The Chronicles Top Ten Hondas of 2014…5-1…

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Hopefully you guys enjoyed the first half of the 2014 Top Ten Hondas list. It only gets better from there as we count down to number one right now. Huge thanks to everyone here on the list for their efforts and the time invested in building these cars year after year. You are an inspiration and are much appreciated. It is your passion and devotion which drives others like you and the future generation of enthusiasts to come…

Now, I got a plane to catch so sit back, get ready to do some reading, and have at it…

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“A Honda without borders…”

Like Hiro’s E-AT Civic, Motoki’s EK3 Civic sits high on the list because of its cultural significance. As crazy as it sounds, USDM-style has grown at such a rapid rate in the last few years that you’d imagine they would pass us at some point! Sure enough, in 2014, the guys from Tactical Art debuted a build that was essentially the perfect interpretation of a U.S.-themed build. Leave it to the Japanese to take our styling cues and execute them better than we do. Atsuki and Yasutaka from TA have long been known for their ability to build race cars and the occasional street cruiser, but it was a big surprise to be able to see them put this build together and be a witness to just how well-executed it is. It was almost as if they studied us, took all the best elements of what was great about how we built our cars, and were surgical in recreating the look from the ground-up.

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Again, like many of the other builds that you’ve had a chance to see on this list, they are quite simple and built with a minimalist approach, but are much more than meets the eye when you study the details. The Civic started out as a mildly beat-up shell that was stripped down and rebuilt completely. The exterior was done to resemble a ’00-spec EK9 CTR-look, since it is a popular look here in the States but contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a typical Champ White or OEM Honda white. It is actually gray. The color comes fromAudi and is a very light-shade that could easily be mistaken for a white hue. The fenders have been reshaped but only slightly to house the square 16×8.5-inch CCW wheels. CCW has a great relationship with the guys from Tactical Art and they are actually responsible for bringing many sets of American-made CCW wheels into Japan’s tuning scene…

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Under the hood is where you see the most U.S.-influence. If I didn’t tell you whose car this was and who built it, you’d think that the image I was showing you was from a K-swapped Honda here. It is everything that is great about a modern Honda build in 2014-15. A K20A sits in the bay that has been redone like the rest of the chassis, but they keep it traditional with the two-toned battleship-like gray tone. The firewall and shock towers aren’t over-done and shaved too smooth but anything deemed unnecessary has been removed. The interior is probably where this car stands-out the most. Instead of gutting the interior and just having a pair of bucket seats and a roll bar in there, they have gone and had the entire interior reupholstered. Suede covers every panel of the inside, down to the rear hatch panel and trunk liner. They wanted to really make an effort to differentiate from their previous race-themed builds and put together a car that no one would expect them to build. You’d almost think that they would be willing to do a left-hand drive conversion to REALLY make it USDM. You have to really sit back and think about how much our community has grown over the years. Seriously. The cars we build now serve as inspiration to the rest of the world! Try to really put that into perspective. We started doing this just for fun, not thinking anything of what we did. We just wanted to build cool cars and enjoy the time with our friends. Now we’re building cool cars and enjoying the time with friends from other parts of the world. The idea remains the same, our network has just broadened. This is a Honda that could easily compete with the top-tier Hondas on this side of the Earth and could pull up at an event and you wouldn’t even question where it came from. That is almost the deepest respect of all; that someone would go to these lengths to put a Honda together almost as an ode and homage to North American Honda culture.

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Read more on Motoki’s EK Civic build below…

The Tactical Art EK Civic as seen in Super Street Oct. ’14 issue

Number4

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“A small town build with big city dreams…”

Tom’s S2000 hits the #4 spot because of how quickly his build evolved over the last year and his willingness to bring his car out to compete in the West. When I first met Tom at a Wekfest Texas event a couple years ago, his S2000 was pretty nice but far from what it is today. He originally comes from a small town in Texas where there aren’t very many modified imports so he didn’t have that community of enthusiasts to surround himself. Tom had a couple friends who were also into cars and they just sort of did their own thing. This is probably not true but he’s from a town like the one in Footloose but instead of them not being allowed to dance, they weren’t allowed to build cars. Okay, that’s completely false but he’s from a town where the only loud exhaust notes are from old beat-up pick-up trucks. Anything that he learned about the tuner community came from what he saw online or whenever he would attend local events in Houston. He always had aspirations to do big things to his car, he just needed the proper motivation. When the Wekfest Tour started coming around annually, it lit that competitive fire inside him and he really wanted to make a push to make his Honda S2000 one of the best that Texas had to offer.

