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1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Not Your Typical MPG Car: Part 3

Scott Tsuneishi
Nov 22, 2013
Photographer: Cale Bunker

When last we left our beloved Honda Civic, dubbed "Project Sipper", we replaced the doors, rear hatch, and hood with a set of lightweight Seibon Carbon parts and replaced the OEM glasses with Flex-a-lite polymer windows. We also installed a number of adjustable suspension components from Blox Racing alongside a set of Suspension Techniques coilovers before our Civic was painted in Mariner Blue (DU) found on '91-93 Mazda Miatas.

1992 honda civic VX project sipper 02 Photo 2/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

If you've been following along with our vehicle build, we previously weighed the car to the tune of 1,987 pounds, a difference of 132 pounds from the factory 2,119 pounds. With our current modifications in place, we once again weighed our diet-conscious Honda and were rewarded with 1,782 pounds, an impressive loss of 337 pounds over our factory weight. With the final weight in mind, we had officially hit our intended goal of eclipsing 1,800 pounds, but being the perfectionists we are, the term lightweight is nonexistent when it comes to maximizing mpg. Follow along as we manage to pull some additional weight while addressing some key components that will help our vehicle minimize fuel consumption.

1992 honda civic VX computer scale 03 Photo 3/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

JDM Headlights

Continuing to divulge in our Civic's weight loss program, we installed a set of JDM EG '92-95 Civic headlights. The JDM headlights are designed with a plastic housing (lighter than the U.S. glass) that also eliminates the nipples on the lens to give them a nice, clean look. As an added bonus, these headlights come equipped with city lights, which is the JDM equivalent of daytime running lights.

1992 honda civic VX JDM headlight 04 Photo 4/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Brake/Clutch Master Cylinder

Prior to performing upgrades to our braking system, our Civic was in dire need of a new master brake and clutch cylinder. Inconsistent brake pedal feel (sinking feeling) and erratic clutch engagement was plaguing our vehicle test runs. A quick flush job revealed the fluids, which should resemble the color of honey, were pitch black in color, a clear indication that the fluids were contaminated and well overdue for service.

1992 honda civic VX clutch master cylinder 05 Photo 5/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX brake master cylinder 06 Photo 6/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Braking Upgrades

If you recall in our previous build segment, we made significant modifications to our vehicle's suspension. Using fully numerous Blox Racing components to dial in our suspension, it was a no-brainer that the next item on the agenda was to address our underachieving OEM rotors, pads, and brake lines.

1992 honda civic VX upgraded brake system 07 Photo 7/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

To increase braking performance, we purchased a pair of slotted/drilled front rotors, Project Mu NS400 street pads, and a set of Goodridge stainless steel brake lines. The drilled design of the rotors not only helps dissipate heat but also helps lighten the unit, while the slotted grooves clean the rotor and offer better bite and less fade during venting.

The Project Mu NS400 brake pads offer the perfect balance of performance and streetability with its hybrid pad composition. These pads are ideal in providing good stopping power while emitting low dust and squeal properties. Even though our Civic was lighter than OEM in overall curb weight, the NS400 pads still offered noticeable braking improvements over the OEM pads.

1992 honda civic VX project mu NS400 brake pads 08 Photo 8/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Over time, rubber brake hoses can become brittle and suffer from internal deterioration. Any sign of swelling or bulging is an indication that the brake hoses have become unsafe and need replacement as indicated by our 21-year-old lines. Goodridge steel braided brake lines are more durable than conventional rubber hoses and designed to easily bend and flex without bursting. The PTFE-coated inner lining (compatible with all brake fluids) is wrapped in a braided stainless steel cover to resist abrasion and corrosion, and compression-fit with AN ends to ensure a good quality seal.

1992 honda civic VX goodridge steel braided brake line 09 Photo 9/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Honda Hybrid Technology?

The beauty of owning a Honda is the ability to swap parts from different model vehicles. Case in point: a set of used '99 Honda Insight rear drums we picked up from a local junkyard for the rock-bottom price of $70 shipped for the pair.

1992 honda civic VX honda insight rear drums 10 Photo 10/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX Honda Insight Rear Drums 10

Not only were the Insight drums a direct drop-on, these aluminum pieces are also lightweight in comparison to our OEM steel drums, which saved a total of 2.9 pounds (1.45 per side). That might not sound like a lot but the savings are significant when taking into consideration that this is rotational weight loss, not to mention the cooling fins make them look cooler.

