Is this the BEST civic ever?!

Is this the BEST civic ever?!

A year ago December, Ever had just gotten back from his tattoo apprenticeship in Washington.  Since he had sold his Tundra to fund his tattoo adventure he no longer had a car that he could drive daily, he was actually just driving around his NSX. Since clearly this was not the best choice for a daily driver, Ever needed a car and even more specifically he needed a Toyota 4Runner. In classic ever fashion he wanted a very specific one that was not easy to track down, which leads us into the actual story of how I ended up buying another civic.

So we had to drive to Orange County ( in southern California ) and at the time I was driving my ranger around as my daily. We gassed up and headed out for what was just a normal drive to southern California as we had done numerous times before, my truck has made countless trips down there over the 15 years I have owned it. I had the utmost confidence that it would be just another regular drive, but as with most car problems they happen at the worst possible time It’s like Murphy’s law. The ranger performed flawlessly all the way there, we picked up Ever’s new (used) 4runner and headed to Temecula to a relative’s house, they had a massage table that ever was going to use for tattooing so we decided to pick it up since we were already in California. as soon as we jumped onto the I15 to start heading north back to Las Vegas… all of a sudden out of nowhere my truck started to overheat, being a day in December the weather was far from hot. We pulled off the Fwy and into a gas station, and mind you that this whole time we are in two vehicles and I’m sure ever is wondering why I’m pulling off the fwy just as soon as we got on. I popped the hood and jumped out while ever is looking at me confused ( like why the hell did we pull off the fwy into a gas station) I tell him that my truck is overheating, when I pop the hood I can’t see any immediate issue, no steam, radiator doesn’t have anything leaking, coolant hoses look good, no hiss sounds. I’m dumbfounded why is my truck over heating? water is leaking on the ground from the center of my truck, there isn’t anything that has to do with coolant under there. I go to the bed and its soaking wet, there is water all over it. I cautiously open the radiator and there is no water or pressure in it, I go inside the gas station to buy a few gallons of water ( since the air and water machine isn’t working, let’s be honest though they never are actually in service ) So I come out with 4 gallons of the cheapest water they sell, fill up the radiator, start the truck to make sure the water get fully cycled through. The truck is on, there is no water leaking… what the hell this is driving me crazy why won’t you leak! radiator cap is back on and the truck has been running for about 10 mins, still no leaks. Then all hell breaks loose, water is pouring out, POURING out like a hose, I quickly find that its leaking from the back of the engine where the transmission bolts to it. At this time I’m just assuming that it’s a heater core hose has finally given out, but I check all those and everything seems good, all fittings, and valves are tight and not leaking. I just assume that it’s probably a freeze plug that has given up on life, and now we are stuck in Temecula, what the hell are we going to do: leave the truck and just drive home with Ever, then drive back down to pick up the truck later on in the week? no way that thing would be gone in a heartbeat, trucks like mine would be gone like civics get stolen in east Las Vegas. The next option was to tow the truck home: but then we would have had to find a u haul and rent a trailer, Ever bought a V8 4 runner so it would have been possible. but that seemed like a lot of work, and we were way too far to just tow it back with a strap. After careful thinking I figured it was strange that the truck didn’t leak immediately, hmm I thought… seems like when the thermostat opens is the only time it leaks. So I said screw it im just going to drive it back. Since the weather was cool, and there wasn’t going to be traffic I would just be rolling along, the truck should be fine as long as I don’t run out of water in the engine. It ended up that i could make it 75-100 miles before I would have to put more water in, and that’s how I limped home.

