He was part genius. Part crazy. Probably short on cash. He was the first guy in America to “tune” his Honda Civic, making it look cool, and go fast and loud enough to annoy his neighbors. And he should be celebrated right alongside the other icons of hot rodding—men like Alex Xydias, Ed Iskederian, and Vic Edelbrock. Like those legends, who helped show the world the incredible potential within the 1932 Ford and its Flathead V-8, he was a man of vision, and ingenuity.
If only we knew who he was.
Unfortunately the man’s identity has been lost to history, along with his groundbreaking machine. But many others followed his lead, and the Honda Civic became the vehicle of record for an entire generation of car enthusiasts looking for an alternative to the larger, heavier, V-8-powered rear-wheel drive muscle cars from Detroit.
With origins in Japan, the trend began to flourish in Southern California sometime in the early 1990s, but quickly spread to the Atlantic coast, as magazines and eventually websites spread the gospel. And then The Fast and the Furious took the country inside this subculture and suddenly it was mainstream, from the Bronx to Birmingham, from Boulder to Beverly Hills.
From poseurs to professional racers, they all chose the Honda Civic—it was their 1932 Ford or ’55 Chevy or ’69 Camaro. America’s dragstrips, racetracks, and late-night hangouts were full of lowered, loud examples of these streamline babes, and the cars that were built right were truly fast, some even outrunning Detroit’s modern muscle despite their front-wheel drive.
Following Volkswagen’s lead and its hot hatch GTI, Honda helped fuel the Civic’s performance image by introducing the Civic Si hatchback and CRX Si (Honda says it stands for Sport Injection) way back in 1984 with 90 horsepower. But it was the fifth-generation (EG) of the Civic, built from 1992–95, that became the one to have. Honda again offered an Si hatchback, but a coupe body style was offered for the first time, and it quickly became popular.
Honda was aware of what was happening on the street. When it introduced the sixth-gen Civic in 1996, it retained its sophisticated double wishbone suspension and VTEC engines. And in 1999 it combined the desirable coupe body with the more powerful Si model. A legend was born and it paved the way for other factory sport compact hot rods like the Subaru WRX and Mazdaspeed3.
These Hondas are getting popular again, as those who wanted them in high school now have the means to fight over the finest surviving examples. Here’s what buyers need to know.
1999–2000 Civic Si
These cars were offered in just three colors: Flamenco Black Pearl, Electron Blue Pearl, and Milano Red. And they weren’t built in huge numbers compared to the Civic’s other trim levels. Believe it or not, Honda doesn’t know how many Si Civics it built in 1999 and 2000. According to a 2006 post on Clubcivic.com, of the 318,308 Civics sold in America in 1999, only 10,000 were Si Coupes (5000 were blue). A year later, Honda sold 324,528 Civics and only 20,000 were Si Coupes (10,000 were blue). We don’t know if these numbers are correct, but they’re the best we have.
The bulk of these cars were owned by young men looking for an adrenaline fix, which means most have led hard lives. They’ve been modified, raced, and wrecked.
Every Si was powered by the 1.6-liter B16A2 engine, which was all-aluminum and revved to 8000 rpm. It featured a 10.2:1 compression ratio, double overhead cams, and Honda’s VTEC variable valve timing and lift system. Power ratings were 160 hp at 7600 rpm and 111 lb-ft of torque at 7000 rpm. That’s 100-hp per liter. Only a five-speed manual was offered.
It doesn’t sound like much, but this isn’t a big, burly Camaro. These coupes weighed about 2500 pounds, so the Civic Si could sprint to 60 mph in a blink over seven seconds and cover the quarter mile in about 15.7 seconds at 88 mph, according to Motor Trend in 1999.
Other Si-exclusive bits included a front strut tower brace, stiffer suspension, larger front and rear sway bars, four-wheel disc brakes (without ABS), lower profile tires and wider 15-inch wheels, a front spoiler, body color rocker trim, an Si decal on it tail, and DOHC VTEC sticker on its flanks. Inside there was another red Si on the gauge cluster, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, additional adjustment for the driver’s seat bottom and remote keyless entry. Base price was $17,860.
The Civic Si was unchanged for 2000.
