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BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/9/17 9:25 p.m.


I had a crappy Saturn SL2 that I wanted to do fun things with. I sold it to a friend who needed quick cheap transportation (long story) hoping to buy it back eventually when he got some things figured out. He tried to install a gratuitous stereo and fried the electrical system. There was smoke. Things melted. We tried to revive it with a salvaged wiring harness but the poor car was beyond saving

Since then I've been without a small fwd economy car. That's sad because I love cheap little cars from the 90s with revvy 4 cylinders and 5 speeds. This should fill that gap in my life

I had started looking for Saturns again but fellow forum member and Chumpcar teammate Logdog has been preaching the merits of Hondas since I met him. I guess I've been converted. It helps that I've seen firsthand how reliable and capable these cars are in the context of amateur endurance racing.

Expecting the seller to be some kid with more ambition than mechanical sympathy I was pleasantly surprised to meet a no-nonsense highschool shop teacher when I went to check it out. The guy was upfront and helpful and the car was solid so I made an offer. Going to pick it up tomorrow.

What I know so far:

The seller had this B18B engine in a 1996 Civic until that car got rear ended. Then he bought this car and swapped it over. My impression is that the work is pretty well done. His story of the cars history is less confidence inspiring: "Some kid had this as a project or something. Don't know what happened there but it was a clean shell so I bought it." That being said, it is surprisingly clean. No body rust and the underside is solid too. Most cars of this age in the Midwest are decidedly crusty by now. This one isn't, as far as I can tell. Besides the engine swap the only modifications seem to be yellow Koni shocks on the front end and (I think) a short shift kit of some kind.

It has its share of imperfections. Most noticeably someone replaced the hood at some point but never bothered to paint it... Nothing some sanding and primer can't fix. I won't be aiming for pretty here. The interior is missing some pieces too but for my purposes that won't be a problem. The big need is tires. They are old, mismatched, and dryrotted. I'll have to get new ones before I drive it, well, anywhere really. I'll need to decide if I want to stick with the 14" wheels on the car or find some cheap 15" for more good tire options.

My goal:

Drive it on a track this summer. That is something I've wanted to do for a long time and I keep failing to make it happen. I don't expect this to be an epic build thread. I'm going to try to follow this wise advice: "It's way more important to get a comfortable helmet and get some seat time than to do any mods."

Think of this as a "Let's keep BlueInGreen accountable to his goal to drive the ratty Civic on a track," thread

I'll also try to keep it under $2k budget just in case it ever works for me to make it down to the Challenge.

Cooper_Tired HalfDork
2/9/17 9:40 p.m.

I dig it.

I will be watching how this one ends up. There's something vicariously cool about watching how much a caring owner can fix on a neglected car.

That generation of the hatchback is one of the best looking civics ever made.

Back in 03-04 there was a kid local to me with a really clean teal one with an H22 swap. I drooled over it whenever I'd see it out. A civic hatch is on my list of 'cars I would love to build if I had the time and money'.

sleepyhead New Reader
2/9/17 10:54 p.m.

I'm curious to watch this build go... considering the number of ratted out ek's you see on CL that I'm just not brave enough to dive into

BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/10/17 11:24 p.m.

It's home in the driveway! But first this happened:

That is a cold and not very happy wife. We drove a whole two miles and the Civic died on the side of the road. It started with a jump but then died again. Now this was a real adventure! After a 10 minute detour, new NAPA battery, and a conversation with a helpful police officer (who was justifiably curious about the sketchy looking Honda with no plates) we were back in business. I'm hoping the battery was just completely shot and the problem is fixed. That's very possible since it's been cold and the car has been mostly sitting for a few months.

Taking the long way home.

This car is fun, even with garbage tires. It's also probably the fastest car I've owned. That's a telling indication of my car history

This weekend will be busy so I won't be able to dive in until Monday. We should have nicer weather by then too.

XLR99 Dork
2/11/17 6:42 a.m.
BlueInGreen44 wrote: It's home in the driveway! But first this happened:

I'm just imagining what she's saying to you as you're taking that pic

BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/11/17 7:04 a.m.

In reply to XLR99:

I think it was something along the lines of "I can't believe you paid money for this pile of crap"

BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/13/17 5:29 p.m.

I finally had time to go stick my head in and under the Civic to get a better idea what of I am dealing with. This car needs some love. It also needs tires, badly.

Some things like the missing grille and interior pieces can be easily fixed with a trip to the junkyard. Then there are things like the hard brake line running uncomfortably close to the spring in the wheel well and the computer module sitting in the passenger footwell. Some parts of the swap seems to be done well but it's pretty obvious he cut some corners to quickly get the car on the road after his daily driver was wrecked.

Evidence of sketchy ricer-kid owner ship:

But here's the important thing: It's not a rust bucket. The floor, rockers, wheel wells, and body panels are all solid. Everything else I can fix (I think) I've already started making my shopping list for a trip to the salvage yard. According to the website they have a few Integras at least one of which is a coupe so I might even be able to pull some parts to get sway bars or rear disc brakes. But now I'm getting carried away. I don't need any of that to get the Civic on track. The goal is to make it safe before I even think about modifications.

The first big decision I have to make involves tires. Can I find a decent tire to fit the 14" wheels on the car or will it be worth it to find some oem 15" wheels and open up more tire options? We'll see.

EvanR SuperDork
2/13/17 7:21 p.m.
BlueInGreen44 wrote: The first big decision I have to make involves tires. Can I find a decent tire to fit the 14" wheels on the car or will it be worth it to find some oem 15" wheels and open up more tire options? We'll see.