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I remember in late 2013, at WFTX, Tom mentioned to me that he wanted to bring his car out to California. I guess he wanted to see how his car would do with some of the best out here so I told him it was a good idea. Why not bring your car out to Cali to see how it does? If anything it would serve as a learning experience to see what else he needs to do to continue to make his build better. I wasn’t sure if he was actually going to do it or not, because a lot of people say they want to bring their cars out and never do, but Tom actually went and did it. At Wekfest LA 2014, the S2000 from a small town in Texas that no one has ever heard of was on display next to some of the best that Cali had to offer. It fit right in too.

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I think that trip might have been a turning point for him. There’s nothing more motivating than traveling and seeing new things. To be able to see some of these builds in person that you’d only seen previously in photos really changes your perspective. Take it from someone who travels quite often, there’s nothing more rewarding than being able to go to new places and speak to new people. Tom not only brought his car out to a place completely foreign to him, he also ended up taking home an award that day, which is pretty awesome to be able to be recognized among your peers. After the L.A. event, he took his car home and immediately began to work on it again. Towards the end of the year, at the annual Houston, Texas event, Tom re-emerged with a new look. Syhachack makes this list easily because he not only knows how to build a Honda, he’s also always looking to make it better. The execution overall is very good and you gotta give him credit for being down to bring his car out to an entirely different state. He didn’t start off with the same advantages that many of us had when it comes to being in a flourishing, heavily-competitive, community but he now has one of the most recognizable S2000 builds in the country. The crew that he represents, Team 5Star, is one of the best all-Honda car clubs in North America and I say with a lot of confidence that Tom’s won’t be the last to hit this list in the next few years. These guys got some heaters on their hands, just wait…

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Check out the story below to read more about Tom’s S2000 in one of its previous stages…

Tom Syhachack’s AP2 S2000 as seen in Import Tuner magazine June 2014

Number3

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“The Best of the (Mid)West…”

Hindsight being 20/20, isn’t it crazy to think that in 2014, there is a full carbon widebody J’s Racing GT S2000 from Nashville, Tennessee? It doesn’t even sound real when you read that last sentence out loud. I mean, if you are just a casual enthusiast that doesn’t care or think about that kind of stuff, then it doesn’t matter to you but for guys who are passionate about this hobby and understand the history, it is pretty remarkable. If you were to tell me that there was a full J’s Racing-anything from Nashville, I’d probably laugh and think you were joking. Stuff like this just didn’t come from the Midwest. Oh how much we have grown over the years. In the years since, Nashville has actually become a pretty well-known city in the import community thanks to events like Import Alliance and we have enthusiasts there that most certainly know how to build cars. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything less of that area in any way but to be perfectly honest, no one expected the Midwest to have an impact back then. You guys had shows like NOPI, we had Import Showoff, Hot Import Nights, etc, etc. Thanks to the power of the internet, social media, and some forward-thinking minds, you get to see builds like Bradley Lafayette’s out and about at almost every event.

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What I like about Bradley is his effort and his willingness to go just about anywhere. Other than another certain build that you’ll hear more about below, I don’t believe there was another guy out going from city to city as often as Lafayette and his S2000. I felt like I saw this guy and his car more often than I did some of my close friends in 2014. And you know how they say your car is an extension of your own personality? Well, not in this case, and that is why it is so unique. Bradley does not resemble anything remotely close to his car. Figuratively speaking of course. If the man looked like a carbon widebody thing, he would just be a crazy fucking mutant or something. I’m speaking in terms of who he is in the brief moments when I’ve had a chance to chat with him. The guy is very, very, low key, doesn’t say a whole lot and is genuinely just a nice humble guy from Nashville. His car is almost everything he is not. It’s wild, very aggressive, and is instantly recognizable anywhere you see it. You just don’t expect it from a guy like him. Also take into consideration that this S2000, which is also a legit RHD Japanese Type V, was already a really nice build before. Oh, and also that he has K24-swapped Integra Type R too that is also incredibly nice. I sometimes wish he would bring that car around more but I can’t really knock the guy for bringing his J’s Racing GT widebody S2K out. He enjoys this car so much that the ITR is now for sale even.