Other EK Civic body styles and engines
Honda also offered the Civic in many other trim levels, from CX up to GX switching it up slightly over the years. These more mainstream versions came in three body styles: coupe, hatchback and sedan. They rode on 14-inch wheels and tires and all three shared the same 106-inch wheelbase.
CX, DX, and LX models were powered by a 106-hp SOHC version of the 1.6-liter four-cylinder. The engine in the HX coupe was rated 115 hp and the EX models were packing 127 hp. A five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic was offered across the board, except for the HX Coupe, which got a five-speed manual or continuously variable (CVT) automatic.
In 1999, Honda gave the Civic a mild exterior facelift, while its interior got a modified dash with amber night lighting and new rotary climate controls.
Although these models did not perform as well as the Si, they were also popular with the tuner crowd, as they are just as easily modified as an Si. Many were handed down from parent to teenager so they were free and Junior was eager to make it cool. Lowered suspensions, body mods and screaming exhaust systems became common, as did cold air intakes, superchargers and aftermarket audio systems.
Just as enthusiasts have performed endless engine swaps on 1932 Fords and ’55 Chevys, thousands of “regular” Civics received B16A2 engines from wrecked Si models or a larger 1.8-liter B18 from an Acura Integra. Enthusiasts also learned that the 2.2-liter H22 from the Accord fit just as easily. Fitting the 2.0-liter K20 from the 2001 Acura RSX Type-S was also possible.
What to look for
As with any 20-year-old used car that’s likely on its fourth or fifth owner—rust and neglect can be problems. Check for rot, not only on the exterior, but check the floors and inside the trunk, especially if you’re shopping a car with high miles in the Midwest or Northeast. Civics of this vintage were also popular with car thieves, so check the paperwork and check the vehicle’s history. Make sure it’s not hot.
Also check for accident damage. Signs include questionable paint quality and overspray. Also, welding that’s not up to factory standards. Like the S2000, Honda placed stickers with the car’s VIN on the Civic’s major body panels, including its fenders, doors, hood and rear fascia. Check the numbers. If the stickers are not there or they’re painted over the car has received bodywork at some point in its life.
These cars are robust, and there are many out there with well over 100,000 miles, but that’s not a problem is the vehicle has been cared for and routine maintenance has been performed. As with any used car, the lower the mileage the higher the price.
When you test drive an Si you should feel the VTEC system change cam profiles at 5600 rpm if it’s functioning correctly. As on the S2000, it is possible to retune the system with a piggyback ECU and lower the rpm of the transition down to around 5000 rpm to create a wider powerband.
Although many have abandoned the hot rod Honda and sport compact crowd for Hellcats and the like, the community remains strong and Honda continues to market to the faithful with cars like the new 2018 Civic Si and Type R. Before you buy any Civic, new or old, dive into the community and learn from its members. We recommend Temple of VTEC (vtec.net), civicforums.com, clubcivic.com, and honda-tech.com.
Values beginning to jump
Fifteen years ago, it wasn’t cool to show up at a Battle of the Imports or Hot Import Nights event with a stock Civic Si, and the aftermarket still offers an endless buffet of parts for these cars. But today it’s the stock, unmodified examples that are bringing the highest prices.
Earlier this year, a stock black 2000 Honda Civic Si with just 10,000 miles on its odometer sold on Bring a Trailer for $22,750. A month later another stock Honda Civic Si, this one a blue 1999 with just 12,000 miles, sold on BaT for $24,027.
If you’re in the market, you’re not too late. Although we do expect prices to start marching upward, other examples have sold on BaT this year for well under $10,000. They include a unmodified black 1999 with 97,000 miles that sold for $7355 and a blue 1999 with a lowered suspension and 97,000 miles that sold for $9300. Back in October 2017, a blue 1999 without mods and just 49,000 miles sold for $10,500. These examples were all exceptionally clean and well-cared for, with stock engines, wheels, and interiors.
With a quick Google search I was able to find several around Los Angeles for less including a stock “unmolested” 2000 Si for $7000, unfortunately someone glued a big spoiler to its decklid. I also found one with a few bolt on engine modifications, including a header and cold air intake, and over 100,000 miles for $6000, and another stocker that looked a little tired for $4500. Non-Si Civics are much cheaper.