My Other Car

Posted: May 23, 2011 in Miscellaneous

We have a complainer in our house – she very much likes to complain that I don’t treat her right.  I’m not talking about the wife but my real daily driver.  The one who shuffles me around quick enough to leave a grin on my face.  The one I take to most DEs now that the real primadonna sleeps comfortably in a climate controlled garage over 400 miles away where she is played a lullaby each night before going to sleep.

Yes – she’s not a sports car but has the heart of one.  Imagine if I described her without saying what brand car she was…she has 4 wheel, formula 1 derived, double-wishbone suspension setup with adjustable coilovers at each wheel; beefy front and rear anti sway bars; she is small and light and agile; has big brakes at all 4 corners with racing pads, lines and rotors borrowed; her heart is made mainly of aluminum, with parts of molybdenum and other critical materials with technology also derived from F1 (in fact she bears one of the first production variable valve timing engines sold to the public); did I also mention she has a screeching 7,500 rpm redline in which she reaches with little effort and a wail to send shivers down your spine!  If you guessed she is a lowly Civic you are right – but after driving or riding it…you are oh so wrong.

My favorite car was an ’85 Prelude that I help pay for when I was young – my first sporty car (an Olds Omega and Dodge 600 don’t count).  Since then I had an ’88 CRX HF which I put in an Si motor myself and loved it.  However, my real love was the slightly more utilitarian hatchback – thus led my quest for one in good shape (not easy when these cars are 20 years old and were budget priced back then).  So I looked for several years trying to find nice local example I could rebuild – however most have been plundered and abused; rusted and mistreated.  I wound up having to buy one from a used car dealer near San Francisco and have it shipped out to me unseen.  I initially toyed with the idea of flying out and driving back, however in the condition she arrived I’m glad I did not.  Ever ship a car with 200k miles that was used as a daily driver?  Well you’ll get a 5 page sheet in 8 point font from the shipper with figurative lists of all her exterior defects.  She didn’t start so needed a jump – she shaked and rattled the whole way home – sometimes worrying I’ll make it at all.  She came with stock 13″ wheels with 2 tires that were badly corded and a 90 hp (when new) engine that had well over 200k miles on it.  She still ran ok but she sure needed some work.  The good part was she was almost rust free and the frame had no damage.

1st Half of 2009 – I wound up replacing much of her suspension.  Starting with all 4 struts that were bad, so I got her some budget priced Skunk2 full coilover kit (a nice street setup – not too harsh).  I kept the ride height comfortable so I can get into and out of driveways without bottoming out.  While I was in there I went nuts – new rear lower control arms with rear disc brakes with Hawk HPS pads, then new poly bushings all around, adjustable toe / camber arms and new rear compensator arm.  I then added new bushings and ball joints in the front and shimmed the upper control arm to allow just a little more camber than factory.  Up front went the fastbrakes dogbone knuckle kit allowing me to run Integra GSR calipers with 1″ thick vented 11″ wide VW Corrado G60 rotors; Hawk HP Plus pads: and a new proportioning valve (to give the rears more braking power) giving her some great stopping power.  With the big brakes the old 13″ wheels would not fit – so on went Enkei RPF01 lightweight wheels (9.5lbs each).  After I got this all sorted out I took her to the track with her 90 hp (probably 60!) of fury.  She scooted along pretty nicely even with the utter lack of HP.  Secretly, I was hoping the engine would blow moving up my plans for something more devious.

2nd Half of 2009 – It was time, time to get her a new heart transplant and give her the power her chassis desired.  So one day in the summer I suggested the family take a nice day vacation to Iowa for lunch and some shopping.  My wife was pleased – shopping – but why in Iowa?  Well, I am buying an engine for a good price.  There are looks that you spouse gives you that makes you step back…well I got one then.  But we could do it together.  And together we did even having her help lift up the engine into the truck.  So $700 later, I picked up a b16a2 engine (from mid 90’s Integra) – took it home and then did the water pump, timing belts, cam gears, and oil pan gasket.  The engine turned freely and after doing the headgasket the cylinder walls were in great shape.  The engine also came with a bad ecu, some missing parts, an early Integra non vtec open differential transmission and a couple of issues with the engine (some parts were OBD2 but the engine was OBD1).

The Swap – I sent out the engine harness from the donor car as I needed not only to upgrade it from DPFI (dual point fuel injection) to MPFI (multi point fuel injection), but also from OBD 0 to OBD 1; and last but least not upgrade it to function with Honda’s variable valve time with electronic lift control i.e. (VTEC).  So to save myself hours of rewiring (likely incorrectly) I sent it to rywire with the specifications the engine will be an obd1 dohc vtec unit.  The harness came back in a quick fashion and that made the wiring a simple plug and play – also a neat feature with this unit is the ability to jumper two simple wires in order to flash the ECU code on the dashboard.

It was time to remove the engine so my friend Jereme stopped over to help out with the removal process.  Within 1 hour we had the engine engine and transmission out of the car.  For a 1.5 liter inline motor – it sure is big.  It still has the transmission on it.

The engine needed some plugs and sensors that were missing – so instead of spending hours surfing the internet for good and erroneous information I took it over to Revline Motorsports where owner, proprietor and good guy Chuong Nguyen knows his way around these motors.  Ace mechanic Jesus went to work on fixing up the missing parts and getting the engine bay ready for the swap (cut out front transmission mount on lower subframe and bang out a small part of the drivers side frame rail to make space for alternator).

I also had another issue – the ECU that came with the motor was not working so we had to swap in a new ECU that was not damaged.  You can see the board was burnt from a terrible soldering job.  Still paying $700 for this swap – I’m way ahead as it would have cost me $1,500 for everything.

Quick work was done and several hours later we had a running car with the heart of a new beast – with an open header!  That brings me onto the next stage – I needed a complete new exhaust with a removable cat converter for track days to allow her to breathe.  My other friend Jeremy races a ITC Civic in SCCA which uses the same d15b2 engine that was stock in my car.  So trading him the engine and tranny he agreed to fab up an entire new exhaust – so I went out and purchased a magnaflow muffler as I love how they sound with a lower rumble.  Now she’s quiet and a nice little sleeper.

  1. Wow, thanks a bunch m8

  2. great write up 🙂 i remember pulling that motor it was COLD

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