ARTICLE: Look East; Garage Awesome goes JDM!

Posted: August 20, 2010 in Article
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Over the last few years the popularity of Japanese imported cars has become apparent, with cars like the Nissan Skyline, Mitsubishi Evo and Toyota Corolla all making big impacts within the car scene. But what is it about imports that makes them so popular? What makes UK buyers look to the other side of the world to purchase a car? And what is it that’s different about these cars that gives them that edge of the models we see day to day over here? There was only one way for Garage Awesome to find out and that was to get a couple of these cars and their owners together and ask!

The owners of the two Hondas we have organised for this shoot were more than happy to bring their machines along and discuss with us why they chose imported cars. Rich Smith has owned his EP3 Honda Civic Type R for nearly 2 Years and the DC5 Honda Integra has been in the possession of Sallyanne Braddock for the past two months, so I suppose the logical place to start would be a comparison and a bit of history behind the two vehicles, starting with the Integra!

JDM Rides

The Integra has been Honda’s sports coupe since 1986, with the DC5 that Sallyanne owns being the fourth and last generation of the Integra as the coupe market declined and Honda shifted its focus towards the Civic, leaving the Integra to see its final models made in 2006. The DC5 was never officially imported into the UK market by Honda, unlike its predecessor the DC2, which was available over here, and with the evolution of the Euro Civic Type R and Honda’s 2 seater roadster, the much loved S2000, it meant that the Integra name and design was not viable for the European market.

Rich’s Civic is a different matter, with the mid-sized Honda currently in its 8th generation, it’s still very much a name synonymous with the UK car market today, and here in the UK is where the story of Rich’s Honda begins. It’s often believed that the Japanese Domestic Market Civic was made in Japan and imported over here, however the “JDM” Civic was actually originally made over here in the UK, along with all the other Civics, at Honda’s plant in Swindon and then exported to Japan for them to give the cars their finishing touches (a nod to this history is the union jack emblem found on the boot lid), technically making the Civic an imported export!

So, what’s different about these two stunning cars from the best comparison we have in the UK: the much loved and increasingly popular Honda Civic Type R? Well, the shape and design of both Rich’s Civic and the UK one are exactly the same, and with Sallyanne’s Integra sharing parts from the Civic, there’s not a great deal of difference if you strip back the sleek coupe body. The engine is the first area we begin to see differences; both the imported cars share the same engine and drivetrain, Honda’s K20A sits up front connected to a 6 speed box. The Euro Civic also uses the 2.0ltr i-VTEC lump but in the form of engine code K20A2.

So, what’s changed? The power output is different, with the JDM cars producing 15bhp more than the Euro equivalent, taking them to 212bhp. To gain this extra power, Honda changed the Intake manifold, exhaust, cams and ECU programming.

Civic Type R

Secondly, and the really key difference, is the drivetrain. Since Honda’s first Type R, the EK9, they have used an LSD (Limited Slip Differential) and altered the chassis to give a more responsive, ‘racey’ ride, at the expense of a tiny bit of comfort, hence why, as a base car, you will find that the JDM vehicles are much more at home on the track; a point certainly proven by the Integra as they are still used to compete in the British Touring Car Championship to this day.

Enough with the history lesson, what we really want to know is why Rich and Sallyanne chose these cars! Starting with Rich, as we chat to him, we discover this was a car he had wanted for a long time, and set out on the hunt to find one that suited his needs. ‘So why the JDM EP3?’ we asked him, some of the words that cropped up were that of ‘rarity’, ‘exclusivity’ and ‘difference’. A tough call on a car you’re likely to have seen 4 or 5 of today alone on the way home from work, but Rich made sure by finding one in Championship White, the colour that was exclusive to the JDM Civics and sets him apart from the crowd.
Rich also managed to find one with the ‘C pack’ upgrade, and a few choice mods; including the Mugen front grill and a sexy, carbon fibre, adjustable rear spoiler.

Type R

Rich’s step into the more exclusive cars didn’t start with the Civic, in fact the Civic was a replacement for the lairy phase 1 Renault Clio V6, which in turn was a replacemed a one-off modified Ford Ka.

Sallyanne’s vehicle history is just as exclusive as Rich’s; consisting of a UK Civic type R, a Mitsubishi Evo and the Integra’s predecessor; a limited edition Subaru Impreza RB5. Sallyanne tells us that out of the lot, the Integra is her favourite. The colour, again Championship White, draws crowds and because it’s so different she loves the stares and attention it gets. Sallyanne was also influenced by her other half, Ricki, who himself had an Integra, but in the form of a supercharged DC2, and is currently in the closing stages of completing his self-built Honda CRX Del Sol turbo, showing their combined passion for all things Honda!

So is it worth forking out the extra money for the JDM cars? Both owners say; ‘Yes, without a doubt!’; ‘despite not getting a lot more for it’ says Rich, The cost of the cars is higher than a UK car, but on the flipside they’re also holding their value a lot better than their European cousins. The only other stumbling block is the insurance, but with imports becoming more and more popular, lots of companies have started to become more flexible and an increased premium is now negligible, if existent at all, and not to forget, Japanese fuel is 102RON, so cars need to be run over here on as higher octane fuel as posible, that may mean an aditive or various brands of ‘Super’ Unleaded need to be sought to keep things running right.

Type R Duo

As we near the end of the shoot, we clamber into the cars’ interiors, again where we find changes from the UK car in the form of thick red carpets & mats and matching Recaro seats. Bar the addition of Sallyanne’s launch control box and Rich’s C pack push button start option, both dashboards are typical in their Japanese styling; lots of plastic, but functional.

With lots of companies specialising in parts for these cars, they really are a tuners dream. Sallyanne is already eyeing up a few carbon touches to go with her aftermarket air filter and exhaust system, along with some rear tints, no doubt inspired by Rich’s Civic wearing them already!

So, are Garage Awesome convinced that JDM is the way to go? It’s hard to argue with such passionate owners, but if you are looking for a car, that you can pull up to a show in and get lots of attention, even in standard form, we can’t deny that these tick the box. Or what about a racetrack weapon, with crisp handling and useable power? Again, the Civic and Integra both excel. What about a useable, everyday ride, which can be driven to the shops, parked up at work or taken out for a Sunday blast? Yet again, both can be, and in this case are, used every single day, yet another perk of owning a reliable Honda!

As we hand the cars back to the proud owners, we can conclude by saying that we are far from thinking the UK and Euro variants are crap, in fact the UK Civic is one of the best cars out there for the money, and that’s proven by its popularity, but if you want, and can afford, that little bit extra, then look outside the box, or outside the country and bag yourself a stunning import ride like Rich and Sallyanne!

Pic Credits – Rich Cooper


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