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I’m not gonna lie, I give Bradley a hard time. I just feel like you really need to live up to the physical appearance that this car has. Like, if you’re going to build a J’s Racing S2000 that is full carbon and so uncommon, you have to build around it and make sure that everything else lives up to the imagery. Some have lauded his S2000 as the best in the country but I don’t see it that way. It has the potential to be that but it was missing some stuff here and there. What really stood out in my mind was that he understood where I was coming from and even made the effort to ask me what I thought and how the car could improve. I appreciate the fact that he valued my opinion and wanted to continue to make his car better.

The fact is that his car makes this Top Ten list pretty easily. It’s a great build that has everything this list requires; It’s a rare RHD S2000 Type V, from a town you wouldn’t really expect to see it from, wearing a crazy full-body carbon aero kit, and it was one of the most notable builds of the year because the car was everywhere. The build overall is well-rounded with interior, custom engine bay, forced induction, and anything else that he was missing he was still adding to the car before it appeared at a different stop in ’14. Lafayette and his S2000 had a big year and that is why he’s sitting at #3 on the 2014 Top Ten.

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See below to read a feature on Lafayette’s S2000 Type V before it went full carbon…

Bradley Lafayette’s “S2K Anomaly” in Super Street Feb, 2014

Number2

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“A proper introduction to the restoration-era…”

The winner of the most ground-breaking Honda build of 2014 belonged to a guy who was probably building Hondas back when many of the current generation hadn’t even learned how to drive yet. Jason Haradon is responsible for putting together one of the best DA Integra builds of all-time and last year, he emerged with another instant classic. Back early last year, I was hanging out at Rywire and David mentioned that Jason was coming by to talk to them about building an engine harness. He wasn’t looking for a Mil-spec harness or anything, he actually wanted them to build him a brand new OEM-style harness with new parts. It was going to be tucked away so the engine bay looked a little cleaner, but he wanted it to be very much like an OEM engine harness. It sounds odd to want to build a one-off factory engine harness but that was just the lengths Jason was willing to take to put his car together. The guys then told me that he had been building this Civic hatchback for awhile now and I was intrigued. If you know him, you understand how meticulous he is, almost in a bizarre way because he is THAT detailed. I was interested to see the result because he hadn’t really built anything major since his timeless DA Integra. I, and many others, are always curious to see how the older guys would stack up in comparison to the current crop of Honda guys. Things have changed a lot over the years, especially when it comes to building a Honda, so internally, we were all waiting in anticipation to see his Civic because he has such a great amount of respect in the community. What came to be was nothing anyone really expected…To the casual enthusiast, this was just a simple EG/EH with wheels on it. “Basic” as the kids say it today. To the diehards however, this was a masterpiece. Jaw-dropping even. Allow me to explain….

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You really need to be a Honda “nerd” to understand why he went about building this car the way he did. It seems very minimalist but it is actually the exact opposite. The Civic was restored inside and out, piece by piece, with brand new OEM parts being sought after from all over the world. He basically tried to build a brand new 92-95 Civic on his own just using whatever new parts he could find. The shell is obviously not brand new but a bulk of the parts are. Jason added aftermarket parts and began modding the car lightly after he restored the car, so I guess you can say it is a Honda “resto-mod” build. Restoration-type builds are no where near as popular in the Honda community as it is with the domestic hot rod crowd, but I believe it is the next wave of Honda tuning to come, especially for the enthusiasts who are older and just want to have a timeless Honda in their garage built to their own satisfaction. It’s true that restoring a Honda is nothing new but it takes a type of guy like Jason to really show how it should be done. You can speak to the guy for a few minutes and he’ll already overload you with information. Guys like him have a very honest and unique perspective that make them vital figures in this scene. He’s just a knowledgeable guy with a ton of experience and has nothing to hide. We need enthusiasts like him to push tradition and make sure that we don’t lose touch with the older generations. He serves as a connection to both the past and a glimpse of what is to come in the future. Jason makes the list quite easily because he basically built a Civic bolt by new bolt as if it were a kit car that was pieced together. And the fit and finish is just superb. Hell, it might be better than how it was delivered from Honda. Pour some quality on top of that with some Mugen goodies and you have a timeless piece of Japanese automotive art.

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Details folks, details. It is all in the details.