We got back into town late on Friday night, I was only off work Friday and Saturday I needed a car before Sunday morning so i could get to work. I put out a distress call to all my friends ( needed cheap car ) no specifics nothing I just was looking for a cheap car that i could drive to work until i could figure out my truck. I check offer up, Craigslist, and Facebook. there were a few things that caught my eye ( 93 ford escort, 91 for ranger, 85 f150, ) the crappier the better because after-all  it was just to drive to work. Edwin ( one of my friends ) says that his co worker has a civic for sale, honestly that wasn’t really what i wanted. But it was a four door and it was auto so there was no chance of me fixing it up. I jammed down to his work where I proceed to gaze upon the ugliest civic I have ever seen. I took it for a test drive and everything seemed fine, car drove straight, clean title, no smoke, fan turned on etc. etc., all the stuff you look at when you buy a car. so I shoot him the offer of 1000 and he accepts, I tell him that I don’t have the money on me now ( which is not how to buy a car) but I figured since it was Edwin’s co-worker that he could take my word for it. I ran home went to the bank got 1000 bucks had to wait for the seller to get off work since I was just going to meet him at his house. 6 o’clock rolls round and I’m having ever drive me to the dudes house so I can go buy another civic. 6:30pm I’m driving in home in what don’t realize is going to be a big project. so big of a project that we are going to start a new paragraph.

 

I want to start out by saying that In no way am i mad at any body involved in me getting this car. Edwin, the seller, or even Ever for driving me to the mistake of a purchase of mine. In no way am I talking crap about the condition in which i bought the car. I am my own man, i made the choice to buy it after i asked all the questions about the car and test drove it, and was able to look under, over, thru , the whole car. the seller wasn’t hiding anything he just needed the car to be gone, and I just needed a car. No hard feelings and everything worked out because i was able to learn so much more about a chassis other than an EG.

After driving the car for a week I was able to really start to diagnose all the problems on the car, honestly I don’t even know where to start. so here is a list of everything wrong with the car that I can remember.

  • Drivers side rear door didn’t open ( inside or outside handle ) child safety lock was on, and outside handle wasn’t connected to the latch system.
  • steering column had a lot of slop in it ( turns out the steering column lock was busted, most likely because the car was stolen previously in its life.) so i had to replace the steering column
  • automatic transmission only had like 1 qt of oil so the car wouldn’t go into the last gear on the fwy, did a trans flush with OEM Honda ATF and then filled to the proper level. ( but the damage had already been done transmission started slipping a few months into me owning the car.
  • engine burned oil about a qt a month, causing hideous oil deposits all over the rear of the car.
  • front left wheel was pushed back closer to the fender ( caster issue ) ended up being a bent front lower control arm. got one from the junk yard and it was all good.
  • power steering leaked pretty bad, this was solved when I put the new motor in. ( I just looped the lines )
  • rear view mirror pivot ball was so worn out that the mirror would just end up pointing at the shifter.
  • had over heating problems, turns out thermostat was missing and only running on water.
  • speedo/tach weren’t working or accurate.
  • it was a d16y7 (air-box on top of throttle body) there was a APC strut bar ( i know right how old is that thing) and to make it fit over the stock air-box they crushed the air-box and broke the plastic so air was not actually getting filtered before it went into the engine. who knows how long it had been like that.
  • car was in a small front crash ( previous owner) bumper had some holes punched in it, and the headlight tabs were broke.
  • 17 inch wheels had three different brand of tires
  • front end had clunk on the right side, turns out it was the eBay ( skunk 2 style ) front camber kit. the bushings had totally disintegrated. so back to the junk yard for OEM front upper arms
  • oil leaked bad from the distributor, a new distributor O ring fixed that right up.

The car came a lowered a little, on 17 inch wheels, plasti dipped grey, and the most horrendously rolled front fenders. the more time passed i came to the assumption that the car used to be super slammed and hella flush. Let’s go back to the first day I bought the car, my friend Nate had an EK coupe and I ended up swapping his stock shocks and springs for my lowered ones. and I gave him that APC strut bar. the car had limo tint all around, i immediately took that off. the goal was I wanted the car to look as close to stock as possible. there wasn’t much I could do about the plasti dip that’s just how it was going to be. I was searching for someone that had OEM steelies with period correct hub caps. never ended up finding them it wasn’t too big of a deal. I WAS NOT GOING TO MODIFY THIS CAR!

