license, he needed a car, and beggars can't be choosers. "I was into mini trucks and all that stuff, but I needed a car. My brother had a really clean EK and a junky EF. I took the EF." Julian couldn't complain, it drove, and it beat walking. After driving his civic with a frown for months, the influence of Julian's brother and close friends started to rub off on him, and a soft spot grew for his little neglected hatch.

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Although Julian had come to enjoy his little car, there comes a time when even the best horse has to go to pasture. After two engines and no less than four transmissions, Julian retired the EF in lieu of his new love: a Tafetta white '98 Civic EX coupe stabled at a local dealership. "At first I wanted a red EK9, but everybody had them. So I went to a coupe because no one was building those in my area." It was love at first drive and Julian now had a canvas for his new found passion: Honda building. Julian started with the basics, swapping the stock Civic brakes with their larger GS-R counterparts and installing Buddy Club N+ coilovers along with camber kits at all four corners. A set of 16-inch Spoon SW388s shod in Advan rubber replaced the stock hub caps and steelies. A pair of SiR front and rear bumpers in matching Tafetta white and custom-made front fender flares rounded out J.Co's body mods. Julian's car was fine for a daily, but like most Honda heads, he wanted more. "I went to a couple of car meets, and people used to just look past my car. That was what motivated me to fix the coupe up." With a goal in sight, Julian relegated the civic to the garage while he stockpiled his wish list. J.Co decided to tackle something he'd never done before, an engine bay shave and tuck.

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2018 Honda Civic
$18,940 Base Model (MSRP) 28/40 MPG Fuel Economy

Julian never claimed to be a master mechanic, so it wasn't a surprise that his first homemade wiring loom produced some smoke and maybe a little fire. However, Julian's no quitter. After sorting out and remaking his wiring harness, the single cam went back into the coupe. No one likes having a spot-welded bay, so after pinching his pennies for a few weeks, Julian gutted everything in the Civic's bay and cabin and dropped the car off at Hawkins Paint for a fresh coat of silver, while the newly shaved and tucked bay received a coat of dark battleship gray. As with any good project, snags are part of the build. "I worked a lot of late nights but eventually I was beginning to run out of funds. So I had to put a halt on the project for a while." Left with a flat wallet, the project went on the back burner for a few weeks until he grabbed a second job. The extra effort secured the additional funds, and the coupe was brought back home for Julian to start reassembling. To keep the weight down, Julian opted to leave the carpet, center console, stock seats, and all the plastic panels from doors-back in the garage. Prior to the dash being put back in, a Cusco seven-point roll cage was installed, but not until the dash was properly modified to allow the front bars to pass through. Dash changes continued with J.Co custom fabricating a carbon fiber cover plate for the heat vents, climate control and radio, opting for only vital kill switches and an in-dash DVD player.

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A single Spoon carbon fiber bucket and Takata harness help keep the driver planted firmly in front of a Spoon steering wheel and CTR gauge cluster. Having taught himself the art of carbon fiber work on the interior, the do-it-yourselfer wanted some exterior pieces to match his new Spoon carbon fiber lip. He ended up with a set of one-off canards for the front bumper, and a well hidden carbon fiber air inlet sunk into the lower grill. Almost ready for its return to the streets, J.Co knew the stock single slammer wouldn't get the respect he wanted, so it was junked in favor of a USDM spec B16 held in place with Innovative motor mounts. Pulling in fresh air is an AEM V2 intake system, while the Comptech 4-1 exhaust manifold mated to custom exhaust piping passes spent gases onto a Spoon N1 muffler. Tying the bay in with the seats and wheels, the B16 was capped off with a Spoon Sports valve cover.

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After having the car down for a few months, Julian premiered his new car at a show celebrating the anniversary of JDMspeedworx. Finally, after working two jobs, and more wrench time than he can possibly remember, J.Co was pleased to find no one looking past his car.

Owner Specs

Favorite website:
NWP4LIFE.com

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Screen name or nick name:
J.Co.

Building Honda's for how long:
7 Years

Your dream car:
Lamborghini

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Build inspiration:
My desire and motivation to do what I love.

Whats playing in your iPod/CD MP3 player right now:
"I put on" by Young Jeezy

Greatest movie of all time:
The Hangover

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Bolts & Washers

Propulsion:
USDM b16
Innovative engine mounts
AEM V2 Intake
Comptech 4-1 exhaust Manifold
Exedy Clutch
Exedy flywheel
Custom exhaust piping with Spoon N1 muffler
NGK spark plugs
NGK spark plug wires
Skunk2 shifter
Koyo double wide 1/2 core radiator
Samco radiator hoses
Spoon carbon kevlar spark plug cover
Spoon valve cover

Stance:
Buddy Club N+ Coilovers
Buddy Club front camber kit
Buddy Club rear camber kit

Resistance:
GS-R front brakes
GS-R rear brakes

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Rims & rubber:
16-inch Spoon SW388 +45
215 45 Bridgestone Potenza's (F)
205 45 Bridgestone Potenza's (R)

Outside:
Tein hood dampers
SiR front bumper
SiR rear bumper
Spoon carbon front lip
Spoon anodized lug nuts
Custom carbon fiber air inlet
Custom carbon fiber canards
Custom fender flares

Inside:
Cusco seven-point roll cage
Spoon Sports carbon fiber bucket
Takata harness
Spoon Sports steering wheel
Spoon Sports shift knob
Carbon fiber heater vent block off plates
Carbon fiber audio/HVAC block off plate
Clarion in-dash DVD player

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Props: Friends, family, shops, my beautiful fiancé Linda, my supportive parents, my brother Anthony, Jdmspeedworx, Greg aka the Prez, JDMike, Anthony's auto detailing, Rodrez, Patrick Lauder

Lost in Paradise
We've all had to do some wacky stuff to get a good deal on rare parts, and Julian's no different. One spring day, a deal popped up in Los Angeles, a good five hours South from of his hometown. Not one to pass up a good deal, a dedicated J.Co was on his way. Cruising around LA for an hour or so and losing sunlight, Julian had to consult the ultimate urban geographer, a homeless person. "I had to ask the guy directions. I had no idea where I was. He said he'd show me where to go if I gave him a ride. I really didn't have a choice." Though he knew it was a shady prospect, he refused to drive ten hours round-trip and come up empty handed. So the transient became Julian's new shotgun. "He was an alright guy. He showed me where I needed to go, and I dropped him off a town over and left." Julian now makes it a point to never leave a navigation system, map, or a copilot at home again.

Sources

Buddy Club USA
Ontario, CA 91761
909-923-9188
http://www.buddyclub.us
Exedy Clutch
Belleville, MI 48111
800-346-6091
http://www.exedyusa.com
By Brian McGurk
47 Articles

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