Translation by Kenta Ogawara (Tokyodrive.tv)
You're chillin' at the tower of your local road-course track at the end of a long day of testing. Your car already packed and ready for the drive home, you're watching the field of time-attackers and drifters take their last few runs. Everyone's feeling a little loose-even the RWD grip guys are entering the turns extra hot and throttling through some intentional oversteer, playing the drifters at their own game. And just after they do, down the straight comes a dark-colored Civic hatch. No roll cage or crazy aero, nothing to give it the appearance of a serious track car. Like its RWD brethren, it, too, enters the approaching corner with excess speed, and right when you expect its front wheels to break traction at turn-in-its noob driver locking up the brakes and plowing into the outside wall-you hear a clutch-kick, and the Civic's tires erupt in a fury of spinning, smoking, squealing awesomeness. But not the front tires. It's the rears powering all that chaos as the Civic's tail whips around, its front wheels turning full-lock, guiding it sideways through the apex. A Civic is drifting. Sweet mother of Li'l Wayne, what on earth is going on?
Whereas American drifting has gone the "bigger, meaner, tougher" route, building ever more intimidating machines with bigger engines and glorifying the rebellious, outlaw spirit of those who pursue it, the Japanese perspective has always praised doing more with less, celebrated the triumph of the hardworking underdog, and reserved a special place in its collective heart for all things crazy and off-the-wall. We can't think of a better example of those last few ideals than this RWD-converted Civic.
Its owner, Daisuke Nakai, lives in Tokyo, but the man who got his hands dirty was mechanic Masanori Ida, based in the prefecture of Gunma, situated deep in the megalopolis' Northwestern outskirts (read: the sticks). A humble man of few words, "I wanted to create a legend," is all Masanori-san cared to comment on why he decided to undertake the project. But don't let that lead you to expect typical Japanese refinement and attention to detail from this particular build. Don't think its RWD conversion was planned for years and carried out over months of meticulous perfection. The truth is that the process by which it was hacked together is as backwardly glorious as the concept of a RWD Civic itself-love it or hate it. Check out the sidebar of the Civic's modified transmission tunnel on the next page; it's constructed from scavenged Nissan oil pans. That's only the beginning.
So, how exactly does one convert a Civic from front-wheel-drive to RWD? The preferred method seems to be either to shoehorn an LS1 engine and trans into the bay and a solid axle into the rear end (read: tons of fabrication), or swap over select parts of Honda's Real Time 4WD drivetrain and suspension from a Civic Shuttle (wagon), Integra ZXi, or Ferio RTSi, and adapt it to your Honda engine of choice (slightly less work). Learning that Nakai dropped a wrecked AP1 S2000 off at Masanori-san's shop along with his soon-to-be-converted EG4, the logical assumption would be that most of the roadster parts were adapted to fit the hatch. That's not the case. Masanori-san swapped in the S2K's F20C engine and six-speed trans, and threw out almost everything else.
Nakai was smart to hire a builder of RWD drift machines to embark on a project such as this, but he might've missed the "Nissan Specialist" sign hanging over Masanori-san's doorway. If the olive green power steering reservoir tucked in front of the re-located AC Delco battery in the Civic's bay looks foreign to Honda heads, that's because it came from an S13 Silvia, and connects to a Silvia power steering pump, rack, and pinion . . . which connect to a Silvia front subframe . . . which supports the Civic's full Silvia front suspension, hubs, and brakes. A hybrid power steering pulley was fabricated to line the unit up with the F20C's serpentine belt, the S2K header was hacked and re-welded to clear the Nissan steering rack, and if the intake tubing aft of the HKS Super Mega Flow filter looks odd, it is-apparently no one remembers where the parts for it originally came from.
Things are even weirder at the rear. A hybrid180SX/S2K driveshaft runs alongside a custom stainless/mild/aluminized/scrap steel cat-back exhaust, and joins the Honda trans with a Nismo limited-slip differential inside a Nissan R200 rear end, amidst a complete S13 180SX rear subframe: axles, control arms, brakes, and upgraded Tein Type RA S13 suspension (same as in front). The Civic's fuel tank had to be relocated inside the spare tire well for all this to happen, but by Masanori-san's logic, the S2K unit seemed a better replacement. Plus, once coupled with the S2000 digital gauge cluster and push-button ignition in the cabin (opposite the Zeal bucket seat, Willans harness and Momo wheel), tuning became a mere matter of splicing together two stock ECUs: the S2000 unit for engine and gauge function, and the Civic unit for chassis works.
