Fate and innovation played equal part in making Jimmy Hofman’s Honda Civic EJ2 coupe the car it is today. And now he’s got a taste for the quarter-mile, he’s laser-focused on getting those times down…
Endeavour, exploration and experimentation – the three Es of modern mankind. For quite a long time, primitive man was happy enough to just exist, skinning a bear here, daubing some depictions of hunting scenes onto a cave wall there, and generally just getting on with the business of finding food and not dying. But as people grew more sophisticated, carving tools and developing complex linguistic skills, so the inherent wanderlust and natural inquisitiveness of the species began to bloom and flourish. And humans have been accelerating their skillsets ever since; it’s not enough to just find food and shelter and try to keep wolves away from our young, we have to be landing men on the moon, building particle accelerators, imagining strange new literary worlds, fusing disparate strains of flora, travelling about the planet just for the sake of having a look at it because it’s there.
Now, annoyingly, some people are better at this than others. Look, for example, at the endeavours of the amateur pilots of the 1920s, desperately trying to be the first to cross the Atlantic. Near-countless attempts were made to fly from the US to Europe, with most efforts ending in missing planes, aquatic mishaps, fiery explosions, and tragedies as disturbing as they were embarrassing. Then Charles Lindbergh came along with the Spirit of St Louis, a flimsy single-engined monoplane with a fabric body, and flew solo from Long Island to Paris as if it was all in a day’s work, without a single hitch and making it all look very easy.
Belgium’s Jimmy Hofman is, if you like, the Charles Lindbergh of Honda Civics. He’s the guy who put together this frankly rather astonishing ’94 coupe, and while hordes of modifiers across the globe are breaking their backs to craft their vision of the perfect Civic, Jimmy’s got it nailed. If your vision of the perfect Civic is one that compromises everyday usability as a trade-off for being incredibly fast on the dragstrip, that is.
Jimmy’s story is an interesting one, and can be roughly anchored in four key events that changed his life’s direction on a fairly seismic and fundamental level – the first of which is a car show that he attended as a young boy: “When I was a child, there was an annual meet in my village for modified cars,” he recalls. “That’s what really got me interested.” Having this sort of thing on his doorstep from an impressionable age undoubtedly got those fledgling synapses firing, and it instilled within the young Jimmy a fascination with mechanical engineering and automotive propulsion; it’s no surprise that he’s grown up to work as a machine operator at Volvo Cars Belgium.
Jimmy’s early driving adventures saw him behind the wheel of a variety of Opels (which is unsurprising, given their colossal popularity in that part of Europe), all of which received a colourful blend of stylistic and go-faster modifications, before he reached life-changing event number two: the acquisition of a Civic coupe.
“After I bought that first coupe, it was nothing but Hondas for me from then on,” he beams. “From that first one I fell in love with how they drove – the coupe I have now is my third woth a trunk, and I’ve had plenty of other fast Civics in-between.”
The car we have flexing for the lens today was bought as basically a wreck, and Jimmy repaired and restored it initially with the intention of taking it shows, evoking those youthful memories of village show-and-shine culture. But before long, thanks to his gearhead friends, Jimmy arrived at the third life-altering event of his personal narrative: they went to watch some drag racing.
“A few months after I’d finished the Civic, my buddies and I went to a drag meet in the Netherlands,” he remembers with a smile. “Well, that was it. Once I saw that, I was hooked. As soon as I got back home I started to change up the Civic, modifying it for drag racing.”
Fate has a way of toying with the adventurous however, and very soon after Jimmy had experienced this third revelatory moment, he was accosted unnervingly by the fourth – a heart bridge, which necessitated surgery and a lengthy convalescence period. This is bad news, as a myocardial bridge is essentially the heart’s arteries trying to strangle themselves, so as you can imagine it meant Jimmy had to take it easy for a bit. But every single minute he was feeling up to it, our hero was out there in the garage tweaking his coupe, reimagining it according to the startling quarter-mile vision he had in his head. And as his health and mobility grew, so did the muscle of the Civic, until it had evolved into something really quite incredible.
