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red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
12/9/17 6:11 p.m.

Back in September, my Mk6 GTI was totalled.  I decided to avoid getting another car loan so soon after the first one, and scoured craigslist for something I could buy with cash.   I ended up buying this '02 Civic Si from the original owner:

These were made in England, and I believe are unique in being the only Euro Honda sold in the US until the 10th generation hatchback & Type R.  As a new car, these were pretty disappointing; however I think now as a used car they're a pretty good deal.   Sure, they're basically a short wheelbase Honda Stream, but at least they don't have a stick axle like a Mazda 2 or a Hyundai Accent.  I decided given her mixed English / Japanese heritage that she should be named Kongō.

I found that I had to change the radiator right away, as the entire width of the upper tank was leaking:

The cooling system was full of brown crud, it took a few flushes to get it cleaned out.

The engine had a bit of a belt / bearing noise, so I threw on a fresh belt, idler pulley, tensioner, and alternator.  That didn't completely fix it, so I'm guessing the water pump is next.  The front brakes needed new pads & rotors, as well as slider pins.  The list kept going, so she also got new control arms and ball joints.  (I'm glad this stuff is so cheap!)  

Finally back together.

With the car now road-worthy, I put on a set of General RT43s and got her aligned.  It's time to start solving all of the little things that Honda screwed up on these.  The original stereo doesn't have any modern features.  I was debating if I wanted to go all-in on a carplay headunit, but decided just the basic mechless would be better given the budget here:

The dashboard shifter is quite controversial, but it opens up room for a huge storage bin in the center console.  I love how it is positioned and wish more cars were like this.   The previous owner must have worn a ring on their right hand or something, as the leather was pretty gouged up.  The factory knob is really expensive, and I didn't want to burn my hand on a hot aluminum Type R knob, so I opted for a Delrin replacement.  

Another thing that annoyed me was the gas pedal being just a little bit too narrow to heel & toe effectively.  I bought a Sparco pedal set to take care of that:

I was lucky to find a set of Enkei wheels in HS legal size the day after I bought the car.  The RS3s that are on there are way too small though, 2nd gear runs out at like 52mph.

Stuff on the to-do list to fix inexplicable Honda decisions:

  • Driver's seat foamectomy.  I'm just a little too tall for this car, and bump my head with my helmet on.
  • Megan Racing midpipe - Probably the most baffling thing is the size of the exhaust.  It's 2-1/2" or so out of the catalyic converter, and necks down to 1-7/8" back to the muffler, where it expands back out to 2-1/4".  I have no idea who thought this was a good idea.
  • Todd's caster plates - These cars only get like 1 degree of caster, and offset bushings don't really add enough.  The caster plates will bump the car up to 6 degrees or so, to match more modern hot hatches.
  • Hondata Reflash / K-Pro - With a 4.764 final drive (3800rpm in 5th at 70 mph!), these really need a higher rev limit than the 6800 that Honda selected.  Being able to wring it out all the way to 7500 would help acceleration by a good bit.

So far I've autocrossed her once, and it was a lot of fun!  I'm hoping to get back into HPDE next year.  Thanks for making it this far!

midniteson
midniteson Reader
12/9/17 6:38 p.m.

Sweet car. I remember reading about them in sport compact car mag when they first came out. 

Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand Reader
12/9/17 9:37 p.m.

I see these come up for sale occasionally. Why the bad reputation for the ep3?

singleslammer
singleslammer GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
12/9/17 9:49 p.m.

Hey man, don't knock the Mazda2! It may be a stick axle but it didn't need anything heavier or more complicated. Tons of fun. 

However, I like the ep3 because it is the first Civic with a K series and has a hatchback. That already makes it better than the previous SI in my opinion.

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
12/9/17 10:17 p.m.

