By on August 12, 2011

The D15B7 engine that Honda installed in my beater/daily-driver ’92 Civic DX was rated at 102 horsepower. Car and Driver managed to get the ’92 DX down the quarter-mile in 16.7 seconds… but that was at sea level, in a brand-new car. With its tired 200,000-mile engine gasping for air at 5,280 feet up, my Civic is definitely short on power in its new Colorado home. The good news is that I have an Integra GS-R B18C1 engine in the garage, and it’s getting swapped into my Civic very soon. That means I needed some “before” dragstrip numbers, so I can see just how much improvement the new engine will bring. Time to visit Bandimere Raceway for Test-&-Tune night!
The B18C1 came from a Texas GS-R that was rolled into a ball and hacked into the most unsafe car in 24 Hours of LeMons history. Hoonatic Racing (that is, the one guy left standing when his teammates flaked and went home) won both Most Heroic Fix (for thrashing all weekend and getting the car onto the track before the checkered flag) and I Got Screwed (for getting the car onto the track approximately 15 seconds before the checkered flag after thrashing all weekend). You can get the entire story here, but the important thing to come out of the Hoonatic Racing One Lap Integra’s adventures was that I bought the car’s engine. In Houston. How would I get it to Denver?
Fortunately, team captain Brandon of the Index of Effluency-winning ’67 Mercedes-Benz 190 of the Texas-based B League Film Society decided that he just had to drive all the way to northern Nevada and race a Jetta (which blew up about 16 seconds after the green flag) in the Goin’ For Broken 24 Hours of LeMons. Brandon was kind enough to haul my GS-R engine (plus transmission, wiring harness, and various suspension components) all the way to Fernley…
…and, even though Denver isn’t exactly on the way from Fernley to Houston, he dropped all the Honda goodies off at my place.
So, now there’s a grimy VTEC engine, complete with Neuspeed header, sitting in my garage. Waiting. Mocking me.
I’ve got every inch of the GS-R’s engine wiring harness, plus the ECM, instrument cluster, sensors, the works.
I’ve also got a bunch of suspension components of suspect, car-rolled-into-a-ball condition. All I need to do is buy the correct axles and engine mounts and get going on the swap. Of course, first I’ll need to get a new, more luxurious daily driver (torn between a Grand Marquis and a Lexus LS400 at the moment), and then there’s the ’66 Dodge A100 Hell Project demanding attention. Totally normal situation for a car geek.
So, I headed over to Bandimere on Wednesday night. It had been a few years since I’d last been to a dragstrip Test-&-Tune session, and so I spent some time checking out the more interesting machinery. Always nice to see a couple of Chrysler A-bodies with healthy small-blocks; the orange Dart on the left ended up getting consistent high-12-second times. Remember, the thin air at Bandimere probably adds a second to a naturally-aspirated car’s quarter-mile time.
The turbocharged imports were running some ridiculous times. Here’s one of a pair of street-driven Mitsubishi Mirages that knocked out mid-11-second times all evening.
The Civics were out in force, and some of them were walking the walk for real. Normally, when I see a car that looks like this one, I figure it will do 15.5 at the strip.
Nope, this Honda rode geological boost pressure to a 10.27 ET. Another Civic got well into the 9s, on an allegedly dead-stock junkyard B16 engine being cruelly force-fed by a massive turbocharger off a Cummins diesel… but then it nuked the engine doing a burnout in preparation for its second pass. Oh well, plenty of B16s in the junkyard!
Turbocharging is an amazing thing; I saw quite a few four-wheel-drive diesel pickups running 11s and 12s.
OK, diesel drag racers tend to be a bit smokier than their gasoline counterparts.
The Lakewood Police Department brought their dead-nuts-original, 383-powered Fury police car; sadly, the officers driving the car told me they’d be fired if they dared to run it on the dragstrip.
Vintage radio, shotgun, the works!
Wait, is that a Saab Sonett?
A Sonett with giant Hoosier slicks, no less.
I was ready to find a boring small-block Chevy under the Sonett’s hood, but it’s all Saab in the engine compartment: the turbocharged 2.0 liter H engine out of a Saab 900 Turbo, driving the rear wheels via a Powerglide transmission. This combination is good for high 12-second ETs.
Not every vehicle at the track was so quick; this 19-second Chevy Apache appeared to be driven by its original purchaser.
That was good news for me, because I’d have been humiliated to drive the slowest car at Test-&-Tune night. For the first run, I had Cadillac Bob in the passenger seat, a bunch of dog blankets and assorted random crap in the back, and a desire to not spit any rods out the side of my somewhat loose engine.
Not exactly the optimal weight for a car with 1500 CCs under the hood and 580-treadwear tires skipping and chirping all over the place.
My car is number 74, in the right lane. Ugh, 19.479 seconds? And there’s really no need to discuss my sloth-on-Quaaludes-grade reaction time.
After kicking Cadillac Bob out of the car (and handing him my camera), I was able to knock almost three-quarters of a second off my embarrassing first attempt. Even better, I managed to beat the camper-shell-equipped Dodge truck next to me. The hard-as-teakwood tires were spinning quite a bit off the line, and the elderly D15B7 started to misfire above 6,000 RPM, so I figured I could get better at the launches, shift earlier, and maybe pick up some more fractions of a second.
Being a little less aggressive dumping the clutch and then shifting at 5,800 or so got me another 0.18 seconds. At this point, my goal was to crack the 17-second barrier. Probably impossible, but it’s good to have a goal.
I figured some weight reduction was in order; I hadn’t thought to bring any tools, so I couldn’t remove all the seats (and maybe the hood, hatch, and doors), but I could pull out the spare tire, jack, and assorted crap littering the car and dump them in a friend’s pickup.
Meanwhile, the Ununquadium Legend of LeMons-winning Rocket Surgery Racing mid-Golf-engined Renault 4CV joined us, and the 2,100-pound/100-horsepower Renault looked like it had a good shot at beating my Civic’s best time.
Head-to-head Honda-versus-Renault racing. The spectators probably figured they’d have time to watch the start, go get a hot dog, and get back to their seats in time to watch the finish.
Unfortunately, the wonky shifter linkage in the Renault (which involves a very long rod, supported by springs and running all the way back to the rear-mounted Audi transaxle) caused a third-gear launch, which limited the 4CV to a disappointing 19.125-second ET. But hey, I managed to get the Civic within spitting distance of 17 seconds!
18.235 seconds, which was with minimal wheelspin and shifting just before the point of engine misfire. If I could solve the high-RPM misfire problem and/or remove another couple hundred pounds from the car, 17 seconds could be mine.
It’s probably just as well that I didn’t have the tools to perform radical weight-loss surgery on the car, and tracking down the misfire could easily be a many-hours-long task. 2,360 pounds with me and a half-tank of gas in the car was about as light as the Civic would be able to get that night.
The Rocket Surgery 4CV went back around for another try… and promptly died on the track a few hundred feet from the starting line.
Such humiliation!
Fortunately, the problem was just a busted CV joint. Cheap and easily replaced. However, with no spares at the track, the Renault’s night of drag racing was over.
I decided to do one more pass. A 17-second time wasn’t going to happen without a sudden hurricane-force tailwind, but perhaps I could top my 18.235 ET.
Damn, 1/1000th of a second slower! So, it appears that 18.2 is about the best I’m going to get out of my car at this altitude with its current engine. This forces me to move up the timetable on the GS-R engine swap.

