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Tube-Frame Honda Civic Coupe - Staying Power

Fast then, faster now, and not going anywhere.

Sep 7, 2012
Photographer: Henry Z. DeKuyper
Htup 1209 02 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+unibody Photo 1/16   |   HTUP-120900-CARTEL-036-041-

The name Jeremy Lookofsky will forever be tied to the lightly colored, H22-powered, naturally aspirated CRX that terrorized the import drag racing landscape for a number of years. Setting records, defying odds, and essentially crushing theories, the CRX was undeniably a trailblazer for the all-motor movement. With the notoriety came a massive cult following and one of the most intense rivalries (Skunk2) in import drag racing history.

The Chassis

Along the way, Lookofsky took note of an incredible tube chassis Honda unveiled in the mid-’90s, and the wheels in his head began to turn. He adds, “The new Civic began construction in 2000 when tube chassis cars were still new and rare to the sport compact world. The first to do it was Stephan Papadakis with his Civic built in conjunction with the legend himself, Shaun Carlson. Both of those guys together were always looking to innovate and dominate.” With thoughts of doing the same, Lookofsky received a bare chassis from Honda Factory Performance (HFP) with the goal of building the first naturally aspirated, front-wheel-drive, tube-frame drag car. Being that the chassis was extremely light, the car was slapped with weight and fuel restrictions during competition in an attempt to level the playing field. A small hurdle, as Lookofsky forged on with Shawn Hillier piloting the car and Jeff Tirado as crew chief, and the trio took home records and trophies at just about every event they attended. After garnering so much attention, a groundbreaking sponsorship contract was drafted with DVS Shoes—an “outside the box” signing that the all-motor world had yet to witness.

HTUP 1209 03 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+front end removed Photo 2/16   |   Tube-Frame Honda Civic Coupe - Staying Power

The Powerplant

A longtime advocate for the power of the H-series motor, Lookofsky felt a change was in order, and in 2006, the Drag Cartel tube chassis was slated for a transplant. The new heart would be comprised of a K24 block with a K20 head, and would serve double duty—as a test bed for a number of track-proven parts for the Drag Cartel product lineup, as well as the key to collecting low 9-second time slips. During its first season of service, the K-series mill pulled the Civic to a new personal best of 9.64 @ 141.

Htup 1209 07 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+K series mill Photo 3/16   |   Tube-Frame Honda Civic Coupe - Staying Power

Improving upon stellar time slips typically means finding more power; one area that Lookofsky is all too familiar with. The current engine weighs in at 2.7L, belting out a mind-boggling 420 whp. This is accomplished with a 105mm crank, an astronomical 15.7:1 compression ratio, and 58mm individual throttle bodies via BC, JE, and TWM respectively. As expected, Drag Cartel goods are sprinkled throughout the build, including its Stage 5 “VTEC killer” cams. Lookofsky offers some insight, “Stage 5s run traditional VTEC lobes and utilize Drag Cartel cam gears to degree the motor for its ultimate power potential. We use this method instead of VTC function, as it’s a bit safer when using a .600 lift cam. Not much room for error, valve-to-valve is very tight. The weight savings on the valvetrain is worth some horsepower and allows about an extra 800 rpm in the upper powerband.” He also warns that this is for a race application only, and takes some dedication and knowledge to set up properly.

With almost 10 years under the car’s belt, the team’s goal as well as their starting lineup has changed significantly. “We’re shooting for the first 8-second, all-motor pass. I’m the driver and engine builder, Shawn Hillier is the crew chief, and James Lin handles data acquisition. The car has it, we’re making more than enough horsepower, but the conditions have to be perfect in order to utilize it all. Major factors like track prep, weather, driving…and a little luck never hurts.”

Having already blasted a razor-close 9.01, most in the know are counting on Drag Cartel to nail the landmark time in 2012. “We’re so close, but yet so far away. Stay tuned, though, my thoughts are that it will happen at E-Town, Fall Nationals—the perfect way to end a race season.”

The Business

Drag Cartel originally started as a race team in 2006. During this time, the sport compact drag movement saw participation from NHRA as they introduced their nationwide points series that piqued competitors’ interest. All too eager to prove his abilities, Lookofsky and his crew set out to destroy with an emphasis on establishing new records. Their presence was quickly felt as the Cartel took home a championship in 2006, and set records at almost every single track and event they ventured to. As promising as the future looked, the economy’s bottom dropped out, and sponsorship dollars were soon nonexistent. Lookofsky adds, “Funds vanished right before our eyes and there wasn’t much left but a car and trailer full of parts. This is when we felt it was time to open the doors to the public and start selling products.” In 2008, Drag Cartel officially entered the consumer market, and just four years later, not only is the company still standing, it’s thriving. “We can’t keep products on the shelves. It’s a four-month wait for a built motor! It’s a great feeling, and I owe it all to the end-users and customers worldwide who had faith in me and the brand.”

