Updated: May 18, 2020
VIDEO PART 2 of 5
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The CRX-R began life with us as a completely original, low mileage JDM SiR Glass-Top, back in 2014. I hadn’t anticipated building this car initially. Projects like these tend to mature in time over countless nights spent obsessing over the finest details. In my case, also combined with the experiences of the other Honda V-Tecs over my years in Japan. Rolling back to the beginning. I'd fancied a CR-X V-Tec since they first came out in 1989. I had wanted to drive one since then, but never actually got the chance until the day I finally bought one. My first V-Tec was a CR-X SiR Coupe. A 10-year-old daily runabout for my work here in Tokyo, way back in 1999. It turned out to be a great tool in which to negotiate daily traffic and was the car in which I discovered the delights of Tokyo Saturday nights on the C1 toll roads, back when such antics were tolerated by the Japanese police.
I realise I’m going off on a tangent here, but please indulge me, so I may share with you what helped develop the DNA of the genetically modified CRX-R. My V-Tec intoxication had continued through a tuned NSX, several S2000’s, building & development of a successful endurance spec. Prelude Type S, several DC5 Type R including a full spec. Feel's example, plus other Hondas. Penultimately I went almost full circle, culminating in what may be my favourite JDM car of all. To put this choice into perspective, I’ve had & driven pretty much every JDM model over these last 2 decades in Japan and having dealt in them, I know their typical caveats and so my choice isn't really guesswork. Driven every pre-2000 Lancer Evo and Impreza model? Check. Every guise of Skyline GT-R or Supra - from mildly tuned, to built for the clinically insane?
Indeed. One of my favourites is & will always be the FD3S RX-7, but if I had to choose just one and only one JDM car, the choice I'd make would be a Honda & the model I’d probably choose, bearing in mind I’m a family man first and foremost would be a 1998+ Integra DC2 Type R. Now, you may be thinking I may have inhaled too many petrol fumes over the last 2 decades. Better than say an NSX or an R34 GT-R? The truth is – the DC2 is the one that suits my way of driving and life in reality best.
We've still got several other tuned cars but the truth is, I rarely drive them nowadays.
After a while driving insane tuned cars, it stopped being all about how fast a car could go. Fun isn’t necessarily directly proportional to ultimate power or speed. Its about how entertaining a car may be & in the real world, how reliable it is. Sure, some cars are more fun, faster, more involving, etc. I put it that perhaps Its about a cost/fun ratio. I’ve seen how robust Type-R Hondas can be, from dealing in them for 2 decades and racing with or against them on the circuit. I wouldn’t dream of endurance racing, say, a tuned RX-7 or a Skyline GT-R for 12 hours, because the odds of suffering a crippling engine failure and other repairs would always be stacked against me.
The same would go for other turbocharged JDM cars. I've seen many track cars have mechanical failures over the years, but I continue seeing these older Hondas run strongly track day after track days, 12-hour endurance race meeting after many other race meetings and they rarely suffer mechanical failures, whilst remaining very capable and fun cars.
I was first acquainted with what I didn't at first know would later become my own 1999 JDM DC2 Type R in 2013. It was an example which I’d improved in Japan for Marco, a client based in Italy before it was shipped to him, with Marco, I’d naturally struck a good friendship from the off. In 2016 wanting another car, he ‘d sweetly emailed me to apologise, saying it was time to sell the DC2 to fuel his onward passion for an STi Impreza. One thing led to another and before he got a chance to sell to anybody else, I ended agreeing his asking to price & buying his beautiful Type R Honda. Back before it had even left Japan, Marco had asked me to lovingly improve it and I'd gone as far as removing the bumpers to clean and polish behind them! I'd equipped it with a then-new Gruppe M Carbon airbox, Mugen twin-loop exhaust and a host of other small, but not insignificant Mugen parts, both for performance and purely as cosmetic indulgences, as requested.
