"To make the sickest EK in America" is Robert Rosso's first stab at a mission statement. Trouble is, like beauty being in the eye of the beholder, "sick" is equally subjective. One man's bad is another man's, um, bad. So, when Rosso declares: "to build the cleanest EK in America", then that's another story. Clean is more quantifiable, and Rosso might be onto something here.
A 23-year-old serving in the U.S. military, Rosso's interests-other than cars-include graphic design. From its Championship White paint to those peppermint green wheels, there is indeed something graphic, stark, almost Pop Art and-let's say it-clean about the look of his '99 Honda Civic Type Rx. Yes, a right-hand drive import, since one of the world's great injustices is that Honda has never made a Civic Type R or Rx officially available to American drivers. And therein lies a tale of its own.
For all the trouble and stress this build caused, it pales into insignificance when Rosso went to get it registered. A trip to the local DMV office is usually a depressing affair, but it gets worse with an import. "The car actually got impounded for being unregistered," says Rosso. "I had a dealer plate-they didn't like that. Worst day of my life. I went to the yard fearing the worst. They were actually super-cool because they loved the car." Rosso also spent hours on the phone and generally developed the kind of patience Buddhist monks spend most of their lives striving for. Where Rosso has an edge over the average Buddhist monk, is that he ended up with a nice set of wheels. And we don't mean prayer wheels.
"I've built all my other cars, but this one I took to the limit," says Rosso. "Ever since I turned my '97 Civic DX hatchback into a CTR replica back in '03, I've wanted a real one. I would check websites and forums. Most of what I found was damaged or in poor condition. Finally, I found the right deal at the right time."
Finding the right deal is only the start. And work usually begins in the engine bay. Rosso has gone for some of the finest Japanese aftermarket schwag yen (or dollars) can buy, looking to Password:JDM for its Power Chamber carbon fiber air intake to do the breathing. At the top end, a valve cover and cam gears from Spoon Sports sit in close proximity to a Toda timing belt (said to be 200 percent stronger than its OEM equivalent).
A smattering of red, white, and blue makes an appearance beneath the hood-in the form of a PWR all-aluminum radiator, a Flex-a-lite fan, Hasport engine mounts and the ubiquitous Walbro 255lph high pressure fuel pump (protected here by a Password:JDM Kevlar cover). There are some further trans-Pacific grey areas with the Password:JDM Kevlar wire cover, test pipe, radiator cooling plate, radiator stay, catalytic converter and hood damper, plus the NGK spark plugs and wires (although a Japanese company, NGK has a manufacturing facility in Southern California).
Then it's back to the rising sun flag with a vengeance for Spoon headers, reservoir cover and oil cap. Meanwhile, Mugen holds its end up with a Twin Loop exhaust system (that ranges in level from subtle to sonorous) and an oil filter. Rosso doesn't quote any numbers, but it's not unreasonable to assume that the hand-ported B16B engine is running close to its fabulous factory-claimed 182 hp to its wheels now, given that it's probably operating near peak efficiency.
This amalgamation of parts and figures, however, doesn't paint the whole picture. Look at the engine bay shot and it's obvious what else is going on. "The tuck was done at Top Setup (the Illinois-based Honda specialists)," says Rosso. "All the wires and useless stuff got removed or hidden. Now the bay looks empty compared to stock." Which further reinforces the starkness theme. It says a lot about someone when they stay true to a vision even though that vision may be out of sight.
After this section of the build, the rest came randomly during the two years it's taken to get to this point. "Patience is key in any build," says Rosso. Honda fans are familiar with the cars' slick gearshift action. Rosso has augmented his with Hyperflex bushings, joining a Spoon asbestos-free clutch and a Toda seven-pound chromoly flywheel as the only transmission mods (the stock car already comes with a helical limited-slip differential).
Again, the standard Civic Type R is no slouch in the handling department (incidentally, the Rx is differentiated by having keyless entry, a CD player, air conditioning, aluminum-trimmed pedals, power windows and color-matched folding door mirrors) and loves to kick up an inside rear wheel through fast corners. But Rosso went for a Mugen Sports Suspension anyway, lowering the front end by 2.2 inches and the rear by two inches. In case this setup wasn't stiff enough, Mugen front and rear strut braces have also been fitted, along with a Password:JDM rear floor bar, Blox lower control arms, Beaks lower tie bar, ASR endlinks, and let's hear it one more time for Hyperflex bushings.
Which brings us to those wheels. They're special-order Volk Takata Green TE37 alloys, sized 17x7.5 at each corner, and wearing Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 215/45 rubber. But when this car hits the track, there's a different set of footwear: AME Tracer one-piece wheels made by Enkei (usually the brand found on EVOs; Rosso also owns two EVO IX MRs, by the way). In this application, they sport dimensions of 16x7.5, with 215/40 Toyo Proxes T1R rubber.
Since track work is part of this car's brief, it had better be good at braking. The anchors are helped here by rotors from one of the most dependable names in the business: Brembo. They're bitten by Hamp pads via ever-dependable Goodridge stainless steel brake lines.
Street or circuit, Rosso (and whoever sits in the front passenger seat) is held in place by OEM Recaro seats. He twirls a Nardi steering wheel covered in Deep Corn suede (connected to an NRG quick-release hub) and flicks through the gears using a Spoon shifter knob.
Firing artillery for a living must mean that during his free time, Corporal Rosso likes an audio system that's loud and clear. So he's fitted a Pioneer DEHP6100BT head unit that has USB direct control for an iPod, plus satellite radio and Bluetooth capability.
By now, the clued-in reader will be thinking about the cost of all this high-end stuff. Rosso reckons he's sunk around $20,000 into this project. "There's no point in going cheap," he says. And is a project ever finished? The idea of Toda individual throttle bodies and cams has Rosso fired up at the moment. Although he's also thinking about a Hayabusa-powered kart and an RB240, so who knows?
Behind The Build
Colorado Springs, CO
Artillery, U.S. ARMY
Anything automotive, graphic design
2 years and counting
"I used to modify cars to gain the attention of my peers. Now I do it for me, to show myself what I can do."
1999 Honda Civic Type Rx
Engine Password:JDM Power Chamber air intake, test pipe, Kevlar fuel pump cover, Kevlar wire cover, radiator stay, radiator cooling plate, hood damper; Spoon Sports cam gears, valve cover, header, reservoir cover, oil cap; Mugen oil filter, Twin Loop exhaust; Walbro 255lph fuel pump; Toda timing belt; NGK spark plugs, wires
Drivetrain Spoon Sports asbestos-free clutch; Toda chromoly flywheel; Hyperflex bushings
Suspension Mugen Sports Suspension, strut tower braces; Password:JDM rear floor bar; Blox lower control arms; Beaks lower tie bar; ASR endlinks; Hyperflex bushings
Wheels/Tires Volk Takata Green TE37 17x7.5 wheels; Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 215/40 tires (street); AME Tracer 16x7.5 wheels; Toyo Proxes 215/40 tires (track)
Brakes Brembo rotors; Hamp pads; Goodridge stainless steel brake lines
Exterior Antenna delete; McCollough HID lighting
Interior Nardi steering wheel, Spoon Sports shift knob, Pioneer DEH-P6100BT head unit
Gratitude I'd like to thank my brother Randy, and my wife Amber; everyone from Top Setup; Sean and Zieko from Street Dreams; Winston from ReinCarnation; Edmun from Spoon; Leo and Darryl from Password:JDM; C.K. from UPP, and my family.