It was a great year for the Honda community. Not the greatest by any means, but 2014 produced some awesome builds. I think this year really helped to remind the rest of the tuner community that Hondas are still at the forefront when it comes to true, timeless, execution. Every year, putting together this list is a near impossible task. I only do it still because everyone seems to enjoy it. As always, there is a list of criteria that I have created for certain builds to qualify for the list. Those of you who have followed the list before know what I am looking for, so I hope you can help explain to the new viewers if this list happens to be brought up in conversation. The rest of you can read below for a better explanation. I know that the Honda community in 2015 is thriving because there are builds that are mentioned repeatedly whenever there is a discussion of what is viewed as the best current builds in the country (and now, the rest of the world, of course). If things were slowing down and the community was dying, people wouldn’t even care to discuss what builds are great and there would be no talk or conversation. There are Hondas that are clearly ahead of the pack and there appears to be an understanding among the community as to who did really big things in 2014. Obviously, there are some cars on your list that don’t appear on this list. Allow me to explain. One of the keys in determining this list is who was able to make an impact throughout the year. Sure there were some cars that came in late and really stole the proverbial show but I can’t fault the guys who have already been out and about doing great things in 2014. With that said….oh boy am I excited for this year. There are SO MANY great cars that appeared towards the end of ’14 and many more that are coming out very soon for the calendar year. I think as long as I have been doing The Chronicles, I have never been so excited about what is to come for the Honda community. Builds are continually getting better and there are guys who haven’t built a car in a long time that are making a comeback this year. It is going to be a good one…
But first, we must concentrate on the great builds of 2014. I have to pack for my trip to Japan in a couple of days so please allow Joey from the past to tell you more about what qualifies the builds for this list in 2015, and well, every year beyond that…
“In the past, I really put a heavy emphasis on the builds being out for the world to see for an entire year’s time. Meaning that you really have to have a complete car from the beginning of the year until the end of the calendar year to really be considered for the list. While this makes sense, I feel that this puts some builds at a disadvantage because many regions and parts of the world just don’t have as many events as the West Coast does. Without events, you’re relegated to only seeing the cars on the web and that is also an unfair way of judging the quality of a build because photos really alter reality at times. Instead of putting so much emphasis on the cars being complete and out for a whole year, I’ve been more liberal with the rule and have considered some cars that may not have been ready from the start of the year, and instead have taken other factors into consideration, like their impact on the community, and how much response they get from the build-up of their cars. It just doesn’t make sense to compare a build from, say, the West Coast, and somewhere like the Pacific Northwest or something because they never have events and their weather is so unpredictable that you are unlikely to see many of their builds throughout the season….
Other than that, the same rules applies as always, I take EVERYTHING into consideration. That means, build quality, overall execution of style, overall execution of the build and how it relates to what the owner is trying to present to the rest of the community. Trends are not that important because I feel that if you really have a car that is legitimately considered one of the ten best in the world, it should really transcend the limits of popular trends and should have somewhat of a timeless appeal to it. Many, if not all, of the cars that you will see on this list in the next few days should be a contender for the list every year, whether it be from the past or in the yet-to-be-determined future. An important factor that I really like to look at with these builds is the type of impact is has on other enthusiasts within the community. Inspiration is a huge motivating factor when building a great car and these builds are all inspirational in their own ways. The list gets harder to put together every year because there are a lot of amazing cars getting put together every year so I really have to look at how the cars impact everyone else and possibly how they would change the way another person would put their car together. There are quite a bit of other things that I really look at, especially when it comes down to it being such a close race. I could talk your head off about it but I think the cars will speak for themselves. If you have been following this Top Ten List the last couple of years, you should have a good understanding of how the list works. At the end of the day, if you don’t agree with my selections, that is perfectly fine. I will not lose any sleep on it. This is The Chronicles’ list, meaning, it is MY list and MY list alone. If you don’t like what I have to say or the cars that I choose, you can go ahead and start your own list. I am not here to satisfy you or quench your thirst in any way. If you feel your car should have been on the list, that is okay too. I probably have your car on my radar but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. Keep building your car and doing your thing. Don’t let the list change your perspective on how you build your own car. As much as I would love to make everyone happy and give everyone credit for their builds, it just doesn’t work that way. This is the “Top Ten” list, not the “hey everyone, you did a great job list”. If you for whatever reason get butthurt about not being on The Chronicles’ Top Ten list, I think that says more about you and your character than how you build your car. You should be happy and congratulatory to others instead of worrying about why you aren’t one of them…
Anyways, no matter what I say, someone is going to have their feelings hurt over it. That’s fine. I’m glad I am generating at least some form of emotion from any of you guys. That means I’m doing my job because you took the time to read through this.”
