Sam Preston | EP3 Honda Civic Type R
After several months of very little car excitement in my life, things seemed to happen all at once over the Christmas break.
Firstly, I finally managed to find someone worthy of taking my old EF Civic saloon in the form of an old friend. This thankfully means I can keep tabs on the progress this car takes, and based on the new owner’s plans, there should be another very lovely old-school Civic sedan to show off during 2015’s show season.
Not wanting to end up in a miserable, car-less state for too long, and with slightly more funds now at my disposal, I knew that if I didn’t buy a new car at this point, I probably never would. You may remember my ponderings in previous month’s magazines as I began looking for a DC2 Integra as my new project car. So how on earth have I ended up with a Nighthawk Black EP3 sitting on my driveway instead?
Before you think I’ve settled for second best, hear me out… There’s no denying it – prices of decent DC2 Integras have shot up in the past 12 months. It is almost impossible for me to find a reliable model that will serve my needs without forking about double the budget that I was willing to spend. These cars have now deservedly reached ‘iconic’ status, and I thought it was best to leave them to those who have the proper skills to keep them alive. They’re still right up there on my bucket list of cars to eventually own, though…
A few things made me settle on an EP3. The slightly more modern base with its six-speed ‘box is far more likely to get me to and from all the events and photoshoots I attend up and down the country. It also retains just as much VTEC-laced excitement as the Integra when I get the urge. This model of Civic seems to have hit the sweet spot at the moment between affordability and tuneability, meaning that I have a sea of performance parts to choose from to enhance my new ride. And to me, that is an exciting prospect!
It’s for this reason I forked out a surprisingly small amount of money for this mint 90,000-miler with a comprehensive history. It’s a 2003 pre-face-lift model (in my eyes, much more subtly attractive than its face-lifted counterpart), with not a dent or scratch to be seen on its immaculate bodywork.
First impressions? So far, the car has blown my previous Honda experiences out of the water. Up until now I’ve only really driven cars from the B-series generation and earlier – renowned for their cheap, lightweight interiors and somewhat unrefined, raw ride, especially when modified. It struck me after only a few days, when wafting down a smooth A-road that this car is a very distinct step up from Hondas of old. It’s got a solid, luxury feel which fills me with confidence and a feeling of comfort that reminds me of expensive German cars much more than I thought it would. I think some well-thought out modifications should help this car hit a nice balance between comfortable cruiser and rabid circuit smasher.
A good place to obtain inspiration for enhancing the EP3 is the JDM version of the British-built hatch. Wanting to sell the car over in Japan but not happy with the softness of the Europe-spec example, the Japanese version featured a raft of upgrades that ensured that it was more rewarding to those who like to drive hard. An LSD, stiffer suspension and some pretty comprehensive engine tweaks all featured on the version that eventually made it to Japanese shores, and are also all modifications which are high up my to-do list.
One of the only factors letting my particular car down comes in the form of poor judgement by one of the previous owners. The kerbed wheels are shod with a mis-match of low-budget rubber on each corner, which is really limiting the way it lays its 197bhp down, especially in the wet. Why anyone chooses to opt for cheap tyres on such a potentially rewarding car is a mystery to me, but at least this gives me a starting point. I’ve never been a fan of the standard 17-inch wheels anyway, so will be changing them up for something lighter and more pleasing on the eye in due course, complete with some premium rubber of course. Watch this space!