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The Little Honda That Could

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Recently, I’ve been interested in outrageous engine swaps. I have this super-secret dream of taking a sixth- or seventh-generation Civic coupe and cramming a Honda J35 from an Acura RL or a J37 from a Pilot or Odyssey under the hood. I would marry that to an all-wheel-drive conversion kit to create a Franken-Civic that could hang with any all-wheel-drive Subaru or European sports coupe.

The idea of a total sleeper car is really exciting and something that no one would ever expect from a stock-looking Civic. The 1996-2000 Civic had a measly 1.4L that Fred Flintstone could outrun, and the Si, though popular with tuners, wasn’t really much better. The seventh-gen Si was also a letdown and was only available in a tiny, cramped hatchback that looked more like a go-kart than a performance model due to its really underwhelming body lines and stubby rear-end.

It’s not uncommon to see heavily modded Civics; they’re some of the most popular vehicles among street and drift racers and import enthusiasts. The recently redesigned Si and Type-R are both testaments to the popularity of the model, and the R in particular has generated some incredible hype for the performance that Honda has squeezed out of its traditional front-wheel-drive platform.Car and Driver and Road and Track both seem to post articles at least once a week praising its engineering and design and highlighting some new aftermarket garage that has achieved a new feat with the Little Honda That Could. The only downside to the current Si and R is the aggressiveness of the styling; the exaggerated vents and flares scream, “Race me at the stoplight!” And that kind of defeats the purpose of a true sleeper. The $35,000+ price tag is also a significant barrier to entry, and I believe that I could probably build my beast for less than $10k.

Honda engines are renowned for their reliability, and if I used the right parts with a clean enough engine and chassis and took the proper care, I believe that I could easily get at least 100,000 miles out of my Franken-Civic. Of course right now, this is all still just a pipe dream, and Bring-a-Trailer is constantly beckoning with another Porsche, BMW, or Audi and a whole load of classics that would probably be all be better, more stately investments. But still, wouldn’t it be cool?


-Trey Fennell



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