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1997 Honda Civic CX - Street Level

Perfect Stance And A Little Canadian Flavor Take This Civic To The Top Of Its Class

By Joey Lee, Photography by Henry Z. De Kuyper

Stephen Chan's 1997 Civic CX
For the most part, things just aren't the way they used to be. In the past, most Honda owners took great pride in building their cars and holding onto them. In the last couple of years, you've undoubtedly noticed that the community has shifted to the opposite end of the spectrum. Enthusiasts build their cars and once they reach any sort of notoriety, put them up for sale to whoever wants to offer the highest bid. In short, cars are being built to be sold. Guys and gals are hoping that their fame in print or online will help propel the value of their builds. This way they can cash in and build something else; then repeat the process all over again. Many understand, but the truly hardcore guys just wouldn't let their projects go that easily. To them, money can always be made elsewhere, and their pride and joy are not slaves to the almighty dollar.

For a person to hold onto their project for three to five years is unheard of these days. Even if you weren't one of those fly-by-night guys, you may find yourself selling just because you're getting old and you need to move on. With that said, is there anyone out there who has actually held onto their cars for much of their adult life? If he could, Stephen Chan would proudly raise his hand in your direction. Stephen has owned his Civic for over ten years now and was even the car's original owner.

"I bought this Civic while I was in college. At that time, I was working as an installer at a local tire shop," Stephen reminisces. "I saved up all my money and bought my first car; this '97 Civic CX. I paid $14,000 for it and there was no A/C, no radio, or anything else like that. It was automatic because I didn't even know how to drive stick-shift back then!"

"I was actually going to school to train as an automotive technician for General Motors. Hondas weren't very popular at all but I did see a few tastefully modded ones and that gave me the drive to build mine. It wasn't until after I finished school that I really began to work on it."

Being that he was an automotive technician for General Motors, Stephen acquired the know-how and expertise to work on his own car. These skills gave him the ability to do the majority of the work himself. Modified Civics started to pop-up in his area and Stephen decided he had to do something to really set himself apart from the crowd. With some research, he came to realize that the Canadian Acura EL front end was interchangeable with his hatchback. For those Americans who are unfamiliar with an Acura EL, it's basically a re-badged, entry-level luxury sedan that was offered only in Canada. It looked different from the regular Civic we've come to know, mainly due to the front-end, which it shares with the Honda Domani model.

Stephen went to his local Japanese-parts distributor and collected all the parts necessary for the conversion. He also modified a Civic SiR front lip to fit the EL bumper. "It took a bit of tweaking but I eventually got everything to fit perfectly. The funny thing about this conversion is that it's rarely ever done on a hatchback. A couple years after I got the car repainted to the gold it is now, I attended a show in Chicago and people had no idea what the front end was. I had people asking me if it was an Accord front end. It was hilarious. I had to explain to them what it was and they were really impressed by it because it's so uncommon."

Though he had the custom front-end conversion, what was under the hood was still stock-and automatic. Chan regularly attended the local street races in his town and had the itch for more power. The only problem was he didn't want a perfectly good single-cam to go to waste. "I did everything I could to blow up that engine but it survived everything I threw at it, haha!," Chan explains. "I experimented with nitrous-oxide and drag-raced it with a 75-shot while it was still automatic. Strangely enough, it survived and even ran low 15s!" Eventually he gave in and decided to rid himself of the D16 and auto slush box. His new weapon of choice would be a Frankenstein B18C/B20Z setup.

"I opted for the B20-VTEC swap for the low-end torque and high-end power. There was a lot of skepticism regarding the reliability of the swap but everyone was doing it at the time." Being an automotive technician definitely came in handy. Stephen was able to perform all the machine work on the swap himself as well as assembly and installation.

He may be handy with the wrench but Stephen will be the first one to admit that he's a true fan of the entire import community. When aggressive wheel fitment and insane ride height started to catch steam, Chan knew immediately that he wanted in. "I absolutely loved the look of deep dish wheels. I wanted to do something different so I contacted CCW. I had seen some of their work in the past and was really impressed by them. I supplied them with the specs that I came up with for enough brake clearance and wheel back-spacing, and Dan from CCW constructed a set of 16x8.5 CCW Classics that were perfect."

When Chan says "perfect", he's speaking in terms of overall appearance. Don't think that anyone can go out there and run aggressively-sized 16x8.5 wheels on their Civic hatchback. "It took quite a bit of work to have them fit correctly," Stephen states. "It took me about three weeks in my garage to get them to sit right. I meticulously adjusted the ride height and camber settings to make it sit perfect. My camber settings are crazy but I guess that's the price you have to pay to get that stance."

Being an automotive technician definitely has its perks. Just having the skill-set and knowledge to work on any automobile is advantageous. It also has its downfalls. Stephen had been a tech for GM for the past 11 years and he sighted health concerns as his reason to move onto a new occupation. He credits his wife for giving him the inspiration to become a teacher. Chan got his credentials and is now an auto shop teacher at a high school in his native Toronto, Canada.

"I love every bit of it!" Stephen exclaims. "My students love the fact that I drive a modified car that is built the way they like. This Civic and my students have both helped me to grow as a teacher. I teach them basic automotive functions and how modifying a car can benefit or take away from any vehicle. I also update them on upcoming events and show them pictures from previous shows. Some have even come out to shows to support me!"

"I couldn't be happier with my Honda and it is a never-ending project. I always tell myself that I'm going to sell it or that I am done with it, but of course that never ends up happening!"

