Choosing a car is a question of lifestyle. Your decision arguably carries a first impression of yourself to others. So what image will people impose upon the guy driving a '88 Honda CRX Si? That depends on one's perspective. While most people might not understand the true essence of this piece of industrial art, others marvel at its timeless beauty.
Some people were fortunate enough to have been around during Honda's golden age. The company did not make better cars or offer a more complete product line in the late '80s. But Hondas of this era were the creations of Japanese innovation and manufacturing precision that left an indisputable mark on the world of automobiles. Cars built in the second half of the '80s were testaments to the Japanese's post-WWII industrial might. Proud of each accomplishment, Japanese engineers put together vehicles whose designs have gracefully withstood the passage of time for two decades.
The CRX was introduced alongside the fourth-generation Civic. An overall well-rounded design with spacious interior, innovative features and chassis components, which had never before been available on compacts, makes this car a must-have for that neo-classical collection. The car has become a street racing favorite-never mind the illegality of the matter-due to its lightweight, low-gravity center and even lower aerodynamic profile.
The design is so solid that with a bit of attention and an engine transplant the car can easily switch from fuel-efficient compact to big-horsepower sports car. Equipped at the factory with a 105hp fuel-injected D16A6 all-aluminum engine, the CRX is not exactly a rocket ship, but the chassis has great potential. Honda D-series engines were placed into service in 1984 and served as the backbone of the Civic lineup until recently. The largest engine produced in this family is the D17A but its internals, like all D-series internals, are made to handle limited power. Such engines are perfect for compact cars boasting high gas mileage.
Unlike the D-series, B-series engines are well-suited for high-performance modifications because this family of engines is factory-equipped with more durable components. As many have figured out, the B-series Civic swap is most desirable because of their out-of-the-box reliability and elevated power rating. The B20B engine found in the CR-V is the largest displacement engine in the family. These larger-cubic-inch engines produce more torque, with some featuring a relatively low compression ratio of 8.8:1 making it the ideal candidate for forced induction.
A larger B20B instead of a sluggish D16A fitted into the engine bay of a light-chassis car like the CRX might just be a match made in heaven. Working with LHT Performance, Floridan Jack Pawlowski decided to bestow upon his super-clean '88 CRX Si, a one-owner car he acquired from his neighbor after years of persuasion, a well-deserved place in the spotlight by giving it a 453hp turbocharged B20B engine.
In an effort to get 2.0L of displacement out of the B-series block, Honda increased the bore size of the cylinders and left the stroke unchanged compared to other B-series engines. Since at high engine speeds the inertia of relatively large and heavy pistons contributes to excessive wear and even catastrophic failures, like deformation of rod bolts, the stock B20 engine is not suitable for high-revving applications. Consequently, a VTEC cylinder head, which provides maximum benefits at high engine speeds, just doesn't make much sense on a stock B20 block. Such is the reason why Honda never matched the two together.
The B20's engine internals as well as the ECU had to be upgraded to take advantage of the performance gains VTEC had to offer. Jack turned to Golden Eagle to sleeve his block, then added Endyne Rollerwave racing pistons, Wiseco rings, and Eagle forged H-beam connecting rods to the balanced and micro-polished crankshaft to ensure reliability at lofty rpms. For added strength, the engine was also fitted with a B18C girdle, typically found in 1.8L, B-series VTEC engines. For improved oil control, Jack installed an oil pan, baffles and windage tray from a B18C. The top-end received a ported and polished cylinder head with Skunk 2 camshaft gears paired with stock B18C camshafts. The VTEC cylinder head was also modified to match the oil passages of the non-VTEC B20 block.
The air induction system is essentially that of a B18C but has been polished and fitted for a Garrett GT35R series turbocharger, TiAL blow-off valve and an open-element air filter. Samco silicone tubing facilitates the connections between the polished aluminum tubing and other components like the large front-mount air-to-air intercooler. Coincidentally, Samco molded hoses also deliver coolant to the large aluminum Fluidyne radiator. Braided stainless steel hoses with aluminum AN hose ends and adapters handle the fuel and oil system plumbing.
The tubular custom exhaust manifold is a complex system of short mandrel-bent pipes and welds built by LHT exclusively for Jack's CRX, which retains a fully functional air-conditioning system. This is a feat in itself given that the engine bay fills up pretty quickly with the B-series block, DOHC head, transmission, radiator, intercooler, intake piping and exhaust tubing. The LHT fabricated 3-inch downpipe assembly incorporates a 3-inch ATP boost controlled dumptube that eliminates exhaust backpressure when necessary by dumping gases without sending it through the rest of the exhaust system, which includes a GReddy Mx series muffler.