In reply to Floating Doc :

The front suspension has lots of bumpsteer issues if you lower the car.  It's also a pretty simple strut setup, compared to the previous generation's double wishbones.  The K20A3 has "economy" VTEC, and a low rev limit.  Coupes were also a more popular bodystyle at the time.  

ssswitch
ssswitch Dork
12/10/17 12:19 a.m.

I've wanted to own one of these since they were new, but they still hold way too much of their used value locally. Maybe an example will enter my life as a basket case like everything else does. Most of the local ones that are getting close to my price range have surreal levels of body damage and homemade modifications (since there wasn't a lot of aftermarket support, why not try making our own mods?)

As for "worst," I'm pretty sure the eighth gen must be up there.

DeadSkunk
DeadSkunk UberDork
12/10/17 8:23 a.m.

I spend too much time on YouTube watching rally videos. These things show up routinely in Scandinavian rallies so they must have some positives going for them. I think the poor reputation was just fanbois being unimpressed by the change to strut suspension, but there are several fun strut cars out there. Have fun with it.

RX8driver
RX8driver Reader
12/10/17 8:55 a.m.

MotoIQ has a project EP3 that they did a bunch of work to in order to improve bumpsteer and such. Might be worth a read for you.

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
12/10/17 11:33 a.m.
RX8driver said:

MotoIQ has a project EP3 that they did a bunch of work to in order to improve bumpsteer and such. Might be worth a read for you.

I wish mine was that awesome blue color.  :)

Nitroracer
Nitroracer UltraDork
12/10/17 7:16 p.m.

Years ago I crossed shopped the EP3 with the Focus SVT.  I ended up with the SVT but they're both cheap enough now to be fun options again.

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
12/14/17 9:58 p.m.

If you can't remember the last time the cabin filter was replaced, it is probably due.  The dirty ones (on the left smart guy) were actually worse, but I vacuumed them out after checking so that they'd be slightly less gross until I could pick up the new ones.

 

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
12/15/17 6:34 a.m.

At stock height these are a ton of fun in the dirt. I'm not sure if they are nationally competitive or not (I haven't seen anyone run one) but we used them to teach at rally school and they were probably my favorite FWD car. 

I also got to ride in the car that David Whitener built for AX/track stuff, and that car was brutal. In order to make the rear work at the ride height he wanted it was so stiff that it had something like 1/4 inch of travel. He had to bother Bilstein to sell him valving parts that they don't usually sell so he could build the shocks for the car. He did figure out how to make it quick though. 

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
12/17/17 12:22 a.m.

So, I haven't been 100% satisfied with the shifter.  Back around Thanksgiving, I installed Delrin shifter bushings.  I didn't really get the improvement I was after.  There is quite a bit of lateral wobble while in gear, and 1st and 5th gears were a bit stiff.  Looking at how the shifter moves, the larger fore/aft bushing probably doesn't flex enough.    After some reading on the forums about the wobble, I discovered MTEC shifter springs.  Basically moving the shifter side to side moves the shift lever vertically on the transaxle, which is controlled internally by a spring.  Of course I picked the stiffer "race" springs.  Because racecar, right?

So here's the shifter assembly removed from the car:

And here's the hole it leaves behind:

To install the springs, you carefully disassemble the assembly and swap the old with the new:

Reassembly time!  You basically just carefully lower the assembly back in and bolt it down.  I swapped the larger bushing back to the factory one.

Unfortunately, even with the stiffer race springs, it's still got a bit of wobble while in gear.  It's certainly cut down about 50% compared to the factory spring.  I suppose that's just part of how the design works and you can't 100% eliminate it.  I don't really notice it too much when actually changing gears.  It does have a nice crisp return to center action now, so that is pretty well improved.

Sonic
Sonic UltraDork
12/17/17 1:12 p.m.

I can’t recall the exact details but I know on many K series manual transmissions there is a way to add a 6th gear to a 5 speed, the TSX one is the best apparently, and this can even be done with the trans in the car.  

Also supposedly, per my Honda dyno guy that I saw 2 weeks ago, if you replace the rocker arms and cams in the motor you have, you get 90% of the benefit to going to an RSX-S motor.  

