Super Street Network

 |   |  1991 Honda Civic Si - Growing Pains
Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter

1991 Honda Civic Si - Growing Pains

One man’s quest to have the cleanest 4TH gen in the South.

Joey Lee
Dec 7, 2011
Photographer: Chris Dornon

All things considered, the fourth-generation Civic was never meant to be anything more than an economical people mover. The Honda development team really had no idea that it would become an icon in the future automotive-tuning world. In fact, they never had any enthusiast-pleasing expectations of it at all. The micro economy car was affordable to the general public, and utilitarian to say the least. Although it wasn’t considered ugly by any means, it didn’t exactly pave the way for automotive aerodynamics, either.

Htup 1201 01+1991 honda civic si+cover Photo 2/10   |   1991 Honda Civic Si - Growing Pains

Honda had no idea that the “EF” chassis would go on to become the cornerstone of Honda performance.

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

In the last two years of the ’88–’91 chassis’ production, Honda’s supercar, the NSX, was already in existence. You certainly can’t compare the two as they were created for different markets, but they were still siblings during the onset of the ’90s. If the NSX was the sultry, beautiful vixen of the family, then the EF-bodied Civic was the shorter, broad-shouldered, less attractive older sister. You wanted the NSX because it was fun and sexy, but you stuck with the fourth-gen Civic because it was reliable, did whatever you asked of it, and wouldn’t sentence you to 10 years of car payments. You could dress it up and make it look nice, but you drove the Civic and dreamt of the NSX. No one could have possibly imagined that the EF would be one of the most popular Honda chassis of all time.

The clues were no doubt present, as the car boasted a durable, lightweight chassis complete with a Formula 1–inspired double-wishbone suspension—something that was unheard of on econoboxes of that era. If you had any memories of the ’88–’91 Honda Civic and you were actually around to own one when it was brand-new, you probably just remember it being a great all-around car. The fourth-gen platform also tied into Civics and Integras built up until the year 2000, as they shared many interchangeable components. This is part of the reason it possesses one of the largest aftermarket parts catalogs in import automotive history.

Htup 1201 02+1991 honda civic si+front view Photo 3/10   |   The highly sought after, timeless JDM front end.

While American Honda enthusiasts were busy trying to figure out how to modify their ’88–’91 Civics back in the day, the Japanese had shiny Civic SiR offerings just waiting to go to a good home. The EF9 SiR was not only the better-looking Japanese counterpart, its bay was also home to the legendary B16A. It also hosted a number of additional features that the U.S. was left without. Americans soon discovered that everything was interchangeable, including the more powerful Japanese engine, and the rest, as they say, is history. The EF Civic is legendary and essentially helped create what we know today as “the import scene.” Today, we all find ourselves stopping whenever we see a clean, well-built EF, as they’ve become few and far between. Enthusiasts are also finding new ways to reinvent the chassis with K swaps, J swaps, forced induction, basically any and everything you can think of. It has become a timeless platform to build upon, and its purchase price makes it an easy pick for just about any budget. Older Honda guys appreciate the EF because it was their first car, and the current generation appreciates the EF because, well, it is their first car. It has escaped the boundaries of time.

If you’re able to locate one that’s in the same frozen state as this Tahitian Green Pearl example, consider yourself very lucky. While thousands upon thousands are still in existence, very few of them are in as pristine condition as this one. A majority of them are beat up, worn down, and reflect 20 harsh years of service. Chris Drnek of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, had to travel 10 hours just to find his Civic hatchback. It had a blown Integra LS motor and some old lowering springs on it, but other than that, it was a true gem.

Htup 1201 03+1991 honda civic si+engine Photo 4/10   |   A glance at the reconditioned, swapped, and customized bay by the owner himself.

