It was a question I'd heard many times before, just not in this particular context. Once, when offering someone money for their beat-up, blown-motor, rat-shit Miata (their words). Another time, years before, when agreeing to a one-inch-punch competition with a much larger friend. Occasionally from strippers, always from bartenders, and of course that one time I offered to babysit a friend's cat for "a few days," so she could secretly relocate to Florida and stop answering my calls (sage advice: don't offer random favors to chicks simply because they're cute). But never from the owner of a car I'd just offered to feature in Import Tuner.
"You do know this is the most hated car on the forums, right?" the owner asked. I did not know that. And once I did, it made me want it even more. You see, we at Import Tuner have a strict policy of almost always featuring the most performance-oriented street and track rides the world over. But we do realize that what's popular isn't always what's functional, so we reserve a special place on our pages for those cars that people like, but we can't exactly explain why. Kind of like Chenn Masauan's '00 Honda Civic DX.
Of course, Carter liked the car because "it's trendy," in his words. "That's what all the kids are into." But that doesn't mean we all agreed. Some hated it-partly for the same reason Carter liked it-and the rest of us, well . . . we saw a confused vehicle: slammed to the ground, glaring-red interior, wheels poking in at all the wrong angles, and an engine bay presentation seemingly conceptualized by fans of Alice in Wonderland, acid, and the chess club. "Confused," yet interesting, not only for how great it was at pissing people off, but because through the hood of that Looking Glass bay and behind those broken-looking wheels lurked genuine performance mods.
Chenn would like us to set the record straight: The broken-wheel look was a complete accident, one made in the midst of building his car for time-attack duty. "They're Sprint Hart CP-Rs that I bought off a friend of mine. I didn't realize they modified until after I bought them." The two-piece Sprints had been separated by SoCal forum presence Opossum Jenkins, and their spokes were rejoined with widened barrels, resulting in a 16x8, +10mm offset wheel up front, and rears weighing in at a massive 16x9.5 +0mm. "I didn't have time to get new wheels, so the only thing I could do was stretch some tires around them, modify my Blox camber kit in the rear, and camber them in as much as possible." And why didn't Chenn have time to re-barrel the Sprints or get new wheels altogether? Because he built the car in seven days.
Chenn's story with this Civic began back in 2005, when he first spotted it sitting in his neighbor's driveway, gutted and perpetually awaiting modification. "It just sat there for years. The owner never had time for it. I kept asking him to sell it to me, and then in 2009 he finally did." Chenn's first move was to strip it down completely, stitch-weld the chassis, remove all the sound deadening material and undercoating, and sand it inside and out in preparation for Top Secret Gold paint. "I've owned a bunch of cars, including a turbo drag Civic that Junior from JDM Theory started back in the day," he tells. "But I really wanted to build this one for time-attack." He rolled the fenders as needed to fit an aggro set of BBSs, and while the car was sent off to the paint shop, he got started on the engine.
The old car's turbo setup was cool, but this time around Chenn wanted to stay N/A. A JDM B18C Type R engine was sourced and rebuilt with 13:1 Cosworth pistons, Eagle rods, B16B cams, Supertech valves, Skunk2 springs, a custom three-angle valve job, and an ITR header and exhaust, among other supporting mods, before it was Crome-tuned by Derek Parris to make 218 whp. But unlike a lot of die-hard performance guys who really don't care about trivialities like having a clean bay, Chenn minded the details. "The checkered paint was a dare," he explains. He was originally going to do battleship gray, but when he started coming up with random ideas just for fun, a friend bet him that he couldn't do checkers. "He said, 'no way. It's impossible!' I painted the whole bay white, broke out the tape and black paint, and proved him wrong." But was it easy? "It was a pain in the ass!" he says. At least the valve cover was easy: Chenn sent it out to Opossum and got it back a few days later dipped in 24-karat gold.
