Meet Val; owner of an E36 BMW M3, an NA Miata, and an EG Civic track car with 335,000 kms and a JDM D15 swap good for around 100 whp. It features a roll bar, Sparco seats, a six-point harness, extremely stiff suspension, Toyo RA1 R-compound tires on light-weight aluminum wheels, a limited slip differential, and manual steering. With my NB Miata still in the middle of an engine swap, I joined Val in auto crossing this little track beast, and it was fantastic.
Forget everything you know about little Hondas. Rid your mind of every fartcan equipped, body kitted civic you’ve ever seen. For starters, these little cars make Miatas look obese. This example, the “VX” rolled out of the factory weighing 2094 lbs. The glove compartment, door panels, and dashboard: everything feels like it’s been made from melted down milk cartons and noise deadening was apparently a foreign concept to Honda in the 90s. Combine that with a double-wishbone front suspension setup, multi-link suspension in the rear, and sticky tires, this car will dominate your local beer league autocross. It’s fast. More importantly, despite its sending power to the wrong set of tires, it’s properly fun.
If you crank the steering wheel to the right and mash the gas, it’ll destroy its front tires and understeer like a pig. But, if you feed the steering wheel progressively, draw your line carefully to maximize front grip, and use the brakes to rotate the car, I can say with confidence that being FWD is a complete non-issue. That said, it’s not perfect by any means. Seriously stiff suspension means it gets unstable over rough pavement, and slow manual steering on sticky tires means you’ll find yourself working very hard, but all of this goes out the window when you realize how much these little things cost to race.
Val bought this car, a complete track car with everything I’ve described, for $2,500. For reference, that sort of money in Southern Ontario will get you a rotted-out NA Miata, or an F22 engine out of an S2000. If you get really lucky, you can snag yourself an LS motor out of an older Corvette. A Miata is without a doubt more fun and faster around an autocross than the little hatch, an S2000 would destroy it around a racetrack and a Corvette would pummel it in a drag race. But, you could write off an EG Civic numerous times before you spend the price of one of these things. Then, when a part eventually breaks, there’s a good chance that that something will cost you $40 and can be picked up from one of the four parts stores in your area. Blow up an engine? It took me literally four seconds to find another D15b engine and manual transmission on Kijiji for $200. Not satisfied with 100whp? The infamous B16, the engine that got people talking about VTEC, can be swapped in for around $2000. Best of all, they’re extremely easy to work on. Working on an old Honda is the car equivalent of playing with lego.
Before I bought my Miata, I vividly remember my cousin, owner of an 800whp EG hatch telling me that I’d have a lot more fun in an EG. Was he right? Absolutely not, but it’s hard to ignore the $4,500 dollars I’d have in my pocket if I had gone with one. I can confidently say that nothing beats the speed to dollar ration of an old EG Civic.