“I didn’t really get into Hondas until my senior year of high school,” Chris says. “I started hanging out with a couple of local car guys, and I was hooked after going to a few street races. Everyone around me was busy building EG and EK Civics, but nobody was really into the EF, so I decided to build one. The hard part was finding a clean one. The only ones I saw in Tennessee were either primer or completely riced-out. I ended up finding one that was all the way out in North Carolina, and I knew I had to have it. A friend and I then drove out there hoping the seller was telling the truth. It looked just as mint as it did in the photos, so I bought it without hesitation! We didn’t even rest at all and towed the car another 10 hours straight back to Nashville! Being fresh out of high school at the time, I really had no idea what I was doing. Everything was a learning experience for me. I did my first swap ever when I put another LS engine into the car, and then two days later, a rod went through the block! I had to put another LS motor in it and in the process learned how to convert the car to OBD-I. The engine held up, so I started to daily drive the car.”

Htup 1201 04+1991 honda civic si+seats Photo 5/10   |   1991 Honda Civic Si - Growing Pains

Like many first-timers, Chris made a few decisions that he wished he’d never attempted. For example, cutting the springs for a lower stance and spray-painting his OEM wheels. He admits in retrospect that these mods probably weren’t the best, but also states, “Those are just growing pains that you have to experience with your first build, you know?”

A couple of years would go by before Chris transformed his Civic to what it is today. During that time, he learned how to do his first wire tuck and even moved on to a more suitable suspension setup. The body remained every bit as mint as the day he bought it, but the USDM front end just wasn’t cutting it. He located a JDM EF9 front end and journeyed three hours to pick it up. Before installing his J-spec parts, he even taught himself to shave the engine bay and tuck the brake lines. The bay was then resprayed in the classic factory Tahitian Green Pearl.

Htup 1201 05+1991 honda civic si+exhaust Photo 6/10   |   1991 Honda Civic Si - Growing Pains

“I started collecting more parts during the winter and came to the decision that I should also swap in a better motor. I really wanted to find an Integra XSi engine (second-gen JDM B16A) but had no luck sourcing one. I found a JDM B16A SiR II engine instead and educated myself on how to convert my car to a hydraulic clutch.”

It may have taken Drnek over three years to get his hatchback to where he wanted it, but the process was a worthwhile journey. He took the time to learn how to do practically everything on his own and transformed his project from a Civic with nothing but cut springs to a very well-rounded vehicle. His next challenge was making his car competitive on the track. Chris had done quite a bit of “spirited driving” over the years at the local street races but felt it was time to try his hand at legitimate road racing. “I attended some HPDE events and started participating in autocross, and I was hooked! I’ve been going to events ever since and trying to improve on my driving,” Drnek proudly states.

Chris’ journey is another great example of what many EF-lovers have undoubtedly gone through during the car’s 20-plus years. It was a first car for many and proved to be an integral part of their learning how to build cars. It’s also an excellent reminder that it’s not always about the final product—it’s the process along the way that makes being a Honda enthusiast so much fun.

Htup 1201 06+1991 honda civic si+roll cage Photo 7/10   |   1991 Honda Civic Si - Growing Pains

Classic Car, Classic Wheel
The Mugen NR wheel is probably the least common of the Mugen bunch. While many are constantly searching for mint sets of Mugen’s MF10s, MF8s, M7s, or CF48s, the NR is often overlooked. The NR is actually a design derived from the JGTC NSX racing wheel, and the 15-inch NR has an instantly recognizable look due to its deep-dish appearance and multiple straight radiating spokes that curve inward. What many may not know is that there are actually larger sizes of Mugen NRs available. There are 17-inch and even 18-inch NR wheels in existence, but they look significantly different from the 15s because they have a flat-profile face and lack the lip of the 15-inch version. The smaller NR is the most memorable of the bunch because it has its own distinct look, while the bigger sizes resemble more of an OEM Honda wheel or U.S. HFP design.

