Project Leroy: Time To Get Out And Drive!
Making up for lost time

There’s something to be said for those of us fortunate enough to have their work made almost entirely of pleasure. However there are days when I find it equally baffling to discover that many of my pleasures have slipped into the realm of work – that is to say, I had a shocking epiphany when it recently dawned on me the only time I’ve driven Leroy in the past three years has been when a story deadline forced me to.

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How is this possible? Well, life moves in unpredictable ways it seems. We’ve all heard the saying ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ and that couldn’t be more true in my case. The last several years have been a pivotal time in my life, thrusting my career from what was already a decent launching point into realms beyond my wildest dreams.

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While my success as a commercial photographer has blossomed, other passions, such as the longing to build cars, have been put on the back burner. In fact, since the last installment, I’ve only driven Leroy very little… Which seems such a shame.

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It seems to me now that even 72 hours in a single day wouldn’t be enough to accomplish the things I often set out to cram in. Some of you may have noticed my posts becoming a little more scarce as of late, which is just the latest development in this chain of events.

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You see back in November I moved house, which was both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I now have a garage again, which is something I’ve been longing for ever since moving to LA five and a half years ago.  On the other hand, I now have a seemingly endless to-do list of other things to take care of in my precious free time.

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The day before taking over keys to the place I went ahead and gave the garage a good thrice-over, cleaning virtually every surface. With the previous tenant’s sawdust and mildew out of the way, I could see the bare bones of the space aching to be revived. However, since that time I’ve scarcely been at home at all. Despite my best intentions, I believe I’ve only set foot in the place five times – mostly to add more junk to the ever-growing stockpile.

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Here we see the space with my other Civic, Oliver. Some of you may recognize this car from the cover of Project Car magazine number 22. Up until last year, this car was my daily driver, but it’s now another project to be sorted out somewhere in tomorrow land.  A mere day after this photo was taken, the place went from cavernous potential to border-central, chock-full of boxes to be gone through and reorganized another day.

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This is, more or less, the current state of affairs. Nevertheless, all of my tools and parts now reside under the same roof and the potential to begin tinkering again is there. I just have to find the time. Fortunately, my Speedhunters inbox brimming with project update requests would prove to be just the fire I needed under my backside to get out there.

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After moving several heaps of miscellaneous stuff, I was able to work Leroy out of his hidey-hole. Needless to say, having not been driven in ages, the car was filthy. Fortunately I had just received a care package from Kleers that would remedy this problem.

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I’m sure by now that you lot are about as sick of reading about me washing my car as I am of washing it, but that’s one of the unfortunate realities of owning cars that are seldom driven. I’m sure many of you reading this now share the pain.

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After an hour or so of scrubbing, wiping, polishing and adding some finishing touches, Leroy was good as new. Or at least as close as it’s gonna get. With my long-time friend and fellow photographer Nate Hassler as my co-pilot,  it was time to fire up the old boy and go for a spin.

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The engine started first try (one of the redeeming qualities of a Honda) and immediately put a smile on my face. Every time I drive this car it surprises me how fun it is to throw around. Everything is still so tight and precise – one of the actual pleasures of having a car that is only driven a few times a year. With the sun threatening to set, it was time to head for the Hollywood hills for a nice cruise.

Hollywood’s skyline jewel
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I had my sights set on Mullholland Drive, one of Southern California’s most famous scenic routes. It’s a road I’ve only driven on twice since I’ve lived in California and I figured this day was as good as any to finally drive it for pleasure.

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Mullholland technically has two sections – Mullholland Highway off to the west (which I plan on flogging in the future), and Mullholland Drive that meanders through some of the most expensive houses in the world in the Hollywood hills. For this drive I wanted to focus on the twelve mile stretch between the 101 and 405 freeways, known around the world for its incredible vistas and overlooks.

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The difficult part would be getting there. There are many reasons I love living in Hollywood, but the traffic certainly isn’t one of them. This is a fairly typical view heading northbound on Highland Ave looking towards Hollywood Blvd and its legendary Walk of Fame.

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As we neared the intersection, I realized traffic was even more dense than usual due to a road closure for the upcoming Oscars. #HollywoodProblems.