Before you begin to type the words “what about ____________” in the replies or on various social media outlets in response to builds you don’t see here, what if you just really thought “what about the cars that made the list”? And why they are here. It might change your way of thinking if you made the decision to understand instead of telling me about how you don’t agree. I apologize if a car isn’t on here that you felt was better than any of these Hondas. There is always next year so please be considerate. Our hobby isn’t going anywhere. There is always time to make an effort in the future.
As stated, time present is one of the determining factors. There are two builds in particular that I’m sure most of you are assuming will be on this list but they literally just appeared like, less than two months ago so I really can’t include them. Actually, there is another build from Texas that debuted and is just fucking amazing but he too will have to make a strong showing this year. That makes three. They are the front runners in 2015 though so all they really have to do is show up and continue to do their thing. Imagine now that three spots are already being held so now the rest of the community has 7 spots to compete for, with probably more than seven great ones debuting this year. I guess those guys will have to compete to hold their place and not get bumped by another debuting build. It is going to be exciting for sure but until that day comes a year later, let us appreciate all that was great in 2014. Ladies and gentlemen, The Chronicles Top Ten, 10-6, in all of their glory…
Thank you to those of you who create great cars and push the envelope. You are an inspiration to all even if you don’t know it…
“Strength in brotherhood…”
Luis and Jose Jaimes were a couple of guys that I had long considered putting on the list since the beginning of the year. They hold the number ten spot but they didn’t exactly “squeek in”, this was their spot to lose. I had them on my radar because I value them for being high-character guys. Their builds are great individually but to be honest, they make the list because of who they are and what they do more so than for their cars. There is nothing “ground-breaking” about their builds. In fact, they have Hondas that pretty much anyone with a good eye and the ability to wrench can build. Their cars are almost a throwback of sorts to my favorite period of Hondas, which was between 2004-2008. Both are similar in their own ways but like Luis and Jose, are also quite different . Each car speaks to their own personalities even though they each wrench on one another’s cars. You can place these two cars during that time period or any time period before that and they fit right in. The timeless practicality of their cars allows them to just be relevant at any point in time. I put them on the list together because they do pretty much everything else car-related together. I got to know them as brothers, shot their cars together for a spread in Super Street magazine together, and now they get to share this. It was an easy decision for them to be on the 2014 Top Ten because they fill every criteria that I look for; the Jaimes brothers were out all year at practically every event, they quietly won multiple awards without ever being braggadocios about it, and their Hondas are a prime example of how to build with quality parts, which is only made better by how they execute both individually with their own flair.
They never got caught up in any of the notoriety or hoopla and just continued to do things to their cars because that is what they loved to do. And that’s perfect. That is how it should be. You see their love for the hobby by seeing how dedicated they are and other enthusiasts know them for all the right reasons. They are also the same guys that would be down to help you if you ever needed anything and don’t try very hard to keep secrets from anyone else. You may never know these guys but if you did, you should appreciate them. They are the enthusiasts that make this hobby fun because they love it probably more than you do and that’s a great thing. The fact that they are brothers just makes it even better because it is not only a hobby for them, it is about family as well. If you had to choose two guys to represent the Honda community to serve as an example for others, Luis and Jose are the ones. That is why they kick off the list here at number ten with their CR-X and Civic.
