At the dawn of the Internet’s becoming mainstream, there was the Hybrid Page. Born from the minds of Honda engine swap enthusiasts Adrian Teo and Joe Rogers, the duo’s mid-1990s online discussion forum was arguably the world’s first community-driven hub for all things Honda performance. Rogers and Teo familiarized themselves with the Honda engine transplant when the process was perceived as more of a necessity and less of a hobby. Through an extensive discovery period filled with trial and error and information gathering, the two transformed what was once a simple web page filled with a handful of engine swap tips to the industry’s most extensive repository of Honda-based information. A ghost town of a website today, and after a half-dozen iterations, the Hybrid Page lives on and serves as a reminder of how the Internet once was.
HT: How did you first become interested in Hondas?
JR: I was going to UCLA. There were some of the old-school crews that had their cars there who kinda got me interested in it. I was living in San Gabriel [California] so, of course, the scene was pretty big out there. I can’t remember exactly when I started doing what, but I began finding out about all the different motor swaps. Some shops were doing them, but they were totally on the down-low. They weren’t advertising them yet, they weren’t telling people they could do them. It was for street racers and stuff. I’d go to places like JG [Engine Dynamics] and try to snoop around and ask questions, but they’d treat me like a nobody because I didn’t have cash and wasn’t part of any of the crews. But they’d answer some of my questions. I started collecting the information and putting it on my school website. I had my own little web page—a terrible web page. It had animated GIFs and “Hybrids are the bomb!” on it. It was the worst that you could imagine a web page being. That was around 1996, 1997. I graduated and convinced my wife to use some of our wedding money to do a ZC swap into my Civic. Gil [Garcia] did that swap over at Place Racing.
HT: What about you, Adrian?
AT: I used to drive a ZC Civic, which came that way from the factory back in Singapore where I’m from. I loved that thing. It was riced-out, it had MOMO Ferrari Engineering wheels that weighed like two-million tons [laughs]. Those were horrible, horrible wheels. When I came to this country and got my Civic, I drove up to the Grand Canyon and it wouldn’t make it past 35 mph. In some stretches, trucks were passing me and I was like, “OK, that’s it, I need a new engine for this thing.” I did some research and found that the Integra engines fit, and Joe’s site came right up. I was in college at ASU [Arizona State University] back then, living in an apartment, so I brought the car to Belaray [in Orange, California]. They did the swap for me because I didn’t have the room. From that point on I was like, “This is awesome!” I had a lot of fun with it and started doing my own work. I used to road race in Singapore, so I took the car road racing here and started writing about it, trying to figure out more about swaps because, apparently, Belaray made a lot of mistakes. I had to redo a bunch of stuff. That gave me the in-depth knowledge on how to do all this stuff and find out what fits and what doesn’t fit.
JR: That’s actually where we saw eye-to-eye. That’s the kind of information Adrian and I were both collecting independently. We later had a section [on the site] that was called “What Fits What.” We didn’t want people to have to go through the same mistakes that we’d seen other people go through. Some of the shops cut wire harnesses and redid everything when stuff actually plugged in.
AT: An example: after my swap the [secondary] butterflies weren’t hooked up. That sucked out a whole bunch of power. There was a bunch of other stuff…odds and ends that I had to sort out. I don’t recall all of it, but there was a ton of wiring work.
HT: What was the online landscape like before the Hybrid Page.
AT: There was the Honda Performance List [honda-perf.org] ran out of Ohio State [University]. Most of the [online] activity was on that newsgroup. Eventually, I kind of took it over. That’s how I got into writing articles and creating the web page—that led to the Hybrid site.
HT: So the main site at first was the Honda Performance List, which you were running, and Joe had his UCLA page?
AT: Yes, that was the main site back then. We tried a little bit of social networking initially, allowing people to upload their own mini-pages. We didn’t quite get the formula right, though.
JR: I remember that I was online with my page and somebody pointed out Adrian’s page. I was told to reach out to him and that he already kind of knew about me.
AT: We decided to join forces and put together the website.
HT: What year did the Hybrid Page as we know it begin?
AT: That was right around 1996 when everything started gaining traction and, by about 1998, it was like full-on and we were getting about a million hits a month.
HT: Joe, tell us how exactly your UCLA web page and Adrian’s page merged together to create the Hybrid Page.
JR: I was graduating, so I got an account at wgn.net—a whole 10 MB of public web space [laughs]. I’d go to an event, go to Battle of the Imports, take all these pictures, and afterward I’d have to remove things because I’d be running out of space. Eventually, it transitioned from my UCLA page to the WGN page to Adrian’s.