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Inevitably we would make our way out of that horrific scene and find ourselves on some nice twisty bits. Signage like this is always a good… sign.

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But even when you think you’ve finally cleared the final hurdles, a challenger appears. This is the Los Angeles equivalent of Jeremy Clarkson’s famed archenemy, the caravan. After living in Hollywood for some time, you stop noticing star-tour vans, until you’re stuck behind them on an evening drive in the twisties.

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Fortunately they stop frequently and generally move quite slow so they aren’t too difficult to overtake. With open road, clear skies and my brand new KW suspension, it was time to get things turned up.

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In all seriousness, these days I drive rather modestly on public roads. I had a really gnarly near-death experience at the end of my teenage years in a Civic not so different from this one that made me rethink a lot of things, including flogging a car in a place where you can put others in danger. Even at relatively slow speeds compared to a track, I can still dice and have fun though.

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Nevertheless I was still driving at a rapid enough pace to feel the KWs at work beneath me. One of the things that has always impressed me about their shocks is the way they soak up high speed bumps and dips, in some cases better than an OEM shock. Over my course as a journalist, I’ve driven maybe a dozen cars on roads like this in North America and Europe on various KW kits and this is their signature trait – excellent compliance. It makes me smile that instead of somebody else’s car, now they’re fitted to mine.

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Before long, I found one of many gorgeous overlooks and decided to go both-feet-in and have a look.

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Breathtaking. Both literally (from the smog) and figuratively (from the view). Although I’ve grown accustomed to the late evening in Southern California, there’s still something undeniably beautiful about that thick golden light.

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There’s something special about this part of the world, and along roads like Mullholland, you begin to understand why Hollywood was built here.

Westward ho!
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Many of us got our start shooting our own cars, and I’m no exception to that rule. Yet these days the opportunity to shoot my cars is so slim that outside of using my BMW as a composition stand-in on a commercial shoot, it almost never happens. What was once all I knew, has become an almost alien experience.

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Looking back at this car, I see many things: all the history we have together – travelling up and down the west coast with nearly all of my belongings, heading to California to chase a wild dream, taking a poor stock Civic and slowly building it into what it is today.

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Of course I still see the longing for all of the things that are still yet to be done. Leroy has become the ghost of tuning past, future and present. But with the sun rapidly departing, there was no time to dwell on these thoughts and once again it was time to feel the road.

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And I do mean feel. After years and years of slow development, Leroy is really coming into his own. This might not be the prettiest, the fastest or the most JDM car I’ve owned, but it damn sure is the most mechanically sound Civic I’ve ever driven. Sure it has dings galore, but there isn’t a single millimeter of steering slop.

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There’s no bump steer, no toe steer and no understeer – only Sean steer. It’s glorious. You essentially will the car where you want to go and Leroy makes it so. Times like this make me wonder what in the hell is wrong with me. Why don’t I get out and drive more often!?

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Eventually I made it out of the heavy-residential section and onto some really tasty smooth tarmac. This section seemed to be free from any traffic and evidently isn’t used as part of any normal commute. It was here that I pulled off to get a few shots at one final vista before the sun was completely gone.

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When you don’t drive your car often, you start to think of it as a liability. It’s a bunch of time and money just sitting around. Then you start getting crazy ideas about selling the car and the kinds of things you could do with the money.

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But when you finally take the car out, drive it down a fun stretch of road and place it in a picturesque setting, all of those thoughts instantly vanish, replaced quickly by ideas of what comes next. In my case, that’s very obviously a new clutch, which I actually have sitting in one of three dozen boxes along with a thousand other pieces waiting to go on.

Beverly Hills via Wilshire
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Eventually we would run out of Mullholland to drive and merged onto the I-405 south, a freeway infamous for epic traffic jams. Fortunately we only needed to take it one stop, just long enough for VTEC to kick in. Yo.

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To head back home, I decided to take Wilshire Blvd east. It isn’t much of a driving road by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a very important piece of the history of LA and serves largely as the city’s backbone – a 15.8 thoroughfare from downtown to Santa Monica beach. It’s also a road I know well, having never lived more than half a mile from it.

