Around the mid '90s the Honda phenomenon had caught on in a big way. People were constantly testing the waters - finding ways of tuning these once thought eco boxes into full-blown racecars. At the forefront of style were many odd conversions, grotesque color schemes and bizarre graphics. Enter the purveyors of OG JDM style, the FF Squad. They helped to usher in the classic JDM style and fused it with proven performance. Thanks in part to the FF Squad, the scene never looked back. Now more than 10 years after their internet boom we took some time to sit down with five original members of FF Squad, Jason "Katman" Kaplan, Lee Randle, Steve Joo and brothers Dylan and Erik Huig, to see why they're still addicted to FWD Hondas.
Super Street: Alright guys first and foremost for our reader's that don't already know, what is FF Squad and how did it start?
Lee: We don't know what it is either. Steve: Katman's love for building websites. Katman: It was our friend Pat, who passed away in '97. He was a pro skater and a friend of ours - we all used to skate. He got into Hondas and it rubbed off on all of us. Steve: I was a poser! Katman: At first it was mostly myself and Steve, Erik and Dylan. Then Lee showed up later. Lee: I went to school with Steve. Steve would take me to go meet up with these guys to go to the street races or whatever. I didn't even have a Honda yet. Katman: Didn't you have a Bug? Lee: I had a Bug. It was like '92? Dylan: That's when I had a squareback and Erik had that Integra. But I think the FF Squad name came because crews were a big deal back in the day and we kinda spent time thinking up funny crew names. Katman: That's how Tiiite Boy Racing came about. First it was Hot Chot Racing, HCR for short, thanks to Steve. Lee: I guess a chot is a dick (everyone laughs). Katman: What language is it? Steve: I dunno, like Vietnamese or something. Katman: Then it turned into Tiiite Boy for some reason, I guess because of Max and the whole megaphone thing.
SS: Ah yes, the megaphone. Who started that? Lee: It was Max and Katman, they started doing it to each other.
SS: That doesn't sound right.
Katman: When shit was dope we'd be like "that shit was tiiiiiiiiiiiiite!!!" (done while raising a closed fist to the mouth). Lee: Then they started to battle over who could do it better. Katman: Then later the fingers moved into the megaphone.
SS: So there was an evolution? Katman: Yeah it turned into "oh that thing was tiiiiite!" you know (making megaphone gesture) it was like that.
SS: Unfortunately this doesn't record video.
Lee: It was some funny-ass shit; Max was hilarious.
SS: What was everyone's first Honda?
Katman: '87 Civic Si, summer of '94. Before that I had a VW bus. Eric: My first car was a '93 Acura Integra. Steve: Mine was a '88 Prelude. Katman: With the happy-face city lights! Steve: With the happy-face city lights. Lee: I had a '90 Integra. Dylan: I had a '92 Civic hatchback. Katman: I remember that, it was super dumped. Dylan: That was the car that had the BBR Competitions and the Primo sticker on it. Katman: I remember one time you had it so low on the CR-X wheels when we were on our way to the street races that the shit was just scraping on the freeway. Dylan: Were you in the car with me when the dude pulled up next to us and told me that the car was on fire? Katman: Yes! (laughing) Dylan: Yeah my muffler piping was constantly scraping. Lee: I'd see you guys at the street races sometimes and it looked like your car was air-bagged, that's how low it was.
SS: It sounds like almost all of you started with Volkswagens?
Dylan: I think so.
SS: What made you guys jump from Volkswagens to Hondas?
Dylan: I drove my brother's '93 Integra... and that was it dude! I was all about selling my squareback and getting a Civic. Katman: They're cool looking, easy to modify... and reliable. Dylan: Back then every car was a new car. There were no primered buckets running around. Steve: No rat-rods! Lee: They were expensive. I wanted a CR-X bad but they were like ten grand or more dude. I was just always the passenger going to the street races. Dylan: I paid ten grand for my Civic. Katman: That's back when Si's were a big deal.
SS: What did you guys look towards for inspiration back then?