AT: I had servers up the wazoo because I worked at Arizona State [University]. I was putting stuff everywhere. I was slapped on the wrist for using their servers, so we basically went into a closet somewhere.
HT: The school didn’t like you running your site off of their equipment?
AT: Kinda sorta. It was basically a personal website kind of thing but it got so big.
JR: And we wanted to run ads, so it was definitely gonna be a conflict of interest.
HT: Can you give us a rundown of the site’s various URLs from over the years?
AT: We wanted to have a knowledge base of everything out there and show people how to do it the right way rather than running out and getting it done in someone’s backyard and forgetting to hook up stuff.
HT: What were your motivations back then? Was it solely for recognition or for community building?
AT: No, it did not start with that intention. We suddenly realized what we had when people were taking our articles and putting them on their own websites.
JR: There was a little bit of ego, where we wanted to be the central repository for that information. But at the same time, what I was doing was collecting it online and from the streets and shops and books and trying to get it in one place such that people weren’t having to make the same mistakes.
HT: How did you deal with other websites stealing your content?
AT: We were trying to keep the information on our site. We wanted ownership of that information. Every time we’d find someone [who stole content], we’d actually send them a threatening letter, and they’d stop doing it.
HT: The site began as a “central repository,” as you mentioned, Joe, but transitioned into a community. How’d that happen?
JR: I was still going around to some of the shops, asking questions, getting more information, trying to collect it all together, and at the same time, since we had the web page, people were helping us out by taking pictures and writing up articles on what they did. We decided to do a forum, and that’s where we really started to build a community.
HT: Joe, let’s hear more about your old Civic.
JR: I spent one of my financial aid checks on a black ’87 Civic Si and got Tokico blues and ST [Suspension Techniques] springs for it from Pro Motion. Pocket Rocket, which eventually became Pit Crew, did my exhaust, which was just a giant Magnaflow muffler. I couldn’t afford any HKS or stuff like that at the time. I crashed that car on Sunset [Boulevard]; a van pulled out in front of me and I tucked the front end underneath it. With the insurance money I got my ’89 DX hatchback, and that’s the car that I eventually put the ZC swap in. I autocrossed that car a bunch. That one was with me for quite a while, but I never did a B-series motor in it or anything great because I just didn’t have the money. I was looking to get something else after I’d had it for many years, and my friend had a ’93 Civic hatchback that he’d fully repainted. It had good interior, looked really clean, and had a B18C in it, but they just couldn’t figure out how to get it to run. It idled crazy. I picked that up off of him for pretty cheap. The big deal for me was, once I got that car running right, I took it to the [state] referee and got that sticker that says “This motor is now legal for this car in California.” That was a big deal for hybrid owners in California. Later, my B18C was burning tons of oil. That’s when we found out about the B20s. Jeff Sloan had a B20 he wasn’t using, so I borrowed his motor. Some people are still like, “You can’t borrow motors!” That’s kind of what we did back then [laughs].
AT: That’s what we did back then. I’ve done swaps for six-packs of beer [laughs]
JR: October 1999. It read: “1993 Honda Civic, 1994 Acura 1.8L engine.”
AT: I remember when you got that sticker.
JR: That was a big deal because a lot of people didn’t want to be hassled. They weren’t street racers. They were just people who wanted to have a faster car but didn’t want to have the car impounded or pay fines. I kept that car for a long time. Eventually that one got crashed by a friend of ours named Tam!
JR: It got parted out and all the parts went back into the Hybrid pool. Almost like an ecosystem, you know? Nothing goes to waste. It got recycled back into the system.
HT: Most Honda enthusiast weren’t online when the Hybrid Page first started, no?
JR: At the time, it was only really geeky people, college kids, and other computer geeks who were online. A lot of the knowledge was coming from street racing and kind of thuggish guys who really wanted to look hard and wouldn’t share information. I did PYR’s [Peter Yem Racing] web page and was hanging out at his shop for weeks, taking pictures and learning stuff. I swear I heard somebody order a transmission, and they said, “We don’t have it in stock right now, but we’ll have it for you in the morning.” I was like, “Wait, it’s a Saturday, tomorrow’s Sunday. How’s that gonna happen?” Lightbulb! Oh! [everyone laughs].
HT: Adrian, talk about your relationship with HaSport. You weren’t located too far from them.
AT: We posted so much information that they took that and made swaps a part of their business.
