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1997 Honda Civic LXi - Function On Form

This 4-Door EK Civic Packs Enough Power to Give the Term “Hardparking” a New Meaning.

Brad Lord
Aug 29, 2012
Photographer: Alastair Ritchie
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Stance. Love or loathe the sub-culture built mostly around wheel fitment and ride height, I’m sure there aren’t too many people who don’t agree that a car that fills out its fenders both horizontally and vertically, is a whole lot nicer on the eye than one that does not. But as this ’97 Civic EK sedan all the way from New Zealand goes to prove, achieving perfect street stance doesn’t necessarily need to get in the way of functionality. It just takes a bit of thought.

The Civic’s owner, 28 year-old Anthony Wong, is no stranger to tuning Hondas. Almost a decade ago his EK4 NZDM VTi-R (aka JDM SiR) hatch graced the cover of New Zealand’s premier tuner magazine, and in between then and now he’s owned a bunch more noteworthy rides including a JDM ‘02 EP3 Civic Type R and a JDM ’90 Civic EF9 SiR that was restored and slammed silly on Work Meisters. But through it all the idea of building a K-powered EK sedan for street duties and the odd circuit session is something that’s never escaped his thoughts.

“The EK four-door always appealed to me,” says Anthony when questioned on chassis choice. And the inspiration for the K20A re-power? “That came from a guy in Cali called Danny who was one of the original guys to do a K-swap into a Civic. I’ve followed what he’s been doing for a long time now, and always thought how cool that would be to have something I can go for a cruise in with the boys, yet still be able to track.”

The build actually began around eight years ago, but before he had really got anywhere, the donor car—a NZDM EK1 LXi—was sold on and Anthony turned his attention to other projects. In mid-2011 he bought it back and set about seeing through the long-time vision. Right from the get go, the way the car came together as a complete package was a high priority. And wheel fitment was something at the top of that list. Back in the day, Anthony kicked around with the All Motor Group—a crew at the forefront of Honda street tuning. “The old Indonesian boys in the group, Ricky and Dommy, were really ahead of their time when it came wheel fitment and ride heights,” he explains. “We called it ‘Indo Stance’ back then and from that point on I’ve always favored nice wheels with plenty of width and dish.”

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Sticking to the plan Anthony’s first point of business was to collect all the necessary hardware to complete the engine swap. A donor engine was the key ingredient of course, and that was pulled from a locally sourced JDM-spec DC5 Integra Type R, complete with its LSD-equipped six-speed close-ratio tranny and suitably sized drive shafts. For a low-fuss fit and power upgrades, however, Anthony turned to stateside K-series specialists ALL IN Fabrication and Hybrid Racing. Hybrid supplied the required K-series-engine-to-EK-series-chassis mounts along with a new fuel rail, fuel filter, 1.75-inch (70mm throttle body), a conversion wiring harness and one of its trick shift box kits. ALL IN supplied its branded PRO inlet manifold complete with extended runners, an intake pipe with velocity stack and filter and—on the other side of the engine— a 4-1 header that runs into a one-off, Kiwi-made Sinco Customs exhaust system.

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Tuning was left in the capable hands of Rally AS’s Andrew Short—a Kiwi K-series engine building and tuning pro who managed to coax 224whp at 8200rpm from the package utilizing the abilities of Hondata’s revered K-Pro programmable ECU. According to the tuner, the limiting factor of Anthony’s current set up are the OEM injectors, which are currently performing at 97 percent duty cycle. An upgrade here would at least free up a few more ponies, and probably push output into the 230whp+ zone with a retune.

A small jump isn’t of much interest to Anthony who is already resigned to fact that when he next lays a finger on the engine it won’t just be the injectors that are upgraded but the cylinder head, too. If and when that happens 260 to 270whp should be on the cards.

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Like the clean engine bay, Anthony had clear ideas about what the Honda should look like on the inside and outside, too. High on that tick list, was a exterior upgrade using OEM Type R gear from Honda’s parts bin, something evidenced now by the brand-new JDM EK9 Civic front end conversion which has added fenders, hood, bumper and fresh-out-of-the-box headlights. Then there are the details: a Spoon carbon-fiber front lip, deleted aerial and badges, and sedan rear door handles (sans locks) slotted into the front doors. But the subtle body enhancements are even less obvious. “It’s even hard for the hardcore Honda guys to pick, but the rear guards [fenders], rear bumper and back doors have been heavily modified,” says Anthony. “The guy that painted the car for me—Paul Swanson—also rolled the guards and doors to match as well as flaring the rear bumper so everything lined up without altering the OEM lines and door gaps. The job he did really has to be seen to be appreciated.”