Two timeless Hondas built entirely at home, multiple awards at events, a magazine feature between the two of them, and they were just about everywhere in 2014. What more could you ask for?
To see more of their builds and to read the full feature on the Jaimes brothers’ Hondas, click the link below to see their digital feature in Super Street magazine…
For the 9th spot, we have a tie between two S2000 builds….
“The catalog car re-imagined…”
Hanzel Tango not only has one of the coolest names ever, he also has one of the most notable S2000 builds in the country. You don’t hear too much about it, as he isn’t the type to have a heavy personality online, but his S2000 is one that definitely needs to be appreciated. It is yet another great homegrown-build from California that is a great example of a well-rounded, high-quality, Honda build going into 2015. There are no shortcuts taken on this build. Everything is authentic Mugen from the Mugen SS line with a twist. For the most part, it is a complete Mugen SS build but he’s taken it further than the more typical S2000 build by putting a ton of work into the engine bay as well. The S2000 chassis isn’t quite there yet when it comes to engine bay customization like you see with the Civic and Integra platforms but there are guys like Hanzel Tango and Jared Aguila (Who was on this list last year) who have really taken S2000 engine bays to the next level. One of my favorite ways to put a Honda together is using quality Japanese aftermarket parts and aero, which creates that traditional look, and then customizing other areas of it to make it unique to its own. Tango’s build is done exactly in that way. It is a catalog-car themed build but he’s re-imagined it to differentiate it from the rest.
2014 marked the culmination of his 4+ years building this S2000. In that time, he’s quickly transformed his AP2 into one of the best Honda builds in the country. He’s chosen to stick with the Mugen theme, which makes his car a little more subtle compared to the wilder Voltex and ASM-themed builds currently out, but the fact that you know he owns a host of authentic Mugen SS components makes you want to take a closer look at what his build has to offer. If you’re in S2000 guy, you know it isn’t easy or cheap to acquire legit Mugen stuff and his car speaks to other Honda guys/gals because they understand the Mugen brand and its history. The details make the car stand-out. For much of the year, he even had a set of custom-built Mugen MF10 wheels which were done to resemble an original Mugen Mirror Face wheel with an aggressive step-lip that Mugen never offered. Those wheels in itself already kind of represent Hanzel’s S2 in a nutshell; it’s authentic Mugen, but it’s not at the same time. It’s traditional and very non-traditional because he made it his own. Those wheels are now long gone, to the delight of the true purists, but you can’t help but appreciate his body of work. There’s a print feature coming in his future and in the last two years, he’s claimed the Best S2000 award at Wekfest San Jose and also placed in the ever-competitive Honda category the following year at the same event. If you can get an award at that event, with a house full of some of the best of the best, you know you’ve got a note-worthy build in 2014. And that is why he lands on the Top Ten at #9….
To check out his full build thread with more photos, click the link below…
“The ultimate catalog Honda build…”
Photos: JZNSN2U Photography
Felipe Madamba has one of the best Honda builds in Hawaii. I say that with extreme confidence. I’m even more confident in saying that it is probably one of the best S2000 builds in America.