Katman: Oh that's easy, Little Tokyo bookstores! Japanese books, Hyper Rev, J's Tipo. (laughs) Steve: Why did you giggle? Katman: Because we used to joke about that, about the "tip" of my dick. Dylan: And there were a few nice cars. I always liked Junior's car and a couple other Redline cars. Katman: The Ronald McDonald CR-X! That thing was tight. (sarcasm) Dylan: Um yeah, I was never of fan of those cars. I remember the big deal was the super sales at CarMate. That was the best car show of the year dude! That's where you'd see all the cars. Lee: I remember seeing Tony Fuch's car there!
SS: What were some of the things you guys aspired to do with your cars? Were there any parts or wheels in particular that you were like "oh shit I gotta get those!"?
Katman: Oh yeah there were the usual exterior Japanese OEM body parts. Lee: For me it was always the black Mugen RNRs, they were always the unattainable wheel. That or M7s. Steve: I think it was M7s. The M7s weren't attainable. Lee: Dude there were no M7s around. I think that they all came from Japan fairly recently. Steve: I'm sure they did, because look at how many are available now. Lee: Not that many people here bought them new. They were too expensive. They were like triple the price of a normal wheel. Dylan: And then they were off the market. I always wanted Super Fins. I love Super Fins. Lee: As far as body parts we always just wanted the stock stuff. Our cars were so low that anything we put on it, like a thousand dollar lip, would just get ripped off. Back then it was just not even feasible. Dylan: Although I was super into the Spoon parts when they first came out. The wing and the wheels. Lee: I was scared of the lip though!
SS: Why have you guys all stuck to owning and driving FWD Hondas?
Dylan: Because no one will pay me what I would want for my car! (laughs) Katman: For me I like going to the track, it's fun! Dylan: It's super fun. Katman: I'm kinda glad I got the EG. If I kept my '87 I don't know how well it would have handled. With the EG you can easily set those up for track use with all the N1 race cars or whatever we saw in the magazines. Dylan: I think had we not started going to the track we would have all sold our cars. Lee: Totally. I'm to the point where I'm done starting from scratch. Because every time you start from scratch...
SS: Yeah all the time and money Lee: Yeah. Whereas now it's done, every few months you can tweak on it and just change little things. Katman: For me that was the whole goal. We used to go to Little Tokyo and read the magazines and there would always be N1 racecars in there. I was like "dude I wish we could get on the track, that would be so fun." Lee: These two (Katman and Dylan) were the first two that went for sure. Katman: Our friend Eric Bauer kinda showed us. He brought us to a couple track events and set us up. He was like "there's a place called Speed Trials and they have track days. You just sign up and you go." Then you go early and drive the track with an instructor and learn the line. Lee: This was in the late '90s too. Katman: Like '99. Dylan: Something like that. Katman: Eric Bauer was an Internet friend from the Hybrid forum. When I got on the Internet, the Hybrid forum was the place to be. You could get all technical with swap information. Steve: You could get all Katman-del. FF Squad: (laughter) Katman: We've got history on there. Steve: On your Commodore 64?
SS: Do you guys find it more rewarding to build a car and use it as apposed to building one just to have a nice car?
Katman: I've always been like "jeez if you're gonna buy the parts why don't you use it?" y'know. I mean it's fine to show it off but it's kinda lame. You're just dropping money and meh bling-bling here and there.
SS: I sense some hostility there.
Katman: Use it y'know. Why are you gonna drop all this loot on a Mugen intake system or whatever? Lee: But you know what's funny is that almost everything we buy, because it's rare or it looks good or whatever, almost all of it makes your car work better. All the suspension and everything, the first time I went to the track I was like "god my car is badass dude!" First time there I'm already passing people, and I know it's not me, it's my car. It really really made me love my car. It made me wanna keep going with it. Katman: The other funny thing is most of the people that just buy the parts are probably thinking "man my car can probably hug a turn." But they can't hug a turn if they don't know how to hit a turn right. Lee: You have to get past the "it's my baby" stage. You have to get to the point where it just seems like a video game now and I'm just gonna try to pass everybody. Then afterwards you start realizing " damn I could have killed my car today." And sometimes you do end up killing your car. Dylan: But it's worth it. Lee: If you can afford it, it's worth it. Dylan: You can't pull one lateral G with your car parked in your garage or at a car show. Katman: But it's cool to have our cars how they are, they can be at a car show. They can do two things.
