It wasn't a Japanese-spec Type-R that first sold Randy Gagan on the right-hand-drive aesthetic. It wasn't even JDM cars that attracted him. No, Gagan was fascinated by one element of imported cars, and one element alone: the orientation of the steering wheel.
"I would see right-hand-drive cars, [like] Bentleys, Coopers, even postal trucks, and wonder what's it like to drive on that side of the car," he confesses.
For as long as he can remember, Gagan, a Los Angeles resident and owner of body/fabrication shop QuestToyz, has been curious about right-hand drives. When he was a 16-year-old Honda head, he began to entertain thoughts of bringing over a JDM vehicle. He soon learned about the lengthy and expensive process of importing a car into the United States (see Honda Tuning, May '05), but pressed on and secured himself a 1990 CRX SiR.
That was nine years ago. Since then, every car Gagan has owned has been a Japanese-market right-driver. It's an impressive list that includes a '90 Civic Si, a '94 Civic SiR, and a '90 Civic SiR hatch that he still owns today. If you hadn't noticed, Gagan is especially fond of the pre-EG chassis compacts. "In '92 Honda started rounding off the [body] lines," he explains. "I'm more into the boxy style."
Fair enough. In addition to his preference for the late-'80s compacts, Gagan is also at pains to distance himself from the JDM crowd. He considers himself simply a car enthusiast, not a JDM guy or even strictly a Honda guy. It's fitting for a guy who once owned a classic 21-window VW van.
"I happen to like right-hand-drive cars because they're different, not because of the whole JDM thing," Gagan says. "I may have all the same Japanese parts as everyone else, but when it comes down to creativity and attention to detail, my cars stand out."
His current standout is this 1990 Honda Integra XSi hatchback, a vehicle he purchased from Go Motors in Anaheim to build as a demo for QuestToyz. Familiar with the competitive nature of show car builders, he knew he had to come up with something really distinctive.
Gagan went to great lengths to keep the Integra as clean as possible. He shaved all of the openings through the firewall, save for one hole behind the center console (entering the engine compartment by the transmission rear mount) to route the main harness. For the headlight, fan and turn signal harnesses, Gagan had to rout the loomed wires from inside each frame rail, "sliding each wire down one at a time."
For the car's back end, Gagan has an equally intriguing story. The aftermarket never made a decent trunk lid spoiler for the XSi, and any wings that did fit usually came with a body kit that Gagan didn't care for. His solution: chop up another wing from a similar car, extend the sides a bit, do some light fiberglass work and paint, and graft it onto the XSi.
In the middle of the buildup, Gagan moved to a new shop, bringing work to a near grinding halt. During his temporary displacement, he had to spray paint in friends' garages and trailer cars. He was also stressing on getting his project car painted.
"The first time, I tried to paint my car at home and it came out OK," Gagan explains. "I used some old-fashioned painting tactics for painting in the garage, but I wasn't happy with it. It had a lot of flaws. I'm sort of a perfectionist, so I painted the car again over the course of two months, this time renting a spray booth."
The last project hurdle reared its ugly head when Gagan tried to get the car running. With everything in place, he tried for five months to get the swapped B18 to spin. No luck. Searching for options, a friend recommended L's Motorworks in Ontario, and within weeks the XSi was purring.
Tony and Lou at L's explain that because Gagan tucked the wires out of the way, a few of the grounds for the injectors were accidentally cut, rendering them useless. Additionally the distributor, which was rebuilt for OBD-I compliance, had some mismatched wires, throwing off the firing order. Finally, a handful of sensors had to be rewired as well.
"I tried to do [the wiring] myself, because it never hurts to learn," Gagan explains. "But I paid the price. The car sat for five months."
Cautionary tales aside, Gagan now considers this promotional tool for his shop complete. And after dropping nearly 15 large on the car, we'd consider "complete" the wisest place to be. Keep an eye out for the car at L.A.-area import shows throughout 2005.
Bolts & Washers
Randy Gagan's 1990 Honda Integra XSi
In Japan, the XSi originally came with a 1.6-liter B-series engine, which for most would be a perfectly suitable powerplant to build for this project. Not Gagan, though. He opted for the additional 0.2 liters of displacement in a B18C5 JDM Integra Type-R engine swap. Gagan freshened up both top and bottom ends, updating bearings and seals but keeping most parts stock, and dropped the motor in at his shop QuestToyz.
The B18 departs from OEM under the valve cover, where Gagan installed a set of Spoon Sports camshafts that are tuned via Spoon cam gears and an A'PEXi Super V AFC-2 VTEC controller. Respiration also looks different thanks to the AEM intake pipe outfitted with HKS filter and Greddy SP exhaust. Power hooks up through a Pro Lite flywheel, ACT clutch, and a transplanted Y21 hydraulic gearbox rigged with a limited-slip differential that replaces the stock cable offering. Finally, L's Motorworks chased all the gremlins out of the wiring and programming and got the XSi to fire up.
Stiff is probably a good way to describe the current state of this DA6 chassis. Apart from the conventional reinforcements-Spoon front and rear strut tower bars, front and rear lower tie bars, and Suspension Techniques front and rear anti-roll bars-Gagan took some additional measures, incorporating an EM Racing C-pillar bar and even seam welding the engine compartment. Tein Super Street coil-overs give the DA its low-slung demeanor.
The binders are mostly stock Nissin goodness; Gagan changed only the rotors to the Brembo drilled variety. Additionally, Earl's Performance Plumbing steel-braided lines now direct brake fluid to each corner.
Rims & Rubber:
Sprint Hart 16x7.5-inch CP-R wheels adorned in Falken Ziex ZE-512 V-rated tires mobilize the XSi.
Gagan and QuestToyz sprayed the DA6 charcoal metallic gray before equipping it with Honda Access door window visors and Vision Racing's carbon fiber mirrors and hood. A custom trunk lid spoiler with LED and modified JDP Engineering front lip round out the outside customization.
Bride BRIX holding monsters in gradation material sit up front in the right-hand drive cabin, with Gagan rewrapping the rear bench seat in black suede and Bride's gradation cloth. Gagan steers with a Momo Monte Carlo wheel and grabs a hold of a Rzo RA43 shift knob to change gears. Last but not least, Auto Meter air/fuel, oil pressure, water temperature, and voltage gauges keep Gagan apprised of the motor's status.
Gagan's thanks and praises go to Danny Boy; Team Autopilot; L's Motorworks (Tony & Lou); Brian "Pencil;" Emmanuel at Hyper16valve "Originals;" Tilton "Terry" Marfite; Mark at EM Racing; Mike at Evasive Motorsports; Bill Tran at MunkeyTree Designs; Ming at Autosonic; Matt at ICB Motorsports; Response Auto Import; and Tony at Tires Direct