Unloved, ignored, and often overlooked, the 2002–2005 Civic Si has always carried with it a stigma of sorts. Whether it be complaints about its handling, unsupported powerplant, recurring quips about “minivan styling,” or even its odd (yet surprisingly ergonomically pleasing) shifter positioning, the seventh-generation U.S. Civic hatchback has taken its share of pot shots. While most Civic models become wildly popular, particularly after the initial shock of a new design wears off, the EP chassis never really experienced the love from the majority of the Honda community. Sandwiched between the heralded ’99 Si coupe and the red-hot eighth-gen movement, most feel that Honda simply took a wrong turn in the car’s overall design.
Not surprisingly, we in the States received yet another diluted version of an overseas hot hatch that seemed to wow enthusiasts worldwide. In fact, it was the EP3 Civic Type R that caught the attention of one Cristian Loza, owner of this immaculate blue Si. He adds, “In 2007, I was just about to graduate from college and I needed a cheap, reliable car to get to work and back. I was always heavily attracted to the Civic Type R, but wasn’t too into the fact that when the body style was brought over to the States, it was very watered down. That really didn’t matter at the time, though, as the car still looked fantastic to me.” No doubt a fan of the chassis, Loza wasn’t exactly a die-hard enthusiast. His intentions were to use the car as basic transportation, not pour his heart and bank account into a project build. Of course, things can change rather quickly when someone is presented with a “what if” scenario. He adds, “I ended up tagging along with my brother and his friends to Import Alliance 2007 in Nashville, and it totally opened up my eyes to a whole new world. When I got home, I wanted to do so much to my car!”
A goal was soon set: have the car prepped and ready to show at Import Alliance 2008. Having only purchased a Spoon shift knob up to this point, Loza began making moves to get the process started. A Civic Type R body kit was ordered, as were a set of adjustable coilovers and a used set of Sprint Hart CPRs. Other minor upgrades took place, and Loza did in fact meet his personal goal, making his debut at the very next big IA event. However, that was but a mere glimpse at how deep his commitment to his newfound hobby had run, and he had no thoughts of slowing his momentum.
If you’ve noticed the wheels but can’t remember ever seeing them on another Honda, there’s good reason. Loza states, “I had the guys over at Tuner Shop build me a custom set of Trace Tech 2s. I became the first non-European car to have a set of these. I definitely think it gave the exterior a unique look.” Along with the one-off wheels, the exterior received a number of OEM CTR parts combined with aftermarket bits from Mugen, Airwalker, and VIS to create an aggressive look.
But what good is the bark if there’s no bite to back it up? Feeling the same way, Loza jumped at the opportunity when he learned that his close friend Reebs was selling a K20Z1. “At first I was just going to throw the motor in, but while it was out, it was just too hard to pass up the idea of making the bay look its best! My good buddy Dan Horst helped me with the entire swap and tucking the bay. We did run into some wiring issues along the way, but our good friend Alex Nguyen of Living Dreams Auto Salon helped us tremendously.” To add a little more luster to the new powerplant, a triple chrome-dipped RBC intake manifold was bolted on moments before the motor made its way into its new home. A Mugen airbox and coil cover draw attention from onlookers, while an All In Fab tucked radiator does the opposite—staying out of sight and lending to the “less is more” look.
With four years of steady modding behind him, Cristian Loza created an example of the perfect seventh-gen hatchback that might just help eliminate the stigma that’s followed the car since its inception. In closing, he adds, “Since first buying my car back in 2007, I’ve fallen in love with it and have put more money into it than anything I have ever owned. I’m not too sure what the future holds for her, but I do know that because of it, I have met some of the best people in my life today, and am so glad the build has gone this far and exactly as it has. I hope my build inspires someone out there because looking back at what this car used to be versus what it has become today has definitely inspired me with many things outside of cars.”