JR: Those guys probably made out the best of anyone who has touched our site [laughs]! People go to them first when they wanna find out if something’s gonna fit in something. We were probably sending a lot of business their way.
AT: HaSport was running a wrecking yard, and I’d hop over there to get parts. Brian Gillespie set up a shop to do swaps because he found out that we provided that information. Then I did some design work for them, and they started making engine mounts. It was a combination of Gil’s [Garcia] engine mounts plus whatever modifications I suggested and a whole bunch of other stuff.
HT: You helped HaSport design some of its early mounts?
AT: Not directly. One of my friends was like, “Hey, we should do this in billet.” He drew up everything and gave it to HaSport. That’s how they started making billet stuff. They’ve grown so big that they’ve gotten rid of their wrecking yard. But we learned from them, too, like wiring issues. They helped solved a lot of wiring issues, and they published that information. Being a shop, they had access to detailed Honda wiring diagrams. We posted all of that online.
HT: Did you have relationships with any other engine swap manufacturers?
JR: I was hanging out with Gil [Garcia]. We were pushing the DIY thing, so we were, in some sense, competing with the shops. We were trying to show people that you don’t need a shop to do it. What you need is, as Adrian said, a six-pack of beer, some knowledge from this page, and one of the people here who’ve done it. People were driving three, four, five hundred miles to help someone do a swap because they did theirs a month ago. That was the community aspect of it.
JR: Doug from Hondata. I’d hang out with him. At the time, I was also good friends with Jeff Matthews, who did Zdyne. These guys were direct competitors. I was playing double agent a little bit, talking with both of them. They were so deep into it, though, that it wasn’t like I was giving information to them.
AT: And ScottDR [DeRuyter]. We basically walked through everything online, telling him how to do his swap.
JR: He did Fastbrakes for a while. Before you could get any kind of brake stuff for a Honda, he was figuring it out. He was going to AutoZones and Kragens, bringing in his Honda calipers and having the guy bring out whatever Honda ones he had. That’s when he found out the Acura ones have the twin pistons and bolt right on with bigger rotors. The Civics and Integras, they were like Legos [laughs]. The five-lug swaps were a big deal because you could actually get Type R stuff on your car. A lot of people were wrecking Type Rs, but at the same time, I sometimes wonder if part of the reason there are so few Type Rs out there today is because of us making it known that those parts so easily bolt on.
AT: At one point, the Acura Integra was the most stolen car.
JR: It’s still very high. It’s still in the top 10. I know because my wife has one.
HT: Which leads us to my next question: Do either of you still own a Honda?
JR: I inherited it from my wife. I actually have a motor for it that I just can’t get the time together to put it into the car. I’ve had a ported cylinder head in the trunk for the last six months [laughs]. Half the time I’m like, “I need to take it out, take pictures, and sell it” and the other half I’m like, “I just need to go get it installed.”
AT: I had a Honda Element up until about two weeks ago that my wife was driving around. We’ve got an Acura now and a Beemer. I drive an M3.
JR: That was the nature of it—you start with a Honda and you move up to an M3.
AT: No other car drives like an EG but perhaps the M3. They feel exactly the same [laughs].
HT: Talk about the Hybrid Page’s track days.
JR: That was a big thing for the community. I think the first one was with the MR2 guys at the Streets of Willow. I talked to the guy who organized it, got all the numbers, and was like, “We could do it ourselves.” We did it cheap, with twice as many cars. We had like 60-plus cars for Streets of Willow, which was crazy.
AT: It was crazy! But everybody got to run.
JR: Everyone took pictures and put those on the site. Nobody else was doing that. They were having meets, maybe—but they weren’t renting out tracks. We did it again at Buttonwillow and then at Laguna Seca. You can’t rent any of those tracks anymore for the money that we were doing it for. Having everyone together also ended up being really good for the information, because you could see what other people had done and take pictures. We’d do our little feature articles based on cars that would come out to these events.
AT: It was a meet of sorts.
HT: Adrian, what was the Honda performance scene like in Arizona in the mid-1990s?
AT: There wasn’t much. It was pretty ricey, to be honest. I was probably the first one out here with that [hybrid] kind of car. Wherever I went, I always got tons of people coming up to me like, “Oh, you’re that guy. Can I check out your car?” Slowly, the scene did grow out here.
HT: You guys started long before sites like honda-tech.com. Did you ever fathom the potential monetization or enormity of sites like that?