Sometime had past, about 8 months. the transmission was becoming undriveable . my cv boots were blown out. the oil burning engine was becoming a burden. this car was no way reliable and I felt like any day it could give up the ghost.

Before I go too much further, lets circle back to my truck. What was actually wrong with it? The truck sat for many months, I was over it. after some quick searches on the internet for “water leaking” and “back of engine” i was left with the most worst case scenarios, much like looking up your symptoms on web MD and then diagnosing yourself with HIV or cancer when you actually just have the flu. Some people said it was a freeze plug but the only way to access it was to pull the trans, since it was in the bell housing area. possible blown head gasket, possible cracked head/block… you get the idea this was not going to be an easy fix. so i just let it sit there in the drive way while I pondered its fate. As the months rolled on i finally got the motivation to work on the truck, i didn’t know what i was looking for other than a leak on the back on the engine. So i just started disassembling, spark plug wires, coil pack, radiator hoses, intake system, throttle body, intake manifold. VOILA there it was, there was the tiniest smallest little problem. the intake manifold gasket had blown out! i couldn’t believe what an easy fix. 25 bucks for the new gasket and BAM I’m back in business.

OK I know I’m all over the place but back to the civic 8 months into owning it and things are starting to look bad. its tired, it needs a transplant, transfusion, and some plastic surgery. what do it do? sell it? no way! civics have given me so much fulfillment in life that i couldn’t just give up on it. It wasn’t just some crappy car that i could just throw away, all civics are special and deserve to be treated right. I wouldn’t feel right about selling it to someone knowing that the car was knocking on heaven’s door. So I figured what could I do to fix it as cheaply as possible to make it as reliable as possible? can’t just rebuild my existing d16y7 since the trans is slipping, can’t just put a new trans in it since the engine is burning oil, should I just buy a complete d16y7 swap and put it in? no way it would mostly likely have issues and I would have to end up rebuilding that one too. Man oh man did I have quite the conundrum, Angie wasn’t going to be happy with another project car. I told her I was just going to keep it stock and just have a daily driver. The more I thought about what I was going to do, the more I thought about Vtec, manual transmissions, spirited driving. I could see that my heart was leading me down the road to modification town, it was a place I didn’t want to be. I already have a race car, I already have a fixed up civic. why do I need another one? what would be the point? wouldn’t a fixed up civic get stolen? after all this was my daily driver and was parked at my work and outside I couldn’t always keep an eye on it.

I was able to talk myself into trying to swap a modest d16Y8 in and doing an auto to manual conversion just to make the car a bit more fun to drive. Once I had decided that is what i was going to do I began to “fix” this civic up. I had an old ST rear sway bar off my EG that I put on the 4 door. I had NSX calipers since i got spoon ones on my EG, and some old mini cooper rotors. I had to get EX/SI knuckles since my car was an LX, which meant I had to put new wheel bearings in since knuckles were already off the car I figured I might as well, I didn’t want the wheel bearings to be bad. After all the goal was to make a reliable car that I could drive to anywhere in the country at any time. I took my old PWJDM front three point strut bar, and put it on the car. it didn’t really fit because the d16y7 had the air box that was on top of the throttle body and since the Y7 was mostly trashed at the point i just took off the top of the air-box and left the filter on and smashed the strut bar on. I got a whole 99 front end from the junkyard, since the front was in a small crash, the fenders were rolled to hell, and this would take care of a large chunk of plastic dip.I took back the koni yellows and eibach sport-line springs from Nate since he was going to be selling his ek anyways ( I’m not an Indian giver). this was all in about a months’ time and I was still looking for a d16y8 swap, and one random night on offer up there it was a full d16y8 swap with everything: motor, trans, wiring, ecu, linkage, axles, everything! I hit the guy up and he still had it! I was so excited, Nate borrowed his dads truck and we went and picked it up the next day. when we go there to look at the engine, I inspected it and noticed that it had some oil leaks and it looked a bit rough the cv boots on the axles were cracked. But again he had the motor and I needed it, I asked him the history of it and why he was selling it. he said he took it out of a car for a friend whose daughter didn’t want to drive stick. so he swapped a full Y7 auto into the daughters car. the only thing that caught my attention was he said that the clutch makes a “clunky noise” but the car drove fine. anyway i paid no attention and my lust for it out weighed my good decision making. We threw the swap into Nates truck and took it back to my house, I was so excited I was finally able to do this swap.

