“It had Nissan 300ZX wheels…and an awesome ‘Drift Happens’ sticker on the rear.” Not exactly the ideal groundwork for one of Honda’s flagships, but Greg Carter, owner of Go-Autoworks in Montgomery, Alabama, knows a good thing when he sees it. And while the bruised and battered AP1 had certainly seen better days during its 12 years of service, he was quick to recognize its potential.
A longtime single-cam aficionado, Greg’s build résumé is packed with boosted D-series Civic and CRX screamers, which makes this particular project all the more interesting. “The car was purchased in July 2010, less than two weeks after selling my drag car chassis. I wasn’t even looking for a car as I was taking a break due to just being busy at the shop and a planned wedding,” he recalls. However, plans often change, especially after he spotted the bright yellow roadster perched on a repo lot and familiar thoughts of boost began to entice his senses. A closer look revealed a long list of work required just to get the car up to respectable factory standards, including removing the aforementioned Nissan wheels and embarrassing bumper sticker. Greg adds, “It had obviously been beat on with its torn top, duct taped rear window, beat-up bumpers, busted lights, and caved-in rear quarter. The upside was it had stock suspension, stock exhaust, no bolt-ons and decent interior (under the dirt and mildew).” Negotiations commenced, and $2,500 later, Greg broke his single-cam streak and took ownership of the battered AP1.
The first order of business was repairing the damaged exterior. The car had previously been painted more than once, evident from the layers of paint mixed with Bondo on the rear quarter panel. He stripped the car naked and even rolled the fenders in anticipation of wider wheels prior to handing the chassis off to the body shop. Along with the car itself, a new set of AP2 bumpers, front lip, and VIS hardtop were added to the paint sprayer’s “to-do” list. Almost four months flew by before the car was pulled back into the Go-Autoworks garage sporting a rejuvenated body complete with a fresh slathering of OEM Rio yellow.
Everything inside the cabin, including the factory soft top, was completely removed as Greg put a number of hours into cleaning and reconditioning the long-neglected interior. By this point, even with the car’s investment price and body shop tally, its value went well past the amount of money spent, though Greg is quick to point out, “There’s really no comparison between the cost of an S2000 part and a Civic part.” In reality, the car could have easily been flipped for a considerable profit, but Greg decided to keep the S and began devising a plan for more power. With half a dozen personal turbo projects under his belt and a slew of ecstatic customers, it didn’t take much to sway this shop owner toward the dark side—especially since Go-Autoworks, established in 2002, specializes in turbo kits and associated parts.
“I wanted this car to look good, drive great, and be enjoyable while still competitive in any scenario. I didn’t want it to be trendy.” “Any scenario” would include as much road racing as it would drag racing, so a dyno-busting, peak power number was never the goal. Instead, a well-balanced and reliable performer that could hold its own in any form of motorsport was the blueprint for the project. A PTE turbo and Rev hard cast manifold would serve as the foundation for the initial build-up, utilizing a completely stock motor. At a very tame 8 psi, a thick, usable powerband that peaked at 330 whp was achieved, and Greg was pleased with the results, though he knew the motor was on borrowed time.
“Part of the rough original state included the fact that the car had just one quart of oil in it when I got it! Knowing this, I had already begun looking for new motor parts. I picked up a slight ‘tick’ from the bottom end, and parked the car in preparation for the rebuild.” By the time the original motor began showing signs of decomposition, an AEBS-sleeved block and spare F20 head were already sitting at the shop, begging for active duty. Greg adds, “I knew off the top I wouldn’t use the more popular low-compression piston route. I chose 10.5:1 CPs to keep the compression ratio as close to stock as possible, along with a set of BC H-beam rods.” With all of the essentials ready to roll, Greg paid a visit to his friend Mike at TDC performance for some machine work and final assembly.
Rather than using an off-the-shelf exhaust manifold, Greg built his own sidewinder-style manifold but later decided to swap turbos, and realized the two wouldn’t be compatible. Rather than starting over from scratch and taking away from customer demands, he contacted Brad at AFI Turbo and ordered a sidewinder street-version manifold for the build. Full Blown dual hangers and 340lph pumps would provide the fuel, while an AEM methanol kit lowers inlet temps and fights detonation. The decision to choose between tuning on race gas or street gas presented very little dilemma as Greg explains, “My previous high-horsepower builds were tuned on race gas and became dedicated track cars. I didn’t want that for this car.” The result of careful planning and a solid mix of Go-Autoworks custom parts combined with high-quality goods from industry standouts leaves Greg with absolutely no regrets on his impulse purchase some two years ago.
The act of rescuing a car from its virtual deathbed and transforming it into something as respectable as Greg Carter’s AP1 is something that can be appreciated by any true gear head—especially those of us working on a budget.