Project Leroy: Till Death Do Us Part

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.

More Speedhunters project car stories

More stories by Sean Klingelhoefer on Speedhunters

-Sean


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63 comments
David Downs
David Downs

This article of the "EK" really hit home with me on a level that only can be experienced by a fellow former "EK" owner. Yes I also owned one years ago that I still talk about today. I was never ready to get rid of it but my circumstances changed and my hand was forced and so I did. Nostalgia bleeds out of this post of mine and I feel torn to get of my "S2000" and back behind the wheel of another "EK" just like Leroy because in fact Leroy's color was the color "EK" that I always wanted. And plus I want to do it the right way. Without any premature decisions or moves. Just plain old-fashion dream and build. Please someone tell me I'm crazy!

Rabia
Rabia

you know we have better reasons for when we wake up in the morning right?.. like who we live for, or why we are living for and where we would go after death. 

yanesnyawai
yanesnyawai

I thought I was the only one naming a proper name to a car. I'm with you on this Mr Sean. Nice story!

Guy
Guy

Do not let go of the car, man.  One day when you own a 911,  keep Leroy as either your track car or daily. 

w
w

omg its only a Civic - its not like its desirable lol

Andres
Andres

great story Sean! waiting for  new articles at your personal blog! congratulations from Colombia 

koko san
koko san

That stripped EG, so sad.

Nikhil_P
Nikhil_P

where do you get the names for your cars?!

MPistol
MPistol

I'd really like to read a culmination of stories devoted to those that have had their previous project cars stolen. I know i would be willing to contribute my story. Just a thought. An damn I miss my EG. Articles like this make me ever so nostalgic. I still have the key. I still have the title. Ugh. I had to give away the printed pictures i had of the car. I just could not bear to look at them any longer. I removed them from hard drive so I wouldn't inadvertently run across them & ponder the loss any further. I will still photograph other EG's of higher levels of tune because aspiration of what could have still rides with me. But I cannot bring myself to photograph EG's that were in the current state of street tune that my car was in. I bore the financial burden, I paid my debts in full, but when I entertain thoughts of rebuilding my stolen labor of love, I still cannot bring myself to purchase another. I still long for what was. I still want my car in my own hands. I want this title in my hands to match that VIN..... I still harbor rage & revenge..... damn I miss that EG :(

AndersHaugen
AndersHaugen

That's an awesome EK, but how on earth do you manage to fit 8 inch wide wheels in there? I currently have 7x16 wheels with a +40 offset and they are just flat with the wheel-arch.

Ben Chandler
Ben Chandler

So cool Sean. Nice to see project cars on here. Great story, too.

Dee Rail
Dee Rail

Remember you driving from AZ on the weekends to JHP to pick up parts for Reggie.

hanablemoore
hanablemoore

I wonder if Honda will ever make another civic that has the cult following of the eg and ek.

Phil Robles
Phil Robles

Can't wait to get back out your way and do a track day...or two!

 

 

Gerben aka Suburuuh
Gerben aka Suburuuh

Nice, and recognizable story, exept for the 'theft' part ;) I really hate it, when some people can't leave somebody's property alone! I really dig your green -mean- Leroy machine Sean!

raseri
raseri

I really love to read articles like this one!

Awesome writeup and keep tracking Leroy!

Sam
Sam

I know that feeling of seeing your pride and joy destroyed by someone else all to well. My condolences.

JDMized
JDMized

Same philosophy here. Gut the living shit out of my EG, make it light, suspensions came next. Learn how to drive, THEN a B series swap :)

Moise
Moise

I hope you never get rid of this car. I have followed it for a very long time. It was awesome when I saw the article for your B series install. I can totally relate to the reasoning behind the choice at that point to go B vice K. This car and there was another EK that was black with SW388's that was a part of FFSquad if I recall correctly. I fell in love with Leroy and that black on black EK...not too sure who owned the black one though. 

