I’d spent somewhere around 2.5 years chasing down Danny Lee’s classy gold coupe, and finally lining up a photo shoot time and location didn’t fully convince me that it would actually happen. After numerous mishaps that included mechanical issues, schedule conflicts (from both ends) and a number of other obstacles, the last 29 or 30 months have been peppered with disappointment to an almost comedic level. In passing, we’d discussed doing a story on the car on dozens of occasions, but something always seemed to come up. Now that we’re perched firmly in 2012, Danny is currently making the necessary preparations to sell the car, and by the time you’re reading this, it might already be in a new owner’s possession. Now before you shake your head and assume he’s one of those guys who builds a car over a few months, gets a feature, then sells it only to repeat the process later, think again.
In 1999, as Danny finished up his last semester of high school, he took the keys to a brand-new automatic Civic EX. While a slushbox isn’t our demographic’s first choice, he’d yet to learn how to drive stick, and more importantly, his parents weren’t well versed in manual transmissions, either. Regardless, like any teen behind the wheel of a new car, life was good. It wasn’t long after he’d been on the road that Danny began to take notice of modified cars zooming around him, and it led him to pick up a handful of import magazines and even attend a few car shows.
He adds, “I was on a limited budget just working weekends, so I slowly saved what I could and began modifying. I purchased coilovers, wheels, a body kit, and Altezzas! Yes, most would laugh and I do too when reminiscing, but the trend at the time appealed to me.” Eventually he grew tired of the look, sold off all of the parts he’d gathered, and began browsing through what many Honda aficionados refer to as “the Bible.” I’m of course talking about the legendary Hyper Rev series of magazines out of Japan. Taking part in local events with his friend Roy, Danny soon ran into a few other like-minded enthusiasts, and the plusONE team was established soon after.
Shortly after working his way through college, Danny relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles to start his new job—one that would afford his newfound obsession with the Japanese domestic aftermarket. “I gained a lot of inspiration from my teammates. I started collecting parts to build a Mugen-themed car, in some cases, multiple versions of the same part as backup.” While the high-end parts steadily increased, the issue of the automatic tranny still loomed overhead. Relying on his friends from plusONE, he made the six-hour-plus drive back to San Francisco to purchase and install a complete ITR engine and five-speed tranny. “I’ll always remember when we were all standing there in the garage, late into the night, and everyone pitching in. When the car fired up on the first try it was smiles all around!”
Though the Mugen “catalog car” was making steady progress, Danny wanted something different, even if it meant stepping outside of his comfort zone. A trip to the big SEMA show in Las Vegas filled his head with new thoughts for his build. The idea for the striking gold hue originated from a Chip Foose Hot Rod he’d seen on the red carpet. The coupe was repainted inside and out with the closest color he could find to the Foose build: Chrysler 300C champagne. To offset the gold paint, a carbon-fiber First Molding front lip was sourced through Dave of Memoryfab, and was one of the very first on U.S. shores.
Under the hood, any unnecessary extras were removed and retired, and the mass of underhood wiring was reworked and rerouted out of plain sight. Toda individual throttle bodies aggressively bring air in, and a Toda exhaust manifold directs it out via a Mugen twin-loop muffler. An aluminum Koyo full-size radiator replaces the anemic stock unit, and the goal of keeping all of the mechanical bits right in the middle of the bay for a sleek, almost empty look is unquestionably achieved.
As mentioned earlier, Danny’s come to the conclusion that it’s time to move on from his long-term Civic in order to concentrate on other, more important areas of his life. After 13 years of ownership that included daily driving, countless trips up and down the California coast, and a group of close friends to enjoy the years of building and rebuilding with, Danny Lee has left the building…