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1997 Honda Civic CX - Easy Does It

Hypebeasts beware, this Civic contains zero trendy mods, no overnight thrills, and is proof that simplicity never goes out of style

Joey Lee
Oct 18, 2011

Life definitely imitates art. In the skillful artistry known as automotive modification, it is all about trends and pursuit of individualism. If you feel that the last statement was hard to follow; just hop into your car, go down the street, and within the first five minutes of driving, you will most certainly spot a vehicle with some form of LED strip either in their front bumpers or headlights. Audi first came up with the idea in their R8 supercar. Someone saw it, became very fond of it, and decided to do something similar to their car. Does it make their vehicle an Audi R8? Definitely not, but people add these LED light strips to their cars to be “different”—so different, that the guy on the opposing side of traffic has the same exact modification. It’s OK if it’s played out though, because it looks cool—cool until you pull up next to an Audi R8.

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When it comes to building and modifying cars like Hondas, people are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes just to accomplish a popular style or look. Try going to a local meet or car show and count how many unused bike racks you see, or how many “sticker-bombed” body parts you see. You probably wouldn’t be able to keep count; they’re everywhere. Mods like this started out as innocent little ideas but have since taken over a large portion of the community. It started out as someone’s idea just to be different from everyone else and it has become its own “look” or “style”. Aggressive wheel fitment has also developed into a trendy style of modification. It has even turned into an obsession for some. Some are so intent on having this particular look that they will cut whatever corners it takes to get there, oftentimes making their once perfect fenders so haggard and butchered that they can’t even walk by and graze the side of their vehicles without getting their pants caught and torn. These individuals want to fit the widest wheel possible in the least amount of time with the least amount of money. It has to be done as soon as possible because there is another guy/gal who is already looking to best the previous guy. In terms of style and trends, it’s a “what have you done for me lately” type of scenario.

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2019 Honda Civic
$21,450 Base Model (MSRP) MPG Fuel Economy

Let it be known, though, that there is nothing wrong with trend-friendly builds; it’s really up to you to decide which route you want to take. If that is something you’re into, then by all means, have at it. With that said, however, simplicity has most certainly become a lost art. Many don’t take the time to turn their favorite Hondas into timeless pieces of automotive art anymore. A chunk of the Honda community has become an Internet popularity contest, where guys build their cars strictly for online fame and magazine features. On the flip side you have guys like Brian Arias and his Habanero Red Pearl Honda Civic, who are the true purists. Brian is a soft-spoken 19-year-old DJ who is anything but a bandwagon Honda aficionado. He builds his Honda only for personal satisfaction and seeks the approval of only himself. Brian’s Civic also contains none of the trendy modifications that you are probably tired of seeing by now. It has a sort of timelessness about it where the build would be respected and relevant no matter what time period it was built in, and his wheels actually fit—a concept that would seem unfathomable by today’s standards. Some would even go as far as to say that Brian’s Civic is too simple of a vehicle to grace the pages of Import Tuner. If you ask us, we’d tell you that it’s exactly what we were looking for.

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“I built my Civic to be a clean daily driver.” Brian says. “I wanted to be able to cruise around with passengers and just have fun with the car. Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole gutted-out, track car look but I just wanted it to be functional on the street and comfortable. The Japanese EK4 SiR was a car that I always looked to for inspiration. I really liked the look and could change the entire feel of the car while still retaining a subtle, street-usable appearance.”

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Brian gives credit to his older brothers for influencing his subtle tastes and bringing him into the world of Hondas. Growing up in a family that owned only Hondas provided constant exposure to the brand and its history. Even before he owned his own car he was already planning out how his Civic would look if he had the chance to build one. “My brothers had a ’96 Civic long before I had mine and watching them work on their car really showed me the potential of this chassis.”