This is where the whole project begins to become a full build, I needed a clutch since I’m assuming that the clutch is bad since the guy said it was making a noise. I needed axles since those ones weren’t going to last. I needed parts for the auto to manual conversion.

  • Hasport motor mounts, because I hate the way the ek divers side motor mount looks, plus I like the clean look of not having the front vibration mounts ( the trans side and the A/C one) since I wasn’t running A/C anyways
  • s2000 clutch master cylinder since I needed a clutch master for the auto to manual conversion, a new exedy slave since why use the old one that could possibly be bad. and I had a rywire SS clutch line lying around from my old B series in my EG
  • a clutch since I thought I needed a new one, and a lighted flywheel since i would have needed to get the OEM resurfaced anyway since I was doing a clutch.
  • fast line shifter since I wanted to get the best shift possible a spoon shift knob since i needed a shift knob
  • spoon magnetic oil pan/trans bolts since i wanted to make sure there would be no foreign materials floating around
  • and a new wiring harness since the one that was currently on the Y8 that i purchased was hacked up (another warning sign)

Now i was ready to do the swap, first thing first I took the trans off to put the new clutch and flywheel on. Major problems awaited me there, the flywheel bolts had backed out and were hitting the clutch pressure plate, That’s what was making the crazy noise that he guy was speaking about. I went to take off the valve cover to inspect the condition of the motor ( usually the best way to determine how hard the motors life has been, and how well maintained it was.) which it didn’t do at the time i bought it. When I took the valve cover off I realized that I need to just buy another motor and that I had been sold a lemon. again this was only due to my eagerness to get the first thing that came up and not wait for the best option out there. there was black gooey tar all over the valve terrain, looks like the oil hadn’t been changed in years. I was so disappointed  in not only the guy for selling such crap, but in myself for buying such crap,I know better. I know what the telltale warning signs are, I just disregarded every red flag and proceeded to buy crap because I wanted instant gratification and couldn’t wait around till something better came along. In my defense the Honda scene in las Vegas is a joke, it’s very dry when it comes to parts and availability. d16Y8’s don’t come up very often, especially not full swaps. now I have all these parts and nothing to do with them.

So now I’m looking for another swap, days go by, weeks go by. then after scrolling through countless garbage for sale ads on Facebook I came across someone selling a full d16Y8 I call Nate and he borrows his dads truck we head to go look at possibly buying the swap. we get to the house and they guy still has it in his car!? at least this way I can hear it start and run. starts runs and everything is good, I ask him when I can come back to pick it up, then Nate asks him if he will take 50 bucks off if we just pull it ourselves. The guy says yea and we pick a day that works for everyone to come back and pull the swap out. The day has come, we load up all the necessary tools: cherry picker, jack, jack stands, impacts, pry bars, all the sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, clamps, anything you think you might need to complete a swap, that 8mm punch for the bitch pin, 32mm for the axle nuts. yea we got it all, they guy had no tools what’s so ever at his house. we get to the guys house and immediately start ripping things off. axle nuts, ball joints, draining trans fluid, radiator fluid, disconnecting the wiring harness, etc. once i get under the car to begin removing the bitch pin I realize that there is some oil leaks that I couldn’t see from the top, and that there was in fact no bitch pin holding the linkage rather a 10 mm bolt. I started to doubt myself and wonder if i was going to be buying another lemon. I wasn’t about to back out of the deal after we had pretty much pulled the motor out. We got the swap all out and headed back to my house. the next day I began to research a little about the swap that I had purchased. after looking at the trans the number on it wasn’t one I was familiar with from any other d16Y8 stuff, i began to get worried and start to think I was sold some thrown together crap again. But much to my surprise it turns out I bought a full DEL SOL si swap from a 96 del sol, I was very excited once i found this out. The leak that i thought was bad just ended up being an oil pan gasket.

