Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, where we take a look back at some of our favourite previous feature cars. This week it’s Phillip Nguyen tuned Honda Civic EP from back in 2014…
Plenty of people will tell you that Japan is the spiritual home of the modified Civic but, I have to say, I’m not so sure. You see, to me, the Far East has always been more about iconic 200mph Wangan-stormers and highly-strung mountain drifters, than Honda’s most famous little hatch. Sure, they’ve had some of the best OEM offerings over the years, the JDM-only motors like the EK9 and FD2 immediately spring to mind. It’s also true that modified examples aren’t exactly rare on the streets over there but, when it comes to consistently getting the finest out of Honda’s little front-wheel drive street slayers, I firmly believe you have to look 5000 or so miles across the Pacific. In my humblest of humble opinions, the spiritual home of the modified Civic will always be California.
Now, the uneducated out there will argue that the Americans don’t do corners and that a supreme handling car like the Civic is something of a redundant entity. Oh how wrong they are! If you look closely, pound-for-pound, you won’t find more big-power, track-ready Hondas anywhere else on the planet – amazing considering these guys didn’t even get the Type-R in the first place! In fact, nowadays the relatively small-capacity Civic Si’s have become as much a part of the diverse American car culture as the HEMI-powered muscle, or big block Chevy pick-ups from Detroit. The proof is right here staring you in the face too, and it comes courtesy of Orange County local, Phillip Nguyen.
Phil has been messing with his EP3 for the best part of the last decade and, like many of us, it all started with sorting out the looks. It’s true to say that he wasn’t too happy with the car initially. Even though this one was a hell of a graduation present, the standard EP3 Si was always looked upon as a cheap, economical ‘student car’ in the US. (If only we were so lucky in the UK eh? – Initial G). Still, he’s also quick to say that he’s used nothing but his own cash, not to mention DIY skills building what we reckon to be one of the hottest examples on the West Coast… or any other coast for that matter.
What’s interesting about the fantastically aero-clad look of this car too is that, although we in the UK always seem to take inspiration from the US, Phillip has taken most of his from over here, and in particular the hardcore motorsport from the boys of the British Touring Car Championship. There’s also a hefty chunk of Mugen-inspired modding in there too, along with a couple of their uber-rare and uber-expensive JDM parts. Putting together a performance-styled car like this at home, with his own hands didn’t go unnoticed in the local car fraternity either and even landed him a job at a local garage. It was about this time, with a whole shop-load of ramps and tools at his disposal, that things quickly escalated into a new kind of mentalism. The go was very much about to match
Now, it’s true to say that Phil is a bit of a motorsport nut and, as he’s got a little older, that’s translated directly to the right-hand pedal in his Civic. We usually think of Americans as the kings of the dragstrip, and rightly so, but for Phil and his mates they just can’t wait to get their cars out on a properly twisty circuit. With this in mind, and more than a couple of track days under his belt, he soon decided he needed more power, and plenty of it.
Over the years there’s been everything from a Rev Hard turbo kit, to a Jackson Racing supercharger, and even a cam’d K20A2 lurking under the ‘hood.’ Most recently, though, a fully-fettled K24A1 (basically an Accord/Civic Type-R Frankenstein build) has been the power plant of choice. With 300-odd horsepower on tap, it certainly does the job of embarrassing the odd all-American V8 on the tarmac.
Like any good track-pounding weapon, this one is not just about sheer grunt, and perhaps that’s where this particular baby Honda (with a great deal of help from just about every chassis-stiffening part you can imagine) comes right into its own. It looks the part and goes like absolute stink, but, more importantly, it handles and stops with a well-thought out degree of perfection, too.
Aside from that mental digi wrap, every bit of the car has been carefully put together by Phil himself, something of a testament to the ingenuity of good, old-fashioned, home-brew modding.
The spec-sheet is both impressive and extensive in equal measure, but behind all the high-end parts goodness the story it doesn’t tell is all the necessary ‘work in progress’ – trust me when I say there’s been more than a couple of mods tried, tested and then swapped out over the nine years of development. But what’s a measly nine years and the loss of stuff like air-con and power steering in the quest for perfection?
The result is a true racer that, like any other true motorsport leviathan, has taken time, patience and some serious cash to get spot on. A truly EPic build.
TECH SPEC HONDA CIVIC EP
JDM CTR front bumper, sideskirts, grille, side markers and Honda badges, JDM Mugen Lip , USDM CTR rear lip, shaved rear bumper lens, Mugen-style hood and spoiler, JDM window visor and slam panel, Depo 04-05 CTR repilca headlights, R-Krew canards, APR custom splitter, Voltex Type 7 1600mm wing, PCI custom wing stands
Hondata KPRO, K24A1 block bored to 88mm, JE 13.3:1 pistons, Blue Print Pro I-Beam rods, modified K20A2 oil pump, J’s Racing baffled sump, Circuit Racing timing chain guide, Hybrid Racing timing chain tensioner, ATI Street Super Damper crank pulley, Karcepts air con and power steering delete, K20A2 ported and polished head, Kelford 179-b2 cams, Blue Print VTC 40* limiter, Supertech dual valve springs, 5mm oversized valves and titanium retainers, port matched RBC intake manifold, RC 750cc injectors, Walbro 255 lph fuel pump, Skunk2 70mm throttle body, custom short ram Intake with Apexi filter, Buddy Club race header, Invidia Q300 mid-pipe, Skunk2 Mega Power backbox, Mishimoto radiator and hoses, K20A2 6-speed transmission, Wavetrac LSD, Synchrotech carbon synchros, 5.07 final drive TSX 6th gear, Clutch Masters stage-4 paddle clutch, competition 11lb flywheel, EM2 clutch master cylinder, Clubrsx shifter cable bushings and shifter box bushings
9x17in WedsSport TC105N alloys, Federal 595 255/40×17 tyres, ARP extended studs, ‘04 RSX-S 5-lug conversion, Buddy Club big brake kit, Raybestos ST43R front pads, Goodridge stainless braided lines, Power Slot slotted rear rotors, Hawk HP+ rear pads, Buddy Club race-spec damper coilovers, Swift Springs 14k front and 20k rear, Hard Race LCA spherical
bearings, hard bushing set, front and rear endlinks and rear camber kit, SPC front camber bolts, Buddy Club roll centre adjuster, Todd’s adjustable tie rods, T1R Racing inverted tie rod ends, Neuspeed front strut tower bar, Mugen H-bar, Spoon rear strut tower bar, EM2 front sway bar, Progress rear sway bar with tie bar, Function 7 rear LCA, D3 rear V brace
Bride Zeta III bucket seats, Momo Tuner 330mm wheel, NRG short hub and quick release, OMP Racing spacer, Mugen pedals, Strut King dead pedal, Skunk2 shifter, AutoPower race roll bar, Megan Racing RSX Type-S C-pillar bar, Hybrid Racing RSX-S shifter assembly
Ephatch.com for being a badass forum and giving me insight on how great my Civic could be, OC Krew for the motivation and inspiration, LA Wraps for the wonderful wrap job they did for me, Cygnus Performance for their continuous support. Bernard, Hai, and Minh at Stanton Automotive and Demonwerkz for all the hard work and help they have given me with my build throughout the years, Buddha Concept Design for adding the fender flares
Words Midge Photos Eric Moon