For starters, if you want to go drag racing, you need a bit of power. That’s a given. So Jimmy’s swapped in a B18C and thrown in a VTEC lockout along with a modded Skunk2 intake, massively uprated fueling (and we’re talking ridiculously big, including 2,000cc injectors!) and, most importantly of all, forced induction. That B-Series is now rocking a meaty BorgWarner turbo, featuring the bonnet-exit exhaust and screamer pipe from Sheepey Built that’s one of our favourite performance mods on the scene right now. And that’s about 700-odd horses right there. The next thing you really need is traction. There’s no point having the power to walk the walk if your cocky swagger then turns into a stumble. So you’ll note that the wheels are staggered back-to-front – this is a FWD drag car, after all – with 7.5×13-inch Lenso rims running full drag slicks up front, while the super-slim 3.5×15-inch rears wear low-drag skinnies. The bodywork has been comprehensively reworked to adjust to its new life punching holes in air as well; while the bulk of the shell has been beautifully repainted (by a Toyota garage, the sacrilege!), the front end is slippery and smooth as well as lightweight, thanks to a sleek new carbon fibre bumper from Ce Dois Racing in Portugal, which is joined by carbon wings and an Aerodynamics carbon bonnet. The latter firm also supplied the carbon bootlid, and it’s at the tail end that things start to look really serious. For one thing, the cutaway aero bumper gives you a coquettish glimpse at the beefed-up undercarriage, with its Skunk2 chassis upgrades and BC coilovers, but you also can’t really miss the super-long carbon drag spoiler, which exponentially lengthens the profile for optimal airflow. Most in-your-face of all, of course, is that massive Simpson Racing parachute. That’s a real statement of intent, that is. You don’t fit your car with a parachute unless you really need one.
It seems, then, that the three Es – endeavour, exploration, experimentation – have encouraged Jimmy’s life into an entirely new direction. “I don’t really go to car shows much any more,” he shrugs. “I’m always at the drag strip!” This makes sense, as his Civic coupe isn’t just any old drag car. It’s the fastest FWD drag car in Belgium. Which just goes to show where a lifetime of passion and the endorphin spike of physical adversity can take you.
“It needs to get faster,” he says, adopting the mantra of every serious drag racer in the world. “It’s run an 11.5-second quarter, but I want to see it in the nines. I’m going to change a few things, replace the doors and roof with carbon, maybe bring it over to Santa Pod, and see if I can break some more records.”
He’s very calm and measured in all this. Like Charles Lindbergh puttering through the sky above the icy Atlantic, Jimmy’s not unsure of himself – he just sees this as something he can potentially achieve, so he might as well try. There’s probably a lesson for us all there.
Tech Spec: Honda Civic EJ2 Coupe
B18C 1.8-litre VTEC – rebuilt by Kaspakas Racing (The Netherlands), Speedfactory VTEC locking pins, Skunk2 UltraRace intake – modified by 4 Pistons Racing (USA), Injector Dynamics 2,000cc injectors, AEM fuel rail, Nuke Performance fuel pressure regulator, custom fuel tank, Mishimoto intercooler, Borg Warner 300SFW turbo, Precision wastegate, GFB dump valve, custom turbo pipework, Sheepey Built bonnet-exit exhaust and screamer pipe, Speedfactory drag radiator, Hondata management, AEM cam gears, ATI crankshaft damper, flywheel scatter shield, Competition Clutch twin-plate clutch and flywheel, Hasport engine mounts
7.5×13-inch (front) and 3.5×15-inch (rear) Lenso drag wheels with M&H Racemaster tyres (drag slicks front, skinnies rear), BC coilovers, VTi brake swap, Skunk2 camber kit and arms, ASR subframe plate
Stripped, full multi-point rollcage, Buddy Club P1 bucket seat, dash lightened and modified, STRI Racing oil pressure, oil temp and boost gauges, AEM fuel ratio meter, killswitch, Skunk2 short-shift, hydraulic handbrake, stripped doors with aluminium panels
Full respray by Pieters Toyota, Aerodynamics carbon fibre bonnet, carbon front wings, Ce Dois Racing carbon bumper, carbon rear drag spoiler, Aerodynamics carbon boot, cutout aero rear bumper, sunroof replaced by carbon panel, USDM licence plate holder and taillights, tinted headlights, orange indicators, custom headlight air intake, Simpson Racing parachute
“I would like to thank all the friends who have helped, UK Garage, Kaspakas Racing Team for building the engine, and Knights Racing for all the tips.”
Feature taken from Banzai magazine. Words: Joe Partridge. Photos: RonV