Everyone dreams. Even with insomnia, I dream of one day owning a Porsche 911 twin-turbo. Shredding the tires in first, second and third gear blazing down the Autobahn doing a buck seventy, then downshifting through the gearbox, firm on the brakes while feathering the accelerator, hitting the apex just right and then jamming the gas out of the turn. Yes, I do dream. The reality of owning Stuttgart's finest might be a bit far-fetched for some, but the deal with my girlfriend is bound to go through; 911 twin-turbo for me, house for her-yeah right.
Like me, John Engelcke, a Seattle resident, also dreamed of owning a fast sports car. At the young-at-heart age of 50, Engelcke decided that it was time to build the dream. After looking at some of the prices of sports cars, including a 911 twin-turbo, his visions of grandeur started to dwindle. While shopping at the local supermarket, he stopped by the magazine aisle (as many of us do) and started to scan through some classifieds and that is where he spotted his first glimpse of reality. He stumbled upon Turbo & High-Tech Performance. Engelcke carefully went through the magazine from page to page and an idea dawned upon him. His brand spanking new Civic hatchback parked in the supermarket's parking lot could be transformed into the sports car of his dreams.
After doing some extensive research, he called JG Engine Dynamics of Alhambra, Calif. to enlist its services. He explained to owner Javier Guttierez that he wanted the turn his Civic DX to the ultimate street car. The two came up with a game plan, the keys were turned over to JG and the ball was off and rolling. First on the list was removing the whimpy 1.6-liter DX engine and replacing it with a B18C DOHC VTEC powerplant. Before the B18C would call the Civic engine bay its home, it was going to need some fortification to handle boosted duty. The bottom-end was stripped of all goods and the bare block received JG's Generation 2 Pro Series treatment. The Generation 2 treatment included CNC-boring the coolant jacket and pressing a CNC-generated aluminum girdle into place. The stock sleeves were then machined out and replaced with thicker ductile iron units. Each sleeve received precision boring and honing as they would become home to a set of 10.0:1 compression forged JE pistons. A micro-polished stock crankshaft swings a set of forged Eagle Specialty Product connecting rods, increasing the engine's durability envelope. The bottom-end was blueprinted and assembled with new bearings and seals to ensure longevity.
The top-half of the engine would also endure the JG Generation 2 treatment. With the head stripped of all amenities, it was hot-tanked and cleaned prior to any porting or polishing. Every JG cylinder head is resurfaced and given a five-angle valve job before any valvetrain parts are installed. To prevent any valves from floating at high engine speeds, a complete JG/Edelbrock valvetrain was installed, which includes stainless-steel valves, high-tension springs and titanium retainers. Valvetrain orchestration is handled by a pair of JG/Edelbrock billet camshafts and adjustable cam gears.
A custom JG Engine Dynamics turbo kit provides the necessary airflow for power production. Spent gases from the combustion chamber are gathered by a JG/Edelbrock T4 turbo manifold, which secures a custom-sized XS Engineering T04S turbocharger. To prevent any boost spikes from occurring, a Tial wastegate and APEXi AVC-D boost controller are on call. Freshly compressed charge air is fed into a XS Engineering GT-R-sized front-mount intercooler through 2.5-inch I/C piping. The XS bar-and-plate design chiller offers ample chilling time for the charge air before it is force-fed into a prototype JG Edelbrock intake manifold. The intake manifold incorporates a large plenum and velocity intake runner design for even charge air distribution into all cylinders.
On the fuel front, a set of 900cc squirters inject 92-octane juice just before the combustion chamber. Ensuring enough fuel is present in the custom JG fuel rail, a high-flow, in-tank fuel pump and Paxton fuel pressure regulator have replaced their factory counterparts. To prevent any misfires and promote engine efficiency, the ignition system has been upgraded with an MSD 6A ignition box and Blaster 3 coil. The amplified charge is then transferred via NGK wires to the Denso Iridium spark plugs, which ignite the highly compressed mixture. Ignition and fuel maps are handled by a top-notch Motec M4 Pro stand-alone engine management system. The engine and turbo combination was good for 294.2 hp on the Dynojet at 9 psi of boost on pump gas. As if the horsepower figure was not impressive enough, around-the-town-driving was incredible. Below 4,000 rpm, the car drove like stock with no hesitation or stumbles commonly found with large injectors and stand-alone engine managements.
With so much invested into the Honda, one would be crazy to loan it out. But we were fortunate enough to beat on, err, we mean casually drive, the Civic for a week. The Civic eagerly pulls at any rpm when the throttle is smashed, screaming toward its 9,500-rpm redline. From 5,000 to 9,500 rpm, your head is instantly pushed to the back of the seat and that is with three passengers in the car. First gear is short lived as the 10,000 rpm Auto Meter tach quickly reaches the end of its sweep. Slam the gearbox in second and your body starts sinking into the custom wrapped leather seats. Third feels crazy-fast, as you're doing about 100 mph as you speed shift into fourth. The pull in fourth gear feels as hard as second, as the needle again reaches the 9,500 rpm shift point, your nerves starts to show, you quickly depress the clutch and let off the accelerator to stop from going any faster. Let us just say 9,500 rpm in fourth gear is fast enough for anybody, unless you are certifiably insane. Even with its insane performance potential under the hood, the Civic is rather civilized on the street when it wants to be. Under 3,500 rpm, the Civic drives like stock with ample torque to bring the 2,500-lb. hatchback to street-legal speeds. Thanks to the MoTeC's sequential fire fuel management, the extra-large 900cc squirters didn't cause any hesitation or sputter throughout the powerband and the dyno curve proves it. The B18C could be at part throttle at 3,000 rpm or full load at 8,000 rpm, the engine just produced a harmonious sound comparable with a symphony orchestra. Even in 90-degree Southern California weather, the temp gauge barely moved past the quarter mark. With escalating gas prices (nearing $2.45 as this goes to the print), the Civic was still able to perform rather well at the pump, cruising to 20-plus miles per gallon on the highway. Not bad for a car capable of clicking effortless 12s at the track. The Civic's dual personality can easily fool onlookers with its timid appeal, but one stomp of the pedal and you're history.
With the exception of the 17-inch Volk AV-3s and a Tanabe canister, the Civic personifies the perfect sleeper status. The stock purple paint job and DX emblem screams "I'm slow, race me," but challengers are in for a shock. Although the Civic might not resemble the 911 we all dream of, it will surely get you in trouble just as quickly. The 911 dream is still far from reality, but for John Engelcke, his sports car dream has come true.