A Self-Proclaimed Wheel Whore Confesses The High Price Of Pursuing J-Spec Perfection, Especially As He Pieced Together This Insane EK Civic Coupe.
There's no denying the heat emanating from Sarath Ros' sixth-gen. Civic coupe, given its profuse JDM-ness and tack-sharp construction. But Ros got off to the rockiest of beginnings when it came to his hot-rod Honda aspirations.
"I first purchased a car from some guy on Craigslist.org and found out that it was stolen," says Ros, who was left high and dry to the tune of $3,000. "So my girlfriend and I went out to Reno, Nevada, to gamble and won $4,500 in cash. We took that money and bought a '97 Civic DX, the ugliest car in the ugliest condition you could ever imagine. The first thing I ever bought for it was 15-inch Work RSZ-R [wheels]." In retrospect, it's almost poetic that rims were the first purchase, because amassing wheels would become an obsession for Ros.
The Stockton, Calif., native had more than rollers in mind for his EJ chassis DX, though. He was aiming squarely at a rare and original build. "After having the car for 2 months, I purchased a set of EK4 SiR front and rear bumpers, front chin spoiler, Civic Type R power folding mirrors and grille, OEM Honda thin moldings, and EK fenders with side markers to give [the car] a fresh JDM look. I was trying to keep it [consistent] with the 1996-98 front end. I see too many 1999-00 front ends out there."
After corralling the parts, Ros dropped his ride off at Ankor Autobody for installation and paint. He drove the Civic for a few months and came to the conclusion that the car was too low. "I kept cracking the paint on the bumper and losing the front chin spoiler. I decided to go with the OEM Honda front and rear bumpers. I rolled it [that way] for a couple months, and then the motor blew up. Just my luck."
What at first seemed tragic, however, soon became fortuitous. Ros lifted himself from the bottom of the Honda power food chain to the upper echelons when he ditched the factory D16y7 mill for a 1.8-liter B-series out of an Integra GSR. During this transition from Fred Flintstone foot power to real four-stroke fury, Ros painted the engine bay in 2 days and dropped some cash on the whip.
"I went off," he boasts. "I bought [several] engine components: Cusco oil catch can, Tein hood dampers, Civic Type R cams and valve cover, Kevlar spark plug wire covers, Skunk2 Racing cam gears, Signal Auto cooling plate, Spoon Sports shift knob, and a MUGEN radiator cap. Then I purchased my second set of wheels from Memory Fab, Sprint Hart CPR's. I also bought a set of gold RSZ-R's, a very rare set of Works."
Ros had the car looking fresh and rolling low (but not too low), and decided to attend some Honda-Tech.com meets in the Stockton region. "People were feeling the car, which drove me to strive for more. I wanted to shape my car into a perfect piece of art."
This led Ros inside the cabin and back on the JDM Express. His Japanese market finds include SiR door panels, climate control panel, clock, H.O.P. ashtray, CTR cup holder, and 6-point Cusco roll cage. And what interior project would be complete without a set RAYS Speed Choppy wheels? Ok, so they go on the outside of the car, but Ros wanted any reason to add to his rim reserves. Defends Ros, "Yes, I'm a JDM wheel whore, but [the Speed Choppy's] complete [the car's] look."
Taking stock of the coupe's journey to this point, Ros remembers the difficulty in sourcing the J-spec components. "What sucked was that all these rare items were hella pricey. But thanks to my girlfriend's credit cards, I managed to get everything I wanted."
Asked if the headaches were worth it, though, and we get resoundingly positive feedback from Ros. "My favorite mod has to be the motor. Anything would be better than [the engine that came] stock in the DX. Having a GSR motor gets me to work on time.
"Next on the list is the paint job," he continues to enthuse. "I like it so much because I spent a shitload of money on it and the results were great. Remember, you get what you pay for. My third favorite mod has to be the Choppys. I have 3 other sets of rims, but the Choppys stand apart. They look different and are very rare."
As of right now Ros says there are no future plans for his Civic. "I'm expecting a baby, so all of my plans are on hold. But what I would like to do is start a new build, start fresh with a del Sol this time. I'm excited about the next build because I can visualize the outcome and in my head it looks great."
Of course one thing Ros doesn't have to imagine too hard are wheels. To the 3 extra sets he claimed when we shot the car, we hear he has gone to the well 2 more times since. So many wheels, so little time.
Bolts & WashersSarath Ros' 1997 Honda Civic DXPropulsionWhen the factory D16Y7 motor grenaded on Ros, he went ahead and swapped in a B18C1 Integra GSR powerplant. The bottom end remains untouched, but Ros did address performance in the head with a pair of Civic Type R cams and Skunk2 cam gears. He added 310cc DSM injectors and a chipped P28 ECU from Skunk2. Post combustion gases escape via a 2 3/4-inch custom pipe/factory GSR muffler set-up.
StanceThe coupe runs Ground Control coilovers all around in conjunction with Energy Suspension bushings, an NRG strut bar, and Cusco six-point cage for an abundance of stiffness.
ResistanceStopping power has been updated to match the swapped engine's potential. Factory Integra GSR rotors and calipers are ready at all four corners.
Rims & RubberAs a self-proclaimed JDM wheel nut, Ros has a nice collection going. His bevy of 15-inch choices consist of 2 sets of Work RSZ-R rims, including a rare foursome finished in gold, Sprint Hart CPR's, and his crowning acquisition, Ray's Speed Choppy's. The Choppy's in the photos are shod in Michelin Energy MXV4 XSE of the 195/50/15 variety.
FashionOutside:Body embellishments include an EK4 SiR front lip spoiler (which Ros indicates is his fourth), CTR power folding mirrors and grille, Honda Access window visors, thin moldings, and antenna block-off plate, JDM Depo fog lights, SiR headlights, and a retrofitted OEM S2000 HID kit. Once the parts were installed at Ankor Autobody, the 2-door's body was splashed with '06 Ford F-150 medium brown metallic paint.
Inside:Within the Civic's cabin, the JDM hits keep coming. Ros added Recaro SRD seats with Bride super low rails, Takata 4-point harnesses with shoulder pads, an OEM EP3 Civic steering wheel and gauges, Spoon shift knob, CTR coin pocket, armrest eliminator, and cup holder, EK4 SiR door panels and climate control with clock, and an H.O.P. ashtray.
I.C.E.Signal starts at a Civic Si deck with amber readout, and is processed through an H.O.P. equalizer, also with amber readout. Signal strength is then bumped up with an Alpine V-Power amp that drives Alpine Type R 6.25-inch separates, 6x9 rear deck speakers, and a 12-inch subwoofer.