Doubt it. I just went through this with my '90 Integra. I found some DC Integra alloys with 15" tires cheaper than a new set of 195/60-14 would have cost. Also, tires in that size are mostly available in round, black, and Chinese - nothing performance-oriented unless you want to go full-race.

logdog SuperDork
2/13/17 7:43 p.m.

You can get the tire we are running on the Chumpcar this year in a 14

Order in the next week and get 150 buck rebate from Discount Tire.

BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/13/17 9:15 p.m.

In reply to logdog:

Oooh, good deal. Especially with free shipping!

Edit: Also, Tire Rack has Yoko S.Drives in 185-55-14 or Star Specs in 185-60-14.

BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/15/17 8:55 p.m.

I ordered tires The Discount Tire deal on Falkens was too good to pass up. Since I have serious tires coming I better get serious about getting the car in shape. I need to get insurance and plates on it so I can drive it to a friend's place. He's got a heated shop

jfryjfry Reader
2/16/17 12:25 a.m.

I'd guess alternator before battery but that's about as fast as a check as you could hope for with a multimeter.

BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/17/17 4:07 p.m.

It's sunny and 47 degrees out so it's cleaning day!

I also procured a multimeter. It shows the alternator charging at ~13v and then drops to ~12v with all the lights and electrical stuff in the car turned on. That reading is the same at the battery and the alternator so it's charging but on the weak side.

While I was cleaning I found this, which would explain why the driver seat seemed loose.

Found a bolt the right size, much better.

And these came today! That was fast.

Later this conversation happened.

Her: "Why are you bringing the new tires in the house?"

Me: "Because there's no room in the shed, it's too messy."

Her: "..."

I guess I know what my next cleaning project will be

ssswitch Dork
2/18/17 11:14 a.m.

This seems like a good little car. 90s Civics are proof that occasionally the majority knows what they are talking about, even if they don't know why.

I would be desperate to paint the wheels when you've got the tires off. Can't stand how gross black-painted wheels look, but then again paint doesn't make you faster.

While you have the ECU out in the middle of the floor (it is a surprising pain to put those things back in without cracking the floor-trim plastics), you should pop the cover and check for leaky power capacitors. My C14 cap went out and left me stranded on my '92 once the leaking electrolyte finally ate through the trace underneath it.

BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/18/17 11:24 a.m.

In reply to ssswitch:

But black wheels don't show brake dust . I might paint them grey eventually.

Thanks for the tip about the ecu.

BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/20/17 10:19 p.m.

I had a few minutes to play in the driveway today.

Have I mentioned the car is loud? The exhaust is nice new stainless but the muffler, for whatever reason, wasn't. I think the car is nearly as loud with no muffler as it was with the muffler on. Clearly this sad piece of rusty metal wasn't doing much. I'll have to fix that. I like my neighbors and they like me but a Honda with a straight through un-muffled exhaust is probably a sure way to damage those relationships

The Civic rescue continues as I wait for some parts and for my car-fun-stuff budget to recover from the initial purchase of the vehicle.

BlueInGreen44 Dork
3/6/17 4:46 p.m.

I started sanding the surface rust off the hood.

It would have gone better if I had the right sandpaper for the drill attachment, and if the batteries for the drill were charged, and if it hadn't started raining. Still, it's progress.

I also need to bolt in torque mounts since the engine is only mounted with 3 engine mounts. Apparently it's common to skip the front torque mounts when swapping a B engine into a Civic. Logdog sent me a mount and an AC bracket for the belt side torque mount. I still need to find a bracket for transmission side mount.

This should have taken me about 5 minutes to bolt in but the holes in the engine block look like this:

No bolts are going in there without some cleaning. After over an hour I got 2 out of four bolts in. The other two holes are going to need some threads chased.

And I have window cranks! Also thanks to Logdog.

Hopefully I'll be able to make a junkyard trip this weekend.

Until next time...

BlueInGreen44 Dork
3/13/17 2:03 p.m.

And if you were wondering why no progress has been happening:

BlueInGreen44 Dork
3/22/17 8:37 a.m.

Finally a weekend with good weather and free time happened so I enlisted some slave labor (aka my brother) and we finished sanding and painting the hood. Ricer-tastic rattle can black will be the look for now.

I don't hate it. Later I might hit it with some sanding and more paint to make it look nicer but for now I don't care.

Also, I'm putting hood pins in it because the latch was a bit sketchy and I have no desire to relive the traumatic childhood memory of a hood latch failing on the highway when I was riding in a Geo Metro.

ClassicHondaGuy New Reader
3/22/17 9:12 a.m.

I'm liking this project. Signed on!

ssswitch Dork
3/23/17 8:59 a.m.

That hood came out really nicely. Not sure I would go for hood pins instead of just buying a decent junkyard latch and rebuilding it, but I realize you've got issues.

BlueInGreen44 Dork
3/23/17 4:28 p.m.

In reply to ssswitch:

The hood actually looks way better in that picture than it does in person. It's pretty obvious that it was painted with a spray can on a windy day.

I haven't decided if I want to sand and do more coats to make it nice or... roll it with blackboard paint and turn my 7 year old cousin loose with some sidewalk chalk

seyhan3535 New Reader
3/23/17 5:07 p.m.

You took the effort to scale the rust down and paint it already. Why not just go ahead and make it look nice? There already tons of hondas out there that suffer.

BlueInGreen44 Dork
3/24/17 8:30 a.m.

In reply to seyhan3535:

Fair point.

My reasoning: It's a crappy aftermarket replacement hood and I'm just having fun at this point. If I really want to make it nice I can probably find a factory red hood from a part out or junkyard.

paranoid_android74 UltraDork
3/24/17 11:20 a.m.

It looks great so far!

What track do you plan to take it to?

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