When I was hired last year to go be a guest judge at the Spocom Hawaii ’14 event, I spotted this build and knew instantly that it was the best in the building. When it comes to building a catalog-perfect vehicle, it just doesn’t get any better. On top of that, it is also 100% homegrown and built by a privateer without the help of any major shops or sponsors. This is a special car for me because it, along with a handful of other great Honda builds in HI in 2014, helped to restore my faith in the Hawaiian tuner community. Growing up, Hawaii used to be one of the premier destinations to draw inspiration from. It was about as close to Japan as it would get for many of us at that time and it just seemed like the enthusiasts there had a closer touch to Japan, almost more so than California and the rest of the West. If you were around during that time, then you know of DOHC Research, Team Rice, and other sites that showcased some of Hawaii’s best. The Hondas they produced were incredible but around the mid-2000s, it seemed like their Honda community just sort of fell off. Those great builds that we looked up to were being sold or parted-out and there was a little bit of a gap there where Hawaii sort of lost touch while the rest of the country grew. The builds nationwide got better and the new generation seemingly forgot about Hawaii. They don’t have nearly as many events or the same type of media exposure as many of the states here on the mainland so it almost was a little too easy to forget that Hawaii knew how to put a car together. Felipe’s S2000 blows that idea out of the water. All of a sudden, not only was I looking at a full (and I mean FULL) ASM-themed S2000, I felt like I unearthed a gem that the rest of the world had not had the opportunity to witness yet. I personally had not seen an S2000 with this much ASM goodness that wasn’t a shop car or properly sponsored to serve as a demo car for a business. It looked like the tuning shop ASM in Japan had built the car themselves.
I had a chance to chat with Felipe briefly and he seemed like a kind, humble guy which made his build that much better. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t expect anything and when he won that day at Spocom Hawaii, he didn’t even pick up his award because he didn’t think he would win anything. In an era where people with high expectations and an overly aggressive sense of entitlement exists, it’s refreshing to meet guys like him who are genuinely happy to just be at an event with their car. It isn’t about winning but more for the love of the build. If you appreciate their car, they are surprised and humbled, never expecting anyone to bow at their feet to worship their work. I think it almost helps that Hawaii is a bit removed from the rest of the country so that they don’t see the type of craziness that we do here on the mainland. Their enthusiasts stay tight knit and are sort of protected from the rest of the world. Things don’t progress nearly as fast as they do here, but that is almost a good thing because when you see their cars, you get that sense of tradition and understanding that was learned from the previous generation.
Everything in this build is high-quality stuff. There isn’t a part on this S2000 that would make you want to ask Felipe why he chose that particular part over another. When I say it is ASM-themed, I don’t mean it’s “ASM-style” like all the other S2000s around which are 75-90% running replica/fake ASM aero. Felipe’s S2000 is legit. The only thing I would really change about it is the fact that the engine bay isn’t color-matched but there is so much good in this build that it triumphs that. The guy just seems to understand quality and choose the right components for his car. Add to that a killer color combo and you have execution at its finest. The engine bay isn’t tucked or shaved in any way but Hawaii just hasn’t yet gotten involved with engine bay customization to that level yet. I guess if he has one thing to work on in the future, that would be it, but honestly, his S2000 is nearly perfect the way it is. While Hanzel Tango’s build is a re-imagination of a catalog car, Felipe’s is an example of exactly why we love catalog builds. Its proof that you can stay traditional without being boring. You get a glimpse of his S2000 and you just want to see more, and that is why it is one of my ten favorites of the year.
To see Felipe’s ASM build from the very beginning, click the link below to see his build thread…
“Expect the unexpected…”
The best thing about having such a diverse community is seeing all the unique ideas that people come up with in an effort to re-invent a classic platform. When it comes to building Hondas, the EG/EH Civic chassis is by far the most popular of all-time. There is just something so perfect about this 90s Honda that keeps people going back to it. There are many ways you can build the 92-95 Civic. In 2014, the popular thing was to K-swap them, run a nice set of wheels with a meaty tire, and give it that classic appeal by running a front lip from various Japanese tuning shops. The B-series used to reign king of the Honda community but when K-swaps started to get really popular, it brought an even bigger influx of tuners who returned to the Honda community. When you see Cory Shifflett’s Civic above, appearance-wise, it is quite traditional. It has Chargespeed aero, Spoon mirrors, authentic wheels, and is even repainted an OEM color. The intercooler gives you an indication that there is something going on under the hood but you would never expect to see what rests in the engine bay of his hatchback.