The fender work was in preparation for what is one the defining aspects of the Civic—neatly tucked 17-inch BBS LM wheels. Fake wheels were never an option. “I’ve always loved BBS wheels ever since I was first introduced to them,” explains Anthony. “To me the RS and the LM versions are both classic and timeless.” Previously owned by another All Motor Group member, the wheels were down stripped down and rebuilt. The barrels were machined and the faces were repainted and reverse-mounted before being screwed back together with a fresh set of BBS bolts. Five-lug hubs from an EK9 Civic Type R made fitting the wheels a cinch.

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The three-inch lowered ride height is achieved through Skunk2 Pro-C coilovers and Buddy Club camber kits front and rear. Even fully laden with the crew there’s zero tire rub at the rear end, but up front the headlight casings haven’t been so lucky. The tires don’t hit at full-lock now, but only because they’ve previously worn perfectly-shaped indents into moldings. Anthony’s hopeful that they won’t rub through, but it’s a small price to pay for a low static stance. On the flipside, making sure the car has the ability to perform when the opportunity presents itself a full course of performance urethane bushes from the Nolathane catalog found their way onto the Civic’s underside. Adding to the cause Progress Technology anti-sway bars are bolted up at both ends and the trunk is home to an AM Racing ‘Z’ stabilizer bar. Unsurprisingly, the LXi’s puny front discs and rear drum brakes have given way to a Wilwood Superlite four-pot caliper and 310mm rotor upgrade at the front, and an EK9 disc set up out the back.

The high-quality and 100 percent genuine fit-out extends to the interior space where a pair of Kevlar-framed

Stradia seats from Bride’s Low Max series take center stage, flanked by Takata belts strapped to a custom fabricated Wong’s Engineering polished harness bar.

Almost a decade after first envisaging the build, the Civic’s nut and bolt reincarnation came together in a short five-month timeframe. Three months were spent on the body work prep and paint, one month was spent sorting the custom fabricated parts, and final assembly happened over a four-week sprint to completion over late December and early January this year—just in time for the car to make its public debut at the biggest import show on the New Zealand calendar—the annual 4&Rotary Nationals—a drop jaws.

Anthony’s Civic might not be the most modified of its breed by any stretch of the imagination. But there’s no denying it’s a very well put together machine that combines the best of form and function in one slick, quick and totally street-able package. Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds…

Tuning Menu
1997 Honda Civic LXi
Owner Anthony Wong
Hometown Hamilton, New Zealand
Occupation Owner of Wong’s Kitchen
Power 224whp
Engine JDM DC5R K20A 2.0L DOHC 16-valve iVTEC; ALL IN Fabrication PRO inlet manifold with extended runners; Hybrid Racing 70mm throttle body; ALL IN Fabrication Vibrant Clamp; ALL IN Fabrication intake pipe with velocity stack and filter; Walbro 500hp fuel pump; AEM adjustable fuel regulator; Hybrid Racing fuel rail; Hybrid Racing braided fuel lines with AN fittings; Hybrid Racing fuel filter; ALL IN Fabrication 4-1 header; ALL IN Fabrication tucked radiator; Hybrid Racing conversion harness; Wong’s Engineering custom battery box, custom radiator and breather can set up; Buddy Club dry cell battery; Sinco Customs 3-inch exhaust system; N1 muffler; shaved engine bay
Drivetrain JDM DC5R Integra Type R six-speed LSD gearbox; Hybrid Racing short shifter; JDM DC5R drive shafts; Xtreme full-face ceramic clutch plate; uprated pressure plate
Engine Management Hondata K-Pro Footwork & Chassis Skunk2 Pro-C coil-over dampers with 14kg/10kg springs; OEM JDM EK9 Civic Type R five-stud hubs; Progress Technology anti-sway bars; Nolathane bushes; AM Racing rear boot ‘Z’ stabilizer strut bar; Buddy Club raised ball joint kit, front/rear camber kit
Brakes Wilwood Superlite 4-pot calipers, Wilwood 310mm rotors (front); OEM JDM EK9 Civic Type R rear calipers and rotors (rear); Goodridge stainless steel brake lines
Wheels & Tires Street: BBS LM 17x8.5" 2-piece forged alloys, Goodyear Eagle F1 205/40R17 tires (front); BBS LM 17x9" 2-piece forged alloys, Goodyear Eagle F1 205/40R17 tires (rear); Track: Enkei RP-F1 17x9" alloys; Falken RT615 tires (front/rear)
Exterior JDM EK9 Civic Type R front end conversion; Spoon Sports carbon-fiber front lip; rolled fenders; custom Wong’s Kitchen Fire Red three-layer DuPont candy pearl paint
WWW buddyclub.us; hondata.com; hybrid-racing.com

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By Brad Lord
19 Articles

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