FEATURE – THE PERFECT EF9 HONDA?
I’m going to show you around an extremely special little EF9 that is packed with modifications and built to such a high standard but at first glance you may just pass over it without a second look at it because it appears…normal. And yet, there is so much under the surface here, that it’d be foolish to overlook it! Trust me, this EF is properly hardcore. I had some quiet time with the car to see what really made it tick and then a rundown on what went into the build with the owner…
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Starting with a stripped to the metal JDM EF9 chassis, the car was sent to renowned Thai body shop Mard, where it was spot welded and then repainted in a factory metallic black; the paint job itself, perfect in virtually every way. From there, the modifications really started to take off. The owner took some time on deciding which engine would be best suited for the EF9 and in the end stumped for a B16B from a 1999 model JDM EK9 Civic.
Before installing the banshee screamer, TODA C2 camshafts were fitted to the twin cam head along with titanium valve springs and retainers. Air induction flow is handled by a Skunk2 intake manifold while spent exhaust gasses are expelled via a full Spoon sports stainless steel exhaust system from the headers back. An HKS FCON V-PRO takes care of the B16B’s heartbeat. Pretty much everything else within the engine bay was as Honda intended. This seemingly mild cocktail of engine modifications still adds up to over 230hp @ a heady 8400 RPM with the little 1600cc Type R motor then ripping right through to a screaming 9000rpm redline.
In a chassis that has been completely stripped of anything that would hinder a power to weight ratio, this equates to absolutely sensational performance. I was lucky enough to drive the car the day of the shoot and I can say that it had been quite some time since I had likened a car to a Go Kart but there’s also other very good reasons for this.
Supplying all the information to me via the chunky Sparco alacantara wheel is a magnificent suspension setup that is surely the envy of Honda owners the world over. Indeed, I was stunned when the specs were given to me. Underneath the chassis lurks a race bred, multi link rose joint setup with the car hanging perfectly on gold, competition model Mugen dampers, specifically designed for the EF9.
This arrangement has transformed the handling characteristics of “the-little-sled-that-can” from a sharpened knife into a razor edged scalpel, all the while being completely street-able and totally at home as a track weapon. It’s certainly not the most comfortable driving experience around ( especially on Thai roads ) but the sheer performance of the package was definitely one for the memory bank.
I couldn’t get over how responsive the EF9 was to the slightest adjustments in throttle, brake and steering inputs.
From inside the car, I was being given a furious and overwhelming workout of spine tingling aural and physical sensations as the car just kept climbing in revs, vibrating through vital organs as I kept my foot completely buried in second and then third, each shift up just intensifying the sensation. I looked down at the tachometer and got one heck of a shock when I realized I still had another 2000 rpm to go! Utterly visceral and slightly unnerving to say the least but there’s no doubt the B16B has to rank up there as one of Honda’s greatest ever engines and this greased pocket rocket brings out the best in it.
Keeping driver and perhaps terrified passenger in place, is a pair of lightweight Recaro SPG buckets and SCHROTH racing 4 point harnesses.
The driver, gripping a Skunk2 aluminum shifter, gets to throw one glorious shift after another through a matching EK9 close ratio transmission. The EF9 trans tunnel though needing a slight massage to accept the new box. While the internals of the gearbox are easily able to handle the power being made at the front, the owner decided to fit an Exedy copper mix single plate clutch, pressure plate and lightened flywheel to the mix to keep things under control. There’s also a mechanical 1.5 way Spoon differential up front to evenly distribute the power and decrease torque steer.
Going further still, virtually all interior parts, save for the door trims, head lining and dash assembly, were tossed out never to be seen again, along with all sound deadening and carpet. In their place are some nifty aluminum floor panels and a very rare, multi point Mugen roll cage. Both front and rear strut towers have also been braced making the chassis as stiff as a double scotch on the rocks.
But the EF isn’t without a few small creature comforts, essential in a balmy place like Thailand. The electric windows and mirrors for example, have been retained as has the air conditioning; there’s even a factory electric sunroof which I’d never seen before on an EF.
Also, you’ll find a nice little set of Defi gauges monitoring the oil and water temperatures as well as the oil pressure – all the vital signs taken care of. Could this be the perfect EF Honda? I tend to think it gets stunningly close … I asked how long the project took to complete. “Two years basically. I bought the car 3 years ago from someone who loves EF9 chassis‘ very much.” Wanting to know how hard it was to get the car looking the way it does, the owner replied, “Very difficult. It had to be sent to different places for various modifications but all these workshops are the best in Thailand and I’m happy with how the car has finished up.” Indeed!
Pulling everything up ( and keeping it on rails ) is a pretty formidable brake and tire package, which includes AP Racing 4 piston calipers up front that are mated to slotted, ventilated and oversize rotors, while the rear makes do with the standard arrangement. All four corners benefit from Dixcel racing pads. The greatest thing about lightness in a car is that it magnifies braking performance, meaning you can stop faster, for longer periods of time and experience reduced amounts of fade; indeed, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of it during my time behind the wheel. Weight has always been and always will be, the greatest enemy to a cars performance and a lack of it, the best friend you ever had.
Bolted to the standard 4 stud hubs are a set of light and strong Rays TE-37 forged alloys in bronze, measuring 15 x 7 inches all round. These were then wrapped in superbly sticky Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 rubber measuring 195/50 R15 on all four corners.
It’s hard to argue with the way this car has been set up and this is basically about as good as an EF can possibly get. There are equal measures of power, lightness, cornering ability and mechanical proficiency all thrown into one intoxicating mix and I personally feel that adding anything else to it would be like a drunk guy at a bar asking for another round. The barman, and in this case the crotch rocket EF9, is perfectly entitled to refuse the request. It doesn’t need to serve you any more than what you already have. And no, it does not need m0ar low.
On the outside, it all looks very standard right down to the Primo Honda window vinyl but that’s a facade. Yes, the kit is OEM and thankfully, there are no signs of bulging quarter panels, vented bumpers or ridiculous camber. I sometimes stare wide-eyed at the lengths some people go to to butcher performance oriented Hondas with rusted bonnets, bike racks on the roof, completely useless suspension geometry and supremely poor taste in wheel and paint color combinations; all in the name of looking “good”, living up to a supposed style…or sitting still.
This EF, on the other hand has stuck with its roots, has been done right first time and it’s going to stay that way from what I understand. It’s a functional and aesthetic lap time destroyer in the purest JDM sense one could imagine.
It’s all very sedate, purposeful, exact in its execution, supremely capable as a performer and that was precisely the point from the start; There’s no crap, no fat, no fads; just pure performance.
The EF9 was built to look exactly as it was meant to look when Honda made it and all of the changes are basically mechanically oriented. It does benefit though from a Mugen carbon fiber bonnet…
…and a neat little ducktail roof spoiler that only add to the appearance and not distract from it. Everything else is pure JDM OEM. You’ll find nothing knock off here. The addition of red pin striping accentuates the black and red themed package and you can’t help but marvel at just how clean it all looks.
How could anyone possibly improve on it? The goal really was to have a car that could decimate gymkhana lap times whilst providing a measure of comfort to and from the track. It also had to look period correct and extraordinary lengths were taken to achieve that.
The owner tells me this is his favorite car and I find that statement fascinating when you consider he has a treasure house of equally modified sports cars at his disposal but his answer confirmed what I was thinking.
“I just love driving this car”, he tells me. “I enjoy driving this the most on a daily basis – it’s just so much fun.” I couldn’t have agreed more. ..
Words and Photos – Adam J.P Zillin