JR: Oh, no, but we got burned early on. There was a company that was paying a dollar a banner ad or something like that. We got with them, were running their ads, and they’d send us an update of how much money they were going to send us.
AT: They eventually folded and are still in Chapter 11. Whenever they get money, they are supposed to send it out.
JR: They were supposed to send us about $1,500. We kind of got burned by that and were hesitant about jumping in with both feet again. We felt it made us look bad because, here we were, we ran the ads and made people look at them when, at the time, most sites weren’t completely surrounded by ads like they are now.
AT: Suddenly, we had ads and all that stuff.
JR: Some people didn’t like it but, we were like, “If we get paid, we can do so much more.” We were dying on our servers. The two servers we had were both desktops. We were trying to run the web page on one and the forum database on the other. Every night I had to take the forum down and redo the tables. The site would be great for about an hour, and then the next day it would slow down [laughs].
AT: That’s basically how much traffic we were getting. We didn’t have the money to put into expensive technology, which is now very common.
JR: We kind of gave up on the site in turning it mainstream a little too soon because all these other sites were bought out by big companies that basically run these kinds of sites. We missed that by about a year, I think.
HT: What do you think of Honda as a brand today?
AT: They’ve changed a lot but they are still like Legos.
JR: They still do parts-bins engineering, but they definitely lost their way for a while. I don’t know if it’s boardroom engineering decisions and lack of leadership… But they didn’t know what they were doing either in the EF, EG, and DC days. They didn’t know that parts-bin engineering would make it so easy to take a motor out of one car and put it into another. Did it make sense to make the motor mounts exactly in the same place so that you could pull it out of one and into the other? There’s gotta be reasons that don’t make sense to us—manufacturing reasons that made sense to them.
AT: Back then and even now Civics are international models, so they come with everything from a 1.0L engine all the way up to 2.4L VTECs. It made sense to do a standard platform, and then, from a manufacturing standpoint, you only need to make one set of everything and then make adapters that mount stuff differently. The Japanese are very big into that.
HT: That’s a good point, Joe, that Honda didn’t know what it was doing in terms of offering cars that were so easily swappable.
JR: Honda’s in Torrance, and Torrance was always big, even since the late ’80s and early ’90s, into the import performance scene. But Honda never embraced the performance scene.
AT: Honda marketing in the U.S. did not embrace the racing scene.
JR: I think they saw it negatively.
AT: Yeah, they did, and back then they were marketing Civics to 28-year-old girls. Sixteen-year-olds are now “I want a Honda Civic!” I’ve got nephews and nieces still coming up to me telling me “I want a del Sol or a Honda Civic.” I’m like, you know those cars are 20 years old. They’re like “Yeah, they’re awesome!” I think, from a marketing standpoint, American Honda failed big time.
HT: What’s the status of the Hybrid Page today?
JR: Shaun Kasperowicz and Jesse Ferguson, they maintain what was the site at hybrids.jp. The message board was ported over there. No one’s updating the main front pages, but the forum still kind of exists. It’s still frozen in time. Not a lot of people join it. It’s kind of like the Cheers bar for hybrid owners. Everyone knows your name. And since now there’s a Facebook group, that pretty much replaces the forum. That kind of saddens me a little bit, but it’s gotta move on.
HT: Do you guys plan to leave the site up indefinitely for the sake of nostalgia?
JR: You know, every year someone has to come up with a hundred dollars for the domain name, and it kinda bounces around, who’s willing to do it, who’s feeling nostalgic at the time. Heaven forbid that everyone decides that their wallets are tight at the same time and no one does it. It’s so small now bandwidth-wise—relative to modern stuff—that it could be hosted anywhere.
AT: Yeah, it doesn’t amount to much nowadays.
HT: What are your thoughts on the newer Hondas versus the older, more classic ones? Will the new Civic Si or CR-Z have its own cult following in 20 years?
JR: Back then the EX was just a little bit more than the DX or the LX. It had a little bit bigger motor, but the performance increase was tiny. Now the Si has a significant increase, but at the same time, it’s just…it’s lost. I can’t put my finger on what it is.
AT: Yeah, I would say the same thing. Honda seemed to lose its way. Everything from the redesign of the NSX upwards. Those Sis are going for twenty-something, and for that price, you can run out and buy a used STi. The latest Civic, they’re only running it for one year and then they’re redesigning it again. They know they’ve done something wrong. It looks like a Dodge Neon more than anything. Everything’s going toward fuel efficiency and the green movement versus the old things like performance and efficiency.
