When Suraj Bhamra took the keys to this ’98 Civic sedan and began commuting to and from high school with it, he wasn’t exactly enthused. In most honesty, he wasn’t a fan of how the car looked, nor did he appreciate its automatic slushbox. Additionally, the Camaro SS that he’d been eyeing for quite some time, parked right across the street, had a on the market sign onto it, almost mocking him because he drove by it daily. His family had purchased the sedan as a workhorse, serving as his sister’s everyday car and occasionally his brother used it for long hauls relating to his job. When Suraj hit the big 16, his parents had two hand-me-down choices to choose for him: a Chrysler Sebring LXi or the Civic. He adds, Originally I wanted the Sebring because my brother did some ‘cool’ mods towards the car like chrome wheels, headlight covers, window tint, and a bendy antenna, etc. Suraj landed on a website full of body kits, and unknowingly, the modification seed was planted, but ultimately I was due to the Civic because it had fewer miles on it and my parents felt it could be more reliable. After some random online surfing.quite a clean silver EK hatch. My dad heard about the hatch, and becoming a car guy, decided he would let me do some visual mods to the car. The sedan was dropped off where the family friend proceeded to add a body kit, Altezza taillights, generic coilovers, Enkei wheels and had everything color matched. He adds, I thought the vehicle was the sh*t in high school and I won Best Car, which made me think I was super cool. In this high school ‘ricer’ phase, I stumbled across Superhonda.com. The target on complete suspension and engine builds intrigued Suraj. So, much so, that he’d jump on the tech forum the instant he arrived home from school everyday to read and learn more about his newfound passion.
Being a high school graduation student by using an almost nonexistent budget meant that a swap was completely out of the question, though with so many swapped Hondas floating around on the internet, the urge to put in a B or H Series engine haunted Suraj. Not any faster, though instead, a Flowmaster muffler was matched to custom piping at a local exhaust shop and made the automatic D16 louder.about this time that Suraj had graduated high school and was heading into the next phase of his life. He adds, It was time for college and the car, which I drove five miles to senior high school in, had become the car which i dragged both to and from college. I would change the wheels and bumpers [in the winter] back to stock and haul everything I needed to and from school. The car wasn’t particularly neglected; it was just kind of a ‘dark age’ for the build. In my junior year of college, I landed an internship and began working part time. A steady source of income and also the nod from his parents to start utilizing their 300M being a daily driver meant that Suraj could once more pick up the build, but this time he’d be doing the modifying himself. Most would undoubtedly take some sort of DOHC swap, but Suraj shook those thoughts off entirely after finding his way to D-series.org and learning all about the potential of a SOHC turbo setup. He removed the original engine in his garage and sourced a new block, which was fitted with Suzuki Vitara pistons and custom length FJ Distributor rods complete with ARP hardware. A Bullseye T3/T04E is connected tofor the most part, with no real snags on the way. That is, until it was time to fire it up, which contributed to a puddle of oil on the ground whenever a cam seal failed to make its distance to the rebuilt head. That ordeal was then followed by countless tries to nail an effective base map and once it was actually finally dialed in correctly, a few more problems showed up uninvited, including an issue together with the way and turbo too much smoke. Even after realizing he’d plugged the black box on the back of the D16 block, Suraj says the car continued to smoke between shifts, which is oftentimes a sign of bad valve seals. Off came the head so Suraj could replace the seals in the garage, whilst the turbo went back to Bullseye to cure some shaft play, and eventually everything was willing to be bolted back on. He adds, There were some additional problems like the GReddy boost controller not playing nice using the Hondata, a number of sensors for that gauges dying, etc. Nothing major, and so the next month or two were spent just experiencing and enjoying theHappy with the engine and turbo setup on the road, Suraj turned his attention toward the exterior and interior. He’d had his share of, shall we say, gaudy upgrades in high school, but having learned quite a bit in the process, he wanted a style that he wouldn’t regret when looking back 10 years from now. Thin OEM JDM side moldings were installed along with a Seibon carbon-fiber lip and MRacing mirrors on custom baseplates. Inside the cabin you’ll find a set of Corbeau Crow and seats harnesses mounted to a Revshift harness bar, a MOMO steering wheel, plus a slew of GReddy gauges.
Some might call it an opportunity encounter, although some might chalk it up to fate. What started as a hate/hate relationship with a family hand-me-down resulted in the development of a devoted enthusiast who learned everything he could about his car by just taking a hands-on approach using some very resourceful forums.