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1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Not Your Typical MPG Car: Part 2

Scott Tsuneishi
Oct 1, 2013

To recap Project Sipper, we introduced our newly acquired '92 Honda Civic VX in Part 1 of our August issue with plans on building a fuel-efficient car. We set our sights on constructing a reliable daily driver that delivers excellent fuel economy but not at the expense of practicality. The plan is to build a visually appealing car with absolutely no compromise to its looks. No spaceship body kit, ugly wheel covers, or teardrop-shaped nose cones. We don't mind having a stripped interior and no audio, to go along with adding modest aero modifications if it means increasing mpg.

Continuing where we left off, we gutted the interior of the car (minus the OEM driver seat) and weighed the car to the tune of 1,987 pounds, a weight difference of 132 pounds from the factory 2,119 pounds. We decided to keep the factory A/C intact in anticipation of our final test, which will consist of a scheduled five-day road trip, taking place in the dead of summer. Yeah, we know what you're thinking. Call us little sissy boys but if our trip takes us just east across the Nevada or Arizona highway, we will gladly take the insults if it means not having to strip down and drive around in our underwear.

Accuset computerscale 02 Photo 2/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Shedding the Pounds

In a quest to shave additional weight, we spent a day at Seibon Carbon, located in the city of Industry, CA, to undergo an exterior transformation replacing the OEM doors, hatch, and hood with some lightweight carbon-fiber components. Seibon takes pride in handcrafting their products using quality carbon and resin components for a quality finish that looks good and resistant to flakes of chips. We quickly went to work and replaced the OEM pieces with a Seibon Carbon rear hatch and carbon hood.

OEM hood weight 03 Photo 3/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
Seibon carbon hood weight 04 Photo 4/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Next on the list was the installation of a set of Seibon carbon-fiber doors. Upon installation, we noticed the doors were designed with provisions to install the factory accessories, which include the door handles, panels, side mirrors, and more. Don't assume Seibon carbon-fiber doors are cheap because they're not. These doors are lightweight and strong but intended for off-road use only and should never be used on any public highways. A quick weigh-in between the OEM and Seibon unit with guts removed showed a difference of 34.8 pounds. It was interesting to note that the weight of both carbon doors was equivalent to one OEM door. Now that's lightweight!

Seibon carbon fiber doors 05 Photo 5/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
OEM vs seibon carbon door comparison 06 Photo 6/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Lightweight Glass Replacement

Flex-a-lite stepped up to the plate and supplied us with their popular three-piece molded window kit. Contrary to popular belief, the Flexite back-half kit is not made of Lexan, but a clear lightweight material, which consists of a scratch-resistant polymer that is stronger and more durable than conventional plastic. These lightweight windows are a favorite between road and drag racers, but due to their design are not intended for street use.

1992 honda civic VX flexite back half window kit 07 Photo 7/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
OEM vs flexite window kit comparison 08 Photo 8/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
Flexite rear window weighing 09 Photo 9/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Weight Loss Breakdown

Carbon-Fiber Parts
OEM Hood vs. Seibon Carbon: -10.7 pounds
OEM Doors vs. Seibon Carbon: -34.8 pounds
OEM Hatch vs. Seibon Carbon: -5.6 pounds
Carbon-Fiber Weight Savings: -51.1 pounds

OEN hatch vs seibon carbon hatch weight 10 Photo 10/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
OEN mirrors vs seibon carbon mirrors weight 11 Photo 11/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

FAL Window Kit/Aftermarket Mirrors
OEM Rear Glass vs. FAL Three-Piece Molded Window Kit: -10.5 pounds
OEM Rear Quarter-Panel Glass vs. FAL: -3.6 pounds
OEM Side Mirrors vs. Spoon-Style Mirrors: -3 pounds
Window/Mirror Weight Savings: -17.1 pounds
Total Weight Savings: -68.2 pounds

1992 honda civic VX project sipper 12 Photo 12/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX Project Sipper 12
1992 honda civic VX seibon carbon hatch 13 Photo 13/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Exterior Makeover/Bodywork

Chuck's Creations Paint and Autobody, located in Santa Fe Springs, CA, provided a fresh makeover to the Civic's body and paint. Shop owner Chuck began body and paintwork at the ripe age of 16 and has continued to hone his craft till now at the age of 64. That's a lot of years of experience!