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Of course, even the mighty Wilshire is subject to traffic jams, as is pretty much all of SoCal for five days a week between 4 and 7pm.

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Before long, we were passing one of the world’s best-known shopping districts: Rodeo Drive. Known for high-end fashion, it’s not the easiest place to shoot, but for the likes of Larry Chen it can be done 

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In this neighborhood, the wealthy aren’t bashful about their fortunes, which means plenty of eye candy out on the streets.

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Believe it or not, you actually get quite used to the sight of an Aventador. After seeing them on a weekly basis and shooting a handful of them, it’s easy to forget I once had the chance to drive one myself.

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Luxury car dealers are literally teeming along Wilshire. Seen here is the McLaren dealer where our very own Larry Chen got an exclusive look at the then-hyper-new-hypercar, the P1. The results were nothing short of epic and one of the images even graced the cover of the #JoyOfMachine Speedhunters book.

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But my favorite dealership has to be Beverly Hills Porsche, not only for the cars on offer, but the building itself. Long before it housed German sports cars, this location was one of the world’s only drive-in-markets, another of LA’s strange and long-forgotten inventions.

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I might as well point out one other perk of living here and that is enjoying an evening drive with the windows down in February with nothing on but a tee-shirt. There’s something to be said for moderate climates.

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With the drive nearing its end, there were just a few stops to make before heading home. The first is one of my favorite LA landmarks: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or LACMA for short.

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It was here that I decided to pull over in front of its now-trademark lamp post installation to stretch my legs. It was at this very moment that I realized another interesting quirk about shooting your own cars.

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For some reason, I seem to stop thinking about technicalities and start acting more as a historian. It becomes more about remembering a moment in time and less about trying to create a work of art.

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Normally I would avoid tourist traps like Mullholland and LACMA in an effort to avoid coming off as cheesy, but when it comes time to select somewhere I feel represents who I am, they’re the first that spring into mind. I’ve learned a lot about myself through working for Speedhunters and it seems this is an ongoing education.

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The final stop of the night was just across the street and somewhere I’d recommend any petrolhead look into when traveling to LA: the Petersen Automotive Museum. Famous for a number of reasons, many of which Mike Garrett has detailed in his posts, but infamous for one in particular – The Notorious B.I.G. was shot to death outside, moments after leaving the museum.

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By this time the museum was well and truly closed, but I had something else in mind anyway. After driving up several winding ramps, I eventually found the rooftop parking lot and decided to have a final go at some images before putting Leroy away for the night.

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Once again I was reminded of my teenage years – years of experimentation and excitement. Here I was frozen in time, just a boy and his car. The exposure settings were horrendous, the backdrop lackluster and the car rough around the edges. It was perfect.

I can’t wait to do it all again.

Sean Klingelhoefer
Instagram: seanklingelhoefer
Email: sean@speedhunters.com

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100 comments

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1

That vtec picture... Living in the danger zone

2

Too much passion for cars :D... I really enyojed this article and great photos for wallpapers...
Good Job Sean keep it up

3

Sean your beard totally photobombed the glass cleaner shot. 

Also please clean your garage and use it.

4
Charles Montgomery III

Have you guys thought of making a video of this? That's my suggestion for this.  Cool article going through the pics, but make it a video! :)

5

With Honda theft so common, especially in Southern California, do you ever worry that Leroy will get stolen?

6
spencermaranda79

more leroy!!!!!!!

7

Lee Woerther  It's so bad that I even worry about Leroy!

8

Charles Montgomery III  Video is a totally different animal. It also takes quite a bit more dedication to watch an entire video. Where as you can quickly read a Speedhunters article while waiting in line at the bank etc...

9

aussieANON  It just kicked in yo.

10

aussieANON Larry Chen Don't you mean " Highway to the dangerzone!"
Admit it you all hummed it. hehe

11

in front of the aventador is a s600 w220 at the back of the aventador is maybach!!!damm it man!!what these people do for a living!!!i want to be rich like em!!!

12

teamsleepnine driving around westwood, you'll see maserati's, gtr's lambo's, porsche's, bentlys..., i still haven't seen a bugatti but its probably hiding somewhere in la. awesome coverage of leroy. muhullond drive is beautiful but.... angeles crest is a blast to drive through...

