Integra Type R Swapped EG Civic is the Pinnacle Golden Era Honda
An unexpected, but delightful gateway to Golden Era Honda euphoria.
Hardcore Honda enthusiasts preach of a Golden Age with a zeal and dedication that few other brands could even hope to achieve. These superfans all agree that the age of prosperity and good fortune was from 1988 to 2001. The Honda and Acura products developed and sold in this era were of like mind and like kind in their raison d’être. The cars featured lightweight and simple designs, double-wishbone suspensions and rev-happy, naturally-aspirated engines. These were the Golden Era Hondas.
No car better represented the ethos of the brand than the Type R. These race-ready machines were lighter, stiffer and offered a more “‘pure” driving experience. However, of the Golden Era Hondas, there were just four Type R models in all, and only one made it the United States. From 1997 to 2001, North American Honda enthusiasts were graced with the presence of the Integra Type R. In that five year span, they sold just under 4,000 units in all. So the cars were quite rare to begin with, and have only gotten more desirable since.
But what if you wanted a different kind of Type R?
I forgot to mention another perk about any Golden Era Honda: they are very easy to work on yourself. If the car isn’t what you want out of the box, bust out the tools and get wrenching. That is how Kevin ended up with this 1994 Civic EG hatchback, he saw the potential. It was a VX model with a 5-speed manual, and crucially, the paint and body was pretty solid. A perfect base for things to come.
It started with a B16 swap, but after running into issues with the motor Kevin decided to go full bore with this EG and swap in the powertrain from an Integra Type R. He sourced a model year 2000 JDM B18C engine and matching Type R LSD-equipped transmission and got to work. He had a custom 4-2-1 style header built for the swap, which runs into a custom-built exhaust with a Magnaflow high-flow catalytic converter and a Burns Stainless muffler. A Comptech air box rounds off the power modifications to the otherwise stock B18C. Even the ECU is the stock unit. Oh yeah, and during the swap he threw on a lightweight flywheel and heavy duty clutch kit.
Look around the engine bay and a few things are sure to pop out at first glance. Kevin opted to use a full-size Skunk2 radiator, sans cooling fan. He states even an offset-mounted slim fan would have fouled the header, which looks about right. The extra cooling capacity of the full-size radiator keeps coolant temperatures in check as-is. Can we go back to the header for a second? It’s gorgeous. Big primaries, smooth bends and built by someone who clearly knows their way around a TIG welder.
Track cars need more than straight line speed.
To that end, Kevin has basically breathed upon every important suspension component for a track-prepped Golden Era Honda. Hard Race lower control arms are used front and rear. He also has Hard Race rear camber arms. The front upper control arms are Skunk2 units. PCI Racing supplied the spherical rear trailing arm bushings and toe links. Custom-valved BC Racing coil-overs with Swift springs suspend this EG hatch, and paired with that are Type R OEM sway bars and an ASR rear subframe brace. Rounding off the suspension upgrades are front and rear strut bars from Blackworks Racing.
It all sounds very thorough, but the list continues from there. Specifically, the stock VX rear drum brakes were a no-go, so Kevin swapped in the rear discs from an EK4. Up front two-piece rotors work with Type R calipers and Hawk race pads to slow things down. And for good measure Stop Tech stainless steel braided lines are fitted to this EG, because the 24 year old brake lines had likely seen better days.
All of those goodies peak out from behind some stunning Volk Gram Light 57DR wheels and BFG Rival tires. Wanna know the specs? Of course you do, the fitment is dead-on. The wheels measure 15×8 with a +28 offset, and the tires are sized 225/45R15.
Okay, that’s a long mod list, but how does it drive?
Well, I will get to that, after I grease myself up enough to slip into the Bride Zeta II seats and get the six-point Cusco harnesses done up. It takes a minute or two. Once situated, it was time to combust some air and fuel, and with a twist of the key in the ignition, it was on.
