300hp Turbo EF Honda Civic Lights Up the Night for Pit+Paddock Poster Shoot

Photography: Nate Hassler

  • The second spotlight in the Pit+Paddock poster series belongs to photographer Nate Hassler and Kenji Sumino’s 1990 Honda Civic.
  • Limited edition 18×24 posters printed on heavy-duty Canon matte paper will be given away on the Pit+Paddock Instagram page.
  • Nate Hassler wets down the pavement of GReddy HQ and uses lens flares to produce a sparkling feel for the photo.
  • Kenji’s JDM-inspired EF Civic is an ode to the first car he owned in high school in the early ‘90s.

Last month, we did our best to set the internet on fire with our first Pit+Paddock poster shoot, which showcased Jonny Grunwald’s 700hp Mazda RX-7. We use the word “fire” because the flames spewing out of the FD’s HKS race exhaust would’ve been more than enough to warrant a visit from the local fire department. Luckily, we didn’t get into any trouble, and the end result was a perfect photo by Viet “V” Nguyen, which was then transformed into limited edition posters given away on our social media. This month, we’re back again with another poster promotion, this time highlighting the masterful camera skills of Nate Hassler with Kenji Sumino’s 1990 Honda Civic as the subject matter.

I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Mr. Hassler for several years at my old gig when he was an editor and photographer at both Modified and Super Street magazines. He’s now a very experienced shooter for hire whose clients include Toyota, Mercedes, Porsche, and Chevrolet. He’s also just opened up his own photo retouching business called Zone Five Post Production.

Speaking of retouching, the stellar image used in this month’s poster is Nate’s artful rendition of Kenji Sumino’s EF Civic. If you’ve followed Japanese tuner cars in the last two decades, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the performance parts powerhouse GReddy, where Kenji has spent the last 25+ years. He’s now running the ship and has led GReddy to many accomplishments over the years, from award-winning SEMA builds to supporting nine seasons of Ken Gushi’s Formula DRIFT Pro car. His EF Civic project car (while there are GReddy parts on it) is more of a passion project that pays homage to his first-ever ride, which got him around after his senior year of high school.

We hope you enjoy our poster shot with Nate and the interview with Kenji below. Be sure to follow our Instagram this week to see how you win one of these special 18×24 prints. Kanpai!

Hi Kenji, for those who might not know you (which isn’t many people), can you give us a backstory behind what you do?
I started working at GReddy Performance Products, Inc. (GPP) in late 1995, right when GPP started an R&D department to develop more U.S.-specific products to support the U.S. market. I was in charge of R&D and product development up to 2008. From 2009, I started managing more of the entire operation here at GPP. Still, as President, I am very involved with product development.

To my understanding, the EF Civic is significant to you because it was the first car that you ever owned, correct?
Yes, my first car was a 1990 Honda Civic Hatchback DX, automatic… Got that after I graduated high school. I didn’t know anything about cars back then but started learning about them by taking things apart. I was always a hands-on kind of guy and always interested in seeing how things worked. I learned a lot messing with this car, starting with the audio system, and ultimately, I had four different engines — all turbocharged and converted to manual transmissions. All this happened between 1991 and 1994. Haven’t owned a Civic since then, but it was what started it all for me and the reason why I am here in the performance industry.

Can you retell the story about how you managed to hop back into an EF Civic after more than 20 years?
It was the 2017 Eibach Meet at Fontana Speedway. I’ve always wanted to check out this meet but haven’t had the chance to until 2017.  With the introduction of the new Civic Type R (FK8) and the 10th-gen Civic Si and Sport released, we realized that the Honda market will be great for us. We had a booth promoting GReddy and Boost Brigade there with a few of our demo cars. I brought my son Cole, who was 12 at the time, with me to hang out and check out all the cool cars. During the show, I walked around with him and Myles Bautista (who is also responsible for me being here). When we saw a very clean red EF hatch in the Nemo’s Garage booth, Myles and I started reminiscing about the old times and was explaining to Cole what my first car looked like. I don’t think he understood our excitement or even cared. It was just middle-aged guys talking about midlife crisis stuff — haha! After the meet, I couldn’t stop thinking about the EF, so I started looking online. Two weeks later, I found one, and the project began, back to where I started from.

And back with a vengeance! Can you explain the vision you had and what the goal was for the build? Would you consider this a “restomod”?
I guess you can call it “U.S.-style JDM restomod”, taking the best of what Japan and the U.S. had to offer to complete this. Overall, the look is very JDM with EF9 exterior and interior parts with old school SSR Neos, but under the hood is very U.S. style – GReddy turbocharged B18C with custom Cerakoted components and XRP HS-79 radiator hose with clamshell quick disconnect clamps. My inspiration for my build came from all the nice Hondas I saw at Eibach meet and especially Wekfest San Jose. Cars that were always featured by Joey Lee, like the ATS Garage cars and Rywire’s projects, were just amazing.

A turbocharged B18 isn’t too uncommon, but your front-mount intercooler setup is. Can you walk us through the thought process behind it?
The whole idea came about when I talked to Phil Chase about how I didn’t want to cut up my JDM EF9 front bumper grille to fit an intercooler. He suggested water-to-air and chilling the water with an A/C system out of a Dodge Demon. This way, I didn’t have to use an ice tank that wouldn’t work on a street car. After some research, I was able to gather the necessary components to make this possible. It was perfect since I was not about to delete my A/C anyways. This system taps into the vehicle’s A/C system and has its own heat exchanger, which cools the water that runs through my custom-made intercooler. When everything is running, the intercooler gets ice cold. Intake air temps are 30-to-35 degrees cooler than if I were to run an air-to-air intercooler.

If you could pick a single part of the car that’s your favorite, what would they be and why?
Definitely the SSR EX-C NEOs. Same wheels I had back in the day. They are ultra-rare now, and I got lucky to find a never-been-mounted brand-new set! These wheels were a must-have for this build.

If the kids these days only knew! Last but not least, what did you learn from this build?
I haven’t had any of my own personal projects for a very long time but building this Civic sparked and fueled the passion I have for cars. Being in the automotive performance industry, keeping up with the recent trends and what’s hot in the market, and having the passion for what we do is so important, and having my own personal project definitely got me deeper into it. Best of all, I have met and made new friends and a network of fellow enthusiasts. Also reconnected with some friends and fellow teammates from back in the day. As President of GReddy, people might think I should be driving cooler cars like the GT-R (maybe one day) or something but going back to my roots with these Hondas definitely brought back great memories, and now I’m making new ones with my son. It’s a great feeling to have my son involved in our hatch we recently restored. I hope he can really enjoy what we created together.

Any advice for those contemplating similar throwback project cars?
Build what makes you happy. There are many examples of great builds out there and tons of information available online. There is a community of people in every platform you can think of and so many helpful people that are always down to help and share their experience and information. Do your research and see exactly what you want to accomplish with your build.

[table id=78 /]