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1998 Honda Civic - Back On Track - Project Civic

We finally get to shake down our Civic after nearly a year’s worth of new upgrades.

Nate Hassler
Feb 20, 2012
Photographer: Modified Staff
Modp 1203 01+1998 honda civic+cover Photo 1/5   |   1998 Honda Civic - Back On Track - Project Civic

Every time I start thinking about what I need to do next to dial in my Civic, my mind begins to wander. I find myself in a million places at once, because this is one of those cars where it’s never truly “done.” The reason why is simple: a lack of a plan when I first started building the car years ago and lack of funds throughout the process. Shocking as it may be, we don’t have a staff full of millionaires here at Modified — we have to do things on a tight budget! On the bright side, the plan has begun to materialize (finally). After spending the better part of the last year upgrading the car from what some people would call “hard parker status” to a car that can actually be used on track, I’ve been very happy overall with the way it has transformed. We’ve spent a lot of time in the shop wrenching on the old girl, and although the car may not look that much different on the outside, it really is a whole new beast — albeit, a beast with plenty of issues to sort out still, but let’s not stray off topic too much.

Over the course of my Civic’s transformation, one of the things that I left to the end was the suspension department. The main reason I did it like that is because the old setup was really not too bad, all things considered. However, a blown shock made me reevaluate the choice of coilovers I had on the car, and I decided to go with something new. After looking into what options I had, the best selection for what I wanted to get out of a suspension was easy to come by: KW Suspensions Variant 3 coilovers.

Because the car exists in that strange gray area between “street car” and “track car,” the KW V3 is really the ideal choice.

At first mention, you might think the V3 is a fairly mild, street-friendly suspension with its progressive spring setup, and you would be right. So what is it that I’m after here? The Civic has to perform three duties for me: drive to the track, drive on the track and drive home. Because the car exists in that strange gray area between “street car” and “track car,” the KW V3 is really the ideal choice. As soon as I got the coilovers installed, I could tell right away that the ride is more civilized. Most of that is thanks to the progressive spring, but I should also mention that I tested these coils literally “out of the box,” meaning I didn’t adjust them at all. This may sound strange, but I wanted to see how they would do as a baseline before I started jumping into the black art of fine-tuning the shocks. The V3 is a two-way adjustable shock body, meaning you can independently control both the compression and rebound stages.

After a long (but surprisingly comfortable) drive from my apartment in Venice, CA, up to the lovely and aromatic venue of Buttonwillow Raceway Park (approximately 135 miles), I was excited to see how the car would feel on track. As I pulled out of pit lane and got the car warmed up on the first lap, I could tell right away that I had made a good choice with the KW V3s. The great thing about these shocks is that you don’t really have to mess with them to make them perform fantastically from the get go. The car was incredibly well balanced through the entire track, and although it did feel a bit loose when compared to the previous setup, I realize in retrospect that the reason why it felt that way is only because the old setup was over-sprung and over-dampened. By having the car better balanced and a bit on the softer side, I can feel what the car is actually doing much better. My setup would probably benefit from a larger rear sway bar, but we’ll address that later.

Modp 1203 04+1998 honda civic+kw v3 coilovers Photo 2/5   |   Here they are in all their glory, KW Suspension Variant 3 coilovers. These bad boys qualify as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” with their street-friendly characteristics and track-tested heritage. KW has many applications available for the V3, as well as other more hardcore track-only types of setups. For a more detailed account of the installation of these shocks, please refer to the Dec. ’11 issue (“Dialing It All In”).
A fair portion of the reason why I was able to shave so much time off is due to the new suspension.

Throughout the course of the afternoon, I managed to dip into the 2:12.000 region, which is admittedly not “fast,” but it’s about 7 seconds faster than the last time I drove the car on the same track configuration and with the same tires. A fair portion of the reason why I was able to shave so much time off is due to the new suspension, but a bit more driving skill also played a role. That brings me to what I need to do next, and it’s not something car related: drive better! So that’s what I’m going to focus my energy on for the time being, taking the very capable car that I already have and bang out as many track days as I can to get my times down. Sure, there are other areas of the car that could use attention, but the honest truth of the matter is that the driver mod is the biggest thing that needs upgrading.

Sources

KW Suspension
Sanger, CA 93657
800-445-3767
www.kwsuspension.com
By Nate Hassler
180 Articles

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