NDF Build: NDF TA Civic Rebuild V.7

It seems like ages since I’ve driven my car, and at the pace that life seems to be moving recently that wouldn’t even be an exaggeration.  It’s been well over two years since I’ve written of any progress (publicly – I keep a notebook), and just about a year and a half since I’ve driven the thing.  I can honestly say, however, that over the past 6 months there hasn’t been a day that I wasn’t focused on finishing this build.  In these past two years I’ve learned more about the nuances specific to building Honda’s than I have in my entire life; from engine building and wiring to fabrication and fluid dynamics.  It hasn’t been easy, but thankfully I have some amazingly talented friends that have helped along the way.

I suppose I should preface this by saying that the car is still far from done.  My life doesn’t afford me time every day, or enough disposable income to finish this in any sort of realistic timeline.  With a full time management job that requires a lot of weekday travel, and juggling both the site and storefront, I’m left with little time for everything in between. I’ve accepted this realization awhile ago and have come to terms with it; as frustrating as it may be, I’m building the car after all, not giving money to a third party to create it for me. Unfortunately, that means some of the parts I make for the car take a lot longer than they should, and are usually far from perfect.  That’s not to say they lack strength or durability, function or usefulness, but in regards to the aesthetics, the car as  a whole is a bit rough around the edges.  There are some things that I wish I could do better, but I can honestly say that becoming satisfied with what I’m able to do has been a side effect of this build that I wasn’t able to see when I first started.  I can be a perfectionist at times, and this car has helped me realized that’s not always a realistic way of thinking.  It sort of reminds me of the Japanese philosophy of ‘wabi-sabi’; a concept that, in essence, deals with finding and appreciating the beauty in the imperfect.

“I’ve come to believe that True race cars have a flawed, physical allure.  I’m attracted to this idea more than anything that motor sports or the current automotive culture has to offer.”

I’ve always wondered what it was about particular cars that set them apart from others.  The flawless perfection of model cars, or meticulously handled builds with ‘all the right parts’ never appealed to me.  They always appeared to me as unrealistic, improbable…almost like they’re missing the point.  They’re preserved in a state of impossible permanence.  It defies nature.  I know many are built to showcase products and work, which of course I’m not in opposition of, but I can’t help but feel nothing when I look at them.  Tangible things, both natural and man made, including cars, should nurture authenticity by acknowledging the reality that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.  I’ve turned every bolt and nut on this car more than twice over, and as a result have come to grow familiar with every defect and blemish visible.  I know when and why they came to be, and I’ve grown to welcome them exclusive to the car.  I don’t want anyone to mistake this as being careless, or apathetic towards the appearance of my work, it’s just that things happen.  Maybe I’ve grown to appreciate the heritage of things more.  Dented shock towers, brake dust discoloring fenders and rocker panels, scratched door bars from getting in and out of the car, scarred wheels from going off track, distorted carbon weave in your rear window, countless rock chips in your front bumper, the maze of vacuum lines strewn across the engine bay.  Each has it’s own history, and should be appreciated as such, if not more than when the part was in it’s perfect state.  I suppose the Western equivalent of this would be ‘character’.  It shows use, and that’s a good thing.

I see these types of things in Japan all the time.  The cars in the paddock at Time Attack events are always far from perfect, and there’s this unspoken acknowledgement of it that I’m rather fond of.  My friend Will and I were discussing this last week and agreed that any sort of middle ground was hard to find in this case – especially in Japan.  I kind of feel like that’s the driving reason I’m so into Japanese Time Attack in particular.  Anyway, I didn’t mean to get off track, but these are a few of the thoughts I’ve had during the process of building this car all over again.  It’s sort of an appreciation for what I have, and for those who helped me get there.  I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I think this car is some sort of wildly intricate build or anything, because on paper it’s quite simple.  However, simple things aren’t always immune to complexities, and over time you experience enough of them to have you looking at things a bit differently.