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
12/17/17 3:15 p.m.
Sonic said:

Also supposedly, per my Honda dyno guy that I saw 2 weeks ago, if you replace the rocker arms and cams in the motor you have, you get 90% of the benefit to going to an RSX-S motor.  

Yeah, you can install exhaust rockers on the intake side, and then whatever the "big" VTEC profile is becomes your only cam profile.  There's probably a loss of low end torque and fuel economy associated with that though.

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
12/21/17 11:02 p.m.

Getting ready for road trips over the holidays.  Bought a replacement for the missing factory airdam.

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
2/7/18 9:47 p.m.

We're signed up for a trackday next month!  I decided that we need more power....

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
2/19/18 5:05 p.m.

So, one of my bigger complaints has been headroom.  The car is fine for daily driving, with my hair only occasionally brushing the headliner.   Autocrossing in this car has been quite uncomfortable since I had to contort my head to fit at all.  I decided the factory seat was too nice to do a foamectomy on, so I went with a Sparco R100 on their mounting base. 

It's not really obvious in the photo, but sitting in the seat is a big improvement.  I'm also really happy with my new helmet for this year, it's a G-Force EX9.  

wheelsmithy
wheelsmithy GRM+ Memberand Dork
2/19/18 5:51 p.m.
Sonic said:

I can’t recall the exact details but I know on many K series manual transmissions there is a way to add a 6th gear to a 5 speed, the TSX one is the best apparently, and this can even be done with the trans in the car.  

Also supposedly, per my Honda dyno guy that I saw 2 weeks ago, if you replace the rocker arms and cams in the motor you have, you get 90% of the benefit to going to an RSX-S motor.  

Whaaa... That's awesome. 

solfly
solfly HalfDork
2/20/18 8:01 p.m.

I have one of these. Neat to see another on here.

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
3/9/18 4:35 p.m.

Kongou was well behaved on a trip to Atlanta (natch) to pick up a new car for a friend:

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
3/9/18 9:11 p.m.
Floating Doc said:

I see these come up for sale occasionally. Why the bad reputation for the ep3?

They don't have double wishbone suspension, which is automatically Bad because geometry reasons, which as far as I can tell means you don't automatically get a ton of negative camber when you lower the car to the point where the suspension barely moves so the geometry doesn't actually matter.

 

I actually like the EP3.  The only thing against it is the doofus schoolbus shifter location.

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
3/9/18 9:13 p.m.
red_stapler said:

In reply to Floating Doc :

The front suspension has lots of bumpsteer issues if you lower the car.  It's also a pretty simple strut setup, compared to the previous generation's double wishbones.  The K20A3 has "economy" VTEC, and a low rev limit.  Coupes were also a more popular bodystyle at the time.  

Have people tried... not lowering cars?

 

They might find that they handle better when the roll centers aren't six feet underground, too!

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
3/9/18 9:17 p.m.
mazdeuce - Seth said:

At stock height these are a ton of fun in the dirt. I'm not sure if they are nationally competitive or not (I haven't seen anyone run one) but we used them to teach at rally school and they were probably my favorite FWD car.

 

I competed against one once, locally, in Oktavia's first appearance in PF.  We were both on new rally tires.  I forget now if he was on Black Rockets like me or if he was on Indy Sports.

 

I won by something like 20 seconds, with three DNFs because I blew a radiator hose on my first morning run and missed the rest of my morning runs while I tried to find a parts store.  I don't know if this means I am an awesome driver, or Volvos are awesome cars, or I was merely winning by dint of LanEvo DNA in that car, or what.  (I have never not placed 1st in any rallycross finished in that car, except for Nationals that one year)

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
3/9/18 10:34 p.m.

I like these cars. They are finally starting to get down into the price bracket where condition and mod potential outweigh the fact that it was outclassed in most ways by most of its competitors. I like the shape, the dash.. and the shifter. cheeky

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