There is a tie at the number two spot, since both Jason’s build as well as the one below was extremely close to being THE Honda build of 2014. While the Civic above was very much an OEM-themed car that was as close to factory as possible, the build that shares the #2 spot with it is anything but that. It is actually the direct opposite, although they share a similar platform…

Number2-2

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“The Rookie of the Year…”

I love it when someone just comes out on nowhere and surprises everyone. That’s exactly what Angel Torres did. He shocked the world with his Civic in 2014. Aethetically, it may seem similar in appearance to Jason Haradon’s Civic, since both share similar parts at times, but Angel’s is very different. I remember seeing this build towards the end of 2013 at the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas. It didn’t look like this though. The wheels were different and the exterior was basically stock-ish in appearance other than the orange tone. What stood out to me at that time was the supercharged K-series swap. Honda Civics aren’t all that common at the SEMA Show so whenever you saw one, you’d likely go up to look at it just to see why it was at the show. I spotted the supercharger from afar so I walked up to check the car out. It was interesting because of the supercharger and the engine bay was put together very well. I began to look at the rest of the car and then I noticed the interior, which was nothing I expected…

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It had a DC5 RSX dashboard in it…but it didn’t look like shit. You know what I mean? Most of the time when guys try to shove dashboards from other platforms into their cars, it just looks fucking weird. They kinda do a shitty job of it and it just sticks out like a sore thumb. The rest of the interior doesn’t flow and it just ends up being a terrible idea. Angel’s wasn’t like that at all because he actually put in the work to line everything up. Not only did it have the full dashboard, which was fully-functional by the way, it also had the match center console which was modified to fit and the door panels were fiberglassed and re-wrapped to flow seamlessly. The result is pretty spectacular. So the engine bay was set-up nicely and the interior was awesome, it just needed some exterior work. in 2014, Angel completed the car. He added a J’s Racing rear wing, a carbon fiber First Molding front lip, and the 15×8 Volk Racing TE37SL set-up with the meaty Toyo tire was just perfect. Some people still don’t understand how important a wheel/tire set-up is and how much it changes the overall look of the car. The new set-up made Angel’s Civic look like a completely new car. If you don’t believe me, CLICK HERE to see the car in 2013. Now, do you understand?….

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2014 was the coming out party for Angel Torres. Everything about the car was just on point throughout the year and it left everyone wondering where this guy came from. When I finally had a chance to meet him, he was actually just a humble, polite dude from the Inland Empire. He had an RSX before this but it was nowhere near as modified as this Civic. This was his first in-depth Honda build. I guess it makes sense why he has the RSX dash and the K-swap because he was so used to owning a DC5 before. He was rewarded for his efforts and won at basically every event, big or small, that he attended with his Honda in 2014. He drove it as much as possible too which is something we all can appreciate. I was assigned to shoot the car for Super Street magazine towards the end of 2014 but he had an unfortunate accident and the car has been in the body shop since for a slight makeover. Had it not been for that mishap, he’d probably have a print feature to add to his numerous awards in ’14.

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The motor in his Civic is tuned and makes power. It isn’t just a show piece. There just happens to be a beautiful car built around it. He even has another K-swapped Honda that he takes to the track often so he is involved in more than just the show car aspect of the community. Torres is a Honda enthusiast through and through. I say he’s the “Rookie of the Year” because the guy just decided to pop up out of nowhere one day and kill everything.

If you want to see more photos of this build in detail, check the link below…

More photos of Angel’s Civic build from the 2014 Norm Reeve Honda Event

Number1

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“The Undisputed.”

Was there really ever a doubt?…. The RCG-built Acura Integra had an incredible run in 2014 and not since Michael Mao’s NSX build has there been a Honda that was this obvious of a choice for the #1 spot. I feel like I don’t even need to explain this because I’m sure many of you saw with your own eyes how great of a year Jay and RC’s Garage had. The car was EVERYWHERE. It went back and forth from Arizona to Southern California like 4-5 times if I remember correctly, Northern California for Wekfest San Jose, made the trek out to Houston, Texas, and closed the year out in Las Vegas for the 2014 SEMA Show. The list of accolades is pretty long considering how many events it attended and won at but the RCG Integra is the first and only Honda build (To be accurate, the first of any make) currently to have won “Best of Show” honors at three different Wekfest events in three different cities. Along with the awards came a Honda Tuning magazine cover feature. Want to see what else it did? Check out the RCG Instagram account HERE

