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Project #OGiantKillerCRX: My CRX Project Receives Defibrillation

  • Posted: 12-28-2015 07:07 PM
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Some people will recall that at some point in the past (late 2010, to be exact), I picked up a somewhat famous first generation CRX. Famous in that most CRXphiles age 35 or over know of the car, but only somewhat because that is really not a large population. I had made a couple of posts about the car on our old "Pitboard" blog and then promptly went dark on the project. The reasons for the hiatus are widely varied and all sound more like whining excuses so I wonít go down that road.

Instead, letís just get going on where I am today. Save for a little parts collecting and some minor other work to the car, Iíve done nothing with it. The car had moved with me to Oregon in late 2012, and subsequently was parked in my garage doing nothing. Oh, Iíve driven it around the block a couple times, but that is all. Iíve never brought it out because, frankly, itís just not what wanted it to be.

Poor CRX, Iíll boost new life into you yet.

The front end is completely torn apart, and without the panels in place the car is ugly as sin. The turbo kit was removed to get it to pass California emissions. And so the car fell into the background as I wallowed in the shadow of needing to tear into the car. Finally getting over my discouragement, I have now tossed the car on my rack, thereby excommunicating my #HTSpecTSX to the driveway, and am prepared to "not stop" until Iíve made serious headway in (dare I say, completion of) my restoration of this car.

Wait, restoration? I donít really think I meant that. As Iíve learned in my travels with HMSA, restoration is a relative term when talking about a modified car such as this one. Restore it to what state? Factory fresh? First modified? When it was at some event? As awesome as it would be to completely restore this car to new, original condition, Iíd be crossing out a huge chunk of the carís prominential make up. This car was the Original Giant Killer CRX!

If you donít believe this was THE original Giant Killer CRX, read from Road & Trackís July 1986 issue, pages 83 and 84.

Thatís right, promptly on import from Japan, Oscar Jackson of Jackson Racing modded the car with some of the most high tech suspension and turbocharger technology of the day. So to restore the car to "factory new" would be a disservice to this important part of its history. Just the same, there is so much BETTER stuff available in 2015 that this car could be turned into a *gulp* resto-mod! Decisions, decisions...

Some long and hard deliberation has led me to cook the following spices into this CR-X build which I am dubbing #OGiantKillerCRX, because it is the Original-gangsta Giant Killer CRX:

Some good, some bad, some uglyÖall to be redone.

  • The engine block is not original, so a "numbers matching" concourse restoration is not possible. Also, a number of modifications were made to the car after Jackson Racing sold the car in 1986.So rather than revert the car back to some impossible point from 30 years ago, this will be a "resto-mod" car to get to the most performance I can summon.
  • But, I hate the blatant obscenity of many resto-mods, which go without respect to the past and keeping only the classic shape. I do want to carry forward a strong tie with the carís past. The DOHC 1.6L engine makes it unique; and apart for cleaning up the engine harness, vacuum tubing, and unnecessary emissions bloat-ware from the 80ís, I am keeping the powertrain configuration intact. Iíll be reworking the engine bay to an extent where it will have a cleaner, more modern look to show off the older, classic hardware.
  • A "black-top" D16A1 head from an 88-89 Integra will allow for using an improved induction and ignition system over the 86-87 unit. I'll rewire the car to use an OBD1 ECU and a Honda S300 tuning module, but I can retain the original "brown-top" cylinder head cover for greater authenticity. It will look old enough, but should be tuned well for performance.
  • The turbocharger will be rebuilt or replaced with specifications that will allow me to achieve my performance goals. The intercooler may need to increase in size, and most of the piping will likely be refabricated. However, our limit on fabrication will be to use the original HKS/Jackson Racing exhaust manifold and turbine outlet, which allows me to keep air conditioning in the car.

