After modifying cars for more than 30 years, Lee Smith has the knowledge and experience to know when he’s found ‘the one’; we check out his modified Honda Civic Type R FK2. 

Lee hasn’t always been part of the Japanese scene though. He modified a number of marques before trying German cars for a grand total of six months and finally finding his groove with Japanese cars. The Honda Civic FK2 is quite a rare sight, given only around 2000 were sold in the UK of approximately 8000 produced worldwide. So, let’s take a look at how Lee’s original stock intentions morphed into an eight year project. 

side profile shot of ctr

Accidentally found the one 

They say the best things happen when you least expect it. When you’re not searching for it but all of a sudden something comes up that’s too good to ignore. It might be hard to defend the ‘not searching’ part because Lee went to test drive the new Type R in 2015, but buying one was never on the cards. “At the time I had an Evo 8 which I’d forge rodded and everything you could consider doing to it. I’d finally just finished it on its 64th map and I was totally happy with it.”

A test drive with their local dealer should have been harmless fun, but Lee walked away £3000 lighter after putting down a deposit for a brand new FK2. “I wasn’t intending to go and buy it, but I just fell in love. Thankfully, someone snapped the Evo up within an hour and a half of being listed online so there were no worries about eventually paying for the rest of the FK2

front end shot of ctr

Where did it start?

Where it always starts… “I promised I wasn’t going to do anything to it. And then it just snowballed.” It was small changes at first, but within a year, the modifications were well and truly underway. “The first thing I did was actually on the wing vents, I had some different wing vents made up in ghost carbon. So it was still blue but there was a white ghost carbon effect.” 

The vision didn’t quite match up in the flesh though, “one morning I came out and looked at it and said ‘I don’t quite like that.’ So we then went to the black.” From there the dark carbon fibre theme started and quickly moved into the engine bay. 

“Then in 2016 Dan at SRB gave me a ring about some new aftermarket wheels that XXR were bringing out. He sent me a CAD drawing of them and I said ‘yep, I’m going to have them.’” After originally intending to keep it stock, Lee hadn’t considered what modifications he was going to do, but once the wheels were on, the plan became clearer. “The wheels, to me, are a fundamental part. I always start my projects with the wheels. When we put these new wheels on, everything just started falling in place.”

k20 engine in modified fk2

What came next for the modified Honda Civic Type R FK2? 

Carbon fibre parts were next on the list. Lee started fitting Eventuri parts but in the early stages, they didn’t do the full kit so he installed different elements as and when they became available. “The first bit was just the intake, and then the carbon tube down to the turbo.” Due to the FK2’s relative rarity, there weren’t many off-the-shelf parts that fit with Lee’s carbon fibre theme. So, he took matters into his own hands and had custom parts made, starting with the candy apple red, carbon dipped rocker cover. 

“Then I didn’t like some of the plastics so I got some of the plastics done, which then led on to, ‘oh I don’t like the lower kit,’ so I got a lower kit from Maxton.” With the plastics given a carbon fibre makeover, the front side fender vents changed to red and black carbon, with red on the inside. 

interior shot on modified fk2

Modified Honda Civic Type R FK2 interior

The modifications began at the front of the car and moved back to eventually reach the spoiler, so next we come to the interior. The dashboard is all custom made and finished in candy apple red and carbon. There’s also carbon fiber details throughout the interior, including the door handles. The original Alcantara seats were redone in red Nappa leather too. 

The theme continues with, “carbon fibre on the pillars that led onto the rear carbon boot lid, rear carbon spoiler and rear carbon surrounds.” But the modifications aren’t just skin deep. “Last year, I jacked the car up and dropped the whole underneath out and redid all the beam axle underneath in Brembo red to match the Brembo brakes. There’s new poly pushes in there, new brake lines and new inner arches.” 

rear shot of modified honda civic type r fk2

A modified car is never finished 

Of course, we know a project car is never complete. The next move is to fit a carbon fibre lower end to the front and add new wheels. Unfortunately, a delay with the new wheels due to a manufacturing defect meant we couldn’t see them in the flesh during our shoot. But any time now, a new set should arrive. 

