SS Work's 1989 CR-X EF7
"I'm a bit afraid of the expensive cars behind me, Driver Shunei Kawasaki said in a 2004 volume of Best Motoring. The "Roaring VTEC: Battle at 10,000 RPM" DVD featured some of the fastest Japanese-tuned imports of that time, including the SS Work's CR-X-a Honda that still holds the title of the fastest naturally-aspirated front-wheel drive car on the legendary Tsukuba Circuit. Kawasaki might have said that quote thinking that he was going to be over-powered that day. With the Esprit NSX and Spoon Sports Super Taikyu S2000 in Kawasaki's rearview mirror, a sense of fear was understandable. Either that or he spoke sarcastically, knowing that he was piloting the unstoppable SS Work's CR-X. His quiet confidence may have been lost in translation, because the CR-X not only won the battle that day; it never lost the lead once Kawasaki gained position.
The end result had other drivers baffled and amazed. This was a CR-X right? How could this old, awkward-looking EF7 dominate, making a little over 200hp? One of the other drivers had to ask, "Why was there such a gap there at the end?" Kawasaki smiled and took a deep breath. "It's the lightness!" Shunei says in excitement. "The car is simply very light! I mean, I could pass the (Spoon) S2000 from the outside at the hairpin with no problems. The CR-X was faster in any situation." A CR-X is not exactly considered a heavy vehicle by any means, and when someone off camera mentions that the car weighed-in at a mere 720kg (Just under 1,600lbs.), the competitors were shocked. "I had to pray before going into corners," Kawasaki says jokingly.
Even with DVDs like Best Motoring and Japanese publications readily available to us Americans, six years later we still have little knowledge of the famed CR-X from SS Work's. Its reputation definitely precedes itself, but the masses just don't understand why. When they get a rare glimpse of this light blue pearl-emblazoned powerhouse, many just scoff at it and point out the racing stripes or the incredibly aggressive aero enhancements. While it is questionable whether or not the racing stripes add any power, the aero is pure function. That, in conjunction with the reduced weight, helped propel this CR-X to a 59.1-second lap time at Tsukuba, an FF N/A record that it still proudly holds today. This CR-X is a true automotive marvel, so when we had a chance to get a hold of it, we jumped at the opportunity.
While many mysteries still exist in regards to SS Work's (like the owner's name), we've extracted as much information about the CR-X as possible. There has been much misinformation on the internet about the exact specifications, so SS Work's was kind enough to pass along the info. Translating it was the interesting part.
"I originally bought this CR-X brand new," The owner of SS Work's explains. "I thought the styling of it was cool. I started racing at local race tracks and was starting up SS Work's at the time, so I began to modify it heavily. I started in 1989 and have been making changes to it ever since."
Though the original ZC engine may have been competitive in its heyday, power became a priority as the years passed. A B-series swap was the upgrade of choice as it trumped the older ZC in every way. "I tried to swap to a (B-series) to get more power, but the engine position was so different. The new engine and transmission was so much heavier than the ZC, so I knew I would lose maneuverability after the conversion. To fix this, I made a new engine mount, and in the process, made the CR-X front mid-ship. It made the weight balance much better, and therefore the maneuverability was better."
The years of racing have made room for many different engine setups. It has been over twenty years and there have been definite advancements in technology and go-fast parts. The current setup is a custom-built B-series sporting SS Work's very own FCR carburetor kit. Cylinder head and valvetrain enhancements include TODA Racing's VTEC Killer cams, valve springs, and JUN titanium retainers. The head has also been ported and polished. The block has been upgraded with a B18C crankshaft and JUN high-compression pistons, rings, and connecting rods that bump the compression to 13.5:1. External bolt-ons are all SS Work's goods including, but not limited to, a custom fabricated 70mm racing special exhaust that connects to a 4-2-1 header, as well as a pair of slide-type cam sprockets and modified distributor. The transmission is heavily improved with an ORC clutch, close-ratio cross gear set, and OS Giken 1.5-way limited-slip differential.
A 230hp CR-X is definitely respectable, but like the Best Motoring video stated, the 720kg weight is what really makes this EF7 rip. Wild in appearance, the F1-style front spoiler and giant ARC rear wing (originally meant for a Lancer EVO III) are necessary to keep the featherweight vehicle on track. The majority of the pounds have been chopped down due to FRP replacements for major chassis parts like doors, front fenders, and hood. Inside the cockpit is nothing but bare bones necessities like a custom SS Work's roll cage for safety, Nardi steering wheel, and single Recaro SP-G seat. It's no wonder driver Shunei Kawasaki was praying every time he entered a turn; this CR-X is dangerously lightweight.
"When you make the car lightweight and make the engine high-powered, you will have a lack of traction in the front wheels as you accelerate. Wheel-spin will definitely be a problem, especially when you get out from tight turns. In order to avoid that problem, you need to go into and out of a turn fast," The owner of SS Work's explains. "Making the front tread wider, stiffening the chassis, and making the center of gravity lower will help the car get out of turns faster so that there's no more power left to make the wheels spin. On top of that, those changes will give you more traction in the rear. This creates a better balance when you brake, which equals less under-steer." Words of wisdom from a record breaking mind that focuses on every minute detail.