On to engine prep and assembly, first thing was to de-grease and pressure awash the swap, pull the trans off new clutch/flywheel on, all new OEM Honda seals and gaskets (didn’t do water pump, timing belt, or oil pump) , totally take the whole intake manifold, throttle body, fuel injectors, alternator off, pretty much bare short block. turn block upside down on a stand and remove oil pan, new rear main seal, and oil pan gasket, applied gold heat tape where the header goes under the oil pan. not really a fan of the header wrap but eh that’s how it came so ill use it. cleaned and de-greased inside the intake manifold and runners, and the intake ports on the motor. I also had some BNIB OEM bolts laying around from my B series so i replaced as many old bolts as possible. I always try my best to make the engine and bay look as clean as possible. I hate it when people have oil leaks or dirty ass bays, keep it clean and take some pride in your car.

 

Install time: this was a pretty straight forward install since I was staying SOHC the only thing was going from auto to manual, and running VTEC. I used the OBD2a SOHC EX harness I had gotten from eBay, everything just clips right in and its already wired for vtec so it’s a direct plug and play. Im running a P2P 96-98 OBD2a manual ecu, the only other thing I had to wire up was the neutral safety switch since the car was auto, which was super easy you just jump two wires together. I decided to also do a small wire tuck in the engine bay for a few reasons, to learn more about wiring and de pining, I think it cleans up the engine bay, and its super easy on the EK models. while the motor was out I put the power steering loop in.

Once the swap was all done it fired right up and ran amazing, it had a small oil leak from the cam seal. That only required taking off the cam gear and sliding the old one out and sliding the new one in. My first impressions of driving were very lack luster, I mean I was expecting it to be faster. I know it’s only a SOHC but i guess coming from a 250 hp k20 in my EG to a d16y8 in a full interior car left a lot to be desired, I remember trying to rev it all the way to red line in 2nd gear and thinking… boy this is taking a long time. Yes I was a bit disappointed but then I remembered that the goal wasn’t to make it the fastest thing around, it was to make it the most reliable thing around. Once I finally realized that I wanted to start to fix the 4 door up I always kept in mind that it was going to be a daily and it was going to be parked outside. I had to make it as stealth and un-flashy as possible, that was the one rule I had to keep reminding myself of. true I did do a lot of modifications and I will fully list those later in the article, but I kept them tasteful and stealth. What I ended up doing was making the Best civic ever! since it doesn’t look that appealing I don’t have to worry about scratches or dents, or even going to hard and sliding off the road during some spirited driving. Basically I can drive it to its limit all the time, the car may not be fast but boy catch me in some turns, or under some hard braking. All joking aside the car is very well balanced just the right amount of mods to keep it fun, and just the right amount of comfort to keep it like a car that I can use every day. The paint doesn’t match, the quarter panel has damage, the door is dented. Yet everything functions as it should, and its quiet inside, i would say the only thing that I wasn’t too happy about is the vibrations from the stiffer motor mounts ( but it’s not really that bad ). The whole car is honestly more fun than my EG… I know what you’re thinking but let me explain, the EG is a full purpose built track car, rare expensive parts, tires that cost more than my whole Y8 swap, a motor that is tuned to 250 hp, revs to 9k, and a transmission with a 5.1 final drive and an aftermarket 1.5 way LSD that makes the car feel like its breaking at low speed turns, halo style racing seat, 5 point harness, and its 3 inch straight piped all the way to the back. I literally can’t drive it unless I have headphones or ear plugs in. But do I love it? oh hell yea I do, It’s just all a bit too much for driving around the streets. it spins out in 1st. 2nd, 3rd, so I’m not going to beat anyone off the line, the brakes don’t stop unless they have been warmed up, the tires are slippery unless they are warmed up. I’m having to basically drive it around at 50-60% of its total performance which isn’t too fun. but don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t change any of that at all, and the car performs flawlessly on the track. But I just feel as if it’s a little more fragile than the four door. Now the four door on the other hand is amazing! brakes work great right away, the motor isn’t powerful enough to spin the tires, and the tires have great traction in all weather and when they decide to not grip they just gently slide out a little to let me know that they are done holding me to the road. You can pretty much drive the car all out all the time, if I blow the motor its cheap and easy to fix or replace, if i crash it ill just get some new panels from the junk yard. That’s the main reason this is the best civic ever, I can prove it too. yes more power would be good but for now the d16y8 is adequate. the car literally brings smiles to my face, it’s fun to push it a little too hard into corners and feel the little slip of the tires, or drive way to fast onto a freeway off-ramp then brake as late as possible to make the turn off the freeway. and it’s all done quietly and without a care of what happens to the car. Bang for buck this car has it all and unless you are planning on actually tracking your civic “regularly” which I don’t even really do just because of the lack of event in the las Vegas area. I would be more than happy with what I have built, it handles 90% of what my EG can handle, and I’m even planning on trying to run some events in southern California since the tranny in my Y8 is good on the freeway unlike the 5.1 final drive in my eg.

