Honda has a long history of producing some of the best front-wheel drive cars around. Since the N360 first put tires on the tarmac in 1967, the Japanese automaker has gradually improved its FWD cars from an efficiency and reliability standpoint. By the ’90s, Honda had a myriad of powerful, high-performance front-wheel-drive models to choose from.
Rob Godwin’s reasons for choosing the CR-X del Sol over the Civic or Integra equivalents may surprise you. He’s no stranger to building cars that stray from the norm, and his previous Mazda MX-5 is one of the most extreme examples the UK has ever seen. Rob also owns a RenaultSport Clio 197 R27 and when it came time to buy a new project car the del Sol thumped in the middle of the venn diagram between the two – great front wheel drive handling plus open – top car.
Another factor that’s hard to ignore is the cost of getting into the CR-X del Sol in the first place. The model shares the same basic recipe as the Civic and Integra models of its era, but at a lower price.
Think fully independent front and rear suspension, and a high-revving four-cylinder engine with eight revered letters on the cam covers, synonymous with performance: DOHC VTEC.
The look of the del Sol has always been divided, which is no surprise since its design is quite unique and somewhat eccentric.
The name in Spanish is ‘solar’, referring to the targa roof of del Sol. An extremely complex, bulky and questionable automatic roof storage system is offered as an optional extra, but thankfully not on Rob’s car.
The build began with a boney Milano Red UK-spec car with a paltry 53,000 miles on the odometer. Over the past seven years, the car has gradually evolved to its current state.
The most obvious exterior change is the paint, with the CR-X receiving a bare-hull repaint in Audi Ibis White. This contrasts with the black front and rear bumpers, which are inspired by older base-spec cars. This is rarely seen these days.
15-inch Yokohama Advan RG wheels are mounted on all four corners, and these have been refinished in Audi Misano red to match the roll cage. The 6-spoke wheels barely fit over the K-Sport 6-pot front brakes.
A plywood front splitter, custom aluminum side skirts, TVR Sagaris-inspired rear spoiler and universal kit mirrors complete the look. A full set of Hardrace suspension arms, Meister R shocks and a DC2 Type R anti-roll bar and steering rack significantly improve the Del Sol’s handling.
Indoors, Urchfab’s Matt Urch took on the challenge of having a full cage designed to not only fit the space provided, but also provide clearance when wearing the helmet. Matt fulfilled the requirement neatly with a 6 point welded cage extending all the way to the rear struts and providing a mounting point for the targa roof as the original bracket would no longer work.
Power bucket seats and TRS seat belts keep driver and passenger safe, with a Hybrid Racing gear lever and a Personal Kingston steering wheel as other touchpoints. A Wilwood adjustable brake bias valve has been neatly integrated into the center console, while a combination of Stack and AEM gauges monitor engine life.
The battery is now located behind the passenger seat, custom door panels replace OEM items, and the window switches are now relocated to the console.
Like most projects, Rob’s CR-X del Sol build was not without its challenges. During his ownership of the company, the biggest frustration came with the engine. Yes, plural. The factory fitted B16A2 was perfect, but bought an inline motor and installed a Jenvey separate throttle body for more power, only to have the setup produce less power than expected and suffer from head gaskets in 1,000 miles Fault.
The engine was dismantled and sold off with the exception of the cylinder head, which is understandable. The latter then received new parts before being fitted to a new short block. This time the car didn’t make it from the dyno, the problems resulted in scratched bores and cams and the motor stuck when it reached temperature.
At this point, a bucket of fuel and a lit match look likely to come up and a break is needed. The car has been untouched for most of a year. Going full circle, a JDM B16A was eventually installed (10 horsepower more than the original B16A2) to get the car running and usable, and that engine is still in the car today.
Why not the K series you asked about? The short answer is that replacing Series B with Series B would have been an easy swap if it worked out the first time.Rob also likes the noise and more aggressive cam crossover of the B series compared to the K series
While it may not have headline power figures, stock reliability means less worry, which in turn means more hours of tracking. The engine bay itself has received the same attention as the rest of the car, with the loom relocated, the metalwork smoothed, and all ancillary parts updated, replaced or cleaned.
Rob’s dedication to his cars is something car enthusiasts have in common. Part of owning a project car is overcoming adversity, and while it doesn’t always have a happy ending, we persevere. All the late nights, worn knuckles, and depleted bank accounts seem to pale in comparison to when everything is aligned and major milestones are achieved, and the climax is the first drive when everything is in order. Sometimes it just takes longer to get there.
Instagram: Chai Ke
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