Springs. Intake. Exhaust. Header. Those four words, in that exact order, incessantly pounded into my mind for more years than I care to remember. Like a sacred oath, the order by which a car was assembled rested strictly upon this bevy of basic modifications. Veering away from the magic formula was thought to be taboo among the small group who unknowingly became my mentors as I entered the automotive enthusiast circle. Before the Internet boom, before my first project car, hell, before I had a license, I learned about this pattern of upgrades through an enormous number of hours listening to “garage talk” rather than doing much talking. When the time finally came, after putting in far too many hours at a local fast-food joint during my last few years of high school, I bought my first new (to me) Honda—a ’91 CRX Si, bright red with a clean title and absolutely no modifications. Purchased at a Mitsubishi dealership after a few hours of negotiating and deflecting all attempts to sell me on a non-turbo Eclipse, it was without a doubt the happiest automotive experience of my entire life.
When money allowed, I did exactly as I was taught: I took a shortcut and chopped three coils off of my stock springs because I was such a genius, then a K&N air filter, followed by a Stromung exhaust (younger guys, look it up), and eventually, a Gude 4-1 header. It wasn’t until I reached that level of tuning that I fully understood why these guys had essentially brainwashed me into taking these steps. The minor engine upgrades were basically a start, and a part of the puzzle as a cam and ported head combo were later bolted on. The springs, well, I didn’t quite follow the recipe, but I quickly realized that being low, at the cost of taking away from the CRX’s blessed handling, simply wasn’t worth it. A minor setback to my ego as well as my bank account, I managed to scrounge up enough money to buy a set of Neuspeed springs and performance shocks, and was much happier—even with that damned one-and-a-half-finger gap.
The reason for the “reachin’ back” moment is because I’ve noticed some interesting trends both on the street and online, and I’m curious as to the priorities set by some Honda enthusiasts. The truth is, there is no formula to all of this madness, and I often preach about how there really are no rules to building a car. For many, you simply buy what you can afford, little by little, in hopes of reaching at least an inkling of what you visualized as the perfect build. But the perfect build these days is mind-boggling to me. Everyone wants to stand out, that’s a given and has been that way for decades. However, the strive to be different is now blurred by laziness and trinkets that I like to refer to as the “37 pieces of flair.” Wheels that stick out far beyond the fenders with ultra-stretched tires on the verge of separation are the goal. Subpar suspension backed by shiny, high-dollar lower control arms are considered the standard, while Time Attack cars with massive, functional wings are considered rice by the new school. Speaking of appearance, what the hell happened? Eyesore stickers adorn fenders, trunk lids, lips, and hoods. Unused bike racks that could hijack the sultry lines of any Honda are relied upon for the finishing touch on countless street cars. And when they are actually used, it’s to mount a single skateboard or a child’s tiny bike, because neither could ever possibly fit into a Civic trunk or hatch. Multiple plush dolls and beginner driver badges shaped like the “shocker” trump any thoughts of saving money for better handling, additional power, or appearance mods that won’t have the owner shaking his head in five years, wondering why he wasted his money.
I love seeing modified Hondas on the street. They grab my attention and I scan them up and down noting everything from wheels and tires to exhaust note and potential engine upgrades. But I have to wonder where things are going at this point. Somewhere along the way, confusion and utter boredom brought about an entirely new type of enthusiast. One who puts shock value above all else, and it’s unfortunate. Not because I think it’s beyond silly, but unfortunate because here is a group so dead set on not conforming that they’re blind to what Honda performance can actually offer.
But hey, I’m just some guy who likes Hondas and cut his springs almost 20 years ago, what do I know? It’s the long hours talking, and I’m rambling. ;)
Build it. Enjoy it. Be safe.