13
Charles Montgomery III

Larry Chen Charles Montgomery III  Yeah, True.  But just the way I scrolled through the pics, it was telling a story as a moving picture, hence why I suggested turning it into a video.  You can keep the article, and tag on a video for people who have the time to watch.  But overall, great article.

14

THIS is why i make Speedhunters the first page when i open my browser! So rad!

15

Larry Chen aussieANON  I like the camera blur as well. Some real FnF vibes going on there.
All you need is to have NOS that acts like warp drive.

16

more civic owners need to be like you sean

17

Beautiful moments. Simple things that can make you feel happy. Thanks for the article.

18

Civic Hatchbacks are great fun...take it out more often.   ;)

19

I <3 Leroy.

20

Great read, going 8 months not having driven my car.. its killing me!

21

Do you use your beard as an alternative to a lamb's wool wash mitt? Do you still need to use two buckets? 

I have so many questions...

22

Great post! It's nice to read someone's thoughts on how work overwhelmes hobbies... Reading this post was almost like being there with you and experiencing this true freedom..
Loved it!
Make sure you do these kinds of drives more often! :D

23

Yippie! Proper distinction between infamous and famous!

24

This is what cars are about. Not some circlejerk bullshit sitting around on a lawn or in a parking lot waiting for a trophy, or whoring pics of your $1200 car on $4000 wheels on the internet.

25

Remember to check out The Vault when you go to Petersen. It's even cooler than what's on display. It's where they keep all the cars that aren't on display. Think of yourself as a kid going to a candy shop. Then underneath the candy shop.... there are a bunch of fucking awesome cars. Ya.

26

RodChong  You're work here is done.

27

Sporting a Autolock?

28

Damn, it's a while since i did this myself. Now i have a million other things to do it seems like.

29

"When you don’t drive your car often, you start to think of it as a liability. It’s a bunch of time and money just sitting around. Then you start getting crazy ideas about selling the car and the kinds of things you could do with the money."


This terrible thought crossed my mind once or twice... but I'm on the final stretch of my build and I refuse to let it happen.  I'm going to be the happiest guy in the world when I can cruise around endlessly in my lil race car :D

30

Great article guys I loved it! I miss posts like this on here :)

31

xracer6  Thanks man. Hopefully there will be more of these in the future ;)

32

zephoto  Ya, it will be worth it in the end. Hang in there.

33

AndersHaugen  Yep, every day, a million things. It's unrelenting, but that's life. Gotta make time for the little things, like taking a drive.

34

jah1mon  That's from wayyy back when I used to daily drive Leroy. That was probably five years ago lol.

35

LouisYio  hmm added to my to-do list.

36

wheatgod  B18C Type R. In the future it will likely be replaced with a K when the B18 goes into Oliver.

37

RodChong  I was paying attention! Yay! lol.

38

Nick Elias  Indeed it's become a difficult balance, but for years I had longed for the car to be like this and I find it ironic that now that everything is dialed in I seldom drive it. Something I'm going to change for sure.

39

PaddyMcGrath  Never use beard directly on paint unless you are oiling bare metal. It will scratch the living hell out of the clear coat. Think of steel wool, only more coarse ;)

40

PaulDYuen  Be patient. The day will come.

42

koko san  Yep the car is amazing, I need to stop ignoring it. Going to start putting reminders on my calendar to go for a drive.

44

TheRobotCow  Glad to hear it!

45

teamsleepnine  These people are rich for a living lol. That's what Beverly Hills is all about ;)

46

Lee Woerther  Yes and no. That's why I don't leave the car anywhere anymore. I had one car stolen in the past (wrote briefly about it on here) and since then I have been a bit paranoid. Where the car is currently stored it's pretty low-stress though.

47

Charles Montgomery III  I totally agree, but the future of SH isn't solely in my hands. I think we should be making videos but as Larry mentioned, it adds to the staff and budget exponentially - but I think it's the way forward. Fully immersive content is king.

48

KeithCharvonia  lol Klaus does what Klaus wants. One day the garage might be usable. One day.

