We'd bet a lot of you grew up like some of us did, at a time when the phrase "import tuning" made absolutely no sense, and the sun rose and set on a world of V-8-powered American muscle. If your introduction to the gearhead ways didn't come in the form of a Mustang, Nova, or GTO your dad or uncle was stuffing a big block into for the drags, it was probably his Impala, Monte Carlo, or Caddy with flawless bodywork and a dipped undercarriage, built to steal the limelight of weekend shows. If so, like us, you're probably also familiar with the confusion shared by his generation when modified imports began dotting the horizon.
Take the Civic, for example; unlike classic domestic steel that was designed to go fast and then modified to go faster, or the rare gems that could be restored and flipped for monster profits, the Civic was cheap, practical, mass produced, and tinkered with by a crop of upstart tuners bored with their poor performance. But once aftermarket caught up with enthusiasm, custom Civics taking nearly every conceivable form (and not always the good ones) packed shows in numbers surpassing their lowrider rivals, while those built for performance regularly gave small-block-swapped Detroit Iron a run for its money down the strip and through rural America's twisty two-lanes. "The new hot rod" was what the older generation called them, struggling to define the dualistic new breed, and often comparing Honda's ubiquitous B18C to the venerable Chevy 350. Little did they know the import culture that would evolve would be far different from theirs. Little did we know it would come full circle.
David Andrade's introduction to cars was through friends and family members who built hot rods and perfected lowriders-a thirst for speed, coupled with a respect for clean customization, was every bit a part of his early years as the air he breathed.
"My first car was actually a Maxima," he recalls. "It was quicker than most cars, and all my friends and were big into audio and luxury." His was lowered on blades, painted Bentley black, and stuffed with an impressive investment of ICE-comfortable, but not the kind of car one could feel safe parking in the shadier parts of the city. He bought an EF Civic from a cousin as a beater, and after smashing around town daily in its bare-bones interior, banging gears and revving its HF engine sky-high, something clicked. "It was slow as hell and riced out," he recalls, "but I remember thinking, 'This is it. This is what a car should be about!'"
He loved the Spartan allure of the hatch, and saw huge potential for performance in the burgeoning Honda aftermarket. But he couldn't turn his back on his roots. "I've liked the look of the EJ Civic since day one," he says. "I like the sporty design of the coupe, and how it came in a fully loaded trim unlike the hatch." Once a good deal came up on an EX in the neighborhood, David snatched it up with intentions to build his dream ride. Only one problem: The Civic was shitty, a product of import tuning's ricey past. "The previous owners had some 18s on it, a cracked-up fiberglass front bumper and sides, a white interior that was flaking apart," he says, "and it had been in a couple of accidents. It was trashed." Over the next three years he replaced the exterior components with USDM factory stock, converted the interior to black JDM EM1 Si status, swapped a JDM B16A in its semi-tucked bay, painted the whole thing a custom olive green inside and out, and added Mugen MF10s to the hubs.
"I was into JDM back then, which was all about cleanliness," he tells. "But I realized I wanted something ulra-clean-dipped, tucked, quick, and simple." The poor bodywork done by the previous owners was still there, bothering David, so he decided the only right way to do the car over would be to strip it down completely. The car was jackstanded in his parents' garage and stripped to the shell. For the next year, as bodywork and a full colorchange commenced (changing to a slightly deeper green), David stockpiled parts. His JDM interior was cleaned up and made more race-ready. The exterior was refreshed a bit, too; shaved of its emblems and license plate holes and given Spoon side mirrors and a Buddy Club front lip. But most of the modification went down underhood.
Unlike the muscle car era that died out as soon as it started getting good, we're fortunate to live in a day when 2JZs succeed 7Ms, 4B11s carry the torch of 4G63s, and K20s improve upon B18s. David's K20 was pulled from a JDM '04 Integra Type R, and anything not conducive to the pure driving experience was removed before it was dropped in. Every unused hole in the Civic's bay was welded and smoothed over-if David's past taught him anything, it was that performance shouldn't come at the cost of cleanliness. The battery tray was removed, the battery, fusebox and custom brake hard lines were relocated behind the firewall, and a tucked mil-spec engine harness was constructed from scratch by Ryan "Rywire" Basseri and run to the interior through a custom entry point in the firewall near the brake booster-right next to Rywire's stainless steel braided fuel lines. Every remaining nut and bolt in the bay, undercarriage, and interior was either replaced with a new high-quality piece (like the ARP hardware in his Auto Power cage) or chrome dipped; many were joined with custom anodized black grommets upon reassembly. David even went so far as to dip his valve cover, new BDL fuel rail and pressure regulator, radiator stay, bumper retaining plate, and the chassis portion of his Hasport mounts in black chrome, and polish everything else, making for one of the hands-down cleanest engine bays found outside lowrider or hot rod circles.