At the ripe young age of 19, one would expect Brian to be easily susceptible to current trends. You won’t find any sticker-blitzed body panels on this Honda though. Instead, you will find a Civic adopting the guise of a JDM EK4 draped in custom Habanero Red Pearl paint. Replacing the stock hood and trunk are lightweight VIS carbon-fiber units with the addition of a Bomex rear hatch spoiler as well as a pair of APR carbon-fiber F1 side mirrors. As far as rolling stock goes, aggressive wheel fitment gurus might as well look the other way. If the slang, often-overused term hella must be applied, then Brian’s 15-inch BBR Competition wheels are hella rare—and exceptionally mint. Wheel aficionados will appreciate not the sizing of the wheels, but the immaculate condition that these classic, overlooked wheels are in. “BBR Comps have always been a favorite of mine—they’re absolutely timeless. I told myself from the very beginning that I would one day own either a set of BBRs or Sprint Hart CP-Rs. When I found a set in practically brand-new condition, I had to have them. Not too many people rock these wheels, and they haven’t been replicated like CP-Rs have.”

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The interior of Brian’s Japanese EK4 clone has everything he could ever need in a simple street cruiser. A bright red Bride Zeta III bucket and classic Nardi steering wheel supply Brian with a much sportier feel than stock, while the Japan-specific EK4 passenger and rear seats show that the Civic still retains all the amenities of a daily driver. Under the carbon hood is a tried-and-true B16A swap that features Blox Racing valvetrain and is tuned on a Hondata S200 piggyback by none other than Bisimoto Engineering.

When it all comes down to it, Brian has built himself a very clear-cut, functional street Honda. He’s taken a minimalist approach to his build and hasn’t done anything just because it’s the current “in” thing to do. Whether you look forward or back a decade, Brian’s Civic will still be relevant; it is proof that clean, functional style is a marathon race and not just a quick sprint to the finish.

Behind the Build

Brian Arias

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San Dimas, CA

DJ/student nurse

Build Time.
about 4 years


DJ, cars, sleep

Family, friends, girlfriend, Import Tuner, Honda Tuning, NWP4LIFE

1997 Honda Civic CX

Engine ’96 Honda B16A; Blox Racing Tuner Type-C camshafts, adjustable cam gears, dual valvesprings, titanium retainers, adjustable fuel pressure regulator; Innovative motor mounts; Gruppe M Super Cleaner Series air intake; OEM B18C throttle body, intake manifold, fuel rail; OEM H22A Euro R fuel injectors; B&M fuel pressure gauge; Vision Technica Sport R exhaust; custom 2.25-inch straight pipe; NGK Iridium IX spark plugs; Skunk2 billet battery tie-down; custom matte silver valve cover with cut cam gear opening; Hex bolt dress-up

Drivetrain JDM S80 transmission; Innovate transmission mount; Exedy Stage 2 clutch;

Suspension Tein Super Street coilovers; ASR sway bar, reinforcement kit, endlinks; Password: JDM three-point strut bar; Function7 rear lower control arms

Brakes ’99-00 Civic Si rear disc brake conversion

Wheels & Tires 15x6.5 +32mm offset BBR Competition (silver with polished lip, black lettering, and anodized blue center cap); 205/50-15 Falken Ziex 502; Rays Engineering aluminum lug nuts

Exterior JDM EK4 SiR front bumper, front lip, rear bumper, headlights; JDM clear side markers, window visors; OEM Honda hood bra; Bomex Aero rear hatch spoiler; VIS carbon-fiber hood, rear hatch; APR carbon-fiber F1 side mirrors; Habanero Red Pearl paint

Interior Bride Zeta III driver seat; JDM EK4 SiR passenger seat, rear seats, gauge cluster; Nardi steering wheel; MOMO steering hub; Spoon Sports Duracon shift knob; HOP Civic floor mats

Electronics Honda P28 ECU; Hondata S200 tuned by Bisimoto Engineering; Pioneer component speakers; Kenwood six-disc CD changer

Gratitude I would like to thank my siblings, especially Jason and Ben Arias for helping me with the car; AS1 family; Mike from Imadeskidmarks; Jon from Auto Network Bodyshop; Bisimoto Engineering; Dude Blvd. crew; ASR, Joey Lee from The Chronicles; Charles Trieu; all my friends and family; my wonderful girlfriend, Erica, for all the support.


ASR Suspension Engineering
By Joey Lee
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