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You could imagine that having done so much in such a short amount of time would leave many doubting why this build is THAT good but I don’t really see very many people arguing with it. It really is that good. The RCG DC2 is a fusion of classic Mugen ITR aeshetics and everything that is great about a West Coast Honda build in this era. RC knows how to build a Honda. His own builds have been on previous Top Ten lists of mine in the past but this was his best work yet. RCG has always been known for its ability to put a great engine bay together but the rest of the car is where this Integra shines. The detail touches are all there, with even the most minute pieces like the steering hub and seat rails done in a matching gold. They even found the time to take the shifter box assembly apart to have it all plated. The interior is gutted but it has been massaged and refined to match the engine bay; all the unnecessary holes in the trunk area have been shaved clean and the red paint inside matches the glossy appearance of the exterior.

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All the gold may have detracted from the finer elements of the car that were probably overlooked like the Mugen Advanced Complete Brake System from an FD2 Civic Type R that was adapted to fit on the RCG DC2. Again the details are what elevates a regular build into a great one and this is THE example of how to build an award-winning Honda currently. It almost makes you wonder what they will come out with next because this Integra seems pretty difficult to top.

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It was a pleasure seeing this car everywhere last year but it was not without its trials. RC and the guys would often run into issues when transporting the car back and forth from city to city and in Texas, they were even held up in a holding cell for over 5 hours while the car was left outside! Luckily nothing happened to it but there were some hairy situations for sure with this car. On the way to Autocon LA early in 2014, a rainstorm hit while they were coming into Los Angeles and the interior was drenched. No one really noticed but throughout the show, the seats inside the car were actually still wet! You can’t even call it bad luck with RC because random shit like this just happens to him all the time. It just seems to go with the territory and he just continues to bring the car out and not let it deter them in any way. He’s always got some kind of interesting story to tell during his journeys with Jay Calderon and the guys.

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What else is left to say? The body of work speaks for itself. If Angel Torres Civic killed everything, Jay Calderon’s Integra fucking annihilated EVERYTHING, whether it be Hondas or whatever make of car you can think of. I didn’t even bother to save the #1 Honda for a separate post like I usually do because it was already so obvious whose car it was, haha. There is just no better example of a great Honda build heading into 2015.

To see this build from the very beginning, check the link below…

Jay Calderon’s RCG Integra Build Thread on NWP4LIFE

This year looks VERY interesting. There are some builds waiting to kick of the year already with some more on the way. ATS Garage is coming back in a big way, there is a certain EF Civic from out here in L.A. that is already keeping his seat warm on the list, and I should also mention that RCG has a CR-X build coming soon. Other states like Texas are coming on real strong too. There is a Mugen EK4 from Team 5Star that is knocking on the door, waiting to claim its spot. The Top Ten of 2015 might just be the best EVER. Things are looking really promising for Hondas this year and with fingers-crossed that all goes well for everyone, let’s all sit back and watch it unfold. Good luck folks and happy building. Thank you for taking the time to view the 2014 Top Ten Honda list. ≠

8 thoughts

  1. definitely no doub of who took the #1 spot RC Garage killed it with that build. the Top 10 this year was great and couldnt agree more with the list. im looking forward to 2015 to see who comes out and steals the show. but its gonna be reallly hard to top Jay’s car lol anyway as always Joe good job! have fun in Japan!

  2. Being from the Mid-West (Minnesota), Tennessee is the south :V either way, you don’t see cool shit come out of the mid-west unless it’s a hot-rod or classic car. Our import scene is pretty bad.

  3. The EA is number one for me. Reminds of Automodelista for PS2. Most jdm game yet. Bust out that dusty console and buy it on ebay lol. U can build that exact EA and k swap it and thats an early 2Ks game. Sorry that was off-topic but great list as always. RCG teg also supported IFO phx and tucson showin local AZ love despite bein internationally praised. RC is a nice guy also

  4. Amazing features, always look forward to this one, definitely bigger than the hardware you get at any show. #1 is a true testament to winning aesthetic combos never getting old. About 5 years ago, Chris Rios’ Integra was looked at to represent 10 years of the culture in 2008 and as the best tuner car of the era. Here we are in 2015 and I’m having deja vu because Mugen, DC, & and a quality theme will always break necks. Loved seeing the car in person at Texas Wekfest, true inspiration.

    Can’t wait to see more!

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