The Best Of Nisei: Spotlight-o-rama

Nisei is a show where the standards are so high that virtually every car is worthy of a spotlight, but there were a few that peaked my interest a bit more than the rest. I’m not trying to suggest in any way that these were the only cars worthy of coverage, but this is a select group I saw as stand outs at this year’s event. I’m told opinions are like assholes, so you can take it for what it’s worth, but here were my favorites from the show…

To start things off I wanted to give the Speedhunters audience a closer look at my friend John “Supertwinz” Nguyen’s cool little E-AT hatchback. While it’s certainly far from finished, it’s great to see someone pushing this chassis the way John has and will continue to do. He is quickly building a name for himself in the third-generation Civic community and it’s easy to see why. Based on what I know he is capable of I’m sure this car will go a long way from here.

Ironically this car was actually used as his backup / daily commuter while he was undertaking his original project which was far more extreme and ultimately more than John had the time to complete. All the while he was tinkering here and there with this car and once the JDM project was sold off he invested that money, and left over parts, into assembling a more realistic build you see today. While it might be toned down compared to his other car, there are still some very special pieces here, like these custom adjustable strut mounts made by an RPR forum member.

This chassis is largely ostracized by the community so most parts development is done in guerilla fashion by the owners themselves. Something like the B-series swap which would be a walk in the park in a car even a few years newer is a big ordeal with a “Wonder Civic”. As an employee of AEM it make perfect sense that he has several components, such as an EMS and EPM installed on the swap. With the cars low curb weight it doesn’t take much to make it boogie and for the time being John is content with a mostly-stock B16B while he irons out the details.

Next up on my list is an EK owned by ATS Garage member Jay Powers. Many of you are likely familiar with his CRX, which is mind blowing on all accounts. Knowing what he, and his wife, are capable of I wasn’t exactly shocked by his EK. Although it’s not a “brand new” build, this is the first time I have seen the car in its current guise and I can agree with just about everything that’s been done to it, like that J-Blood front bumper!

Although wire tucking isn’t really my thing, if I were to perform such a modification, this is the way I’d go about it. Using factory plugs to block larger ports in the firewall and leaving the rest of the original holes intact I find to be a much better look than the fully shaven type. If anything I think it helps draw attention to how many things have been removed thus showcasing the amount of work put into it.

Inside the cockpit seems a very nice place to be! The carpet, sound deadening and miscellaneous panels have been removed and painted to match the exterior. However some pieces like the door panels and center console have been left intact, much as I have my own EK laid out. The pair of Zeal bucket seats is another touch that really sets this car apart from the majority Hondas you’ll come across.

The view from the back shows just how immaculately put together this car is. There’s nothing to hide here! In addition to the c-pillar and strut tower bars, an Autopower roll bar helps provide additional support and a safe place to route the Crow harnesses. This really makes the interior of my EK look like a hack job!

As I mentioned yesterday, in terms of non-Hondas there was little going on, but I did run across this particularly clean Mango Corolla. Although I don’t know the owner of the car, I did find a piece of paper sitting on the passenger seat which leads me to believe his name is Mike Muniz. Whomever the owner is, he (or she) has impeccable taste!

Furthermore if that paper can be trusted I am also under the impression that this car is daily driven! It’s certainly not everyday that you come across a TE27, let alone one in this condition that is regularly driven! It appears to be a factory SR-5 Levin which makes it the least common and most sporty version of the Corolla that the US ever got…

Except this one seems to be a Japanese model. Although there wasn’t much going on in the interior in terms of modifications, it’s always impressive to see a car that has been this well kept.

The same goes for the engine compartment, save for a strut tower bar, oil catch tank and an aluminum radiator (all of which are clearly “universal” parts) there wasn’t a lot done to the engine. But when you’ve got an original 2T-G in this kind of condition that’s certainly a good thing!

The icing on the cake for any Mango or older Toyota build are the coveted TRD / Tosco wheels. However, unlike virtually every set I’ve seen kicking around, these ones were completed with center caps. Being that these were designed as racing wheels I never thought they even had center caps, and combined with the condition of the caps I can’t help but wonder if these were made by the owner himself. Regardless they looked very nice.

Back in Honda-land there was yet another car from ATS Garage that I couldn’t stop staring at. This EF, which was debuted at Nisei, belongs to Mike Estebar; and my god is it hot! It’s refreshing seeing the standard USDM / EF7 front bumper left intact because it allows fitment of that incredible Chargespeed / J’s Racing front lip! And those EC Works Type-C mirrors… excellent choice.

