The Hard Way To 300+hp

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.

2021 Honda Civic K24 Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-1

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The battery has been relocated to the most rearward point of the car, in order to have at least some weight there.

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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?

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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A great honda!
And I love those RPF1s.


Yes! Fantastic car and feature. I love your recent Honda content. This car is a clean, well-built example of the EK chassis. Perfect street/track car




That red Enkei logo is looking so menacing on those black wheels.
Is the Solid Fab exhaust from when they still made custom ones? I think now they only sell what's in stock and don't take orders.
What's written by hand on that Start button xD?


This just wants me to get an old Honda even more. An EG Civic would do nicely, however I doubt I'll be able to find one with a reasonable price tag...


I like how discreet it looks at first glance. It's got *sleeper-plus* vibes.


This is beautiful, but to change from classic, patina'd black and adding nitrous instead of the more aggressive compression... Is to rob the car from greatness.

There's no trophy in the mail for hitting 550whp because nitro was slapped on, nor will there be a better color for the build than the one it was all built around. Meh when owners stray the path "because they got bored/wasn't a shiny enough phallus" when they were walking it with a period-correct build - this car must stay the course! Or just buy the latest, most expensive hot hatch and wrap it, dump it over custom forged turbofans. Yawn. Naked honesty is forever the sexiest thing.


I can agree with you that the "ricers" jumped over to newer models and left the true enthusiasts alone.
Regarding the build: A full respray is required only if the metal is starting to rust else keep it as is and collect some inpurities. Since staying true to NA engines i think if it was all in NA to the last extreme setup instead of the Nitrous would be better (that is my personal opinion/positive critic), anyway goodluck with the nitrous setup.
I hope to see it next time featured with a half (or full) roll-cage and ripping some tracks or hillclimbs.


Yeah,ture things here at China.


New civics like FK2 are the most popular "ricer" car at China.
They're great cars,I mean.But I really don't know what are these guys thinking about.


I was hooked, up until the mention of nitrous.. meh

Samvel Rostomian

Please, help. Who has the oldest or very first desktop photos? Can you share them? Thanks.


I like it! With the prices for old japanese cars consistently rising out of proportion, the Civic is still cheap and can be made quick, as it should be for a JDM car! ;)


Black car is sexy and mysterious. More so if it screams at high RPM like this Honda.
But I just hate to see swirls marks in the paint.

Dancie Grumbles

Beautiful car! In today's automotive world, it seems most people don't bat an eye if a car has less than 600 horsepower but this is just clean.
Even without nitrous I bet this thing is fast, but fast is a relative term I suppose.


(regarding 600hp) Agreed and its a shame! This is a clean build that's likely a reliable performance car that can be driven daily. I'd be proud to own it. I guess its all about what's really important to you. For some, its the horsepower wars- achieving more power than can possibly be used on the street. And that's ok, to each, their own.

Others among us prefer the visceral experience of connecting with the road through multiple inputs, like using a manual transmission, allowing the sound of the engine and/or vibration of the chassis to determine shift points, hitting the apex of a curved road with confidence inspired by a nimble chassis with a flat 'turn in.' Its a 'windows down' approach to driving that doesn't depend on a car badge, but on the feeling of interacting with the road through a well sorted car. Dare I say, a car with quickness, if perhaps not outright speed . Ah, how about being a "QuicknessHunter" lol. This appears to be such a car.

turbo beams ae86

clean hatch build
weird wording of title lol. I assume it's NA B series not another K
ireland seem like awesome japanese car scene. and so green. Must be nice place


A proper Honda build
One of the best Civics I have ever seen


Are you sure on the Enkei RPF1 specs? They look like the 15x7. I don't believe they make a 7.5 and the 8 has the flat concave face, but worse offset for Honda.

Beauty as is, considering a set of RPF1 next...


300+ bhp on a single throttle bodie n/a ??
I would love to see that dyno sheet to prove these figures