If there’s one thing Honda guys love, it’s engine swaps. Surprisingly simple and often straightforward, Honda fanatics have been swapping powerplants across all platforms for 15 years or more. Recently, the K and J swaps have been the “in” thing, but when Chris Capparelli of Green Brook, New Jersey, set out to build something new, he wanted to take it to a whole new level. “I’ve built a bunch of Hondas and always loved the ’99-’00 Si, and wanted to build another one, but I also wanted an S2000,” he says. Chris did the only logical (or illogical to the average guy) thing, and dropped a complete S2000 drivetrain into a ’99 Si, RWD and all.
Every great journey starts with that first step; Chris’ was to source the donor car, or cars in this case. He recalls, “My first plan was to get a legit Si and work with that, but they were all in too good condition and not very cheap. I found a banged up ’97 Civic EX for a price I couldn’t pass up.” A rolled ’05 S2000 would provide most of the other parts Chris would need, and with both chassis in his driveway, the Frankenstein experiment would soon begin. There are no how-tos for a RWD Civic swap, so Chris decided to start at the rear and work his way forward. He remembers how it started: “Tube frame and a lot of 2-inch box tube and 1.5-inch round tubing. It took a lot of cutting and trial and error. I wanted to get it right. After a few weeks I had the rearend and camber set up, and with the rear finally in I could build the transmission tunnel.” Chris was in this project for the challenge, and wanted to do as much in-house as possible, but one thing he couldn’t do was make his own axles and driveshaft. Those came by way of Driveshaft Shop. “No one makes axles or a driveshaft for a RWD Civic project, but apparently some guys in Australia are stuffing S2000 setups into old Toyotas, and Driveshaft Shop made all those parts. They were the only ones who could really help me out.” With the rear dialed in, Chris set about upgrading the suspension, opting for Omni Power one-piece coilovers mated to custom five-lug Type R spindles so he could use the ’05 S2000 wheels. Although getting the rearend set up was hard, getting the engine where he wanted proved to be just as difficult. “The F22 is tall, and it took weeks to get the engine sitting low enough to get the stock hood to close, while still high enough to protect the oil pan—all the while looking aggressive,” Chris says. With the engine sitting properly, Chris’ custom work continued with modifying a Toda exhaust manifold and mating it to custom piping that runs to an A’PEXi WS2 muffler.
With the engine, tranny, and rearend secured and functional, most would’ve sat back with a smile; but Chris wasn’t going for some trailer queen, he wanted a safe daily driver. “The interior wasn’t in yet, so I ordered an Autopower rollcage and installed it prior to finishing everything up.” The Civic was on a downhill run to being finished, and Chris hopped on Craigslist and managed to source a full ’99 Si front clip, complete with foglights to replace the battered ’97 Civic EX front. The wrecked S2K Chris had picked up was a treasure chest of usable parts, so Chris pulled the seats, steering wheel, pedals, and shift knob for use in his Civic. To complete his “Si 2000” theme, an S2000 cluster was wired in. Chris likes his music as loud as his exhaust so not surprisingly, a custom subenclosure was designed for the trunk. The interior portion of the build was finally coming together, but reusing the rear seats wasn’t going to be possible. “Between the trans tunnel, the cage, and the rear differential, those rear seats just weren’t going to work,” he tells. “I really wanted them in the car, too.” Continuing with his Si obsession, the Civic was treated to a fresh coat of the EM1’s most iconic color—Electron Blue Pearl—while the wheels were powdercoated white to complement the new coat of paint.
Simple street Honda on the outside, modern-day rear-wheel- drive marvel on the inside.
Chris is a humble guy, so we’ll mention this on his behalf—this entire project was completed in less than six months, in a little garage in Jersey. He completed it by himself, with no lift, while maintaining a 9-5 job Monday through Friday. His goal for this Civic was to piece together a one-of-a-kind daily driver that he could enjoy, and he says the future involves simply maintaining its driveability. However, he also hinted at adding some boost and going for big horsepower numbers. A reliable, rear-wheel-drive, turbo Civic? With the results of his build up to this point, we’re afraid to cast any type of doubt over those plans. In fact, we’re confident Chris can pull it off without a hitch.
Chris is a humble guy, so we’ll mention this on his behalf—this entire project was completed in less than six months, in a little garage in Jersey. He completed it by himself, with no lift, while maintaining a 9-5 job Monday through Friday.
Pump-free Power Steering.
The highest hurdle Chris had to jump was the S2000s power steering. For those not in the know, the S2000 uses an electronic motor to assist in steering instead of the traditional belt-driven hydraulic setup. Because the engine sits so far back in the bay, the drive gear is all at the front of the engine. This is all well and good in an S2000, but the Civic uses a traditional hydro-assisted setup with the drive gear behind the motor, creating a veritable nightmare for Chris. He recalls, This car was to be daily driven so I needed power steering. It took me months, three different setups, and a fully customized rack and tie rods, but I got it. This sort of thing is what most people would overlook, but Chris said it best: I wanted it as stock as possible while using as many Honda parts as I could. Keep it in the family, you know.