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1998 Honda Civic - Rat Race

Rebuilding The Rat Wad

Justin Fivella
Dec 1, 2011

If I had to describe the crew on this build in one line, it would be “angry chickens without heads, attempting to build a race car”. (I think he means “chicken heads”—SK). It all started when we received an invitation to participate in the RASR (Racer’s Against Street Racing) Media vs. Manufacturer drag race happening at the NMRA/NMCA West Coast Shootout on July 8th, 2011. For those who don’t know, NMRA and NMCA stand for National Mustang Racer’s Association and National Muscle Car Association. Our loyal readers should remember that back in issues 17 and 18, we built a ’98 Honda Civic drag car which suffered an untimely death blasting down the strip at Famoso Raceway. We vowed to bring it back and since this is our anniversary issue, we couldn’t resist. After all, showing up to a muscle car shootout in a Honda could be interesting—if not bordering on dangerous. So with a ratty chassis and a poorly-contrived plan, we hastily signed up and set off to find a new motor. But once we realized that we’d probably be the only import drag car at the event, the thought of showing up in a flat-black POS Honda and blasting a 13-second quarter-mile run, didn’t sound very impactful. Wouldn’t it be so much cooler to build a bad-to-the-bone 500+ WHP engine and truly represent the import community? I think you can see where this is going.

Ssts 110048 01+1998 honda civic rat race+side view Photo 1/1   |   1998 Honda Civic - Rat Race

Using the “it’s our anniversary issue” excuse, we suppressed the rational voice inside our heads and went for it. But as you’ll see, building a proper 500+ WHP engine is quite different than scrapping together some low-to-mid budget parts for 300 ponies of fun. Learning from our failed boosted attempt, we already knew that a stock bottom-end wasn’t going to cut it. While B-Series blocks have been proven to withstand well over 1,000 HP, the stock cylinder walls are feeble and sleeving would be required to reach our target level of power. In terms of the rotating components, the stock crank is strong but aftermarket rods and forged pistons would also be needed. While all these parts could be purchased off the shelf, finding a qualified machine shop to do the labor was more challenging. For this, we turned to RS Machine, one of the best-known Honda engine builders in town. After sending Robbie in with his strong-arm tactics, we convinced the staff at this legendary machine shop to squeeze us into their busy race-season schedule. Actually, these guys were super-cool and welcomed us into their shop, with cameras and all, making it possible for us to document the engine building part of this story.

After covering the work at RS, we set out find the legendary Myles Bautista in hopes of suckering him into building us a custom front-mount turbo manifold for our freshly sourced Garrett GT4094R turbo. Yes, we’re talking about the one and only Myles Bautista, former drag racer and founder of Rev Hard Racing. Having taken time off to focus on his family, we found Myles hiding out in the high desert, dropping mad old skool knowledge on the post-JDM generation. Although we hated the commute to his shop in Temecula, having the chance to work with Myles was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience that none of us will ever forget.

For the third part of the build, we returned home to complete the assembly of the car. With the crew working day jobs for a living, most of the work had to be completed during the graveyard shift. Practically living at the shop as indentured servants, we saw the best and worst of each team member. As we bordered on the verge of failure, each person’s true character rose to the surface. Somehow we survived and managed to keep the team intact, at least long enough to make it to the main event.

This build was by no means average and neither is this story. In an effort to bring you closer into our world, we decided to present this story in the form of a chronicle beginning one month before the race. While one month to prep a car sounds like a reasonable amount of time, things never go as planned... especially when you’re working in the Project Car garage.

By Justin Fivella
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