The billet engine mounts transmit a fair amount of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) through out the chassis. Doubly so with the gutted interior and Auto Power roll cage behind my head. The B18C quickly comes down to a smooth idle, or, at least, as smooth as things can get with solid engine mounts. The whole car feels very racy. It feels alive. The rumble of the engine, and the metallic timbre of the exhaust, even at idle, would be enough to scare a docile, modern Honda back into it’s parking space. This is a hard-edged machine.
I had a destination in mind for this EG, one of two places this car truly belongs. The first, obviously, being a race track, and the second, more readily available option, a damn good canyon road. The 30 minute drive to this blissful winding road was relatively trouble-free on this Thursday afternoon. Sure, the car is very loud, all the time, but once it’s up and off idle the NVH tames a bit, and the typical, smooth driving Honda fluidity re-emerges. The engine is surprisingly tractable, too. Despite having just 1.8-liters of displacement, and making peak power near the stratosphere, it pulls quite well below 3,000 rpm. It’s almost daily-drivable. Almost.
This may just be the best front-wheel drive car I have ever experienced.
The little EG, which actually isn’t little at all, but is instead the right size for a Civic, has incredible agility through the corners. Being a public road, and being that my license has too many points on it, I wasn’t pushing 10/10ths. That’s reserved for track work. Even still, the canyon roads tell a lot about a car, and this EG is no exception.
The manual steering comes alive through the Momo Monte Carlo steering wheel. Honda was an early adopter for electric power steering, and for the most part, they’ve done a good job. However, it all pales in comparison to this. The BFG Rival tires, a tire I once called “as numb as a Novocaine injection,” talk through the steering wheel. Ruts, camber changes, broken pavement are all communicated to the driver in a way that I had become desensitized to from driving newer cars.
And that engine, oh my God. With no sound deadening or interior to get in the way, the EG’s hatchback body becomes an acoustic amplifier. The B18C may as well have been bolted to my spine, because it was certainly frying my brain. Being freed from the purgatory that is Southern California traffic, I was finally free to let the EG sing the song it’s people. The B18C screams harder than a Justin Bieber fan at a sold out concert. 7,000 rpm-worth of exhaust decibel is enough to make you lose your mind, until you realize there are almost another 2,000 whole revs to play with. It’s madness.
Also see: This Honda-tech Forum Member’s EG Civic Si is Special
Working together in perfect harmony with that engine is the Type R 5-speed manual transmission. From the factory, it is equipped with a limited-slip differential that mitigates any corner exit wheelspin. This means you can point the car where you want it to go, mat the throttle and go, drama-free. The transmission offers a level of feel and engagement though the clutch pedal and shifter that is remiss in modern Honda products, while being equally slick and motion to operate. That free-revving engine, paired with the close ratio transmission makes you feel as if you’re on it at all times, working through the 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear. This car wants you to work for the power, and no one will complain about that. It’s a joy to row through the gears.
The majority of the cuts in the video are from me losing my words and just driving, jaw dropped, smiling like a simpleton. That is, of course, when I wasn’t laughing to the point of being choked by those harnesses. Damn, this car is good.
It’s more than just the engine, though, the ease with which this EG threads through the canyons is like a needle and yarn. The suspension is compliant enough to soak up mid-corner bumps and not jostle the car around. It’s surefooted, and never twitchy. However, with a curb weight around 2,200 lbs it changes direction like few other front-wheel drive cars could dream of. It doesn’t understeer, it doesn’t oversteer, it just steers, and that’s a trait I am very fond of in track cars.
The driving experience is raw.
I understand the appeal of the Golden Era Honda now, especially when modified like this. This car has a level of driver engagement, and raw, unfiltered feedback that a new Honda, even when modified, can’t touch. I love the new Hondas, their engineering is brilliant, and they perform admirably. But they aren’t this. They can’t be this, nor could anything else, other than another Golden Era Honda. Both are good, just in different ways, and that’s okay. These classic Hondas, much like their modern counterparts, should be celebrated for what they are, and what they represent about Honda as a brand. Engineering excellence, and driving dynamics that outshine the competition are what make Honda, Honda.