SS: There's usually a huge divide between people that show their cars and people that race their cars. It's not too often you see a car that looks good and gets used. It's cool to see you guys using your cars, especially since most, if not all of you, have your cars repainted. Once most people get paint they're too scared to track.
Steve: That's me right now. (laughs) Katman: (laughing) Lee: Steve's the guy who has the spare bumper and spare hood and all that stuff. Steve: I'm ready for the track! Lee: I told myself, any shit that happens at the track, I can live with. Dylan: It's like a war wound. Lee: Totally. Those rock chips I'm cool with. If I hit some shit on the freeway, I'm gonna be pissed. Dylan: I painted my car in '95 and I haven't touched it since. It's got a lot of rock chips from slow-ass Corvettes! Lee: And always had a really ugly hood on it until what, a year ago? The signature dented black hood.
SS: How do you guys feel about where the Honda community is now? It seems like less people are building cars now, but those who are, are a lot more hardcore.
Katman: You're right. Either people are hardcore show guys or they're into time attack and then you've got just your cruisers that throw Japanese parts on their cars. The "JDM ricers." FF Squad: (laughs) Dylan: I'm just happy that these cars have kinda created a cult following. It's a lot like the air-cooled Volkswagens to me. I know that in 20 years these cars will still be on the road. There will still be Japanese classic car shows and that's cool. Lee: The EG and DC changed the face of import cars forever. Katman: Then there's the whole Internet side, that accelerated a bunch of stuff. Dylan: I think that's awesome because you get to see so much. Steve: That's what I tripped on when I got back into it.
SS: The learning curve has changed. Now kids don't have to go through all the leg-work you guys went through.
Lee: No more trial and error.
SS: Yup the suspension is figured out, the conversions are figured out etc...
Lee: The style is figured out. Steve: But then everything is attainable now too. Lee: People are like "oh that color looks good on so-and-so's car so I'm gonna copy it." Dylan: It took a while before people started to figure out how many parts between the DC and EG were interchangeable. Lee: We used to joke that Katman's website was the instruction manual.
SS: Where do you guys see the scene going from this point forward?
Katman: It's kinda weird right now. It does seem like a lot of people are getting into road racing more. Then some are just... Steve: Tucking their engine bays. FF Squad: (laughter) Katman: You're either at the car show or you actually race your car.
SS: Have you guys noticed that even show cars now are "race-inspired?" You clearly don't have the neon undercarriage lights and tinted windows.
Dylan: Now you just have four levels of front canards! Katman: There's a little overkill on all that. Lee: But it is better than how shit was for sure. Some of it is stuff that I don't mind looking at. Trust me I save all those pictures. There is some badass stuff out there.
SS: How do you guys feel about that stuff like wire tucks and different colored engine bays and GT wings on everything and shit like that?
Lee: The engine bay thing's a little weird Dylan: Does that bother you? The different colored engine bays? That doesn't bother me at all. Lee: I think it started from like cars that have been stitch-welded and stuff. Dylan: And the harness tuck, that doesn't bother me. I think those Rywire mil/spec harnesses, those are nice man. It's nice work at least. Going in and filling all the holes in your engine bay is a little silly to me though. Katman: The original wire tuck was running carbs. Dylan: Yup folding all the extra wires up under the carbs and zip-tying them.
SS: How much longer do you see yourselves driving FWD Hondas and will this be your last?
Katman: I'll keep my EG as long as possible. Dylan: I've owned 27 FWD Hondas. (laughs) I'll probably own another 20 in the next 10 years. Katman: But you're buying an FR next week! Dylan: I mean, I love 'em. There's so many of them out there. Lee: As long as I'm going to the track I'll have my car. I wouldn't want to try and start over again. Maybe in the future my car will be a dedicated track car. Right now it's just clean and streetable. Katman: Unless someone comes along that wants to give you like fifty grand for your car, that's cool. Then you could start over on something ridiculous. Steve: It's a lot of work building a car too. Lee: We're getting too old to work on cars. We need a lift. Dylan: Steve's car we just built in the last year from two different shells. Lee: In his freakin' garage dude. Dylan: (laughs) Yeah his garage. No power tools. Steve: But that car went by pretty quick, it was simple.
SS: We appreciate you guys taking the time to sit down and talk and we also look forward to featuring more of your cars in the future!