David mixed performance upgrades with the dozen-or-so miscellaneous items needed for the swap. One of the more impressive moves he made was to modify a J-series throttle cable bracket from a Honda Odyssey to allow an EP3 Civic Si cable to control an oversized Blox throttle body without interference. Still, problems were encountered. Grounding was the first. "Shaving the bay covered over most of the grounding points, so Ryan and I had to run grounds from the tranny, head, battery, and coils to points under the frame rails," he explains. "You can't see them, but they're there." Then it was a heating problem: Hondata's K Pro ECU allows users to determine their own trigger temperatures for electric radiator fans-something David forgot to set at first. "Ryan caught that one," he admits.
"I always wanted to keep the car simple, David recaps, "I wanted to keep it clean enough for the shows, but reliable enough to cruise on the weekends with my lady." OK, mission accomplished-now what? "It turned out to be pretty quick, too," he says. "I've been building up the suspension lately, so I can take it out for some laps around the track soon." But what about that flawless finish? It won't last long under hard driving. "I'm OK with it," David says. "I need to re-do it anyway. It's still not clean enough for me."
Cars, DJing, BBQ with the fam and friends
To build my car for me, to express who I am and what I am about
1995 Honda Civic EX
Engine '04 K20A engine; Hasport mounts; Blox camshafts, 70mm throttle body, velocity stack intake, header; shaved/chromed RBC intake manifold; Greddy cat-back exhaust; PWR radiator; 12-inch slim fan; BDL fuel pressure regulator, fuel rail; tucked Rywire quick-disconnect wiring harness, fuel lines; custom black-chrome dipped valve cover, intake manifold, fuel rail, fuel pressure regulator, mounts, misc. hardware
Drivetrain Hasport axles; Karcepts shifter; ACT clutch, lightweight flywheel; Rywire custom clutch lines
Suspension D2 Racing coilovers; Blox Racing 24mm rear sway bar, rear lower control arms, front and rear camber kit, extended lug studs, suspension bushings; Benen lower rear tie bar; chromed Auto Power roll cage; ARP roll cage hardware
Wheels/Tires 16x7 +42mm Volk Racing CE28N wheels (Mag Blue); 215/45-16 Falken Azenis tires
Brakes DC2 Integra GSR calipers, rotors (front and rear); Hawk pads; Earl's stainless steel braided brake lines; Rywire custom brake hard lines
Exterior Buddy Club front lip spoiler; Spoon side mirrors; JDM Civic headlights, corner lights, taillights, thin side moldings; USDM mud guards; custom shaved front license plate mount, emblems; custom DPK Green paint
Interior Status Ring suede front seats; suede Momo steering wheel; ARC shift knob; chromed fuel pump cover, rear seat brackets; JDM Civic audio console, Civic VTi gauge cluster; custom battery terminals
Electronics Hondata K-Pro ECU; Rywire wiring; Equus gauges (oil pressure, water temperature, volt); Pioneer AVH-P4100 head unit; Memphis Car Audio Hybrid M-Class amplifier, 15-M226 six-inch speakers (x2), 15-MCP10S4 10-inch subwoofer, 17-1 CAP, wiring
Gratitude God; wife Jackie for putting up with my obsession; mom for letting me take up her garage; little bro Chris for being my right-hand man; Ryan from Rywire.com for being the backbone of the build; Andrew (Slappy) for flying in from TX to help; Fred Chapman; Ray Bautista; Kellen Watson and Mike (Donut); ATS Ben; Danny Hernandez; Josh from the AFF crew; all of ATSxDPK "Miracle Whips" family; Fam; Joey from stickydiljoe.com; Mikey from dippedparts.com; the homies Pie, Hoonie, Paul, Mike G., Big Mike, Ryan O, Salem, Murdock, Gary, Jimmy Harris, Ejay Adriano, NW homies, Super Twins; Robert at Falken Tire; Robbie at Blox; Jay at Memphis Car Audio; and Ted at Pioneer