There’s an old adage that goes a little something like “(insert noun here), can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” and for most petrol heads, this holds very true when it comes to our project cars. At times we’ll spend every last dollar we own, take our bodies and minds to the ragged edge, all the while cursing our beloved rides to oblivion… but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is one such tale of the ebb and flow of unspeakable time and money lost for the sake of vehicular lust; the story of a boy and his car. As you guys have probably noticed by now, we’re in the middle of an FF mini-theme and as such I could think of no better time than now to introduce my project car that has been with me for the last seven years – a Midori Green EK I call Leroy.
I would imagine that some of you are probably already familiar with my car, be it from Internet forums or past issues of Super Street where it was previously a project car. Even more still will probably at least recognize the car from my post about Super Lap Battle back in November, but I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you are complete strangers. Let’s change that.
I find it only fitting to backtrack and cover the history of the car like my fellow Speedhunters have done with their projects before we move forward and turn this into an official Speedhunters project. So without further ado, here’s a quick jaunt back through the years since I first acquired this green machine.
To really begin the story of Leroy, we have to start with this car I called Reggie, because without Reggie there would be no Leroy. Before my beloved green EK was even a glimmer in my eye, I was spending every last dime and minute I could spare building a red EG. It got to the point where if I would spent more than a few bucks on anything else, I felt like I was betraying my car… the love was strong.
Unfortunately all good things, as they say, come to an end. After dropping my girlfriend off at work one afternoon I returned to the shopping mall parking lot to discover that I had been a victim of an ever increasing problem amongst the Honda community – grand theft auto. The day my car was stolen was quite possibly the worst day of my life up to that point, until the day I found Reggie stripped down to virtually nothing about a month later.
When I first laid eyes on the car again my heart sank, my palms went sweaty and I thought I was going to puke. After getting the shaft from my insurance company I was left feeling pissed off and wronged, but I still had the passion to start over. Ironically, I never meant to buy Leroy; I was actually actively searching craigslist day and night for another EG to fill the void left in Reggie’s wake…
But after weeks of searching and wearing out the carpool welcome of my friends I knew things were getting dire when I stumbled across a peculiar listing. I can’t remember how it read verbatim, but it was very cryptic. Something along the lines of “’96 Civic, 5spd, A/C, Green” along with a price – $3100. I knew immediately then and there that this was a very rare car, a Midori EK and a day later I bought it. The first day I owned the car I clay barred it and stripped the tint that the previous owner had just paid $400 to install. What can I say, tint isn’t my thing.
I spent the next month saving up and sourcing parts for the car. At the time I was living in Phoenix and I would frequent LA to make day trip parts runs. Before long I had amassed enough parts that I felt comfortable taking Leroy under the knife and installed a set of Zeal Function B6 coilovers, ’96-spec ITR 4×114 brakes, Regamaster Evos, an EK4 SiR lip and Spoon mirrors and duckbill. JDM yo!
I also removed the rear seats and stripped the back half of the body of its sound deadening material and then painted the floorboard. Nice and clean. I used to care quite a bit about how my car looked, but you’ll see that (along with many other things) changed over the years.
Next I went through a pretty severe wheel whoring phase. I was in my early twenties, living with three friends and making enough money that I could basically blow it all on silly stuff, so I decided to buy copious amounts of shoes for myself and my car. I think of all the wheels I’ve owned (close to 25 sets by now) I think that CP-Rs will probably always be my favorite.
It was my obsession with wheels that eventually led me to sell off the 4×114 suspension to bolt on a more conventional 4×100 setup which opened up my wheel selection tenfold. This is about the closest to hellaflush that I ever got (not that I ever cared for that), I believe these were 15×8 +25, a size that might be making a return in the very near future.
Here we see Leroy being refueled in Palm Springs while caravanning with friends out to the famous Eibach meet in 2007 with a pretty radical set of custom-ordered red TE37s. It’s a strong look without question and many would say it was a little to christmas-like, but in retrospect I really miss those wheels. I should have never sold them.
For the next year or so I ended up amassing a huge collection of parts, only to end up selling them off when I felt as though getting rid of the car all together would be the most sensible thing to do. However, the sentimental being I am simply couldn’t go through with it and instead would continue to change wheels many times and make countless trips back and forth between my home in Phoenix and my friends and the scene in LA…
Until one day I decided to pack all of my things and make Los Angeles my new home. It was a leap of faith into the great unknown, but I had been offered a job at America’s largest tuner magazine and it was a gig I simply couldn’t resist. With a hatchback stuffed to the brim and a girlfriend willing to put up with my split decision, I made my way to sunny LA.
Over the next several years, I tried desperately to blur the line between the car I wanted to have and the car I drove every day. Inevitably, wanting to avoid another theft, I ended up buying a daily driver (an EG named Oliver that you’ll likely see in a few month’s time) and decided to shift my focus towards making Leroy a streetable track day car.
While being an automotive journalist certainly has its perks, it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. I thought when I came to the magazine that I’d have people throwing me parts left and right, and it would actually be my job to install them… I thought it was going to be the best thing ever; and occasionally, it was.
But more often than not, looming deadlines, hectic travel schedules, feature stories and cover shoots engulfed all of my time. I also realized very quickly that LA was a lot more expensive than I had imagined and I ended up with little time and little cash to spend on my project. Nevertheless, I carried on doing modifications here and there when I could – even if they were virtually free.
I also spent as much time as I could, albeit not nearly as often as I’d like, learning how to properly drive my car. Before working for the magazine I had only been to a handful of track days as a passenger, but ever since I was a young lad I’ve had a very strong affinity towards motorsport. One of the nice things about being a journalist is that you get a lot of options to drive not only your own car, but also press vehicles on race tracks.
At this point in time I still had an entirely stock powertrain, but to be power was the least of my concerns. I wanted to get the car as light and balanced as comfortably possible, then focus on my driving skill. Once I became comfortable with the car and satisfied with my abilities behind the wheel, I’d add power.
For the next year or so I continued hitting the track with Leroy when I could find the time and wrenched on the car where I could. As you get older a lot of your priorities start shifting and my main focus for the last few years has really been on my photography career, but taking a break from that chaotic world and spending some time behind the wheel is quite refreshing.
From age 17-21 I worked on cars for a living, and while I certainly don’t miss those days of book rates and busted knuckles, I do enjoy the act of moving about bits of metal with my bare hands. There’s something calming about turning a wrench that I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow.
Eventually I managed to save up enough money for an engine swap and the D16Y7 came out. For a while I started to feel like this day would never come! It may have been six years after I bought the car, but I did eventually get a B-series inside Leroy!
In fact the very last article I did about Leroy at Super Street was the engine swap story. If you haven’t seen any of the build progress from the magazine and need to kill some time, you may find them worth a look. And before you go and post it in the comments section, I don’t just look like a mad man, I am a mad man.
Sadly, these days I don’t get to drive Leroy nearly as much as I’d like. Much of the time I’m simply not home to do so; in fact, in all of 2012 I only tracked the car twice! But the way I figure it, if I’ve managed to hang on to the car this long I doubt I’ll ever let it go – no matter how badly I want a 911.
I’m destined to continue my obsession, wherever it may take me. Build, tweak, improve, break, repeat. It’s the life we’ve all been chosen to live, the reason we get up in the morning. We love our cars, even when we won’t admit it.
photo by Sean Klingelhoefer
photo by Larry Chen