In some ways, I think we probably have it too easy as contemporary car enthusiasts.
What I mean is that we’re spoiled today for both information and ease of access to tuning products. While a lot of development is required in order to provide this easy access, it still makes me laugh that you can take a brand new car to your local tuning house, they can plug in a laptop and 20 minutes later you’re up 50 horsepower (or more) without even lifting a spanner.
It’s fantastic for sure, but it also leaves me a little bit cold in other ways.
I think it’s one of the reasons why I’ve become more fond of late ’90s and early ’00s Honda builds over the last few years. What were once noise-making nuisances on the road have become something I’ve come to admire and respect. Part of this is down to the fact that only the diehard Honda enthusiasts are left with what feels like the few remaining cars, and there are few as diehard as Honda drivers.
Presented with the new world’s temptations of easily-tuned turbo cars, I have nothing but admiration for those who persist with eking every last naturally aspirated horsepower from a Honda engine. There’s just something about the purity of it.
Nicky Dunlea’s EK2 Civic hatch is a perfect example of the Honda ethos. It’s simple, it’s light, and it’s fast. Don’t be put off by the ‘2’ which comes after EK here; it’s been a long time since this Honda of humble origins was powered by a 1.3-litre SOHC engine. In fact, when Nicky first bought the car it was already K-swapped with a K20A, but that setup didn’t last particularly long.
“I blew that up and decided to go the K24 route. I had heard and read a lot about K20 x K24 ‘Frank’ builds, and had a goal of 300 horsepower N/A,” Nicky says.
“During the build, I changed the engine management system to a Hondata V4 to allow for a second map on the ECU, and bought a full direct-port nitrous kit. I compromised slightly on compression with the idea of using the nitrous further down the line. Instead of 13:1 compression with Drag Cartel 4:2 cams, I went with 12:1 and a slightly smaller cam.”
The nitrous hasn’t been installed yet, but the car is currently making 304hp. Nicky reckons the cast intake manifold is robbing him of some power, so the plan is to change that to a Skunk2 equivalent which should raise power to between 310 and 315hp, and then add the 100hp nitrous kit which has already been purchased.
“The higher compression option with the bigger cam would have allowed for 325 to 330hp N/A. It’s something I might chase down the line, but I want to try the nitrous for now,” Nicky adds.
As things currently sit, the K24 bottom end with Manley connecting rods and oversized CP 12:1 pistons is mated to a hand-ported K20A cylinder head equipped with a Supertech valve train and Drag Cartel 3:2 cams, and is all held together with ARP fasteners. There’s a PPR ported intake manifold, Skunk2 74mm throttle body, and a Solid Fab exhaust manifold running into a 3-inch stainless steel system.
There’s no lack of ‘go’ in the car’s current setup, not that the K24 has a huge amount of weight to pull. A conservative guess would see the semi-stripped Civic at somewhere around 1,000kg (2,200lb).
Much like the subdued hue of the car, stylistic flourishes have been kept relatively simple and subtly. A Seeker V2 rear spoiler, BYC skirts, an M&M Honda front lip with a First Molding vented bonnet could easily be overlooked at first glance. “The black does hide a lot of the aggression,” Nicky admits.
Nicky has been tempted by the idea of a bare metal respray, but then worries that he might not drive the car as hard if he’s just dropped five or six thousand euros into paintwork. Until recently, the car was his daily driver and only car.
For what it’s worth, I think the scars make the car.
From a suspension, wheels and brakes perspective, the car sits on BC Racing coilovers with Skunk2 front and rear camber arms, LCAs and extended ball joints. The Enkei RPF1 wheels are wrapped in Yokohama Advan AD08Rs and measure 15×7.5-inch all around. Finally, EK4 calipers clamp PBS race pads onto drilled and grooved discs.
The interior is simple. In here you’ll find a Key!s Racing steering wheel, a pair of matching Recaros and not much else.
The battery has been relocated to the most rearward point of the car, in order to have at least some weight there.
I’m not sure you can describe a car which regularly screams its way towards 8,000rpm as ‘discreet’, but then it’s a car and build which has earned the right to be as loud or quiet as it wants to be.
Still, I can’t be the only one curious as to how much more violent it’s going to be with another 100hp, right?