The amounting anxiety leading up to the car being tuned probably cut my life span in half, but after it was all said and done I was able to relax a bit; the stressful part of the build (for the most part) was over.  This was the first motor I put together, and I owe a big thanks to Jacob and Ben at Import Life.  I’m lucky to have two patient guys with a wealth of Honda knowledge next door as I was over there almost daily bugging them about specifics.  Along with Kristian, of course, whom I must have inquired about some technicality nearly every day.  Suffice to say, I can sleep peacefully knowing that I put my best effort into this car, and can say for the most part it’s a product of my own imagination; taking cues from the Japanese cars I admire, and making a few adjustments of my own.

Although the car isn’t in a place aesthetically that I’m content with just yet (still a lot of exterior work in the process of being designed, built and shipped across the Pacific), the idea of getting to drive it again was too good to pass up.  With it being mechanically sound (or so I thought), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drive it once again.  So I registered for VTEC Club’s Autumn Speed Festival event at Big Willow in November, and prepared the best my schedule allowed me to.  Long story short, I was only able to get 3 laps out of the car before I started having mechanical issues.  The car was leaking oil, from what I could see, from below the head, around the oil pump area.  It was too profound of a leak to tell what the issue was, and despite the amount of speculation I had of what the issue could be, there would be no way to know until I got the car back to the shop.  On top of that I noticed one of my upper control arm bolts was backing out.  A bit unnerving, considering I didn’t really touch the front suspension while building the motor.  Whatever the case was, my day was ended almost as soon as it had started.  The next evening, with the car in the air, we were able to determine that the crank pulley was backing out allowing the timing belt to walk, and allow oil to leak from the crank seal.  The lower timing belt cover was preventing the pulley to seat correctly (100% my fault for not noticing when I first put it on – the ATI Super Damper requires a profound amount of psi to install), so I hole-sawed about 5″ into the cover to widen it and allow the pulley to seat.  We replaced the seal, timing belt, and re-installed the crank pulley, this time ensuring it was fully on with the help of a 450psi impact gun.  I spent the next few nights after work going over the car once again to convince myself it wouldn’t fall apart again on track.  Hopefully everything is buttoned up to the point where I can actually get some seat time in…after all, I still need to learn how to drive the thing.

Before I left town for a week long business trip, I spent a few hours at the shop combing over the car for any other issues that may have been related.  As soon as I get back I’ll be loading the car up and heading back to WSIR to drive Streets this coming weekend.  This time with intentions of getting some actual driving in.  I personally haven’t had time to really take any new photos, but fortunately some other talented individuals have.  The below photos are from Howard of APG Performance, and David Kim of Battle Driven.  Enjoy, and hopefully in the next update the car will actually look cool.  I’ll also try to delve a little deeper into a few things about the car, but for right now this little editorial will have to suffice because I’m exhausted and jet lagged.  As always, thank you for the support!


  1. Great post! I was totally feeling what you were saying! I enjoy the rare posts of your own car 100x more than anything else you post! The way you described character of a project is inspiring to me. Makes me want to just dig in and start doing something on my own! Thanks and have fun this weekend at the track!

  2. What happened to the center exit exhaust? Definitely noticed some changes since your V.6 blog post!

    • We modified it to a pie-cut downturn right before the fuel tank. I lowered the car more, and there wasn’t enough clearance under the subframe to have it routed like that anymore

  3. Great post, but please don’t get underneath a car unless supported by stands! Jacks wear internally, and all eventually fail

  4. Sean, don’t take that chance with the jack. Trust me, I’ve seen them fail, and people get out just in the nick of time. For insurance, I toss the wheels underneath the car. That way the car falls on something, and I don’t get crushed…I kid you not, it has saved my life more than once.

  5. Oh yeah, and you should use impact sockets when you can, chrome sockets are liable to explode in your face if you overuse them.

  6. Here it is! Damn she’s fine

  7. Wait – this is YOUR car Sean!???

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