I had heard about this car going into my trip to New Jersey for the annual Wekfest East event, but it wasn’t until I got to see this car in person when I developed a real appreciation for it. I mentioned that I was going out East and numerous people told me to check out Cory’s build. They said to “make sure to check out Cory_Real_Nice’s (his IG name) F2K Civic”. I was like, “F2K, huh? That sounds interesting. Yeah I’ll check it out.” And then I remembered that there was a green Civic that was on the upper corner of Honda Tuning magazine a few months before that had an S2000 engine swap in it. That alone was enough for me to want to see it in person but it totally skipped my mind that it was no only F20C-swapped, it was also fitted with a Rotrex supercharger. That’s crazy. Cory went way outside the box and pulled off a swap that is already unconventional as is and took it even further by boosting it. No it isn’t rear-wheel drive if you’re wondering, the motor is mounted to a K-series transmission and actually looks much like a K-swap at a glance. I think most people assume it is a K-swap when they see it at events and don’t even bother to understand all the nuances of the swap. K-EGs are common so people tend to just glance and move on. What makes Cory’s build interesting is that you have to look closer to understand it. It is catered to real Honda guys that care. There is nothing trendy about it that gets all the scene kids staring. If that is what you’re into, trends that is, you won’t care about his car, and that is fine.
Shifflett’s Civic is everything that was great about building a Honda in the 90s-early 2000s but is powered by a set-up that no one would ever think to do back then. Hell, people still wouldn’t really think to do it now. The F20C engine just isn’t that popular or nearly as cheap as a K-swap so guys don’t even bother with the idea of it, let alone supercharging it to make nearly 400 horsepower. It isn’t cheap, anything but normal, and is a shot in the arm for the true Honda aficionados who were losing faith in a community pumped with trends and shortcuts. What I like most about his F2K Civic is that he actually went and finished the rest of the car. Many times when you find Hondas with uncommon swaps, they are usually just the swap and nothing more. Everything else is just kinda shitty, if you know what I mean. The exterior is not done, there’s no effort put into the appearance of the car, and people just expect others to love their car because of the swap itself. That’s not how you build a quality, well-rounded car. Cory has done it all and has shown the rest of the country that you can actually invest time and money into an unorthodox swap while also putting a nice car together around it. Thank you for that. If I see another primered Honda with a J-swap and cut springs I’m going to throw my computer monitor against the wall. Cheers to the guys who “get it”, Cory is here to represent the risk-takers.
Read more about Cory Shifflett’s F2K Civic below…
If there was a book that defined how certain cars in our community was built to compete and win at car shows in North America, Joe Cooper’s DC5 would be the definition. Okay, let me correct that. If you were to build a mold of a competitive, award-winning Honda in the East Coast, Cooper’s would be it. On paper, this RSX is everything you would want or need to see in a show car. It literally has it all. EMOTION car club has been holding it down for that side of the country for years now. As long as I have been fucking around with cars, EMOTION has been around and winning award after award as well as getting magazine features for almost every car in their fleet. This DC5 is one of their flagship cars in their stable and is worth the praise. It started out as a black RSX actually with a Comptech supercharger and a host of BackYard Special parts. The car was nice but it didn’t have that special something that made it stand out. A couple years ago, Cooper decided to tear the whole car down and start from scratch. He did some searching and was able to acquire the only two brand new Max Racing front bumpers left in the entire world (They are now out of business) and used it as the centerpiece of his build. The white makes the car appear a little too subtle but like the other builds on this list, you really have to take a closer look to understand what is going on. The DC5 features J’s Racing front fenders, hood, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser, but you probably don’t see the Chargespeed widened rear quarters. They have been grafted seamlessly into the body of his RSX and the body appears to be stock to the naked eye.