PaddyMcGrath
PaddyMcGrath moderator

Looking forward to seeing how you continue to develop Leroy as I really enjoy reading your reasoning for why you improve different aspects of the car. It's pretty much my main motivation to build my own track car this year (although on what platform changes everyday.)

weasel
weasel

damn, at least they left Reggies shell in tact and someone probably reconstituted it. All my hondas were found hacked to pieces or crushed by a backhoe. including a RHD DA Integra XSi

Keep em safe, hidden kill switches on everything, GPS, 120lb guard dog passengers, etc.

Truhidden
Truhidden

I had three civic's ( ef, eg, and ek) now a wrx but not as fun. You are confirming my desire to build another, for full on track fun.

Can_Domo_Drift
Can_Domo_Drift

whats going on in the foot well? under the pic with the new roll cage.

 

PhasedArray
PhasedArray

The Honda scene in SoCal really can be one of the worst. No respect at all for people's cars paired with low life's with no jobs (and probably kids to feed, who's fault is that?) trying to make a quick buck. I'm considering selling mine before the same thing happens. I wouldn't even be able to afford a car if mine got stolen. Karma's a bitch and will come back to haunt those that do decide to steal...

Sidarth
Sidarth

Never really liked the entire Honda scene..but u made me change my mind..

caltemus
caltemus

Maybe not to you, but the author feels strongly about it.

hanablemoore
hanablemoore

 @MPistol If you live in southern california i would get another eg either. Honda guys especially who drives civics are targeted like gangbangers in a low rider. My friend had to put i support the LAPD sticker in jis window just so he wont get bothered .

sean klingelhoefer
sean klingelhoefer moderator

 @MPistol Yep it's a really tough situation to have to go through and something I don't wish upon anyone. But it's a sad fact of life in many parts of America. What I've learned is that life does go on and karma is a both a bitch (to the thieves) but can also be a blessing in disguise (to the victims). If you feel the need to build another one, I say go for it. 

MPistol
MPistol

@AndersHaugen he's using a much lower offset than you. 25mm as opposed to your 40mm. Offset makes all the difference in wheels, at least in my opinion

sean klingelhoefer
sean klingelhoefer moderator

Yep, sometimes I couldn't wait lol. Had to make the run RIGHT THEN to get something. It's a lot easier now that I'm in SoCal lol. 

 

BTW, I want to shoot your car for Speedhunters... we should talk ;) 

sean klingelhoefer
sean klingelhoefer moderator

 @hanablemoore Honestly, I'm starting to wonder if Honda will ever even make another Civic past the current generation... They've already killed the model in other parts of the world, including Japan. 

sean klingelhoefer
sean klingelhoefer moderator

 @JDMized Yep, in my mind, how do you know what you need to improve without taking operator error out of the way lol. 

sean klingelhoefer
sean klingelhoefer moderator

 @Moise  I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll have this car for a very long time. I believe the other car you are thinking of is Sheng's car, who is the owner of JHPUSA. His was a very nice build, my car is a lot more beat up these days! 

sean klingelhoefer
sean klingelhoefer moderator

 @PaddyMcGrath Wow I had no idea Paddy, you need to come to the states and check the car out in person! We'll take it to the track and get that passion burning a little stronger. 

Absolution
Absolution

 @Can_Domo_Drift Dry ice for removing sound deadening and such. Yes, Sean's beard might look rock 'n roll, but I'm sure he's more than sensible to not have to smoke up his car a'la rock show. That's why we close the windows and chamber. :)

FunctionFirst
FunctionFirst

 @PhasedArray Grand Theft Auto - punishable by the removal of a digit for every conviction. In my world at least.

MPistol
MPistol

@hanablemoore nah, I don't live out there, never even been to Cali

hanablemoore
hanablemoore

 @sean klingelhoefer Yeah honda has been making some questionable decisions and getting rid of the civic was one of them. I still dont know what they were thinking with the CR-Z. Talk about a failure.

Nikhil_P
Nikhil_P

@sean klingelhoefer @Larry Chen @Nikhil_P I think we may have another Nakai san on our hands!!


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