Updated: Jul 16, 2020
When is the clear delineation of when cars changed over from “shadetree mechanic” repairable to the era of factory-special-tools and hardcoded electronics? Every marque has a different point in their history where the complexity of the cars they offered shot up to an untenable level for the average home repair, but this ‘07 Civic Si sure seems to suggest that Honda had it figured out for quite a while.
This model of Civic is the eighth generation of the platform. Already, from the factory, it seems like the culmination of decades of work on Honda’s part to create the perfect sporty daily driver. The K20Z3 is an improvement over the previous generation’s K20A3, making almost another 40 HP from the same two liter displacement thanks in part to an incredible 11.0:1 compression ratio. The rev limiter doesn’t stop the fun until 8000 RPM from the factory. It tips the scales at 2,900 lbs, despite having full length side curtain airbags and good marks from the IIHS. And of course, it’s still a Honda Civic - 13 years after it was initially launched, 200,000 mile examples abound on the used marketplace. Reliable and powerful are not mutually exclusive concepts to Honda, and the eighth gen continued the Civic lineage of dependable fun.
The styling was one of the last times we would see aggressive cars that did not look like caricatures of anger, especially from Honda. With even the slightest hindsight for the last decade, it’s pretty obvious it was the era of roided-up, gaping-maw-grille body lines. The Civic itself was the poster child for this trend, with the new tenth-generation Type R looking like a Duraflex kit designer’s wet dream circa 2003. The eighth gen Civic though, especially with the HFP kit that this car wears, has the right balance between the formless bubbles of the 90s and the razor blade body lines of the 10s.
Moving onto the interior, the basic layout of the cluster is one of my favorites in an economy sports car. The speedo is directly centered at eye level, with the tacho directly below, nestled in the steering wheel. This specific build has an auxiliary pod with AEM temperature/oil pressure/AFR gauges neatly integrated into the plastic surround for the tachometer, which gives it a straightforward, readable-at-a-glance layout. The stock seats are well bolstered, although those have been ditched in favor of fresh Brides here. As a stock car, it’s an excellent grocery getter with just enough support to handle an autocross; in this form, it’s a (loud) commuter car that can handle a track day on a biweekly basis.
Of course, the ultimate question for decades of enthusiasts seeking a sporty coupe Honda is: Can it be tuned? Yes, indeed, that is where this specific example won me over. K series parts have not reached the overnight-from-ebay-ubiquity of the Integra and EM1 B series, but almost two decades after the introduction of the motor there’s a wealth of high-quality options on the market. This specific model is running a Kraftwerks supercharger kit with a custom external fuel pressure regulator and return setup to the 1000cc injectors. Flowing through all of that is E85, supported for full E10-E85 flex fueling by a custom Hondata tune. It breathes through a Skunk2 Alpha exhaust header mated to a Greddy Evo2 catback. Further down in the car along with Fortune Auto coils, Eibach sway bars, Boomba Racing solid engine mounts, an Autopower 4 point roll cage, and Skunk2 camber arms in the rear. The car was built over nearly half a decade, going from basically bone stock to this intensely modified state in bits and pieces.
It is entirely a homebrew build. The E85 tune was done by the owner via the Hondata module interfacing with the stock ECU, something pre-OBDII enthusiasts such as myself can only dream of doing. As a result of this tuning ease and the innate strength of the K20Z3, it is now putting down 400HP to the front wheels, all without ever having to crack open the motor for as much as a head gasket. It was far from an easy build due to how tight the engine bay is, but a Honda built by a single person in a one car bay with a better power to weight ratio than a 550 Maranello is nothing to downplay.
There’s also something freeing to owning a car that has, at the very least, a common unibody. Hacking up an early-generation Civic or an imported EG SI-R always stings a bit as the cutting wheel first meets the fenders. With the eighth gen, 1.5 million were sold around the world. Junkyards are full of spare panels, and it allows for much more intense modification without guilt than many less ubiquitous platforms simply don’t allow. The ZG-style flares on this example cover chopped fenders with 255/40 Potenzas on Konig 17x9 wheels. It’s a blend between utilitarian need for more rubber and a wider track and an aesthetic appreciation for classic styles rarely seen on modern builds, and it’s vastly easier to justify on a car with fenders available new for $100 through any collision shop mail-order catalogue.
Those familiar with more anything more than three words I’ve ever written know that I am an absolute sucker for old cars, with almost no complexity (or ability to make power) whatsoever, but this Honda makes me wish I owned something just a bit newer. The flexibility Honda was providing into the 00’s with their ECUs and overbuilt motors is something completely closed off to most retro enthusiasts. Having parts availability at this high of a level is unheard of for me with my more obscure 80s Honda platforms. The complexity bump is definitely noticeable, but I’d argue it was actually worth it for the ease of tuning and upgrading, and clearly, this Honda owner was able to work around it to build a daily-driven racecar on a budget.