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 |   |  1988 Honda CRX Hatchback - A Product of the Golden Era
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1988 Honda CRX Hatchback - A Product of the Golden Era

Reviving a classic with modern-day power.

Matt “Rodrez” Rodriguez
Apr 17, 2012
Photographer: Ryan Belville
Htup 1205 01+1988 honda crx hatchback+cover Photo 1/10   |   1988 Honda CRX Hatchback - A Product of the Golden Era

A quartet of Kinsler 60mm throttle bodies peeks through a custom hood scoop backed by an overtly aggressive Exospeed front end. Beyond the mean mug lies 2.4 liters of pure, unadulterated grunt, slapped by 13.7:1 Wiseco slugs and a nasty set of Drag Cartel bumpsticks that help spin the rollers to over 300hp. As if to further drive home the primal desire for tire-ripping acceleration, all of the above is packed neatly into a package that tips the scales just north of 2,000 pounds. All things considered, its no surprise that this ghost gray CRX moves every bit as good as it looks.

Htup 1205 02+1988 honda crx hatchback+side view Photo 2/10   |   1988 Honda CRX Hatchback - A Product of the Golden Era

The very sight of a well-built CRX, for most long-term Honda enthusiasts, drums up thoughts of the ’90s. Often referred to as the import movement’s “Golden Era,” it will forever be recognized as a stretch of time that brought about a massive influx of technological breakthroughs, immeasurable growth, and a gaggle of iconic chassis that still stir up emotion two decades later.

Jason Su, president of Suja 1 Motoring, falls into that group of lucky individuals who witnessed a blossoming culture that helped to fuel an entire industry and, as a result, has you reading the very magazine you now hold. Su adds, “I grew up in Guam, and just like so many others in the ’90s, I was hooked on import drag racing. I started an apprenticeship at a local performance shop and that was it, there was no turning back!” Things became a little more serious in ’97 when Su installed his first turbo kit, and on the streets of Guam, he was able to best just about every competitor who dared lay down a challenge. A few years later, Su relocated to Chicago, but continued with his passion for Hondas, this time in the form of a ’96 hatchback. “I built a B16 for it, but the lack of torque wasn’t doing much for me. I ended up swapping in a K20 (ITR) motor, but as time went on, it seemed like everyone with a sixth gen was doing that swap. I wanted to be different, and I set out to build something that would be hard to replicate.”

The phrase “I wanted to be different” is synonymous with hard-core Honda builders and typically serves as a catalyst for something remarkable. A CRX was the chosen platform to build upon, and Su began a search that eventually led to a theft recovery bargain that seemed too good too be true. Enamored with the old-school chassis, he made the purchase quickly while wearing “build goggles.” That is, the haze of excitement combined with a new canvas with which to create blinded him from the fact that the car’s beauty was but skin deep. “That car should have been crushed at the junkyard. It was Champ white and looked decent, but there was hidden damage and corrosion under the paint. I was just too anxious, but once it was torn down and I saw what I was up against, I decided it needed to be brought back.” The damage was extensive enough to necessitate a new set of rear quarter panels and plenty of body work to rid the CRX of over 20 years of wear and neglect.

Htup 1205 06+1988 honda crx hatchback+engine Photo 6/10   |   This high-compression, ITB-equipped K24 belts out over 300 whp.

With the major plastic surgery complete, the chassis was sent off to John of Tech One for a custom-built rollcage to add a level of safety and rigidity that the factory never intended. The next major hurdle was to not only coax a K20 heart into the tight confines of the CRX’s chest cavity, but also ensure that it settled properly. Due to the car’s eventual track duties, crucial factors like engine positioning, hood to ground clearance, and axle geometry were all scrutinized as Su worked closely with Avid Racing on a set of custom motor mounts for the proper fit. An additional surgical procedure by Tim’s Auto Body would involve slathering the car in a healthy coating of custom gray, leaving behind any remnants of rotten quarter panels and rust.

Beyond obvious power upgrades like the Kinsler trumpets and handcrafted Six Sigma exhaust manifold, you’ll no doubt notice intricate details like the Mil-spec wiring harness and carefully mapped braided hoses that occupy much of the bay. Show quality, yet one of its first outings had the CRX blasting down the quarter-mile at over 118 mph in just 11.5 seconds after averaging 35 mpg. Su states proudly “I know the mpg because I drove the car from Chicago to Indianapolis, then raced and won the IndyHP Streetcar Shootout. Right after, I turned around and drove it all the way home to Chicago still averaging about 35 mpg!”