1992 honda civic VX honda insight rear drums 11 Photo 11/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX Honda Insight Rear Drums 11

Powered by Lithium Ion

It's no secret that automotive manufacturers look for any and every way to shave weight to increase fuel economy, including implementing the usage of lighter weight batteries. Braille Battery's Green-Lite GU1R is the newest within their lineup, which shares the same battery technology used in their motorsports world from F1 to Le Mans, including factory racing teams like Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette Racing, Ferrari, Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Lola, Mazda, Nissan, Porsche, and Toyota, to name a few. This lightweight lithium-ion battery with a rated 947 pulse cranking amps can charge from depleted to full charge in less than 30 minutes, save over 70 percent on battery weight, and have three times the average life cycle (up to 10 years). Weighing in at a scant 6.8 pounds in comparison to our 28-pound factory-flooded cell-type battery, not only is the GU1R more lightweight, it holds voltage longer when under a load, such as cranking the engine.

1992 honda civic VX braille battery green lite green lite GU1R 12 Photo 12/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Suspension Bushing Upgrades

When it came time to upgrade our worn-out OEM bushings with over 240K in mileage, Energy Suspension came to the rescue with their polyurethane enhancement kit. Energy's specially formulated Hyper-Flex polyurethane material ensures durability and longevity which helps to dramatically improve handling, reduce wheel hop and transfer horsepower more efficiently.

1992 honda civic VX energy suspension bushings 13 Photo 13/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Prior to our inspection, we knew we had bushing problems while driving, as the Civic's rear end was tracking back and forth on the road and exhibiting a dull clunk or heavy click from one side of the car when moving from a stopped position or applying the brakes. Heavy vibration from the chassis at speed is also a good indication that our bushings were compromised. A close-up inspection confirmed the worst-the OEM rear trailing arm bushing showed a clean tear on the rubber.

1992 honda civic VX OEM rear trailing arm 14 Photo 14/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

The experts at Energy Suspension helped to install the bushings beginning with the rear-trailing arm. Using an oxyacetylene torch, the metal case surrounding the trailing arm bushing was heated up. Energy Suspension recommends not directly burning the bushing; melting rubber and toxic black fumes can be hazardous to your health. Properly heating the outer section of the bushing will allow you to pop out the rubber in one clean piece.

1992 honda civic VX OEM rear trailing arm bushing removal 15 Photo 15/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX OEM rear trailing arm bushing removed 16 Photo 16/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Another simple, yet effective trick we learned was using a razor blade to cleanly chisel the rubber from the metal rod, while using a Vise-Grip to pull the excess pieces away.

1992 honda civic VX rubber removal 17 Photo 17/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Be sure to use liberal amounts of supplied grease before inserting the new polyurethane bushing into place. A makeshift installation kit, consisting of a simple threaded bolt and washer setup, is all you need to slip the new pieces into place.

1992 honda civic VX energy suspension bushing install 18 Photo 18/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

We also replaced the OEM shifter mount bushing. The newly installed Energy kit offered a firm and direct feel when shifting through the gears.

1992 honda civic VX shifter mount bushings 19 Photo 19/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Critical upgrades also included a full poly bushing kit for the front lower control arms.

1992 honda civic VX front lower control arm bushings 20 Photo 20/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

We checked both new and old bushings using a durometer gauge, which indicated the OEM bushing measured 60A while the Energy polyurethane was a stiffer 70A.

1992 honda civic VX durometer gauge 21 Photo 21/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Custom Alignment

Following our bushing install, we drove our car to Evasive Motorsports, based in Santa Fe Springs, for an alignment. With less than 70 miles from point A to B, we noticed uneven rear tire wear indicated by the dark wear marks on the inner portion. Using a state-of-the-art Hunter alignment system, the experienced technicians at Evasive properly addressed the vehicle's caster, camber, and toe alignment, which was important for our Civic to achieve maximum mpg.

1992 honda civic VX custom alignment 22 Photo 22/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX uneven tire wear 23 Photo 23/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

PCI Aero

Increasing fuel mileage is key to Project Sipper, but looking good is just as important. Approaching our build to encompass both form and function, we got a set of Pro Car Innovations side skirts manufactured by PCI and sold exclusively though Special Projects Motorsports. We chose these PCI alloy side skirts due to its simple-yet-complementing design for our Civic's aero package. Typically available in 5-inch height, we special ordered the skirts in a more street-friendly 4-inch design.

