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No Vtec?  No problem.

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No Vtec? No problem.

Adam Jabaay

For 15+ years I've been obsessed with Honda automobiles. I've drag raced them, cruised the streets countless nights, and autocrossed them.   I've taken the track at hundreds of trackdays, and a more recently, been 100% fixated on wheel to wheel racing them. I've helped put them into Miatas, I've built a lot of turbo kits.  One of the things I've never done is put a VTEC honda engine into one of my own cars.  

 Chris Sullivan photo

Chris Sullivan photo


Many years ago, the wonderful little B16 was THE DREAM ENGINE for me.  The internet communitee surrounding Hondas at the time, along with a few magazines, had built that engine up to the highest level in my head.  I thought it was the greatest thing I'd ever seen when I helped a friend put one into his EG civic, and I longed and lusted after a B16 or B18 VTEC engine of my own, but that day never came.  I've installed lots of them for others, but I've never owned one, at least one that was installed in a car.  I guess i technically owned a GSR longblock for a while, but it was donated to a buddies STL SCCA effort....and it actually powered his car at the 2015 Runoffs at Daytona.

 aint no vtek'z on our lemons CRX ...

aint no vtek'z on our lemons CRX ...

In college I is was too poor for a B series, so I settled on a DOHC ZC 1.6L engine when my DPFI 1.5L drivetrain was getting old.  My brother and I borrowed a pickup from my dad and drove to St Louis to buy one from someone off of HondaClassifieds.com (I think that was the site at the time at least).  We pulled into the guy's yard and up his steep driveway.  An annoying amount of drizzle was falling on us as we shut off the truck, and this was not a neighborhood I wanted to spend my Sunday in.  Off to the left on this sloped driveway was a crashed 91 civic 4 door.  I figured it must have been the car that the DOHC ZC was out of, and I was correct...... Except, it wasnt out of the car yet.  This idiot hadn't finished pulling it.  He had figured out how to unplug a few of the wires, and that was about it.  This fella didn't even have an engine hoist.  Off to the local tool rental place to pick up a hoist we went, and we had the wonderful piece of japanese Dual-cam-ness out, in the rain, in 35 min (we were pretty proud of that at the time), on a nearly-dangerously steep driveway.  I was happy to leave that place.  

 no vtex on gutty either (GRM challenge crx)

no vtex on gutty either (GRM challenge crx)

 good ole gutty...  chris sullivan takes cool pics of gutty sometimes.  

good ole gutty...  chris sullivan takes cool pics of gutty sometimes.  

For a few years (after we spent 2 weeks figuring out how to do the MPFI wiring conversion) I had a real love affair with the DOHC ZC.  I daily drove it to college, and put thousands of miles on it cruising between Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I went to school.  In the middle of the swap install,  I had became friends with a group of guys from Grand Rapids who called themselves the "075".  I got to know them because someone, months earlier, had left a note on my windshield saying "if you ever need an engine or transmission, call Luke at *** *** ****".  I called the phone number, and bought a 91 5 speed transmission to pair with the DOHC ZC.  Luke and friends, at the time, were making runs with a truck and trailer to an engine importer to save on shipping costs, and everyone had D series stuff laying around, as B series swaps were all the rage. 

 non vtec'n

non vtec'n

 a shot of our old logo....

a shot of our old logo....


The friendship with the group of buddies (the "075") absolutely changed the attitude, direction, and path of my life in almost all ways.  I never enjoyed college much and battled depression early on my freshman year, but the Thursday night Taco Bell car meets with the guys became a week highlight, and we were always wrenching on something.   Doing motor swaps over the weekend was common, and a strong group had formed.  We helpeda buddy go rally racing , we helped other friends get into trackday stuff, as track events were starting to become common.   An enthusiast could get on racetracks a few times a year with ClubSI, speedtrials,  and a few other organizations.  I wouldn't have had much exposure to road courses had 075er's Peter, Chris, Luke, and Michael(Darkload, for your 075er's) not started "building track cars" in 2001/2002. 

 our race crxs despise vtec

our race crxs despise vtec

Had I not bought the DOHC ZC (with what turned out to be a blown up trans) I wouldn't have met the 075 guys, so that right there is reason enough for me to look back at that purchase with a great deal of satisfaction.  The fact also is, that engine, at the time, seemed like the most powerful thing I'd ever driven.  In highway rolls, it'd hang with local b16 powered cars pretty easily (be  careful out there people, there are idiots doing highway pulls 15 years later).  I had equipped it with an enormous 4'' intake tube so the ZC sounded like a beast.... and that sound got even better when my brother and I fabricated some individual throttle bodies for it (ITBs).  


The ITBs made me a bit internet famous for 3 seconds (on Honda-Tech at least).  Pics of them got tossed around, and the car sounded so cool that people were recording it as we cruised around and putting clips on Myspace  and Honda-tech.  The big Exospeed reground cams lumped hard at idle, and we had figured out how to make it run (sort-of) properly by tuning it with freeware called Ghettodyne (actual name). The tuning process consisted of my buddy and fellow 075er Paul Bomers and I making a map, burning it off his computer in the basement, running outside, putting it in the ecu (without a ZIF, "zero Insertion force" socket, just a regular chip socket, so it was hard to get in and out easily) and starting the car and driving around.  We tuned by the plugs , a vaccum gauge, and just how it drove.  We'd make mental notes of where it ran ok, where it ran bad, and make a few changes in the basement, and reburn the chip.  After a few hours of this idiocy, it ran acceptably.  

 while not the most handsome engine, the DOHC zc is a bit of an oddball.  a similar bottom end to the "normal" d16, yet a better flowing DOHC head.  simple stuff. 

while not the most handsome engine, the DOHC zc is a bit of an oddball.  a similar bottom end to the "normal" d16, yet a better flowing DOHC head.  simple stuff. 

 i couldn't part with the ITBs. 

i couldn't part with the ITBs. 

These times were the most enjoyable to me , partly, because we were all learning stuff about these cars so rapidly.  It was a true obsession, and was wildly fun.  A good communitee around you, and good friends to eat tacos with, can make the tightest of budget constraints and the slowest cars seem just fine.  I had enough fun with the DOHC ZC that I never bought a B series.  Turbo D15 and D16s followed the ZC after a headgasket blew a few times. Built D16's were fun after that, and then I went with an adapter plate setup, and mated an Accord F22 to my D16 transmission.  That setup is still in the car, and in the process of a refresh.   No B series still, and likely never.   No K's either.  I'm having fun with these cheap engines.   Surround yourself with cool people, good times, and enjoy the hobby as it should be enjoyed.  I've got a lot of 075 stories, project cars, and stories to tell about GRM 200X$ challenge trips in future articles, but this will have to do for now! 


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