Bolts & Washers
Propulsion
JDM B18C cylinder head (Ported & polished)
JDM B20Z block
Innovative engine mounts
K&N FIPK short ram intake system
Port-matched B18C intake manifold
B18C throttle body
DC Sports 4-1 stainless exhaust header
APEX'i World Sport V.1 cat-back
exhaust system
Vibrant 2.5-inch flex pipe
Vibrant header outlet flange
Magnaflow high-flow catalytic converter
S80 LSD transmission
Exedy stage 2 clutch
Exedy lightened flywheel
B&M adjustable fuel pressure regulator
B&M fuel pressure gauge
Mishimoto full-size radiator
Mishimoto cooling fans
Mugen radiator cap
Mugen thermostat
Vibrant silicone cooling hoses
Mugen oil cap
Mugen reservoir covers
Password:JDM radiator stay
Password:JDM VTEC solenoid cover
HAMP oil filter

Stance
Koni adjustable coilovers
ITR front anti-roll bar
ITR rear anti-roll bar
Ingalls camber kit
Tein front upper shock tower bar
Megan Racing rear lower tie bar
Rear-disc brake conversion
Integra GSR rear trailing arms

Resistance
AEM Big Brake Conversion Kit
AEM 12.1-in front brake rotors
AEM 11-in rear brake rotors
AEM Nissin semi-race compound brake pads
Earl's stainless brake lines

Wheels & Tires
16x8.5 CCW Classic +12 ET
205/40-16 Falken ST615
Project KICS R40 Neo-chrome lug nuts

Exterior
2000 Acura EL front-end conversion
Custom "Striking Gold Pearl Metallic" paint
CTR style rear spoiler
CTR style rear lip
JDM Civic SiR front lip
modified for EL bumper
JDM Civic SiR sideskirts
Antenna-delete plate
Wiper arm-delete
Civic Type R power-folding side mirrors
Modified front and rear fenders
3M Stone Shield
Shinzowerks vinyl graphics
00-Spec Civic hatchback taillights

Interior
Bride Brix II seats
Bride seat rails
Takata safety harnesses
Momo Monte Carlo steering wheel
Momo steering hub
Spoon shift knob
Type R shift boot
JDM SiR gauge cluster
with custom chrome bezels
Integra GSR rear seats
Civic Si center console

Electronics
Chipped P28 OBD1 ECU
Autometer fuel pressure gauge
Autometer voltmeter
Ignited 5000K HID kit
Pioneer DEH-P940MP head unit
Pioneer 6-disc CD changer
PPI 6-channel amplifier
Alpine component speakers
Alpine 6x9 rear speakers
JL Audio 10W3 subwoofer (2)
1 farad capacitor
Stinger wiring

Props
Eric, Jay, Nick at Teknotik.com
Velocity Autobody
Dan at CCW
Flushstance.com
Donovan at Vibrant Performance
Speedstar
Shinzowerks
All my friends and family
My wife Carolyn
Co-Workers and students at NACI Toronto
Chris H.
Kevin S.

Owner Specs

Favorite website
JDMRides.ca/Honda-Tech.com

Screen name or nickname
hybridhatch

Building Hondas for how long
12 years

Your dream car
Nissan GTR and Audi R8

Build inspiration
Too many to list!

Whats playing in your iPod/CD MP3 player right now
U2

Greatest movie of all time
The Fast and The Furious

What in the "el" is a "domani"?
Sure it sounds confusing enough, but what exactly is the Acura EL and/or a Honda Domani? Well the Acura EL is sold exclusively in Canada as an entry-level luxury sedan. Its main purpose of existence in Canada was to take the place of the Integra four-door sedan, which was discontinued after 1997. The EL featured many luxury items that weren't made available to the Civic and also had a different front and rear fascia, which it shares with its Japanese counterpart; the Honda Domani. The Domani existed in Japan only in sedan form, while five-door hatchback and wagon variants were made available in European markets. Speaking of variants, the Domani in Japan also shared a chassis and the majority of its guts with the Rover 45 and 400. If you're wondering why, Rover and Honda once had an agreement to develop cars with one another that resulted in cars built off the Civic chassis. If the Civic were human and had a real-life sibling, it would be the Domani/EL. The Rover 45 would be the awkward distant cousin. If that's not enough, the Honda Domani was also re-badged and sold under the Isuzu brand as the Gemini. The Gemini in that bloodline would most likely be the long-lost fraternal twin of the Domani. Confused yet? There are actually a handful of EL/Domani conversions stateside and even a Civic with the complete Isuzu Gemini conversion. Next time you go to a local meet or car show and you see a Civic with a strange front end that you don't recognize, it is probably a Domani front. If you're absolutely sure it isn't a Domani conversion, then it is most likely a Honda Orthia front, which is another story in itself.

CONNECT
Mishimoto
PO Box 8250
Wilmington
DE  19803
877-466-4744
www.mishimoto.com
Vibrant Performance
310 Courtneypark Drive East
Mississauga, Ontario, L5T 2S5, Canada
905-564-2808
http://www.vibrantperformance.co
m
Falken Tire
13649 Valley Boulevard
Fontana
CA  92335
800-723-2553
http://www.falkentire.com
CCW Wheels
618 Ridgewood Ave
Holly Hill
FL  32117
386-258-0083
www.ccwheel.com
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By Joey Lee
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