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15 Comments on “Drag Strip Adventures: Why I Need To Put a GS-R Engine In My 18-Second Civic...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Quite a selection of cars running. While my 1988 Beretta supercharged from a PowerDyne blower from a Vortec 350 GM truck never made it to the strip, it’s 3.1 V6 and 2675 lbs(without me) was fast enough to pull noticeable away from a V8 S4 while I was hot on the tail of a 600cc sport bike 100-125 mph. I figured it would run 12’s @ 107-109 mph.

    The light weight of those decontented cars of that era are great for any motorsports event today compared to todays over weight slugs. Looking forward to your new engine and times.

  • avatar

    Now that callow youfs are only interested in iTwittering, engine-swapped Civics are about to become cool again. I’m..so happy… *wipes tear from eye*

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    For comparison, back in 1963, my new stock 4 speed Corvair ran 19.63. You can see how I happen to remember the time.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    So a 1992 Civic in bad enough shape that it misfires at 6000 RPM could make it a close race vs my 2005 Prius which runs perfectly.

    http://priuschat.com/forums/gen-ii-prius-technical-discussion/89627-gen-ii-1-4-mile-time.html says 17.x times for a the Prius could be expected but on your high altitude track that might be 18.x?

    I honestly don’t know which car would win at 1/4 but I’m sure the Prius would stomp the civic on 1/8 mile time. The power off the line is better than the acceleration from a running start.

