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2004 Honda Civic EX - Long-Distance Relationship

The trick to serving in the U.S. military and maintaining your build.

Jonathan Thompson
Oct 17, 2011
Photographer: Chris Dornon

Project cars like Joshua Brown’s K-stuffed ’04 EX are difficult to enough to build as it is. Ordering parts, installing those freshly delivered parts, then ordering more parts to back up the ones you just installed is enough to make anyone a little irritable. It’s a time-consuming and challenging process for even the most experienced. Builds can typically last anywhere from a few weeks to several years. Now imagine trying to maintain the momentum of a build while serving our country as a member of the U.S. Army. This condition adds a whole new layer of complexity, though you won’t hear Josh complaining. In fact, he rather enjoys it.

Htup 1110 01+2004 honda civic ex+cover Photo 2/9   |   2004 Honda Civic EX - Long-Distance Relationship

Josh purchased his EM2 back in ’04, and spent a little time installing basic parts before joining the Army in ’07. All set to head out for basic training, Josh had but one thing left to do—order a legit K20A from “some dude” in Okinawa, Japan. His piggy bank fell victim to a blunt instrument across its head, and off he went.

Josh kept his build moving forward as he was moved from fort to fort, and eventually deployed to Iraq. He always brought a few older automotive magazines with him, especially in Iraq where they were so difficult to find. He’d scan the articles top to bottom looking for ideas that he could apply to his own Civic sitting at home. Then he’d find the nearest accessible phone or computer and place an order for more goodies. He relied on a family support network to store his EM2 and active inbound flow of parts. On leave, he’d return home to install the trove of parts he’d amassed while away. “It really kept my mind focused. I was going through a divorce while in Iraq as well, and I couldn’t wait to get home and work on my car,” he says in a slow Southern drawl.

Htup 1110 02+2004 honda civic ex+shifter Photo 3/9   |   2004 Honda Civic EX - Long-Distance Relationship

The engine swap was the most difficult part of this build, and Josh quickly learned that managing a project long-distance was going to be difficult—especially after he found out that “the dude” in Japan sent the wrong tracking number. During basic training, Josh was racking his brain trying to figure out why his beloved JDM engine was randomly sitting in Arizona. The snafu corrected itself and the K20A, along with a K-Pro ECU and ’04 Si subframe soon found their way to his dad’s home for safekeeping.

Returning on leave in early 2008, Josh was well aware that he only had two weeks before shipping out once again. He and a friend immediately began working on the swap in a huge shed in the middle of the open country. With the engine bay prepped, Josh wasn’t completely convinced that everything would fit. At that time, there were no available aftermarket engine mounts for his chassis, so a custom-fabricated set was created. Using raw metal and welding them into shape, the team also used a bushing from a Cadillac CTS. Wiring was particularly difficult, and Josh referenced dozens of wiring schematics and popular online Honda swap forums. The process, like so many others, was based on trial and error. In the end, the hard work paid off as Josh took the beast out for a spin, and to their amazement, no problems arose. Not surprisingly, Josh states that there was a big difference between the new motor and the previous setup.

Htup 1110 03+2004 honda civic ex+side view Photo 4/9   |   2004 Honda Civic EX - Long-Distance Relationship

The EM2 was chosen because of its unpopularity. “I like knowing deep down inside that there is hardly anyone out there with a car like mine. No one takes the time to build EM2s. I could have bought an EM3 or older hatchbacks like everyone else, but I wanted a challenge. Something I can be proud of in the end.” It’s quite impressive that he chose this route considering his demanding time commitments. Not many would use their downtime between fighting a war to work on their project car. Then again, that’s what makes Josh’s blacked-out Civic just that much more awesome. That, and he refused to rely on cheap or knockoff parts. “I see diehards who buy a knockoff because it looks like the real part and is a lot cheaper. Then they get the bumblebee or rice sound. Gives everyone with imports a bad name,” he explains.

Htup 1110 04+2004 honda civic ex+gauges Photo 5/9   |   2004 Honda Civic EX - Long-Distance Relationship

The most memorable part of the build, by far, was the removal of the rear seats, along with the carpet, OEM seatbelts, spare tire, and interior panels in an effort to reduce weight. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t enjoy having backseat passengers. While removing the seats, Josh remembered being homeless for a few months before joining the Army. He slept in his car on those very seats in the college campus parking lot where he studied. “It was a gut check for me. Knowing that I’m finally progressing and not struggling with life anymore,” he says.

Recently, Josh installed foglights, side markers, an AC/PS delete kit, and removed the ABS system. ITBs, a wire-tuck, and a custom engine bay paint scheme are on the to-do list as he heads out for Afghanistan later this year. It’s safe to assume that the delivery guy in Josh’s hometown will be making a number of stops on his EM2’s behalf.

Htup 1110 05+2004 honda civic ex+seats Photo 6/9   |   2004 Honda Civic EX - Long-Distance Relationship

Josh kept his build moving forward as he was moved from fort to fort, and eventually deployed to Iraq.… He’d find the nearest accessible phone or computer and place an order for more goodies. He relied on a family support network to store his EM2 and active inbound flow of parts.

Long-Distance Relationships
To maintain the momentum of his build while overseas, Josh put together a simple but effective plan to keep the ball rolling. First, he began ordering his parts while he was away, and due to a rock-solid family support system back home, he was able to get a stockpile going. When back in his hometown for short stints, he would dedicate the majority of his time to installing his newfound parts, and chipping away at various portions of the build. Plenty of careful planning, especially in the financial department, meant he could continue the car’s progression even while it sat still in a garage thousands of miles away. Josh Brown is living proof that in the automotive world long-distance relationships can work.

Bolts & Washers

Propulsion K20A
HaSport engine mounts
Password:JDM Power Chamber air-intake system
ITR RBC intake manifold
Skunk2 Racing Mega Power header
GReddy Evo TT exhaust system
Custom test-pipe
Walbro 255-lph fuel pump
AEM fuel rail
NGK spark plugs
ACT 6-puck clutch
DC Sports shifter adapter
Yonaka Motorsports axles
Skunk2 Racing oil cap
Hondata K-Pro ECU
Tein Flex coilovers
Skunk2 Racing rear camber kit
Brembo slotted brake rotors
Hawk HPS brake pads
Wheels And Tires
17x7.5 Volk Racing CE28N, +45 offset
215/40-17 Toyo Proxes
Repainted Jet Black
OEM black housing headlights
Honda Factory Performance side skirts
Honda Factory Performance front and rear lip
JDM Honda badges
Bride Zeta III seats
Takata 4-pt safety harnesses
Personal steering wheel
Sparco steering wheel hub
Sparco steering wheel adapter
DC5 shift knob
DC5 shift boot
JVC KD-AVX77 head unit
U.S. Army improved first-aid kit
Custom 5% window tint
Mom (RIP)
Tyler Pack
Vincent Gonzalez
Leonard Lopez
Scott Brown
Craig Wright
Auto Lab Performance (Louisville, KY)

Owner Specs

Favorite Website
Screen Name Or Nickname
Building Hondas For How Long
5.5 years
Your Dream Car
Build Inspiration
Do a project car no one was doing
Current Stable
Ford Focus
What’s Playing In Your iPod/CD/MP3 Player Right Now
Rise Against
Greatest Movie Of All Time
Gone in 60 Seconds


DC Sports
HaSport Performance
Skunk2 Racing


Skunk2 Racing
Norco, CA 92860
DC Sports
City of Industry, CA 91746
HASport Performance
Phoenix, AZ 85040
Torrance, CA 90503
By Jonathan Thompson
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