In the hot rod community it seems that almost everyone knows someone who has found a low-mileage jewel, a little dirty but complete, in a farmer's barn in the Midwest. For the purists who find them, the car gets a bath, a thorough tune-up and some new rubber and it's off to the cruise spot. But finding an unmolested example of a classic is getting harder and harder.
With the drive-it-hard-and-put-it-away-wet attitude during the early years of import performance, the import world may not have so many examples tucked away from prying eyes and fidgety hands. One such example that has escaped a hard past is this old-school-to-the-core Honda CRX Si turbo.
Working as a landscaper in Connecticut, Michael Taylor spent a lot of time on the road and in people's yards. One such trip led him past a CRX with a for sale sign on it. The asking price was $16,000. Michael noticed a heat exchanger-a trans cooler, he surmised-behind the front grille and a roll bar inside, but that was it. The price seemed quite steep, but he wrote down the number and went on his way.
The man on the other end of the phone number was Serge Harabosky. Serge was having some medical problems that ultimately lead to his decision to sell the CRX. Over time Michael and Serge became friends and talked about turbos and race cars and the like for hours on end. After hearing Michael's plan to just clean it up if he ever got the funds together to purchase the car Serge gave him the car. We guess the kids who came around and fantasized aloud about putting NOS and 20s on it was too much for Serge to take.
Serge owned a company called A*T Engineering and the CRX was built as a project car for Road & Track magazine, appearing in the July, 1989 issue. If you are confused as to why R & T would do a feature on a rather sedate-looking CRX, that isn't a trans cooler behind the front grille; it's an intercooler for the turbo. According to the R & T article, Serge's turbo system transformed the pretty-darn-good-to-begin-with CRX into one that was "utterly grab-your-seat belts splendiferous!"
This wasn't some half-assed, cobbled-together turbo system, either. After taking delivery of the CRX, Serge had driven to CarTech in Dallas to have turbo-guru Corky Bell design and build the system. Not ones to rush into things, the process took more than eight months. From this time emerged a turbo system that enhanced the Si's engine with an adult refinement, not the lead-footed max-boost attitude of a delinquent. Peaking at 6 psi of boost, the kit was used as a stand-alone bolt-on, with no internal work to the engine to be done.
A Roto-Master turbocharger is the heart of the system. Regulating boost pressure is a Rajay remote wastegate. Only four inches from the throttle body is the water-to-air intercooler. The only modification needed to get the intercooler that close to the throttle body was to relocate the battery to the rear hatch area. Additional fuel was added by way of a Cartech fuel pressure regulator.
The plumbing and layout of the hardware don't look like anything on the market today, but in its time it did the job. And what a wonderful job it did. Power output jumped from the stock 105 bhp to a boosted 175 bhp-a 60 percent jump in power. Not bad by any standards. When not on boost, the Si behaves like one would expect from a stock Honda drivetrain, with perfectly fluid drivability.
A,*T Engineering designed the CRX to be much more than just a turbo car. It had plans for the whole car. To that end, a Centerforce clutch was added to handle the extra ponies. The stock shocks were tossed in favor of prototype Tokico five-way adjustable shocks. Later, Tokico would release production versions of these shocks under their "Illumina" line. Working in tandem with the shocks are 20 percent stiffer progressively wound springs, which also lower the car 7/8 inches.
With all that newfound power and track-ready suspension under the CRX, it wouldn't make sense to leave on skinny 13-inch wheels and tires. The wheels chosen are MSW honeycomb rims, sized 15x6. Wrapped around those same wheels today is a set of Falken Zeix 205/50 tires. Originally, the CRX came with Yokohama AVS 195/50VR-15 tires.
Cosmetics and aerodynamics were addressed with the addition of a full body kit from Xenon, made from ABS. The kit included a full front nose, side skirts and tail section. According to Mr. Taylor, the Xenon kit was one of the first produced. From a distance the kit looks and fits great, accentuating the stock lines. Upon close inspection though, there are some ripples and minor imperfections.
The interior got its share of attention as well. The SCCA-legal roll bar from Auto Power gives away only a hint of what lurks beneath the hood. Low on the driver's side a-pillar resides a VDO boost gauge. The driver's hands and feet operate the MOMO steering wheel, shift knob and pedals.
True to his word, Michael is cleaning up and restoring a piece of import history. The car sat for a long time before he took possession so there was plenty of work to be done. To start with, Michael sent the turbo to Majestic Turbo for a complete rebuild. To take care of the rust and crud buildup on the piping, they were sent over to Custom Coatings of CT for a ceramic coating. By the time this issue hits the stands, a new body kit from Xenon should be installed by Eric and Ken at Crittellis' Auto Body, Danbury, Conn. Wayne at Wayne Jones Performance has helped with additional restoration and advice.
Michael takes the CRX out when he can and gets a lot of looks when he does. The Taylor's son, Chance, loves riding in anything turbo'd. He asks dad to make it so he can hear the blow-off valve. Sounds like he is definitely his father's son, and mother's son too. Samantha Taylor is a very special woman. She puts up with more than most would; combined, they have five cars.
Maybe by the time Chance is behind the wheel of this classic CRX Si, making blow-off valve noises himself, the classic import market will be in full bloom. Until then, kudos to Michael Taylor for saving a piece of import history to share with the rest of us.