Even though wheels are where Lee starts a project, it’s come full circle and they’re likely to be one of the last additions to his FK2. The colour scheme has morphed over the past eight years so the wheels are “to tie in the black, the carbon and the candy apple red theme going through the car. I know it’s easy for an owner to say but I saw them yesterday and they are stunning.” 

front on shot of modified honda civic type r fk2

1980’s Rally Car Reborn 

Project cars normally stay with Lee for around three years, so after eight years with the Type R, it feels like this is ‘the one’. Its looks are what first sold him on the FK2. “I was born in the 70s, so to me, the shape of the FK2 was the 1980’s rally car, 100%.” But with modern tech and its rarity factor in the UK, it’s bang on the money for Lee. 

“I don’t know, there’s just something about it. It’s still a car I get into and it puts a smile on my face, so if that’s the case then I think it’s here to stay.” Of course, with the caveat that if someone were to offer a crazy amount of money, parting with it could be a possibility. But there’s no plans to sell right now. 

And if someone were to make an offer Lee couldn’t refuse, the problem is what to replace the FK2 with. “We’ve done the Evos, we’ve done the Supras, we’ve done the Skylines. I honestly wouldn’t know where to go next. I think, hand on heart, it’ll be the last project car I do.” 

spoiler on civic

What’s the future of car modifying?

After three decades of modding cars, Lee is apprehensive about what the impending EV future will look like for enthusiasts. “I think everything’s going to change shortly with all electric cars. I’m a petrol head, I’m not into the electric thing yet.” The special part of combustion engines for Lee is the distinct ways you can tell marques apart, just from their sound. 

“A Nissan sounds different from a Honda, a Honda sounds different from a Mitsubishi. They’ve all got their own little quirks.” Whilst EVs won’t suddenly sweep in and wipe out oily cars for good, eventually there will be a shift. 

There might be a glimmer of hope for the future, as Lee says, “I might be wrong and the modding scene might take a completely different turn.” Ultimately, his main priority for any car is personality, whilst EVs might be able to offer insane performance, will they match up to the pure novelty appeal of kei cars with 50bhp engines?

Words: Trinity Francis. Photos: Chris Wallbank. 

Tech Spec: Modified Honda Civic Type R FK2


K20C 1998cc Double overhead cam 16V; VTEC Turbocharged Direct Injection; EVENTURI Carbon Fibre V2 Intake; EVENTURI Carbon Fibre MAF Tube; EVENTURI Carbon Fibre Turbo Inlet Tube; AIRTECH Intercooler; AIRTECH Big Boost Pipe Kit; FORGE Hose Kit; Kandy Red Carbon Dipped Rocker Cover; Carbon Fibre Pump Cover; Carbon Fibre Fuse Box Cover; Carbon Dipped Header Tank; Carbon Fibre Slam Panel and Winglets; FK8 Air Bypass Kit; ACUITY Instruments Shifter Cable Bushing; ACUITY Shifter Base Bushing


Maxton Side Skirts in black; Maxton Front V2 Diffuser Splitter in black; Maxton Rear Side Diffuser in black; Maxton Rear Diffuser in black; Honda OEM Carbon Fibre Fog Light surrounds; Honda OEM Carbon Fibre Rear Spoiler; Carbon Fibre Front Headlight Eye Lid; Carbon Fibre Rear Light surrounds; Kandy Red and Black Carbon Fibre Side Front Air Vents on Front Wings; Carbon Fibre Dipped Rear door handles; Carbon Fibre Dipped B and C pillars; Carbon Fibre V2 Bonnet; FK8 Lower Side/ Brake Light Kit


OEM Seats recovered in Nappa Leather; OEM Honda Carbon Fibre Air Vent Covers; OEM Honda Carbon Fibre Gear Surround; Kandy red Carbon Dipped Door Handles; Carbon Dipped Rear Door Covers; Carbon Dipped Centre Console and Kandy Apple Red surround; Carbon Dipped Dash with Kandy Apple Red surround; Mugen Kandy Red Carbon Fibre Gear Knob; Stainless Steel Inner Door Levers all round; Kandy Red Mugen Door Lock Covers

Chassis and brakes:

Brembo Front Brakes 350mm FK8 Two-part Floating Discs taken apart and painted in metallic gold; Rear Drilled Brembo Sport Discs painted in gold; HEL Motorsports Braided Brake lines all round; Full Polly Bush Kit; Rear Axle resprayed in Brembo Red


XXR 559 in Chromium Black 19 x 8.5J x ET40


Falken Azenis FK510 235 x 35 x 19