Speaking as a true Honda enthusiast, it’s great to see how our subculture has come full circle worldwide. Within the last couple of years, it’s become very apparent that the entire landscape has shifted. We were all once utterly captivated by the Japanese and how they built their Hondas. Realistically, the whole American Honda community’s foundation was based on how Hondas were built in Japan. We owe everything to what the Japanese have accomplished and they will forever be an inspiration to us when it comes to building imports. We have grown over the years, though—and while JDM once reigned supreme, our community has shifted toward an entirely new direction. Japan-specific parts are still popular but American enthusiasts have found other ways to express themselves. You can’t complete your Honda build without having shaved, tucked or had something custom fabricated, and then there are others who are content with going all aesthetics for style. Low-offset wheels and the overall stance of a car have become so popular that it spawned its own subgroup.
In Japan, things haven’t really changed. As a whole, Hondas are still very racecar or track-oriented. People are mostly concerned only with functionality and tuning shops actually use their products for their actual purpose. Shops like Spoon Sports, J’s Racing, and FEEL’s Twin Cam are still going strong because their outlook on the Honda brand remains unaltered. If anything, their business plan has improved because their products are more readily available worldwide. Where the pursuit of function has endured, an entirely new group of Japanese Honda enthusiasts have come to be. This group is not so much concerned with functionality because they have adapted the mindset of those Americans who seek to build their Honda for style. They want to have American-made products, low stance and aggressive wheel fitment. Americans will never claim ownership to creating the “Hellaflush” style; after all, the Japanese have also been doing the same for years, as well as Euro enthusiasts. We can, however, take credit for making it unbelievably popular. That may be a good or bad thing, depending on which end of the spectrum you exist on in the matter, but stance and wheel fitment has become a worldwide phenomenon.
The American Honda community is very brash, and we want people to see what we have built in almost a braggadocios manner. We are a very competitive group and our Hondas represent that. You may not notice because you are in your element. We as Americans are very proud people. The Japanese, well, they are a little more reserved. They like to remain in control, fly low-key and they express themselves differently than Americans. Some Japanese have taken a liking to our automotive style because it is unlike their own. It’s different and new—all of a sudden, USDM-style has become cool. Cultural differences notwithstanding, the people of Japan have long been interested in American culture. They are interested in what we wear, eat or even how we decorate a house—everything we do just seems “bigger and better”.
Realizing their fascination with American culture, one would almost expect them to eventually adapt our automotive approach. The power of the Internet has helped to speed up the process, but the USDM scene has definitely found a home in Japan. USDM-style has also experienced a significant amount of growth in the last couple of years. It’s unlikely to ever catch up in size with the more traditional Japanese Honda community, but USDM Honda buffs are undoubtedly an established group. It’s interesting to see how ideas are exchanged between two different cultures and that’s why we say that we are happy to see how things have come full circle. Once upon a time we all looked to Japan for our automotive inspiration—how crazy is it now to see that they are looking back to us with the same fervor?
Taku Kusugami is a Japanese enthusiast that has developed a great deal of appreciation for USDM-styled Hondas. He and his close friends are all big Honda heads that have taken on the challenge of building their Hondas to achieve the American look. As you can see from the photos laid-out before you, Kusugami-san is also really into aggressive wheel fitment. His EK4 Civic SiR sits very low to the ground with Ennepetal (Bilstein Japan) coilovers. The ride height in conjunction with the negative camber from the 17-inch Work Meister wheels is more than capable of earning approval from stance fanatics from around the world. What sets him apart from your casual Hellaflush aficionado is that his Civic also doubles as his weekend track toy. Taku has taken elements from both his love of speed and style and fused them together into this EK4. This Civic is the best of both worlds—traditional Japanese functionality combined with popular American form.
The exterior of this Civic has been repainted a bronze tone, but keeps a mostly stock-ish appearance. He devised the aesthetics of his hatchback in such a way that it would shine in both Japan and the US. It hosts a couple pieces from an OEM EK9 Civic Type R, a vented carbon fiber hood and widened fiberglass front fenders to house the 9-inch wide wheels. Unlike many of the stanced-out FWD Hondas in America, the wider wheels are positioned up front. The front-staggered set-up might seem odd to some, but it is actually the correct way to mount them on a FF (front-engine, front wheel drive) car. Traditional Honda race cars have been known to run a front stagger because of better contact patch and tire selection. Even so, you wouldn’t think that this Civic rips at local circuit events until you spot the massive 4-pot Endless front brakes. Under the carbon hood is a fully balanced and blueprinted B20B/VTEC swap. The Frankenstein motor, built by Tactical Art, features a Mugen 4-1 header, custom exhaust and Top Fuel’s “Tsuchinoko” air intake. Kusugami expressed to us how proud he was of the overall balance of his car, both on a closed circuit race track and on the streets. He’s even kept the air conditioning, just in case he wants to cruise the streets of Japan during the summer.
Leave it to the Japanese people to draw inspiration from us, then turn around and build a Honda using our ideas and coming up with a better end result. The aggressive wheel fitment and extreme ride height might be overkill, but that isn’t all this build has to offer. There’s a little bit of something here for every Honda lover and it would be a serious discredit to Kusugami-san and the Tactical Art crew if you thought otherwise. See this EK as we do: a very well-rounded, functional Honda that expresses cultural-ambiguity. JDM, USDM, tsuraichi, “Hellaflush”, it doesn’t matter—in this instance, they are all one in the same.
1996 Honda Civic SiR (EK4)
Owner Taku Kusugami
Hometown Nagoya City, Aichi, Japan
Occupation Manager at Craft Tire & Wheel
Engine 2.0L Honda B20B engine block, B18C cylinder head; fully balanced/blueprinted engine; OEM Honda B16B camshafts, B20B connecting rods, crankshaft and B16A valves; Tactical Art-spec pistons, piston rings and valve springs; ported & polished cylinder head; knive-edged crankshaft; Mazda FD3S RX-7 fuel pump; adjustable fuel pressure regulator and large diameter throttle body; Top Fuel Tsuchinoko air intake; custom one-off exhaust system; Mugen 4-1 header; Nagai Denshi silicone spark plug wires; NGK spark plugs; Koyo radiator; GReddy oil cooler
Drivetrain Exedy Hyper Single clutch; TODA Racing lightweight flywheel; Cusco limited-slip differential
Footwork & Chassis Ennepetal (Bilstein Japan) EB10 dampers; Swift springs; Mugen front/rear anti-roll bars; Spoon Sports rear shock tower brace; Vision suspension bushings; customized steering knuckle arms and adjustable upper control arms
Brakes Endless 4-pot front big brake kit, CC-RG front brake pads and CC-X rear brake pads; Earl’s brake lines
Wheels & Tires 17x9" +25 Work Meister S1 (front), 16x8" +5 Work Meister S1 (rear); Bridgestone Potenza tires
Exterior BMW Sepang Bronze paint; LED rear taillights; carbon-fiber hood; Shift Sports front fenders; OEM EK9 Civic rear lip, rear wing and front grille; Aerocatch hood pins
Interior Bride seats; Omori analog gauges; MOMO Drift steering wheel; custom rollcage
Thanks you Atuki Tubouti, Yasutaka Shimomoukai and Tactical Art
WWW tactical-art.jp; workwheelsusa.com