1992 honda civic VX pro car innovations side skirts 24 Photo 24/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

A quick removal of the factory side skirts allowed us to drill holes into the body to mount the provided brackets.

1992 honda civic VX factory side skirt removal 25 Photo 25/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper
1992 honda civic VX mounting brackets 26 Photo 26/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

We liked the fact that the side skits are easily removable via the three Allen bolt screws anytime we need to service the car or lift it from its intended jack points.

1992 honda civic VX PCI side skirts 27 Photo 27/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Cooling

Koyo Radiators has long been associated with high-performance cars and race teams around the world, but what many of us don't know is that they also make radiators for a number of OEM vehicles. When it came time to finally purchase a new radiator, we could have easily went with a race-proven double-core aluminum radiator, but in our quest to minimize vehicle weight we went with the lightest OEM-type plastic tank and aluminum core radiator.

1992 honda civic VX koyo radiators 28 Photo 28/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Fuel Injector Cleaning

Clean fuel injectors are a must for peak engine performance, fuel economy, and emissions. Dirty injectors lack the necessary means to deliver proper amounts of fuel and cannot maintain the correct spray pattern that is essential for efficient combustion. Injectors are exposed to extreme heat, which evaporates fuel from the injector surface at engine shutoff, leaving gasoline distillates to build up and bake on the nozzle, impeding fuel flow. RC Engineering specializes in inspecting, cleaning, and flowing injectors of all sizes for both street and race applications.

1992 honda civic VX fuel injector cleaning 29 Photo 29/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Our VX injectors (190cc/min) were tested to find that the No. 3 injector was showing symptoms of inconsistent flow, an issue that's typical on any high-mileage car. The injectors were cleaned and calibrated and packaged up with a set of new O-rings and intake manifold seals before being sent to our address within two working days.

1992 honda civic VX injector flow table 30 Photo 30/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX Injector Flow Table 30
1992 honda civic VX injector ffuel injectors 31 Photo 31/31   |   1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Stay tuned as we approach the final stages of Project Sipper, including engine modifications and tuning, along with additional aero modifications. With all of our hard work, the fruits of our labor will finally come down to a test on how the car will fare on our upcoming five-day road trip. The gist of our test will consist of a grueling drive-a-thon to see if our modifications have been successful in increasing the vehicle's overall mpg. We can't wait to put those hybrid cars to shame!

Sources

Energy Suspension
San Clemente, 92673
888-913-6374
http://www.energysuspension.com
Blox Racing
Fremont, CA 94538
510-440-1605
http://www.bloxracing.com
DC Sports
City of Industry, CA 91746
800-237-7560
http://www.dcsports.com
Innovate Motorsports
Irvine, CA
714-372-5910
http://www.innovatemotorsports.com
Goodridge
Torrance, CA 90501
310-533-1924
http://www.goodridge.net
Mackin Industries
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
562-946-6820
http://www.mackinindustries.com
Circuit Hero
San Diego, CA 92111
858-874-2585
http://www.circuithero.com
Seibon Carbon
City of Industry, CA 91745
877-473-4266
http://www.seiboncarbon.com
Koyo Cooling Systems
Irvine, CA 92618
949-727-7054
http://www.koyorad.com
Sparco USA
Irvine, CA 92614
800-224-7223
http://www.sparcousa.com
RC Engineering
Torrance, CA 90501
310-320-2273
http://www.rceng.com
Evasive Motorsports
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
626-336-3400
http://www.evasivemotorsports.com
Design Craft Fabrication
Westminster, CA 92683
714- 884-6566
http://www.designcraftfab.com
ST Suspensions
Sanger, CA 93657
800-445-3767
http://www.stsuspensions.com
Braille Battery
941-312-5047
www.braillebattery.com
A-Spec Products
Schaumburg, IL 90193
630-618-1100
http://www.aspecproducts.com
Pro Car Innovations
http://www.pci-eng.com
A'PEXi USA
Orange, CA 92868
714-685-5700
http://www.apexi-usa.com
Chuck's Creations
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
562-696-5757
http://www.chuckscreationsautobody.com
GPRauto
805-290-8252
http://www.gprauto.com
FCS Engineering
818-355-2113
http://www.fcsrace.com
By Scott Tsuneishi
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