Those who tinkered with Hondas during the early 1990s had two choices: to go fast or to look good. Early Civics with multi-piece wheels and genuine Mugen aero kits were rarely accompanied with turbochargers and forged internals. Second-generation Integras on the cusp of ten-second stardom were most often synonymous with splotches of primer, dents, and all-around hacked-up chassis. Of course, there are exceptions, such as with whatever rolled out of the garages of the likes of Ron Bergenholtz, Jason Whitfield, or the late Shaun Carlson, but the world just wouldn't be the same without broad generalizations.
At the risk of losing any of the small amount of street cred I may have among the show crowd, I'll be the first to say that aesthetics have long taken the back seat to performance when concerning what's parked in my garage. In 1993, my aspirations of fitting a Mugen aero kit onto my '87 CRX Si were squashed following my writing a check for a Jackson Racing header and suspension bits. The cars came and went, but the philosophy remained the same: go fast first.
I reached a crossroads of sorts in 1996 when presented with the opportunity to purchase a Japanese-spec front-end conversion for my '95 Integra GS-R. It would've been among the first to have made its way into the U.S. but, dollar-wise, it faired the same as the built, turbocharged engine I'd planned out in my head. I shouldn't have to tell you that I soon pulled the longblock from my bay, leaving the body intact. And I don't regret it one bit. Smashing on the guy who ended up with the JDM front clip at the track in a 400-plus-hp GS-R never got old, never mind the humdrum exterior. But my Integra-or any of my cars for that matter-was no eyesore. For every sleeved block and twin-disc clutch there was a set of Mugen, SSR, or Sparco wheels and a proper, yet functional, ride height.
Today, the lines are blurred. It's difficult to tell where the track ends and the parking lot meet begins. The nine-second drag car owner cares just as much about color coordinating his wheels' center caps with his valve cover as the show car owner. The show car owner cares just as much about turbocharger trim and camshaft duration as the nine-second drag car owner. It's all very confusing, but it's all very intriguing.
Last month I contemplated as to whether or not Honda performance will push forward. It will, but not in ways that the kid who bolted the Jackson Racing header onto his '87 CRX in his parents' driveway back in 1993 would ever have imagined. The days of ten-second passes made in garage-sprayed Civics with stripped interiors and rat's nest wiring harnesses are long gone. The ten-, nine-, and eight-second drivers of tomorrow will care just as much about color coordination and engine bay symmetry as they do about 60-foot times and how to properly cut a light. The ten-, nine-, and eight-second drivers of tomorrow will care just as much about matching hardware and sticker placement as they do about compressor maps and timing curves. I must be losing touch with reality because, today, all of this is okay with me.
Last month I contemplated as to whether or not Honda performance will push forward. It will.