In his 3 years of ownership and 10,000km, Marco had it serviced by a well-known Honda tuner in Rome 3 times, whilst caring for it obsessively. I've now been the custodian of this Integra Type R for 4 years and each time I've been back to the U.K. and Europe with my family, suitcases that would otherwise have been empty on the outbound trip were loaded with parts which I'd slowly collected throughout the preceding year.
The ITR has continued its onward developments on each visit, primarily in performance. I've also completed cosmetic repairs such as restoring the driver’s seat, replacing the steering wheel with an NSX-R spec'd one & also removed all the pin dents that had inevitably been sustained during its life in Rome.
It now has a Spoon ECU, which raised the rev limit 9,000 and reduced the V-Tec Changeover point from 5,700 to 5,100 rpm. I considered, but didn’t need to change the headers, since the 1998+JDM model came with an excellent 4-1 tubular steel from the factory, mated to a 2.5” outlet. The Synchromesh had, during enthusiastic occasions, been known to grind when slotting into 5th, so at Trasgatudo Garage in Lisbon, Carlos - the owner, Tiago a friendly mechanic & I rebuilt the box with Synchrotech replacements (these have a carbon lining where there would usually be brass contacting with the gear shaft’s cones). These synchromeshes offered a better “braking” effect and made for improved (faster) synchronization of gears. With these, the likelihood of grinding gears during fast changes at higher rpm was essentially reduced to zero. The advent of this technology had been first introduced in the S2000 back in 1999; a car which is noted for its very sweet-shifting 6-speed box. Synchrotech have been making kits for an ever-increasing range of cars to date. Whilst I was there, we changed the flywheel to a lighter Toda Racing Chromoly one. The original clutch gave way to a Spoon copper mix & assembly and finally Mugen engine & transmission mounts, with silicone inserts for good measure. Whilst having access, we also replaced the catalyzer test-pipe for a larger bore one from Tegiwa. We checked all the bushes, brakes, etc. & serviced where necessary, including replacing the expensive Iridium plugs and other service items.
These changes made for a perfected DC2 driving experience. Gone was the slop in the drivetrain or the need to go easy on 5th gearchanges. It continued to pull indecently well for what is still just a factory-built 1.8 N/A. Although I’d bought a Mugen cold air intake kit, I found the Gruppe M’s intake sound intoxicatingly addictive. The Mugen set remains new, unused & stored away. Using all this experience gleaned just from the Integra, the idea began to hatch in my mind to create the CRX-R. The slide down a familiar & slippery slope initially begun at a casual pace, before starting to gather momentum. For the first 3 years, knowing it would be going up in value, I'd just stored the CR-X SiR Glass-Top away under a cover in a corner and out of the way. I’d occasionally started, cleaned & and moved & bought some basic parts to improve & restore it. I had intended to perfect it to near-standard guise & in future put, it up for sale. Nostalgia though, as I’ve found, can be a dangerous thing for us car enthusiasts. It tempts all sorts of irrational decisions. Months passed and in winter of 2016, missing the charms of the ITR, I started to look deeper into how I could make the CR-X offer similar performance to the Integra Type R, whilst keeping it comfortable for use, just as its sibling is.
One fateful night, as I scoured Yahoo auctions for available treasures to make the CR-X unique, I came across the perfect engine. It had been entirely rebuilt to B16B specification for racing, using just the B16A block & crank. The owner had decided soon after running in, then testing that he would upgrade to a B18C. So the B16A/B was put for sale, barely used. A thing is always worth what people are prepared to bid. Spotting it for sale, I wanted it, as of course so did many others... I persevered, not stopping, knowing I’d regret if I somehow missed this unique opportunity. I paid the going rate and saved myself the expense of buying a higher mileage B16B, or even a B18C, which would’ve probably necessitated a full refresh. Such Type R engines usually fetch higher prices on the Japanese and international (U.S.) markets. It was this purchase that cemented the biggest effect in changing the course of life for this CR-X going forward. If you've enjoyed this blog post, please subscribe below - to be informed of future updates. Author: Miguel Varella-Cid
Founder & Director of JOMON CAR RENTAL.
Stay tuned for parts 3, 4, 5 where we share more secrets…..etc.
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