Htup 1209 06 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+burnout Photo 7/16   |   Tube-Frame Honda Civic Coupe - Staying Power

Bolts & Washers

K24 block (now 2.7L)
K20A2 head
105mm BC crankshaft
ERL sleeved/machined block
JE FSR pistons, 15.7:1
Saenz 300mm rods
Drag Cartel CNC head
58mm TWM ITBs
Drag Cartel Stage 5 Killer cams
Supertech titanium valves
Supertech valvesprings
Supertech retainers
Bronze guides
Copper beryllium seats
Drag Cartel custom rockers
ASP stainless header
Weldon 2015 fuel pump
Weldon fuel filter
Weldon fuel pressure regulator
Bosch injectors
Drag Cartel fuel rail
Drag Cartel dry sump/Barnes oil pump
Brown & Miller Racing Solutions lines
PPG 4-speed dog box
K-Tuned billet shifter box
Custom shift cables
ACT twin disk
ACT flywheel
Quaife LSD
Moore Performance axles

Htup 1209 08 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+ASP exhaust manifold Photo 8/16   |   Tube-Frame Honda Civic Coupe - Staying Power

420 whp

Htup 1209 05 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+exhaust port Photo 9/16   |   An ASP exhaust manifold directs spent gases directly out of the passenger-side fender.

Strange coilovers
Eibach springs

11.44-inch drilled steel rotors
Polymatrix B-compound pads
Forged Dynalite calipers
Wilwood EXP600 fluid
-3 Teflon-coated brake lines

Wheels & Tires
15-inch Exospeed Racing Star 5
Mickey Thompson front 28/10-15; rear 26/4.5-15

Simpson parachute

Kirkey aluminum seat
Simpson 5-pt harness
Simpson window net
Sparco steering wheel
Sparco quick-release hub
Wilwood pedal assembly
Fire system

MoTeC M800
MoTeC Sport logger dash
MoTeC ignition box

ERL Performance, Torco Racing Oils, DVS Shoes, Supertech Valves, Brian Crower, Advanced Clutch Technology, JE Pistons, PPG Gears, K-Tuned, Rockstar Energy Drink, HPD Racing, Synchro Tech Transmissions, WPC Treatment

Owner Specs

Daily grind
Automotive design and race part innovation

Htup 1209 10 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+drag cartel work space Photo 13/16   |   Tube-Frame Honda Civic Coupe - Staying Power

Favorite site

Screen name
Cartel King

Building Hondas
15 years

Dream car
2014 Acura NSX

Inspiration for this build
Love of motorsports

Future builds
Anything! Bring it on…

History Lesson

May 30–31, Battle of the Imports: L’Natural CRX driven by Shawn Hillier and owned by Jeremy Lookofsky captures the world’s quickest and fastest All-Motor Honda record by posting 12.24 @ 109. (This race was against longtime rival Skunk2.)

Htup 1209 12 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+drag cartel trophy room Photo 14/16   |   Tube-Frame Honda Civic Coupe - Staying Power

Sacramento Raceway: L’Natural CRX earns its first 11-second all-motor pass in sport compact history. Ends season with 11.20 @ 124.

2000 “Revenge Year”
Atco, New Jersey: First all-motor CRX back-half chassis in competition.
New record 10.73 @ 129 (October).

Cover of Import Tuner Magazine, February 2001
Holding class record once again: 10.68 @ 130.

Import Auto Salon, Long Beach, California: L’Natural 2 was born. First full-tube chassis, carbon-fiber body car in All-Motor class.

Signed title sponsorship with DVS Shoes. Huge accomplishment for any import car to do, especially an All-Motor class competitor.
Raced with the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Series.

Htup 1209 16 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+MoTec sport logger dash Photo 15/16   |   HTUP-120900-CARTEL-036-041-

NHRA Series and Sport Compact
Set record once again 10.39 @ 133 mph.

First and only (to this day) all-motor H22 to run 9-second quarter-mile pass

Drag Cartel Industries was born.
H-series motor was retired, K-series engine utilized.
Set a new record in its first season 9.64 @ 141.
Won NHRA Championship.

Runner-up in the NHRA Championship points chase
Set new class record 9.33 @ 146.

Englishtown, New Jersey
Set class record 9.23 @ 148 (May 2008)
Current record/personal best: 9.01 @ 148.22
Future goal: First 8-second all-motor Honda

Htup 1209 04 o+tube frame honda civic coupe+simpson parachute Photo 16/16   |   Tube-Frame Honda Civic Coupe - Staying Power


Brian Crower
El Cajon, CA 92020
Supertech Performance
San Jose, CA 95136
Advanced Clutch Technology
Lancaster, CA 93535
ERL Performance
New Albany, IN
Drag Cartel Industries
Simi Valley, CA 93065
Torco Racing Oils
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
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