Meet the car that started Gridlife | Adam Jabaay's Honda Civic

By Staff Writer
Feb 7, 2023 | Honda, Civic, gridlife | Posted in Features | From the April 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Tara Hurlin

"I remember my first introduction to road racing and autocross, back in ’96 or ’97,” recalls Adam Jabaay. “I was with my parents on a family vacation when I spotted an issue of Grassroots Motorsports magazine in the Mall of America. The cars and culture captured on those pages fascinated me. It was love at first page turn.”

Adam, now 38, has 18 years of road course and autocross racing under his belt. He’s also one of the masterminds–alongside his bestie and co-founder, Chris Stewart–who started the ever-growing, action-packed track series Gridlife

[#GRIDLIFE: Founding A Series]

If I wouldn’t have reached for that magazine, I would have never met Chris or any of my racing family,” Adam reminisces. “We even competed in the 2007-’09 Grassroots Motorsports Challenge and won with our Honda CRX. That experience gave me a new perspective on competition and building stuff for basically no money.”

Back in the day, Adam Jabaay and crew regularly joined us for our $2000 Challenge, taking the top spot in 2009. Photography Credit: Anthony Neste

While he’s organizing events that fuel the next generation of track-addicted gearheads, Adam somehow finds time to race–and fix, and then race again–his 1990 Honda Civic. The car’s Lambo doors are hard to miss.

Not many people can say they still own their college car from 20-plus years ago, let alone regularly race it. Adam checks both boxes. 

It’s the only car I’ve ever really wanted to play with longterm,” he explains. “It’s my favorite car I’ve ever driven on track, and this configuration is by far the most fun. It gets a lot of looks on the street and paddock, and it’s a great conversation starter, especially when I open the doors. It’s just so ridiculous, I love it.” 

Today Adam tracks the Civic. The Lambo doors are just for fun, he admits, while the air jacks came from a Daytona Prototype racer. Powering the car is an engine from a Honda Accord fitted with individual throttle bodies. Photography Credits: Chris Sullivan (top), Tara Hurlin

Adam purchased the car from the original owner after he crashed his ’91 Civic. Upon purchase, this chassis sported 200,000-plus miles and a blown engine. 

Adam promptly swapped in the engine from his crashed Civic and hit the road. He estimates that the car has had 16 engine swaps since. In a former life, as a drag racer, it ran 11.3 seconds at 129 mph. It trapped at 155 mph in a standing half-mile. “Yup, that was fun,” Adam smiles. 

This Isn’t Even Its Final Form

Adam wrapped up a four-year rebuild in 2019, delivering the current setup. The Honda’s late ’80s/early ’90s vibes can be felt from across the paddock. 

Admit it: At one point–perhaps during a weak moment, perhaps secretly–many of us have thought that Lambo doors are so quirky that they’re cool. On the packed Gridlife Touring Cup grids, Adam typically leaves the Lambo doors up until the last minute allowable. “It lightens the intensity and makes people smile, including me!” he exclaims. Plus, the doors make it easy to get in and out of the car while it’s on the two-post lift or in a trailer, he adds. 

Once inside those doors, Adam sits as low as safely possible. “After driving a Lotus 7-based sports racer a few times on the track, I knew I wanted to sit as far rearward in the car as possible, which also helps with egress considering my roll cage and containment seat,” he explains. 

His height–about 6-foot-3, he says–meant that the seat could be pushed back 14 inches. The shifter, steering column and dash were then suitably modified. Oh, and he mounted the pedals to the floor. “I can really feel the car’s rotation with this seating arrangement,” he grins.

To help improve weight distribution, the driver’s seat and all controls have been pushed back more than a foot. Photography Credits: Tara Hurlin

Two things help Adam save time on the track: the engine and the air jacks. The Civic is now powered by a 2.3-liter Frankenstein engine–’91 Accord head mated to a ’98 Accord bottom end. It delivers 157 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque at the wheels. “It makes a strong torque powerband with the tiny 40mm throttles,” he says. “It’s a ripper out of corners!”

The jacks came (used) from a Daytona Prototype racer. They not only facilitate repairs, but keep Adam from having to pull the side skirts to do a simple wheel swap.  

Adam completed most of the work himself throughout the evolution of the build. “It’s pretty common for me to show up in the shop in the middle of the night to work on it after an already busy day,” he says. 

But he did have some help with TIG welding aluminum from his friend TK and his brother Jeremy. Mikey Singhaseni at MSpec Tuning tuned the engine, and Honda race prep extraordinaire Blake Meredith handled the transmission. 

Sit Back and Race

Immediately after the four-year rebuild, Adam took the Honda to a podium finish at its first GLTC weekend at Blackhawk Farms Raceway in Illinois. “Who cares if it was a small field and some of the fast drivers broke?” he shrugs. “I have no aspirations of dominating GLTC, but a single race win is my ultimate goal, someday. The talent pool is deep in GLTC, and it’s going to take real effort to pull that off.”

Nowadays, Adam doesn’t have much time to race during his events, but he still keeps his drive alive by grabbing a helmet and mixing it up with his buddies on the track every chance he gets. “When I look back on accomplishments with this car, or with Gridlife and our other events, I don’t ever think of who won, the individual moments or whatnot,” he says. “I think of the people as a whole, the conversations, the energy.”

Future plans for the Civic? Maintain it. Keep it. Keep perfecting it. It’s almost time for a new engine, Adam says, and maybe a repaint someday, but keeping the same rad color scheme.  

“The car is the culmination of my ‘ricer’ 19-year-old dreams and my 38-year-old racer goals, and I couldn’t be happier,” he says. “It’ll never be done, though.” 

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spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/9/22 1:57 p.m.

Adam is the best of us as grassroots racers and enthusiasts and I love his civic.

Adam inspires all of us who volunteer with Gridlife to do more, not because he asks you to.. but because he's always doing so much and pulling all the weight.. you realize it's on you to step up to meet the high bar he sets... and that work ethic of never stopping and always improving, and never forgetting to smile and enjoy the experience.... is on full display with his Civic.


CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/9/22 10:23 p.m.

It's such a cool ride! Just a E36 M3 ton of development time and endless tinkering, tweaking and improving.

Picking up a copy of GRM and seeing the 075 CRX was what got me started down the challenge path.

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/10/22 9:17 a.m.

I want a track rat Civic now. Of course, I wanted one yesterday too. And will again tomorrow. 

Kendall_Jones Dork
2/10/22 9:25 a.m.

Yep, I had his honda crx that I killed at the kink at road america.  I felt worse for him as everyone recognized the car always sent updates years after he sold it.

Noddaz GRM+ Memberand UberDork
2/10/22 9:55 a.m.

That looks like a fantastic little car!

I want air jacks on my Jetta...  

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