JR: The cars have gotten heavy, and the suspensions, they’ve moved away from the dual wishbone. That was huge because those cars had a suspension that, when you lowered it, it didn’t compromise it as much. That’s why we were able to put them on the track. We started track racing these cars because they were inexpensive to race, but then there were people like Realtime Racing who actually took the cars out [professionally] and were dominant. What Realtime Racing was doing with the Integras back then was nothing like what they have to do to a Honda now to make it competitive.
AT: Yeah, they did pretty well out of the box. You were halfway there versus spending a lot of money.
JR: I wonder if we’re being unfair in faulting Honda since there’s so much more safety stuff that needs to be added. The CRX HF got 40-plus mpg but it weighed 1,800 pounds. To make a car with current safety standards that weighs 1,800 pounds you’d have to use aluminum and composites, you’d have to use extensive computer modeling to figure out how to get the strength. It would be too expensive. We blame Honda for losing their way, but they never meant for this to happen in the first place. They never really embraced the community. When they made the decision to get rid of the RSX, that’s when they decided, we’re not just going to give up on this community, we’re going to cut the line.
HT: What are you most proud of in terms of the Honda performance community?
JR: I just always have a little laugh inside when I see a Civic Hybrid—a real one where Honda put the word “Hybrid” on the back of it. Some of our guys were buying those [emblems] from the dealership and putting them on the back of their Civic hybrids. You used to have to go to a magazine to get this information or go to a book or go to a shop and just trust that they knew what they were doing. People are able to do this themselves now, and the community is in control of the information. The knowledge is power. The shops and the manufacturers can’t pull one over on us because our community puts it to the test and puts it out there. The community is going to double-check that everything you say is true, and we’re gonna document it. I’m not saying we laid the groundwork for other forums because we were still following what everyone else was doing, but we were only a half-step behind if not sometimes a half-step in front.
AT: Without me and Joe putting so much information online, this community would not be what it is. We’d still have riced-out cars with all show and no go. We changed that in a big way.
JR: We really pushed the “function is form” [mentality]. We wanted parts that worked. We didn’t want to see silly wings or stuff like that, but we left room for people with clean JDM styles. You can have a car that looks nice as long as you don’t add weight or take away from its functionality. If you want to put little carbon-fiber mirrors on your car, meh, you know, it’s $500 and it saves you a quarter of a pound—that’s kinda the right direction, and we’re cool with that. I think that whole JDM style was something we thought was good as long as you had the performance to back it up. That look and that scene started over on the Hybrid site.
AT: Yeah, we did start a lot of the JDM stuff. When we went to Tokyo we grabbed a lot of parts. We were the ones putting Japanese parts on our cars and we were like, “Hey, this stuff works pretty well.” Basically, we created the whole JDM industry over here in the States.
JR: We also can’t forget, the B-series motors into the EFs still are not bolt-in. But you can order all that stuff you need, have it show up Friday night, get started Saturday morning, and drive the car to work on Monday, no problem. That’s where I feel proud of what we’ve contributed.
HT: Anything else?
JR: When we had these cars, we had no other choices in the marketplace. A lot of guys now do it for the hobby. We were doing it to have an affordable performance car that actually handled good. There weren’t very many options. Later, the Civic Si was Honda’s answer to people stealing del Sols and putting motors in their Civics. The S2000 wasn’t out yet. Subaru hadn’t brought over the WRX yet. We didn’t have the Evo yet.
JR: The discovery was a big deal. Putting all of the pieces together, seeing what fits what…when someone would figure out that a brake rotor from a certain model would fit on this car, and now you could put big brakes together and not have to go out and get $2,000 Baer brakes—that discovery, that was the adrenaline that drove it. Everything has pretty much been discovered now.
AT: You go to the track, you spend $13,000 on your little Civic, and it’s running circles around $70,000 Porsches. When I used to take the Civic to the track, the Porsche owners would always complain, saying, “Look! That Civic is throwing up rocks!” I’m like, “Hello, you don’t bring your car to the track if you don’t want to deal with rocks!”
JR: Mainly, he was complaining because he got passed [laughs]. Now if I want to make a track car, I’ve got to think: How am I gonna make it better than my ’93 Civic and not spend two to three times as much money on it and be stressed out that if something bad happens to it, I’m screwed? The EG Civic is the ’67 Camaro of our time. It’s that iconic car where there will never be one better. There’s a little tear of sadness for me—the performance of that generation of Civic—I don’t see anything coming soon that will be able to replace it.