Chucks creatins paint and autobody 14 Photo 14/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Besides the typical collision repair and OEM restorations, this family owned business also caters to the high-end performance and show car community. Working alongside his two sons, Chuck was responsible for ushering in a number of SEMA cars from last year, which included the Rally Innovation's Evo X, a Kia Forte for the Kia booth, and a Nissan GT-R on display in the Eibach Springs booth.

Chuck smoothed out years worth of dents and dings to the body panels before his son Joey prepped and painted the Civic using Mariner Blue (DU) found on the earlier-model Mazda Miata. The interior was cleaned up and resprayed using the original Honda white.

Chucks creatins paint and autobody paint booth 15 Photo 15/42   |   Chucks Creatins Paint And Autobody Paint Booth 15
1992 honda civic VX honda white interior 16 Photo 16/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX mariner blue 17 Photo 17/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Suspension Upgrades

With just enough time for the paint to cure, the Civic was dropped off to begin upgrading the suspension. After purchasing a car with over 21 years of wear and tear on the chassis, including all the rubber bushings and components, it was a no-brainer that new parts to obtain proper suspension geometry were the key to maximizing our car's mpg. To address the issue, we used a number of Blox Racing components, including a front and rear camber kit and lower control arms (LCAs).

The Blox Racing's adjustable front camber kits are designed to replace the vehicle's factory upper control arms. This allows the user to adjust the front suspension's camber settings by the sliding ball joints to properly adjust the front camber settings and prevent premature and uneven tire wear. The key for this project is to introduce the least amount of rolling resistance.

Blox racing front camber kit 18 Photo 18/42   |   Blox Racing Front Camber Kit 18

The Blox Racing LCAs, manufactured from forged 6160 aluminum are lightweight in comparison to the OEM arms, while maintaining the suspension's geometry. For adjustability purposes, we added a set of rear camber kits in conjunction with the LCAs. The forged 7075 aluminum camber kit arms enable us to alter the camber with +/-5 degrees of adjustability.

Blox racing rear lower control arm 19 Photo 19/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
Blox racing rear camber kit 20 Photo 20/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Suspension Techniques (ST) coilovers were selected to play an integral part to the vehicle's suspension. ST coilovers are constructed of high-grade steel, and heavy galvanized for great rust protection. Manufactured by KW, a name synonymous to the world of motorsports suspension, ST height adjustable coilover kits are precision engineered and road tested to the highest standards of the German TUV. It's also been scientifically proven that lowering the ride height at speed results in improvement in drag.

Suspension techniques coilovers 21 Photo 21/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
Suspension techniques coilovers 22 Photo 22/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Uncorking the Exhaust

The removal of the factory header and catalytic converter revealed the catalyst was disintegrating as noticed from the sand-like substance pouring out from the inside of canister.

Facotry header and catalytic converter 23 Photo 23/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
Factory exhaust 24 Photo 24/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

We chose the Buddy Club Spec II racing exhaust system for a number of reasons. The main reason was its lightweight design, which played into the Civic's diet plan. The other was its simple straight-through and low-profile design, which would aid in clearing our soon-to-be-installed undercarriage aero bellypan package.

Buddy club spec II racing exhaust system 25 Photo 25/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX buddy club spec II racing exhaust system 26 Photo 26/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

DC Sports 4-2-1 headers, originally designed for the D15/D16 Civic LX, EX, and Si models were retrofitted onto our VX engine to eliminate the factory catalytic. The headers' 4-2-1 design enables exhaust pulses to create additional horsepower, but more importantly enable us to tune the car with a lean A/F ratio that would otherwise melt or damage the factory catalytic converter. Due to the factory wideband O2 sensor, we extended the wires to accept the new header and tied it into the exhaust using a Blox Racing telescoping test pipe. This test pipe features a slip-fit piping design that offers adjustability and versatility in clocking angles to help accommodate different header lengths and collector angles including our new setup.

