Craig Nelson's '95 Honda Civic Ex
What do you call a Civic owner who takes design cues from guys like Chip Foose, mounts his side-markers not in their intended OEM locations but where he feels they should have been mounted in the first place, and does anything and everything that flies in the face of conventional JDM think and internet forum monkey rationale? You call him original.
Craig Nelson built his '95 Civic coupe to be an "all-out street car" consisting of the "best parts possible." Blah, blah, blah. What he really meant to say was that he built his '95 Civic coupe his way-taking the forum dorks' and JDM disciples' advice with grains of salt, instead doing things the way he saw fit-a digital slap in the face, if you will. No, shortsightedness and restriction to a particular genre are not traits that define Craig. JDM parts were used where JDM parts were seen fit, as was the case with USDM parts-both OEM and aftermarket-as well as the occasional non-Honda piece, like the side-marker lights he scrounged from a Volkswagen. But Craig didn't stop there. While the JDM purists cried sacrilege and scratched their heads, he went on to mount the VW lighting two inches lower than Honda's intended side-marker location-a location that Craig says "clutters the body lines." And such is the underlying theme with Toy Civic (Craig's pet name for his EJ1), one which revolves around his likes and dislikes. After all, he's the one who's got to look at it everyday.
Today, few '95 Civic owners can make this claim, but Craig and his coupe have been together since day one. Shortly after joining the U.S. Navy and while stationed in Virginia, he picked up the EX, fully loaded, minus ABS, and complete with Honda's original SOHC VTEC engine. It took him several years though until the car's modifications list would grow to its current state. Craig slowly began to "delve deeper" into the Honda world by 2002, helping a friend retrofit a manual transmission into a once-automatic DC2 Integra, but it wasn't until 2005 that he'd begin applying his newfound expertise to his own car. Craig will tell you that his coupe benefitted from basic bolt-ons at various stages throughout its life, like the Eibach springs installed in 1996 followed by a GReddy exhaust and DC Sports header two years later, but he'll also tell you that February 2005 marked a new era for the Civic.
It wasn't until 10 years after the Civic's first wave of bolt-ons, which, if you must know, consisted of audio bits, window tint, and a Hondasport short shifter, that the project really began to move. In 2005, the car was stripped and re-painted its natural Milano Red hue. Predictably, Craig had the Civic's emblems removed and the body shaved. Unpredictably, Craig had the emblems hand-painted back on in a "3D floating" fashion. The idea came to him while watching an episode of Overhaulin', where legendary auto customizer Chip Foose did something similar to a '56 Chevy. But instead of giving the artist instructions to pencil in the Civic's "EX" monogram, orders were given to have the RSX's "Type S" coat of arms applied. It's right about now that the purists might say "Hey! You can't do that." While Craig realizes that an EJ1 Civic Type S there is not, the fact remains, if there were one, his car would be it.
Give Craig's Civic a once-over and the Type S namesake begins to make sense, after all, Honda's Type S vehicles are defined by sharing similarities with their Type R brethren but without sacrificing the accoutrements. Despite Toy Civic's Laskey Racing-built, high-compression, 2.0L B18C1 engine and race-inspired theme, it retains entry-level Honda amenities such as A/C, power steering, airbags, and cruise control. And with a conservative 11.0:1 compression ratio, Craig can fill his 212whp Civic with California's watered-down 91 octane without fear; he can even pass a smog test.