You'll also notice Wilwood clutch and brake master cylinder reservoirs hidden in the checks. They're for the ACT six-puck clutch and Xtreme pressure plate in Chenn's built trans (also rockin' a 4.7:1 final drive and OEM LSD) and the Wilwood competition brakes he's planning to add in the near future-two more mods that, like the Suspension Techniques bushing kit and Cusco rollcage, hint at Chenn's original track-prepped intent.
"Most of the parts came together while the car was in for paint," he says, regarding hard-to-find bits like the JDM Civic Type R RHD conversion, Bride recliners and upholstery, Miracle X Brace and everything else N1 Concepts hooked him up with. "By the time the car came back, we had seven days to get it all together before the annual Eibach meet in Corona, CA," he says, which brings us to the number-one reason we like Chenn and his Civic: Nothing was easy for him. "The wheels didn't fit once the car came back, so I had to roll the fenders again, cut the rear bumper, and send it back for paint. Then when it was done, my friends pushed it onto the trailer from the hatch and bumper, smudging the wet paint." Back into the booth it went. "Then, after we finished the brake and clutch lines, another friend tried to drive the car into my garage, but didn't have any brakes or clutch pressure because we hadn't bled the lines yet," he says. "He bailed out and we watched it lurch forward into a tool chest, messing up the front bumper." Back into the booth it went. Again. Three days before show time.
Once debuted at the show, Chenn wasn't surprised at the mixed response. "Some people hated it right away, calling it an 'unholy abomination' even," he laughs. "But most people liked it because it was different, and they knew I wasn't finished with it." What does the future hold? "A new Blox camber kit and Mugen M7s, first of all!" Chenn laughs. "Then I'm going to finish the build and take it to the track to shut up all the haters!"
Behind The Build
all those who doubted that my dreams would become a reality
'00 Honda Civic
Output: 218 WHP
Engine JDM B18C conversion; 13:1-compression Cosworth pistons; Honda B16B camshafts; Eagle rods; BNR machine work, ported and polished head, three-angle valve work; Supertech valves; Skunk2 valve springs, retainers; Wek Sos intake; Integra Type R header, exhaust; Benen header heat shield; NGK Iridium plugs; Spoon Sports plug wires; Walbro 255lph fuel pump; Fluidyne radiator; Samco radiator hoses; Flex-A-Lite radiator fan; Crome engine management, tuned by Derek Parris; Opossum-spec 24-karat gold-dipped valve cover; custom chrome-dipped hood hinges, latch, powdercoated gold beauty washers, shaved engine bay, checkered paint
Drivetrain ACT six-puck clutch, Xtreme pressure plate, Prolite flywheel; Drive Shaft Shop axles; OEM limited-slip differential, 4.7:1 final drive; Skunk2 short shifter; Wilwood clutch master cylinder, reservoirs
Suspension Ksport CAC020-KP coilovers; Suspension Techniques bushing kit; Cusco rollcage Brakes Wilwood brake master cylinder, reservoir; Jegs stainless braided brake lines
Wheels/Tires Sprint Hart CP-R wheels, custom re-barreled by Opossum Spec (16x8 +10mm offset front, 16x9.5 +0mm offset rear); Falken Ziex 502 tires (205/40-16 front, 215/40-16 rear)
Exterior OEM Honda Civic Type R front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, hood; Spoon Sports carbon fiber roof wing; Tech 4 14K HID headlights; PPG Top Secret Gold paint, applied by O.G. in Stockton, CA
Interior RHD conversion (JDM Civic Type R dash, center console, armrest, door panels, red carpet, steering wheel); Bride Brix 1 front seats, red gradation interior upholstery; Spoon Sports Duracon shift knob
Electronics Kenwood MP3 head unit; Kicker Comp eight-inch door speakers (x2)
Gratitude Kevin Le, Hai Le, Minh (MicCy) Le, Adam Nguyen, Son Nguyen, Courtney Jones, Shawn Louangkhamdeng, O.G. from TNA Autobody, family and friends, the 1320 family, Parris Engine Dynamics, Guyen Tran, West Lane Muffler, H1 Garage, Ralph of Opossum Spec, CBH Custom Performance