As you can see I try really hard to keep the car clean and as respectable/tasteful as possible. Yes I wash it frequently, yes I wax it, yes I care if everything lines up correct, yes I have as much pride in my 4 door as I do my EG. I consider the 4 door to be a “troll” car, one that people look at and think how ugly it is, but then when I’m leading them too fast into a corner because they are thinking it’s a crappy civic and they can keep up they end up biting off a little more that they can chew. I love Civics with all my heart i truly believe they are an amazing piece of machinery that can handle anything you throw at it with just a few mods, yes there are other cars that are faster through the turns, or better at braking but they cost 5-10 times as much and only really professional drivers can yield the most out of their performance. The average Joe wouldn’t know how to handle that much power or that much stability thru the turns, for fear of driving above their skill level and crashing. I can’t blame them though I wouldn’t want to try and max out an M3, or Porsche for fear of totally wrecking an amazing car. If i wreck the 4 door i can just salvage what good parts are left on it and then transfer it over to another chassis.

PARTS LIST:

  • D16Y8 swap OBD2a P2P ecu, eBay header, punched cat, Yonaka 2.5″ exhaust, hasport motor mounts, apexi super induction intake, spoon sports magnetic drain plug
  • action 6 puck sprung clutch, light weight flywheel, energy suspension linkage bushings, fast line shifter, s2000 cmc, rywire ss braided clutch line, spoon sprts magnetic drain plug, brand new axles ( AutoZone lifetime warranty )
  •  stop tech slotted front Mini cooper rotors, NSX calipers, hawk hp+ pads, good ridge ss brake lines all around, scare bird rear disc conversion, oem rear discs, GSR 1 inch master cylinder, brand new EM1 prop valve, brand new EM1 ebrake cables
  • front ex sway bar, rear ASR sub frame brace with ASR 24mm rear sway bar and spherical end links, front PWJDM three point strut bar, custom rear strut bar ( made by me ) koni yellows, eibach sport line springs, kosei k1 15×7 +35 with 205/50 nitto neogen tires, or enkei PF01 15×8 with 205/50 federal rsr tires ( kosei’s are my brothers) muteki lug nuts
  • Omni power tach in stock ex cluster, unknown carbon bucket seat, buddy club seat rail, spoon sports duracon shift knob, circuit hero shift plate

 

 

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