Bolts & Washers

Propulsion
JDM B16A (SiR II)
HaSport engine mounts
Skunk2 Pro Series intake manifold
Hondata intake manifold gasket
Custom intake pipe
Blox velocity stack
Highend Autosports race header
Magnaflow 18-inch resonator
Magnaflow 6-inch muffler
Magnaflow high-flow catalytic converter
KTeller 2.5-inch stainless steel exhaust piping
B&M fuel pressure regulator
B&M fuel pressure gauge
PWR half-size radiator
Custom wire tuck
Rywire OBD0-OBD1 ECU jumper harness
Y21/S21 transmission
Custom shift linkage
Competition Clutch Stage II
Competition Clutch flywheel
Sonem cable-to-hydraulic clutch bracket
Russell stainless braided clutch line
Stance
Ground Control coilovers with custom spring rates
Ground Control extended top hats
Koni adjustable shocks
Suspension Techniques rear antisway bar
CRX HF front antisway bar
Sonem hard rubber bushings
Skunk2 Pro Series front camber kit
Blox rear camber kit
Neuspeed rear lower tie-bar
Full Race traction bar
Function7 rear lower control arms
Resistance
Integra front brake conversion
Integra rear disc brake conversion
Hawk HP+ brake pads
ATE Cool Blue brake fluid
Russell stainless braided brake lines
Integra brake booster
Integra master cylinder
Integra 40/40 prop valve
Custom brake line tuck
Wheels and Tires
15x6.5 Mugen NR +45
205/50-15 Nitto Neo-Gen
Blox gold extended lug nuts
Exterior
JDM EF9 complete front end
JDM EF9 rear bumper
JDM EF9 rear bumper filler
JDM EF9 rear bumper lip
JDM EF9 rear wing
Chargespeed rear wing
J’s Racing front lip
Interior
Recaro Pole Position seats
Recaro side-mount brackets
Recaro seat sliders
Wedge Engineering seat brackets
Crow Enterprizes safety harnesses
MOMO Formula steering wheel
NRG quick-release
NRG short hub
Skunk2 shift knob
Integra GS-R dual bend shifter
Honda Access center console
Honda Access audio console
JDM EF9 floor mats
JDM EF9 rear seats
UKDM EE9 gauge cluster
TenByTen Custom Carbon gauge bezel
TenByTen Custom Carbon rear speaker bezel
Electronics
P30 ECU
Polk/MOMO rear component speakers
Polk/MOMO front component speakers
Sony head unit
Props
Mom and Dad, Brandon Cox, Tim Schultz at hybrid-racing.com, Erik Kinard, Daniel Weaver, Justin Duncan, Matt Tucker, Chris Dornon, Track.One, Jaime at TenByTen Custom Carbon

Owner Specs

Favorite website
www.eastcoastefcivics.com
Screen name or nickname
iheartteal
Building Hondas for how long
Five years
Your dream car
Dodge SRT10
Build inspiration
EFamily
Current Stable
’90 Honda CRX Si
What’s playing in your iPod/CD/MP3 player right now
Bring Me the Horizon, A Day to Remember
Greatest movie of all time
The Boondock Saints

Connect

Skunk2 Racing
www.skunk2.com
Hybrid Racing
www.hybrid-racing.com
Rywire
www.rywire.com
Competition Clutch
www.competitionclutch.com

Sources

Skunk2 Racing
Norco, CA 92860
951-808-9888
http://www.skunk2.com
Hybrid Racing
Baton Rouge, LA 70809
225-932-9588
http://www.hybridracing.com
Competition Clutch
Conyers, GA 30012
800-809-6598
http://www.competitionclutch.com
Rywire
Garden Grove, CA 92843
240-479-9473
http://www.rywire.com
By Joey Lee
243 Articles

BROWSE CARS BY MARKET

MORE FEATURES

Recently, a selected number of automotive journalists and media influencers made the journey to Spain to be the first behind the wheel of the much-anticipated 2019 Toyota Supra.
Sam DuSep 20, 2018
The 2019 BMW Z4 will arrive next year, initially with a four-cylinder engine followed by a more potent M40i model.
Stefan OgbacSep 18, 2018
Ferrari launched a new, limited edition duo of supercar barchettas with the Monza SP1 and SP2. Get all the details here!
Jonny LiebermanSep 18, 2018
Preview the Super Street November issue, our Nissan annual! With a trio of Charles Wong’s R34 Skyline, 2 Boss Bunny S14, a baby Godzilla Pulsar GTiR, and more!!!
Bob HernandezSep 14, 2018
Who do you think deserves a trip to SEMA 2018?
RodrezSep 14, 2018
Sponsored Links

SEARCH ARTICLES BY MAKE/MODEL

Search
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS
TO TOP