The engine bay displays yet more exceptional taste combining newer technology with old school flavor. Like Jay’s Civic above, this car has also been tucked in a sensible manner that I can appreciate. It’s not jaw-droppingly shiny or super-baller but I think that’s what I like about it.

It wouldn’t be an ATS car without some custom tweaks like this engraved aluminum spark plate which really sets off the teal valve cover. Note the details like the polished VTEC solenoid cover and allen-head cap screws with washers.

Finishing off this balance of new and old is a set of timeless, yet somehow still very modern, Volk TE37s. Inside their barrels resides a pair of tastefully stripped and stealthy Spoon calipers.

Saving the best, or at least strangest, for last I present a car I actually know quite well. I have ridden in it on many occasions and poked fun at it even more… a first generation Acura Legend owned by my good friend Charles Trieu aka Eggman, the Editor in Chief of Import Tuner. I can see how this car might seem grotesque to casual passersby, and admittedly it’s probably one of the quirkier cars you’ll come across, but anyone who knows Charles can see it fits his personality to a t.

To put it simply, Charles is a Vietnamese-American car enthusiast who spends most of his time in coffee shops in Westminster Bolsa and is a lover of old leather bags and all things ’80’s. If you were in fact a Vietnamese gangster living in Bolsa during the ’80’s there is only one car you would be driving – an Acura Legend. To that effect, Charles has purchased the car of what I can only presume were his childhood dreams and made it a reality.

I don’t think it needs to be said that tuning parts for this model of car are non-existent, so Chuck has used a bit of ingenuity ghetto-rigging to get the car up to his specs. In order to get the car low enough to do the wheels justice, he had to take a random hodge-podge of suspension pieces and assemble a coilover kit of his own. Of course the wheels also had to be period correct and Charles, the well versed yahoo auctions buyer he is, stumbled upon a set of 17X9″+15 Volk Artisan Fins. We can only conclude these must be ex-JTCC items as there is no recollection of such sizing in any Volk catalogs.

Dedication to the way-cool-eighties theme doesn’t end on the outside, as there are some trinkets on the inside worth mentioning. First and foremost I’d like to draw your attention to the vintage Alpine tape deck which is fed tunes via a Sony Discman which has been hard mounted to the dash.

It’s completely absurd, even laughable, but it shows some commitment to making the build coherent. The period correct Alpine alarm and car phone put it over the top.

As I’m sure that last image has certainly blown your minds I’ll end on that note. I hope you’ve enjoyed a further look at a few my favorites from Nisei. Have a totally rad day!

Nisei 2012 coverage on Speedhunters

More Japanese event coverage stories on Speedhunters 

More stories by Sean Klingelhoefer on Speedhunters



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My dad used to have one of those sky blue civic wagons, we rode in it all the time. I really want to get one sometime but thats far down on the list.


Awesome coverage Sean!


totally rad!




"I don’t think it needs to be said that tuning parts for this model of car are non-existent..."
Saying that about any Honda or Acura car illustrates that you have no concept of what "non-existent" really means.
Those cars, even the Legend, are mainstream.  Go look for parts for a MX3, NX2000, or a Spectrum, then you can say "non-existent".


I didn't say that the Legend is the least common car on the planet, I simply said that tuning parts are non-existent. If you can find me one part built specifically for a '86-90 Acura Legend I would be shocked. Sure there might be some universal mufflers on eBay that say they're for a Legend, but those same universal parts would be available for an MX3 as well. 


 @kultivateblog Thanks Jeroen!


 @bradjh Ironically that wagon is actually a custom color called "Bisimoto Electric Blue" that Bisi paints all of his car in (like this Porsche I featured - ) but I know what you're talking about. 


Sean you are right on.  As for those fools that must pick on all the shit u say, it's just ridiculous.  WTF I mean is this an editing column or wtf?  But Charles Legend stays true to the OG's or those OG enough to go and try to do up an old skool Legend.  I remember when my cousin had one, in the 2 tone gray, slammed the shit out of it and it was super freakin clean.  That was gangsta!  2 thumbs up for Charles ride and 2 thumbs up Sean for the coverages as always!


I want those brake fins for my car! But alas, nothing for Enkei 92s....


totally rad


 @sean klingelhoefer 
1st Gen Acura Legend parts
This is not an advertisement, this is an illustration of your poor research in making your statement.
Listed on horsepowerfreaks
These are vehicle specific parts.
Injen Intake PN IS1401P
Goodridge Brake Lines PN 429452 (Coupe)
Ingalls Adjustable Front Control Arms PN 269095
Suspension Techniques Lowering Springs PN 22068
H&R Lowering Springs PN 64779
K Sport Version RR Coilovers PN 365961
Venom 400 Engine Management PN 36148 and 36149
Venom Fuel Injectors PN 306325, 306326, and 306327
Nology spark plug wires PN 255387 (available in six+ other colors)
And a 15 different clutch options from UR, Spec, and Clutch Masters.
From OBX website:
OBX Header PN 10-1005-87s-2 and 10-1005-191S
Find any of that for a Spectrum.