Extra cooling equipment is never a bad idea for a drift car, but since the F20C really doesn't overheat in stock form, yet the one in this Civic sports an oil cooler and upgraded Tabata-R radiator-and seeing how this Civic drifts an entire track better than many big-power Nissan- and Toyota-badged drift cars we've seen (video on importtuner.com)-we suspect supplementary engine work has been carried out in secret. Masanori-san's refusal to disclose power numbers reinforces our belief.
Turns out he's equally secretive of his and Nakai's future plans for the car. "It was built only for testing; to see if it's possible," he offers. "It will be re-built soon." Nakai shares that the build has thus far run him only 200,000 Yen, or about $2,200 U.S. Considering the usual five-figure budget consumed in the construction of most drift cars, this could potentially leave the duo with a boatload of funds to tie up their beast's loose ends, with most of the hard work out of the way. It took them just two months to make it this far, and the car has allegedly amassed a cult following and inspired similar projects across Japan. Who knows-the sight of a Civic taking corners sideways amongst a gang of drift- and time-attack machines may not even look odd by the time they're finished.
"I can do anything if I want to do it."
'93 Honda Civic VTi
Engine JDM F20C engine, modified header; custom cat-back exhaust, mounts, power steering pulley, oil cooler, intake, radiator plumbing; HKS Super Mega Flow filter; Tabata-R aluminum radiator; Sard radiator cap; S2000 fuel pump, tank, ECU; relocated battery
Drivetrain JDM S2000 six-speed manual transmission, clutch, flywheel; modified JDM Nissan S13 driveshaft, R200 rear differential housing, rear axles, hubs; Nismo LSD
Suspension JDM Nissan S13 steering rack, pinion, power steering pump, reservoir, front and rear subframes, front and rear control arms, front and rear spindles; Tein Type RA coilovers; custom upper mounts, custom adjustable control arms, spherical bushings, aluminum rear subframe bushings
Wheels/Tires 15x7 SSR Longchamps XR-4 wheels (front); 15x7 SSR Mesh wheels (rear)
Brakes JDM Nissan S13 rotors, pads, lines
Interior Relocated shifter and hand brake lever; Zeal racing bucket; Willians four-point harness; mystery race pedals; JDM S2000 digital gauge cluster, engine start button; Momo steering wheel; relocated climate control
Who says your ideal RWD ride has to come from the factory? This Civic is sliding proof of one way the conversion can be done by mere mortal hands. There also exists the LS1-powered "Civette" (Google item), as well as numerous examples of AWD-turned-RWD Honda driveline swappage onto FWD chassis. With at least a few dozen of your "Question IT" inquiries each month involving crazy swaps, we know we've got the most creative readership out there, but what we want to know is: Would you be able to actually do it, and if so, how?
Your assignment this month: send us a "virtual build" of your dream AWD/RWD-converted import platform, listing the engine of choice, driveline, and supporting components you'd speculate would be needed to pull it off. We've seen Skyline AWD-converted 240SXs (www.full-race.com), RWD-converted EVOs and STIs (www.teamorange-drift.com), and even an EVO AWD-converted Mirage or two (www.amstuning.com)-now we want to see what you would do. Boxes of schwag will be sent to the craziest, most detailed, and most attainable suggestions out there. Hint: renderings will help your chances immeasurably, and even though this is a virtual build, bonus points will be awarded for low budgets. Email all submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking at the Civic's re-constructed transmission tunnel, you'll notice its e-brake now resides where the shifter once did, and the shifter is nearly in the place of the center console. We could B.S. something about this being more ideal for hand-brake drift initiation, but the fact is it's simply a product of the short length of the S2K's six-speed trans; the crew felt this would be an easier solution than mounting the engine farther back in the bay, as it natively sits in an S2K. Of course this meant the climate controls would have to be moved, but how could that possibly be a bad thing? Especially since this gave Masanori-san the opportunity to mount them upside-down, on the glove box. Crazy JDM!