When it comes to car building, some guys just have all the luck. While many of us hunt endlessly for those hard-to-find goods or face the constant struggle of sourcing the necessities required to complete a project, guys like Ryan Wedig, owner of this 1985 CRX Si tend to have things fall right into their laps. Skim through his list of specs and you quickly realize that things like the complete, all but non-existent Mugen aero Pro Kit for an '80s-era chassis is anything but common.
Return on investment - a phrase with the power to cause any custom car owner to shudder at the very thought - typically has no place in the car building equation. Not unlike any well-built Honda project, the cost of the engine and its supporting cast often dwarfs the value of the chassis they're attached to. That's not tough to do when opting for engine swaps and scarce, high-dollar Japanese aero attached to a bargain like the fun-size 1st gen. CRX - a car that Ryan is intimately familiar with.
His first encounter with Honda's little 2-seater was back in 1999 when he picked up an orange version from a friend that had blown the engine and needed it gone sooner rather than later. Agreeing on a price, Ryan took it home but pushed it off to the side while he spent the better part of 2 years collecting parts and saving money to dish out toward the project. Going to extremes, he actually bought an abused 1st gen. Integra and cannibalized the engine, brakes and a bit of its suspension. Not only was it an ideal donor car but it gave Ryan a hands-on education on the CRX's anatomy.
The work done to that initial CRX resulted in huge smiles as its owner/builder spent his free time blasting through various auto-x events. Then, at the peak of his weekend competitive stints, life tapped Ryan on the shoulder and told him to take a little break from the car world. Having met and married his significant other followed by a new baby, newly acquired home and *gasp* minivan, the CRX was unofficially retired.
Years later, sometime in 2005, Ryan was surfing through Redpepperracing.com and spotted an almost completely stock '85 CRX that someone inherited from their uncle and put up for sale. Clearly cared for and in excellent condition, it was obviously a sign (at least that's what we like to tell ourselves), so Ryan hit the road and 650 miles later purchased his new project. Some of the old race car's parts were sold and before he knew it, a set of Mugen MR5s were bolted on to the new obsession as was a carbon fiber hood, new seats and some of the rarer bits and pieces that he couldn't bear to part with on that first build. Things were looking great, right up until that dreaded impact.
A minor accident would set things back but not for long. Having cracked the factory fiberglass fenders and destroyed the front bumper, it seemed like the ideal time for an exterior makeover. "At that time, I envisioned building a Mugen CRX like the ones in pictures I had seen when I got my first CRX. Jamie Houseman, a long-time Honda racer, custom transmission guru and fiberglass expert found a complete, unmounted Mugen aero kit and began making and selling replica kits," Ryan recalls. And jumping at the opportunity, he purchased and installed the copied kit and the car remained that way for a few years along with new 15in MR5s and a suspension makeover.
Stumbling across a coveted Mugen CRX Pro Kit
So how then, does a car go from looking the part to actually being fitted with extremely rare, authentic Mugen attire? Well, it goes back to that "some guys have all the luck" statement mentioned earlier. Serving as a moderator for multiple CRX forums, Ryan explains that at one point the forums were getting bombarded by spam accounts, so he began reviewing each new member request to make sure they were legitimate. One of those potential accounts had an interesting CRX as the background photo and after messaging back and forth a few times, the new member mentioned that she really liked the vintage Enkei 92 wheels that Ryan had on his car while he had another set of Mugen wheels getting refreshed. He mentioned that he would be putting the Enkeis up for sale soon if she was looking to purchase, and that's when the unimaginable happened. "She asked if I'd be interested in trading my wheels for a Mugen CRX parts car. I honestly was taken aback by that question, took a moment, but then answered yes, yes I would."
Even after being a good guy and explaining that the car, even in its rough condition, was worth far more than his wheels, his newfound friend insisted that it was fine as the car had been sitting in a family member's backyard for over 10 years. Trailering his new car home, it was clear it wasn't worth the effort to restore, with multiple problem areas, but the crown jewel in that authentic Mugen kit certainly was.
One of the rarest Honda B-series swaps in existence
Before he had the car painted along with its new body armor, Ryan completed a B16A2 swap after completely refreshing the engine, so he would really have no interest in buying another swap on top of it. That is, unless it was a Mugen B16B N1 swap - an option that showed up out of the blue when a well-known Mugen enthusiast reached out to Ryan via Facebook. "I wanted the engine but really couldn't justify spending more money on it right after spending thousands on the swap I had just finished. Then he made me an offer I could not refuse, and we struck a deal." That's right, an almost non-existent version of Honda's already scarce CTR engine was in his hands without so much as a keystroke put toward searching for it. And the kicker here is, after pulling the old engine and selling it off, Ryan broke even on the whole deal.
While the car's new N1 swap was being done, the prized Mugen aero was laid out in Ryan's garage awaiting its new home before it would be sent to the body shop. A careless mishap resulted in the stock hood getting a massive dent but in typical Ryan fashion, HMO just happened to have a Ballade Sports CR-X front clip in stock and though they typically don't separate parts from a clip, they made an exception because, well, because Ryan. The "power bump" ZC hood arrived and the body shop worked their magic to give the car its final makeover.
Factory seats just wouldn't make sense for a build like this and a modern aftermarket bucket would probably look out of place as well. Like most of the parts added to his CRX, Ryan waited patiently for over 2 years until he crossed paths with just the right fit. A Mugen SW36 steering wheel is joined by the brand's shift knob an MOMO pedals. The abused and neglected floor and trunk mats that one would expect when stepping into a 35-year-old economy car are nowhere to be found, as DSTuning versions replaced the originals.
Waiting out the rare JDM gold
Though the rare parts river seemed to flow right through Ryan's DMs, it doesn't mean he wasn't putting in effort on his end. For example, he made an offer on the Mugen muffler and patiently waited for a year to finally close the deal. The authentic Mugen emblems you've no doubt spotted are piecemeal - a result of online hunting for years. Even when he "settled" for buying things like 2 right Mugen torsion bars, in hopes that he could possibly convert one to work on the left side, he never had to try. A few years later, he stumbled upon someone on Instagram selling 2 left side bars in the same size. That's right, essentially impossible to find, Ryan happens to have 2 sets.
Mugen parts have been celebrated by the Honda community for decades and today you can find MF10s, various wings, steering wheels and sport pedals on thousands of builds. What you won't find very often, however, is a Mugen build as complete as Ryans, especially from this generation chassis. He notes, "It really feels to me that this car was meant to be. Things just lined up for me in such a crazy way that I have a hard time believing it. I love this car and driving it always makes me happy, and I love sharing it with people."
Mugen N1 B16B
The N1 engine falls in line with many of Japan's top Honda tuning firms in taking a factory engine, like the hyperactive, high-revving B16B plucked from the EK9 chassis, and improves on its attributes. The goal is to maximize performance and make as much power as possible while still keeping in line with the showroom stock guidelines of the N1 class. It's a Much of the process is based on proper balancing to Mugen's race-proven specs and a bump in compression. Replacement parts include the brand's oil pan, head gasket and valvesprings. Each is hand-built by Mugen and three of these little dynamos were imported to the U.S. via Mugen's only authorized North American dealer, King Motorsports.
Rather than relying on the factory intake and header, Ryan opted for an open element intake and Skunk2 4-2-1 that moves gases through a 2.5in exhaust system and Mugen muffler, and Hondata's s300 to take control electronically. And to exploit that scream to redline, a close-ratio '97-spec ITR transmission is used.