Giving the CR-X its wider tread is a pair of 15x8 Advan RGs. If you happen to be a wheel collector, just imagine how hard it would be nowadays to find a set of 4-lug, 15x8 discontinued RGs. Now you would think that a track-specialized Honda would have some crazy custom coilover setup, but the SS Work's car keeps it simple with Swift springs and Ennepetal (Known in the U.S. as Bilstein) shocks. Everything else, other than some Mugen and Cusco bushings, gets a little more complex with an array of custom SS Work's control arms and stabilizer links. Braking for such a light car is definitely something not to overlook and SS Work's has that covered as well with their own big brake kit that includes SS Work's 4-pot calipers, 300mm rotors, and a set of Seidoya GT600 brake pads made originally for the R32 Skyline Type M.
In the broader spectrum of things, you have to understand that not only does the SS Work's CR-X hold the N/A FF record at Tsukuba Circuit, its posted 59-second lap time puts it in the same realm as high horsepower Skylines, Evos, and other cars that would simply out-class the CR-X on paper. Fortunately for us Honda-lovers around the world and for people who generally love to root for the underdog, we don't live life on paper. That's why cars are taken out to the track and tested against others to see how they would do in a real world environment. Though this CR-X is heavily under-powered compared to most, in the real world, it's a quick little bastard and it will leave many in awe as it speeds by cars that might have double, or even triple the power. In the "Battle at 10,000 RPM" challenge and others like it, the SS Work's EF was out-running Super Taikyu competitors and tuned NSXs without breaking a sweat.
"Professional drivers always tell me that the car isn't much to look at, but it's very easy to drive."
Looks, in this instance, are an afterthought; the perfect combination of power, handling, and weight distribution make this "the baddest CR-X ever built". It has held that unofficial title for over a decade now and with SS Work's continuing to develop this CR-X; it doesn't look like the title will change hands any time soon.
Custom 1841cc B16B
SS Work's custom front
mid-ship engine mounts
Ported & polished cylinder head
TODA Racing VTEC Killer camshafts
TODA Racing valve springs
JUN titanium retainers
JUN Super connecting rods
JUN (Cosworth) forged
JUN piston rings
SS Work's special rocker arm
SS Work's block brace/girdle
SS Work's slide-type cam gears
SS Work's FCR Special intake manifold
SS Work's "FCR Carburetors"
SS Work's stainless 70mm
Racing Special exhaust
SS Work's stainless 4-2-1 exhaust manifold
SS Work's distributor
Holly low pressure-type fuel pressure regulator
Holly low pressure-type fuel pump
NGK Iridium spark plugs
Nagai Denshi spark plug wires
SS Work's aluminum side-flow
type 50mm radiator
Aderia 5-speed cross gear set
ORC super light single clutch kit
OS Giken Superlock 1.5-way LSD
EG6 Civic driveshafts
Swift ID 60mm springs (12k front)
Ennepetal (Bilstein) shocks
Cusco carbon fiber rear shock tower bar
Mugen suspension bushings
Cusco suspension bushings
SS Work's pillow tension rods
SS Work's widened front lower control arms
SS Work's widened front upper control arms
SS Work's adjustable rear pillow arms
SS Work's adjustable upper pillow arms
SS Work's aluminum rigid stabilizer bushings
SS Work's pillow stabilizer links
SS Work's 4-pot front brake calipers
SS Work's 300mm front brake rotors
Seidoya GT600 front brake pads
Seidoya SM400 rear brake pads
Earl's brake hoses
Wheels & Tires
15x8 Advan RG +25 offset (front)
225/50-15 Bridgestone Potenza
15x6.5 Rays TE-37 +35 offset (rear)
195/55-15 Bridgestone Potenza
SS Work's light blue pearl paint w/GT line
SS Work's FRP hood
SS Work's FRP front fenders
SS Work's F1-look front spoiler
SS Work's rear diffuser
SS Work's FRP doors
SS Work's racing rear hatch
ARC DTM -Type rear wing (originally made for Mitsubishi EVOIII)
Mugen side skirts
SS Work's/Elf graphics
Recaro SP-G seat
SS Work's aluminum seat rail
SS Work's one-off aluminum roll cage
Nardi Classic 360mm steering wheel
Nagai Denshi multi-mode meter
Omori mechanical water temperature gauge
Omori oil temperature gauge
Omori oil pressure gauge
Building Hondas for how long
Your dream car SS Work's CR-X
Build inspiration NA
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There is definitely a strong possibility that you had no idea what this CR-X was and had never seen or heard of it before. The enthusiasts who do know about it are either CR-X fanatics or are deeply enriched in Japanese automotive tuning culture. Pictures alone are hard to find, and specs at one time were impossible to find. The only way people had exposure to the SS Work's CR-X was through online video sharing sites. While we can't really tell you exactly where to go, you can find quite a bit of archived video footage from old Best Motoring DVDs as well as Hot Version and Option. Thanks to these videos, many were able to see the legend of the SS Work's CR-X as it battled, and occasionally flew by vehicles built by more well-known tuners such as Spoon Sports and JUN Auto. If you go on these sites now, you should still be able to find the "Battle at 10,000 RPM" video as well as the "Ultimate VTEC Battle 2009" where it takes on the ASM and Top Fuel S2000s. Catch up on your Japanese though, otherwise you won't have any idea what's going on!