Hey Sean, thanks for doing a little writeup on my 1973 Corolla Levin. You are correct, this is a true JDM. I brought this car in as well as another TE27 to the states from Japan (Kobe to be exact) back in 1988. This one is my daily driver (Montrose to Newport Beach 5 days a week. I install a different set of wheels on the car since 13" tires are very hard to come by. I have a set of 14"x7" Panasports in Sumitomo rubber when it is in daly driving duties. My car is featured in August 2012 issue of the UK magazine Retro Cars Modified Classics. It goes in depth on what the condition of the car was in when I first got them from Japan, and all the problems I ran into getting it to the way it looks now. I have collected a lot of parts for these cars over the years (non are for sale, I use them for spares). The Tosco center caps came form Japan (via Yahoo Japan), They came in a Toyota Sport Corner box that was coming apart. I was told that these were never installed and that the original color of the center was actually white, but since it has been in a barn for 20 plus years, the clear center cap has "yellowed". Funny thing is the "yellowed" center caps now match my car more. The car is not as pristine as it looks. Orange hide a lot of the flaws that I know is there.
-Big Mike Muniz


sean your crazy i love that Legend i first saw it in IT a few months back and i think those wheels look so good on the car, it's pretty awesome he put all the 80's electronics in it kind of like japanese bosozoku cars do sometimes, maybe he should put some flares, and external oil cooler, and some crazy exhaust pipes on it next i bet that would look sick


Awesome coverage, dude! Totally awesome!


Awesome coverage, dude! Totally awesome!


Thanks Kevin, I appreciate it! 


 @Speedhunters_Rob you are!


 @Big Mike Muniz Hey Mike, I'm stoked that you found this! Very cool to hear a little more about the car, interesting to hear you found the caps on YAJ - I would imagine a lot of people would want those! I'll keep a look out for the Retro Cars mag and if I run into the car again in the future I'll be sure to introduce myself. Cheers!


 @TylerS13 There's no telling what Charles will do with the car next, but he has excellent taste and pretty much everything he's built totally kicked ass. He's one of the few people I know that is more nerdy and knowledgable about JDM nick-nacks than I am, so I'm sure whatever he does will be totally rad. 


Duran Duran? A discman? Those wheels?   That Legend is awesome, true creativity and you can see the owner built something that he really wanted and not what others thought is cool instead.  LOL especially at the real car phone. I wonder what his signal is like hehe.


That acura legend is sick


@sean klingelhoefer , That's why those caps are secured onto the wheels (I can't tell how I secured it but you would have to break the caps to get them off). I have 2 sets of the TRD Toscos but only 4 of those caps. I usually show up at Supercar Sunday in Woodland hills or at Cars & Coffee in Irvine on Saturdays...Definetely say hi and we can chat more about the car, I also have my Road race TE27 that I will be bringing to this years JCCS. I brought it last year (loud monster port rotary 12A in it). I was going to bring that car to Nisei, but the car is just way to loud for Downtown LA....
-Big Mike


hey that's great, but he said virtually. and if that's all there is, you'd be hard pressed to make a car that nice with those parts.


 @sean klingelhoefer
 i'll agree he makes sick vehicles i remember when he got the 240sx from john wong and when i saw it featured in SS my jaw hit the floor it's still to this day one of the nicest 240's i've seen, can't wait to see whats in store for the legend.


 @Skidson It certainly is Legendary, isn't it? ;)


The concept of a car phone is pretty ironic in today's society where its use is legally forbidden.


 @TylerS13 Yep I was working with him at the time when he reconstructed it... I actually shot the feature of the car as well ;)


 @Big Mike Muniz  @sean Haha yea that's probably a good idea, sadly people are losing quite a few parts that are easily removed from their cars at shows these days :( Anyway I'm sure we'll cross paths again in the future, probably JCCS - I'll be sure to say hello. 


That Legend is the business!!


Those TRD/Tosco rims... *drools*


Nice try, ignoring the obvious.
That is what was found by an uninterested person with five minutes and a google search.  Anyone motivated as much as the vehicle owner would find much more available.  How many Honda specific parts makers are there?
That is a supermarket store car.  You wheel the cart into the aisle in front of the twelve foot tall shelf full of pre-made crap for it, and the hardest part is not finding something made for the car, the hardest part is deciding which brand to choose from the dozens available.