    For the unaware, Jackson Racing developed HKSís Honda turbo kits in the 80ís, even for the JDM DOHC Si, which was never actually sold in America.
  • The exterior, I am in love with as it is. Nothing says classic CRX than a black on grey first year Si. This one is made all the better by having the í85-only flip up eyelids over the headlamps and ZC-bulge on the hood. That said, the various plastic panels all around the body are broken and/or missing. So I will use Medieval-Pro restoration panels wherever I can to replace broken parts. Overall, the car is going to have a "stock" look to it. Body-work itself will be minimal. Iíve got liberty to selectively "clean up" areas which fail to flatter the car, such as the rear window sprayer and rear wiper. I may just mount a FUBA antenna to replace the stock one, to really harken the past and get the kids wondering "wtf?"
  • As a general rule, Iíll try to be selective about componentry, and attempt to avoid adding parts "because they are available." The original interior will all be kept in place but I will be mounting my collection of HKS meters, which are all period-correct. The seats have a great pattern in them but if I can find a nice set of Recaros to match the existing scheme Iíll try to jump on them.
  • The suspension bits are all going to be removed and freshened up. New bushings where needed, and of course a set of Medieval-Pro dampers. I may move up the torsion-bar size to accommodate the grip from some really grippy tires I'm going to need to break 1.00g in grip. Wheels will be 15" Mugen MR-5s, to give a classic look to the outside, at least that's the plan for now.
  • USDM versus JDM. The CR-X is a true-blue right-hand-drive model. It came to the USA with all JDM components, such as metric meter panel and no corner reflectors. But Oscar Jackson federalized the car meaning it was brought to "USA spec" with retrofit door-bars, converted lamps, and a SAE meter panel. I'll pick and choose some of this as I go...because I do want to keep some of that history in the car where it makes sense, but JDM lamps are considerably cooler looking than USDM ones.
  • So, what are the performance goalsÖI'm not sure if I could get to a modern Corvette Stingrayís acceleration (12.0 second ľ mile) or grip (1.03g on the skidpad), but I can sure as heck try, with new stuff such as Hondata engine management and Medieval-Pro dampers. I am honestly not interested in making this a strict performance car, though. Civility must be maintained.

    All in all, the performance goals themselves are not as important as achieving the overall package target, which is a stout performance car that will present well at any venue it happens to be at. I want to help people understand better the roots of Honda performance, where it began with the likes of King Motorsports and Jackson Racing, how it has evolved with affordable and modern street tuner technology from companies like Tein and Hondata, and where it is going now with companies like Heeltoe Automotive and Medieval-Pro now restoring and honoring chassis of the past.


05-06-2016 01:00 PM at 1:00 PM
It is possible to add critical chassis stiffness without disrupting the original look of the car. I highly recommend welding in a set of fender braces while the fenders are off. And borrowing from the Straman modifications, bracing in the foot wells are a good idea.

I am sure that the rear axle is untouched and I would hope that you keep the articulated right rear trailing arm that the Honda factory provided. The semi-independent rear suspension is a clever design, it would be a shame to lock that trailing arm and disable what Honda provided.

Look to the Mugen and Spoon racing teams for their rear suspension modifications (HF rear axle without an internal torsion bar and a large external rear sway bar). for your inspiration.
Administrator Note:
While we are not planning to add significant chassis stiffening at this time, we certainly will not be changing the rear axle configuration. Thanks for the top on the Hf rear axle!
Brakes, LSD and Chassis?
12-29-2015 09:56 AM at 9:56 AM
So many "tuners" get excited about HP numbers but they seem to forget that they have to get the power to the ground. These FWD cars need all the help they can get to put the power down, what are your plans for an LSD?

Once you are going, you will need to stop. What are your brake upgrade plans?

Chassis stiffness. These cars are many things, but stiff is not one of them. What are your plans for stiffening the chassis?
Administrator Note:
Definitely there is a plan for an LSD. Although there are not many choices it may end up being a Cusco unit. The Hondata S300 will accommodate boost-per gear (so hoping that will help as well if I can get it working with the older transmission).

Brakes will likely be provided by Fastbrakes, although the wheel choice may become a limiting factor here. Too much brakes will cause too little wheel choice, and with this chassis there is not a lot of fender-room to work with.

Chassis stiffness is so critical...but there are not many options out there for bolt-on pieces. We'd like to work with Cheddas Auto more to develop some new pieces for the car, but we'll see what comes about. May need to fab some custom parts.

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