Always in search of more power and faster times, Su decided to swap the 2.0L block for a K24 bottom end and bumped the compression at the same time. Though he’s still working out the bugs, the increased displacement netted an improvement in his personal best, this time landing him an 11.3 at 122 mph. But don’t just assume that’s the end of it, as new plans are already on the table. “There were some learning pains, and our times only improved a little bit, but knowing what we do now after learning so much, we’re going to step it up with a brand-new setup. Wish us luck in 2012!” Something tells us the Suja 1 Motoring crew doesn’t rely much on lady luck, but rather hard work and perseverance. That’s how it was done during the Golden Era.

Suja 1 Motoring
Jason Su is the president of Suja 1 Motoring, a performance shop based in Addison, Illinois. Originally started in a one-car garage, Su states that friends and relationships began to develop over time and led to the shop’s drastic expansion. Having served the greater Chicagoland area and surrounding regions for over seven years, the shop specializes in everything you can imagine from the most basic of bolt-ons to all-out, complex engine builds. The facility houses a Dyno Dynamics two-wheel dyno with a certified EFI tuner on hand for tuning duties, and experienced welders armed with a TIG welder are available for custom fabrication work. Suja 1 Motoring also offers its own line of products under the name SONEM (SujaONEMotoring), which includes bolt-in hydraulic clutch conversions, hard bushing kits, and swap-specific clutch lines.
Suja 1 Motoring:

Htup 1205 10+1988 honda crx hatchback+crew Photo 10/10   |   1988 Honda CRX Hatchback - A Product of the Golden Era

Bolts & Washers

Hondata K-Pro management
Suja 1 Motoring/Avid motor mounts
ARP main studs
ACL race bearings
Wiseco 13.7:1 pistons
BluePrint billet rods
Kinsler 60mm ITBs
Six Sigma Racing header
Suja 1 Motoring straight exhaust
Drag Cartel Stage 4 cams
Supertech valves
Supertech valvesprings/retainers
Supertech keepers
Bosch 044 fuel pump
ID1000 injectors
Earl’s lines and fittings
Fuelab fuel filter
Fuelab fuel pressure regulator
Suja 1 Motoring fuel cell
ERL S2000 oil pump
Suja 1 Motoring baffled oil pan
Suja 1 Motoring radiator
K-Tuned water pump block-off
Golden Eagle water pump
DC5R transmission
Synchrotech carbon synchros
Hybrid Racing cable bushings
Competition Clutch twin disc
Quaife LSD
Gator Racing axles
Suja 1 Motoring scattershield
RCrew shifter plate
T1 solid-state relay
Suja 1 Motoring Mil-spec harness
Suja 1 Motoring vented valve cover
Suja 1 Motoring catch can
Suja 1 Motoring shaved engine bay
325 whp
PIC coilovers
Suja 1 Motoring hard rubber bushings
Skunk2 camber kit
Suja 1 Motoring/Avid Pro series traction bars
K-Tuned rear stabilizer
DA spindles
4x114.3 hub conversion
ARP extended studs
Rear disc conversion
Function7 LCAs
Endless brake discs
Hawk brake pads
Suja 1 Motoring line tuck
Suja 1 Motoring brake lines
Wheels and Tires
Front: Bogart 13x9 wheels, M&H 24.5x9-13 tires
Rear: Bogart 15x3 wheels, M&H 15x3 tires
Tim’s Auto Body paintwork
JDM EF8 Exospeed front end
Fiber Images EF8 hood
Suja 1 Motoring hood scoop
Kirkey race bucket
Crow harness
Spoon Sports steering wheel
NRG quick-release
NRG short hub
Seeker shift knob
CNC staging brake
Auto Meter tach
AEM air/fuel gauge
AEM oil pressure gauge
AEM fuel pressure gauge
I love my wife WeiWei, my daughters Janelle and Justine, and the build contributors: the Brandons (BK and BD), Jeremy, Matt, Zach, TK, Chuck Morris, Chris, Marcus, Jake, Tyler, Jazz, Pedro, Yoshi, Ray, Guilbert, Suja 1 Motoring, Team 4Piston, PIC suspension, Competition Clutch, SSR, Avid, Gator, RyWire, Drag Cartel, Hondata, K-Tuned, Tim’s Auto Body, Tech One

Owner Specs

Daily grind
Aviation maintenance tech
Favorite Site
Screen name
Building Hondas
17 years
Dream Car
Inspiration For This Build
The team at Suja 1 Motoring
Future Build
Another CRX or Integra


Torrance, CA 90503
Golden Eagle Manufacturing
San Dimas, CA 91773
Garden Grove, CA 92843
Drag Cartel Industries
Simi Valley, CA 93065
By Matt “Rodrez” Rodriguez
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