1992 honda civic VX DC sports 4 2 1 headers 27 Photo 27/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
Blox racing telescoping test pipe 28 Photo 28/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Project Sipper Upgrades

A set of custom foglight block-off plates was used to fill up the recessed hole that once housed a set of lights.

1992 honda civic VX custom foglight block off plates 29 Photo 29/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

A-Spec, located in South El Monte, CA, provided our Civic with a Personal Grinta Suede 330mm steering wheel in suede with red stitching along with a Works Bell hub adapter.

Persona grinta suede steering wheel works bell hub adapter 30 Photo 30/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

How serious are you about fuel economy and or consumption? The MPG Guino is a DIY, open-source electronic fuel economy gauge and the only unit currently on the market that will work on pre-OBD-II vehicles. The unit will display fuel consumption, engine rpm, battery voltage, current distance, current trip cost, mileage, and even quarter-mile/trap speed/acceleration/calculated horsepower for those power junkies, to name a few. The installation is straightforward and requires you to tap into the factory VSS, power, ground, and signal from an injector.

MPG guino unit 31 Photo 31/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

We installed the unit directly into a spare OEM cluster to easily monitor our vehicle's performance. The installation was time consuming but well worth the effort.

Gauge cluster comparison 32 Photo 32/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX MPG guino unit 33 Photo 33/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Another vital gauge placed in our vehicle was an A'pexi vacuum gauge. The vacuum gauge allows us to monitor throttle position. The theory behind the gauge is simple. Keep the needle as far away from 0 kPa vacuum to minimize fuel consumption.

1992 honda civic VX apexi vacuum gauge 34 Photo 34/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Additional weight loss accessories included a Circuit Hero Type-III "Teardrop" shift knob made from a lightweight Delrin composite material, OEM radio block-off plate, and OEM antenna eliminator plate.

1992 honda civic VX circuit hero type III teardrop shift knob 35 Photo 35/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX OEM radio block off plate 36 Photo 36/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX OEM antenna eliminator plate 37 Photo 37/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Slippery Slope

We removed the protective plastic on the Flexite window kit to prepare the rear wing installation. We liked the fact that the rear window helped clean up the vehicle's appearance.

1992 honda civic VX flexite window kit 38 Photo 38/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX flexite window kit 39 Photo 39/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

We used lightweight plastic rivets made of Delrin to secure the GPR Auto carbon-fiber drag wing to the stock wing.

1992 honda civic VX GPR auto carbon fiber drag wing 40 Photo 40/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX GPR auto carbon fiber drag wing 41 Photo 41/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

We're not claiming to be aerodynamicists, but installing an aftermarket rear wing was a logical decision. Most aftermarket wings have an elevated design that sticks up from the natural line of the car to initiate downforce. A design that is beneficial for road racing. The angle of the winglet or deflection will have a bearing on the amount of downforce generated. The larger the angle, the more downforce is initiated. According to the world of mpg, an ideal rear wing would be a triangular-shaped deflector (half the size of the rear hatch) on the trunk lid to use as a vortex generator. But, in all honesty, the described wing would kill the looks of our car, not to mention be the laughingstock of the community. The GPR wing is based upon a popular drag racing-style design. These wings are flat and extend out behind the rear of the car. They're designed to enhance a vehicle's straight-line stability and improve rear aerodynamics more than maximize downforce. The idea is to keep airflow from tumbling and creating a swirling vortex behind the car. Without a spoiler, swirling air behind the car can create downforce.

Stay tuned for part three, as we focus on additional aero and interesting engine modifications along with some slick mods to further decrease the overall weight of our Civic.

1992 honda civic VX engine bay 42 Photo 42/42   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper


Blox Racing
Fremont, CA 94538
DC Sports
City of Industry, CA 91746
Circuit Hero
San Diego, CA 92111
Seibon Carbon
City of Industry, CA 91745
ST Suspensions
Sanger, CA 93657
Buddy Club
Orange, CA 92865
Chuck's Creations
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
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