49

JoseFickert  Thanks man.

50

aussieANON Larry Chen  Seconds later there was severe danger to the manifold. It was mental.

51

DaveOliver aussieANON Larry Chen  bun-dun-bun-dun...

52

A friend just got his hands on a green EK, that is definitely going to give him fresh ideas !
(Snap, that's what I call a magnificent beard !)

53

Having lived in LA my entire life and have grown up with my father taking me on drives on Mullholland, this was an amazing piece to read and experience.  It took me back to those days when I either went with my dad as a kid or currently as an adult to just drive.  Windows down, music up, smile endless.  Great read.

54

damn, that drivers seat is LOW.

55

I missed this car, thanks for the write up!

56
Speedhunters_Bryn

sean klingelhoefer LouisYio  We need to make this happen, I was first told about it around 10yrs ago by one of the Haynes family. Must do something about it!

57
Speedhunters_Bryn

sean klingelhoefer Charles Montgomery III  Larry Chen I'd love to have more video content but the expense kills it for us, that and it would have to be good, like really good or we just wouldn't be happy. Trust me, I am looking in to ways of making it happen.

58

Great car dude ... good to see you taking her out for a spin around LA ... makes me kinda miss the place too!

59
Speedhunters_Bryn

sean klingelhoefer aussieANON Larry Chen  Wait... I still owe you a ten second car.

60
Speedhunters_Bryn

sean klingelhoefer PaddyMcGrath  Little known fact, Sean doesn't have a beard. He just shaves his face and it's what's left.

61

What a great read!  Thanks fellas.  Reminds me of all them good ol days cruising around in my hatches.  Sigh.  Have to agree with what happens when we don't drive the cars we buy/built.  We really start getting stupid ideas sometimes...

62

I for one missed you Mr. Klingelhoefer, i missed your posts. It was very nice to read about Project Leroy again, it's also nice to hear that you moved into your house and have your own garage. I can't wait to see more of your photo"art". You're a inspiration for me. I hope to one day be able to take photos like you and other Speedhunters. You guys are such an inspiration for me.

63

sean klingelhoefer aussieANON Larry Chen  hold onto your butts
floor panels gonna be flying off all over the place

64

The last part hit me hard. I've had a project for four years, at one point she was even stolen by a mechanic, whom now sits in jail (another story). I've worked hard to get her back to what she is now until the sabotaged motor (thanks for nothing James) blew on me last fall. I digress. I've thought about selling her a few times, and each time it broke my heart. Thanks to a few awesome friends and a movie of her running and driving, she will be back on the road this spring even better than before. I miss my baby everyday but I keep in the back of my mind, the joy I had driving her while it lasted. Thanks Sean and Leroy , this was the perfect pick me up.

65
vroomtothetomb

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but every time I look at my CRX I just feel heartache.
I took it off the road because I came to realize the rolling-resto thing is always just patchwork. 
Now I drive society's idea of a "real car".
I'm trapped between not wanting to modify it at all and understeer,body roll, and no throttle respone!! }:(
But the e-brake works, the radio works, no rattles and I can fit some big girls :)
BTW I see you doing big things in Racer magazine Sean! Keep up the good work.

66

I could relate to pretty much everything you said.  Pretty much spot on to my story too.

67

This is the kind of stories I come to SH for…a history of LA with a proper Civic as a backdrop? Count me in.

68

NoLabelNo1  Project Leroy is probably my favorite series on SH, because I can relate and it speaks to me personally.

69

PaulDYuen  Didin't drive my car for 20 months, but in the end it was worth it...now every time I take it out it's feels like a holiday.

70

Lee Woerther  You either make it theft-deterent or use it for cruising around only.

71

aussieANON sean klingelhoefer Larry Chen  Now that's funny.

72

Speedhunters_Bryn sean klingelhoefer aussieANON Larry Chen  You never had your car!!!

73

spencermaranda79  Working on it!

74

Loic Kernen  That's awesome, Midori Green is an excellent color. Cheers.