Under the hood is a supercharged K20 fused with both Japanese and American tuning products. Surrounding the motor is a fully-shaved engine bay that has been streamlined and reshaped. Additionally, his RSX has also been converted to right-hand drive, which is still quite popular to do in the East. Inside is everything you’d expect to see in an award-winning Honda/Acura build as it houses a myriad of quality Japanese parts and accessories. What I really like about it is that it is a strong visual representation of a high-key build from that side of the country. You could look at it and instantly recognize that it isn’t a car from this side. I think the difference is in the idea that West Coast Honda builds represent a look that is very unique to the West. It is a look being replicated now by many of the Japanese building USDM-themed cars in their country. The East still builds as they would if they were envisioning a Japanese demo car that they’ve seen in photos. Both are good but very independent of one another.
Being that I’ve been to both coasts multiple times, Cooper can be comfortable knowing that his car would do very well out here if it were to compete with the best in the West, and that is why I have it here on the list. If you know me and have talked to me while I was at a Wekfest event judging, you know that I don’t judge merely on a points system like most other shows. I base a car on quality of parts, execution, and style. It is of utmost importance how you put a car together as a whole. This matches the criteria of something I would expect to see if I were to pick among a host of Honda/Acura builds who were built to win. I think Joe might be a little too competitive but I can’t knock the guy for his passion. I call it “the prototype” because well, for those looking to build an award-winning show car in the future, this is what you’ll be competing against. This is what you’d want to build towards and eventually exceed if you want to win.
Click below to read more about Joe Cooper’s RSX in his Super Street digital feature…
“The Wonder Civic born of two continents…”
This AT Civic is a special one. It places high on the list for both its back story as well as its cultural significance. Hiro’s Civic is one of the first cars to be built in both America and Japan to compete in Japan. The car was originally shipped over here to the U.S. so that RedZone Performance could help do the K-swap into the E-AT chassis. All modifications to the bay to have the engine to fit were all done here, along with the work to get the car running and drivable. Once the swap was completed, the car was shipped back to Japan where the rest of it was put back together. Tachibana’s AT now plays a significant role in Japan’s growing USDM-influenced scene because it is one of the few K-swapped Hondas in Japan and the first swap of its kind into a highly-revered chassis in Osaka, Japan. The “Wonder Civic” as it has been dubbed by the Japanese, is legendary to many Osaka Honda enthusiasts. It was the car that changed it all for them when it was introduced in the 1980s and helped to create a cult-like following for Hondas in the Kansai region that eventually became what you now know as the birthplace of “JDM” Honda culture. Now, three decades later, this AT is revolutionizing USDM Honda tuning culture in Japan. I guess you can say that things have come “full circle”.
American, West Coast car culture in particular, has exploded into new lengths of popularity in Japan. USDM style has become so popular that you now even see it in publications such as Option and (the now defunct) Option2. These magazines were once the bibles for us enthusiasts here in the U.S. because it taught us everything we wanted to know about what was the latest and greatest in Japan. Now they are showcasing American car builds and USDM-themed cars in Japan. Let’s sit back and put that into perspective. Not only is that a bit ironic, it speaks volumes for what we have been able to do here in the last ten years. Our builds, which were modeled after what we saw growing up in Japan, is now the basis for inspiration for many in the land where we once only wished we could be. This E-AT is important because it is a place-marker in the bigger scheme of things to come in the future. As both worlds continue to intertwine, we will be able to look back later at this build and appreciate it for what it did for the USDM enthusiasts in Japan. But better way to introduce the amalgamation of the two then to literally bring a car into Japan that has been worked on by American Honda enthusiasts? Sure a K-swapped AT is cool enough as it is but think about the cultural significance of this car. It is a physical representation of two ideas that were once thought to be very different than one another.
Mutual inspiration and the sharing of ideas is what will push our worldwide car community forward. This is one of the Hondas that will light the way, and that my friends, is why it is here on the 2014 Top Ten.
That’s all for today folks. Hope you enjoyed the first five. Stay tuned for the rest. Thanks for looking!