I love that Legend... I shouldn't, but I just do!


 @Big Mike Muniz 
Love your YE27's Mike!
Speed Hunters should to a feature on your cars ans your parts stash ;)


No need to get all worked up man. I think you'd be hard pressed to find even any of those parts you listed readily available anywhere. Im pretty sure everyone else got what he was trying to say. 


We all have guilty pleasures ;)


 @inspector_exacto No kidding!


Anyone remember NOPI?:
10 performance brake rotors from Roto-Tech and Brakes-R-Us.
40 brake performance pads by Axxis Brakes-R-Us and Hawk.
10 performance clutch kits by Clutch Masters and UR.
Venom performance ignition control module.
Ground Control Suspension Kit (lowering springs, performance shocks).
How about the online owners club database:
Catback exhaust from Stromung, Greddy, Apex, Remus, RM Racing!  Sean, you claimed that doesn’t even exist.  That’s FIVE different companies making something that doesn’t exist according to you.  How about a retraction and an apology?
Sean, Grayson, Meat, you’ve been caught in a lie.
How about some research and verification before SH publishes statements that are completely false.


I wouldn't mind that at all. Maybe a feature on my other car that has been a very long project in the making? I have also bulit a Porsche 928 with a jet turbine engine in it. The engine was originally going to go in one of my TE27's but it would have reqired a lot of cutting to make the long jet turbine to fit, so I settled for the 928 since it has a very large engine compartment and is a 1980's icon. I still have to do a lot to the car before I could take it to shows. The roll cage is still in the works and the interior is also being redone. Since I do all the work out of my garage and I work 10hrs a day 5 days per week and another 8 hours on Saturdays turning wrenches for a Mercedes-Benz dealership, there is just not enough time to work on it at a steady pace. If I get it done by next years Nisei show, then I'll be there with the "Jet car"  below is a link to the car...1st video is the start up (really loud!). The next is how the car looks now.
-Big Mike Muniz


"Opinions are like assholes" i never hear that one before! Is that because every one is unique? Or because when you step back and look at them, they're actually all more or less the same? Or just because they're all full of shit?
As an example, here's one of my own: Hondas are OK, i guess ;)


Oops, meant to also say, great write-up and photos Mr Klingelhoefer, thank you. (I'm coming round to the Honda thing!)


@tenpennyjimmy it's an old expression, the idea is that "everybody has one and they all stink".


 @sean klingelhoefer  @tenpennyjimmy Like it! I almost got there... following my nose so to speak.


 @sean klingelhoefer  @tenpennyjimmy 
Back in the 90's, apparently before your time, the phrase was: Hondas, they're like assholes, everyone has one, and they all stink.
And if you're going to sit on the comments to your articles, and rail on everyone whose opinion is different from yours, I assure you that you will smell every single one, and your nose will always be filled with a very unappealing smell.


@OldeTymer @tenpennyjimmy When have I ever railed on anyone for having an opinion?


@Honto Ni I appreciate your effort but GReddy, Apex, Remus and RM Racing made exhaust systems for the second generation Legend, not first. Stromung is the only company I know of that made an exhaust for this car, but good luck finding one. It's like two decades discontinued. Regardless I don't see why you're do hung up on this. What's your point? You have a car that's harder to mod than a first gen Legend?


I appreciate your effort but GReddy, Apex, Remus and RM Racing made exhaust systems for the second generation Legend, not first. Stromung is the only company I know of that made an exhaust for this car, but good luck finding one. It's like two decades discontinued. Regardless I don't see why you're so hung up on this. What's your point? You have a car that's harder to mod than a first gen Legend and you want recognition?


Those Volks and Alpine phone are too cool I hope that phone is fully functional...if so, that is BADASS haha keep up the good pics.


Would love to see a desktop or feature on that hot EA-T in the first two shots. For sure a RedPepper member.


 @zackspeed333 He's a good friend of mine, you can expect a feature whenever he thinks it's "ready".


 @Jdmcolliemane The phone isn't functional, I don't think there are any service plans for those things anymore. Would be cool if he could some how bluetooth it to his cell or something though lol.


 @Big Mike Muniz Wow that 928 looks NUTS!


@sean klingelhoefer ahh that's too bad..that's be pretty baller if he worked somthing out hahaha


I give Sean until he is about 20 years old, then he'll be running around in a little circle, waving his hands in the air over his head, and screaming "Hater-Hater-Hater-Hater!" at everyone that comes close, just like Kevin Truong does.