75

i crashed my first green 1978 280z on mulholland dr. Flipped it upside down in front of the fire station.
I work at santa monica ford dealership and I drive up and down wilshire from downtown to santa monica everyday.
you are right you sort of get used to seeing all the tourist traps and all the wealth. But you put a new perspective to the place i live and sometimes you sort of have to take a step back and enjoy where you live rather than think of it as one big traffic jam.
btw it takes me 2 hours to get from santa monica to koreatown wilshire western six days a week.

76

BYoung323  I'm amazed it took me this long to really drive it, but I'm glad I did and I'm sure it won't be the last time.

78

Mark Reyes  If nothing else, the weather is incredible!

79

Great read, I love this project. I have a similar tie to my first car. Another 90s hatch. I've owned it for ten years and plenty of other cars have come and gone but I can't bring myself to sell it. It's not worth much money so it will only be regretted at a later date. It's the memories though. It was the first car I drove after being handed my licence, and of course the antics that ensued from that point onwards.

80

NoLabelNo1  Thank you for the kind words man. I wish the best of luck and can assure you that if you want something in life badly enough, you will have it. Get out there and shoot and enjoy life - time's ticking!

81

HarrisonLee  Wow I bet that was embarrassing! But it's a lesson we all have to learn the hard way, or so it would appear. I bet all the subway construction on Wilshire doesn't help your commute either haha.

82

HeatherSabin  Yep I've had a car stolen as well and it's definitely upsetting, but if you really love the car - like genuinely love it - it's nearly impossible to sell, even despite the thought of possible future theft or heartbreak. Best of luck getting her back on the road!

83

Well written post.  Definitely we can all relate to those moments where you look at your car and be like hmm. Should I sell it?  But after a good drive you fall back in love with your car again.  Crazy how cars can jerk those emotions out of ya.  Bravo and don't give up on Leroy!

84

What steering wheel & size are you using...Looks dope Leroy..

85

Makes me want to buy a honda again, awesome story buddy. Congrats on all of your success!
-Mike Zusin

86

Nice to have your voice n photos on the site again blud. Long time too many of

88

TrackOne  Thanks Mike. There's always room for Honda ;)

89

@stan Dude his Sean..Thats momo black suede if am not wrong.

90

Getting caught up in the hustle–bustle of work, trying to keep healthy and staying social, I find myself forgetting the occasional drive through LA on an uncrowded weekday night.  The mild climate in LA lends itself to top down/windows down driving almost year round which we forget sometimes (like you mentioned).  Thanks for the article.

91

65 F today. Snow tomorrow. Every season in 3 New England days. woot.

92

Great story and photos. This is how many of us are growing old with our Hondas!

93

I haven't even seen my project car in about 8 months now, let alone driven it. I do miss it, I miss the connection that I have with it, the way it can relax me like nothing else. I really should make more of an effort to go see it and check it's still okay, and not rusted away...

Brilliant article Sean, so much more meaningful than most of the stuff on here, probably my favourite article this month.

94

thats a cool little hatch, makes me want to clean up my abandoned turbo gsr ej8

95

Man I wish I could shoot cars like you do! Any how did you ever get that B18C ref'd? I ask because my 96 civic cx just lost compression in 3 cylinders and was planning on following your steps from the Super Street July2012 issue.
 I know your "hella" busy but it would be GREAT if you could give me some first hand input on this subject.
 Thanks man.

96

what steering wheel?

97

i own a 91 civic dx fully prepped track car, and a 96 cx midori (daily). both of which i was ready to let go and buy a big body rwd car. but after reading every word of this article, it changed my mind. it reminded me of the times when i used to get ecstatic about putting on a new lip, or putting on a set of new wheels (i currently own 7 sets). im glad i found this article, without it i most likely would have sold off parts, and eventually - the car. Many thanks!

98
DerekPeterson

I miss seeing this car around. Glad to hear you and Nate are still up to no good Sean haha!! :)

99

Man, this car is an inspiration, super late post as well but this article was really nice. Hope you've still got the build around.

100
VR6Kompressor

Mulholland Drive - street of my dreams :-). I am from Germany and will surely visit L.A. one day. But without driving a cool car there? No way ;-). This is my Golf MK II with supercharged VR6 engine. That would be great fun.

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