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1988 Honda Civic - Introducing Project Backmarker

Our New, Old, 1988 Honda Civic DX.

Andy Hope
Jun 9, 2009
Photographer: Henry De Kuyper

A backmarker is a car or driver that falls a lap down to the leader of a race. As if that weren’t bad enough, the rules apply to them a little differently. Backmarkers have an ethical obligation to get out of the way of the real race because they are no longer considered competitors but instead are mere obstacles. In fact, the only time that it’s good to be seen as a backmarker is when you have a secret advantage. For example, you may be in an enduro and be ahead on your fuel stops, or you may be straight up trying to hustle people at a time attack or togue competition.

Sadly, the car you see here has yet to achieve backmarker status. With its expired racing seat and factory seatbelt, it’s not even legal to be driven on a racetrack. And with its bone-stock, 82-whp motor and dragging mudflaps it would likely be black-flagged before the leaders had a chance to lap it. No, my Civic is not a track car, it’s not even a good canyon car. On a recent joy ride in the local mountains, I was constantly stuck in traffic. I couldn’t get close to the cars in front of me for fear of debris damaging my paint, so they never pulled into the turn-outs. Then all of the passing lanes were uphill, where any attempts at overtaking led to awkward merges and obscene gestures.

2018 Honda Civic
$18,940 Base Model (MSRP) 28/40 MPG Fuel Economy

Some people might accuse this car of being built for hard parking; the act of parking somewhere, then trying to look cool by standing next to your parked car. However, parking this car has proved to be a little too hard. Typically, I end up trolling shopping centers looking for just the right spot where my car won’t be damaged or molested. This has resulted in beer runs being aborted as often as they’re completed.

If there’s one thing this car is exceptionally good at, it’s cruising. In its current state, this 20-year-old Honda is much more lowrider than sport compact. Wherever it goes, this thing turns heads. And I don’t feel bad enjoying it because it took a lot of work to get it to look the way it does. So if I come off as a little too proud, I apologize in advance.

While the body was in remarkably good shape when I bought it, each panel still had to be massaged to perfection before it could be painted black. This task fell on the shoulders of my good friend, Marc Maksimow, who spent the better part of last summer prepping and painting it. The JDM SiR front-end conversion was sourced through Password:JDM. This included a brand-new bumper cover in the front and was capped off in the rear with an SiR roof spoiler. Other than shaving the antenna, tinting the bumper lights orange and painting the moldings in satin black, the body is an exact replica of what would have been seen at a Japanese Honda dealership a few decades ago. It even has all-new window moldings and a fresh PPG windshield. The only thing that’ll eat at the JDM purists are the USDM taillights, which in my opinion, look better than the JDM versions once the ambers are lit.

The accessories that I’m most proud of are the wheels. They are Precedio Circuit Speck Tunes, which I purchased in 1993 from a little shop called Car Mate before it turned into the wholesale distributor now known as Options. With freshly polished barrels, slightly darker powdercoated faces and a new set of ARP wheel rivets, they look better than they did new. They’re wrapped with Toyo R1R tires and suspended by Mugen N1 coilovers. An HKS exhaust quietly purrs from underneath while a 10-inch Bazooka tube booms to nothing but period-correct beats.

The car came together exactly as I’d hoped it would. My man Snoop might say it’s, “unfadeable, so please don’t try to fade this.” Back to the lecture at hand, however, there is an undeniable vulnerability to the car as it sits. While it may be unfadeable, it’s still clownable. As gratifying as it is to get a nod of respect from someone who appreciates the car’s aesthetics, that feeling is not as satisfying as it will be to break off those who are less respectful.

So with that, I introduce Project Backmarker. In the coming issues, we’re going to bring this hatch up to speed. For those not familiar with the chassis, think of it as a lighter Type-R Integra with an arguably superior front suspension design. With its vintage show car looks, it should be interesting to see what modern machinery we can beat with it.

By Andy Hope
29 Articles

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