    Worth noting on the Prius 1/4 you have to pay attention to the state of charge as high state of charge would give faster drag speeds and low state of charge would make it look worse. One poster mentioned holding the gas and brake at the same time before the run to ensure the SOC is high.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Huh? Are you saying that power-braking your Prius will charge the battery without the vehicle actually in motion? I thought that it was only charged by regenerative braking during deceleration.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        I think he means slipping the front tires with full throttle and partial brake. You know, the ol’ FWD burnout. That should activate the regen system.

        I think it might be cheaper in the long run, in terms of tire replacement cost, to hack together a plugin system, but that’s just my initial reaction; I’m not an expert on Prius drag racing. Indeed, until today I didn’t know there was such a thing. (Although I’m sure some smartass has done a V8 swap on one.)

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    My mom was a little upset about the Renault being a problem child that night – she’s worked the crosswalk/staging lanes for 5 years now :p She takes camera-phone pictures of unique or cool cars, and I was pleasantly surprised to see some LeMons’ers out there. Just sad she didn’t have one of that Saab – that thing is quirky sex.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    You’re going to be the only owner of a B18-swapped Civic that doesn’t have a gigantic spoiler bolted onto it!

  • avatar
    gessvt

    Re: the white Civic in the 10th & 11th frames. When I think 15-second Civic, I envision something driven by a teen with more ambition than money. This one actually looks like a 10-second car, chute, slicks, cage and all.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    Know what kinda shape that B18C1 is in? if it’s out of the car now is a good time to compression test it and see if it’s blowing smoke. Beat on GS-R motors can smoke like willie nelson, but I have a (300lb) friend with a mostly stock GS-R powered EG hatch that runs low 15’s at Rockingham, which is low altitude but always hot as hell.

    Have another friend with a stripped EG – has B20 block, ported B18C1 head, Wiseco flat-top 14.1:1 pistons, Eagle rods and ARP hardware, Type R tranny w/4.95:1 FD, 3″ exhaust all the way back (Tri-Y header), Edelbrock IM, good axles and slicks – freaking thing ran 12.8@107mph on it’s first run on the new build with less than 250 miles on the motor. No boost or nitrous! Seeing it leave the line was insane.

  • avatar
    Dirt Cheap Rally

    I’m looking through the photos … cars … cars … hot blonde? Very nice photojournalism work :)

  • avatar
    Jetstar 88

    My tips: take the air filter off and let the car cool down for about an hour before the final speed run. That, and luck, got my almost-stock (2-baarrel carb, 2-speed transmission) 1964 Jetstar 88 into 17’s.

  • avatar
    IC Turbo

    Adventures in slow car drag racing. In my case slow truck drag racing

    Vehicle in question: 1992 Exploder 2 dr 4WD, 4.0L, manual trans with 3.23 gears, 140k miles. Specs say this thing weighs about 3800 lbs and has 155 hp. Remember that the manuals made less power than the autos and to keep the newbs from stalling their truck, Ford advanced the whole cam one tooth resulting in less hp.

    Launch and 1/4 procedure:
    1. Engage 1st gear. Mat the throttle. Won’t this cause the engine to bounce off the limiter? Nope, remember that cam timing change? Yeah, the motor doesn’t make enough power to hit the lowly 5200 rpm electronic limiter. Peak power is supposedly 4200 rpm. It will rev to 5000 rpm and just stop there. By the way, I had to look up what the limiter was because I was never able to get to it. It was kind of like the speed limiter that I tried to hit going downhill in the PA mountains. Couldn’t find it either. Truck got kind of scary around 90 mph.
    2. Sidestep the clutch. Won’t this cause massive wheelspin? Nope, massive bog. 3.23 gears, tall 235/75R15’s, 3800 lbs, and sticky launch pad put down for real racers conspire against you. Even the open diff doesn’t help it peg leg.
    3. 4500 rpm shift slowly to second. Rushing it will result in a grind. This isn’t a sports car. It’s a truck with a 3 foot long shifter.
    4. Just after crossing the 1/8 at 11.99 and 59.99 mph, (4500 rpm again), slowly shift into 3rd.
    5. Wait for 1/4 – 17.5 @ 77 mph.
    6. Collect pathetic time slip.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    So what sort of time should I get with a gutted, fiberglass-nosed ’77 Monza with a 383 or 406 cube small block, Edelbrock Performer aluminum heads, mild 260-270 degree Comp hyraulic roller cam, and a single 2 1/2″ exhaust with an aftermarket high-flow cat, stock 2-barrel carburetor ( necessary if Cali-smogia )and factory closed element air cleaner with custom ram air ( ducted from empty headlight opening to air cleaner snorkel )?

    Would I make a fairly decent showing or be embarrassed?

  • avatar
    Damon Romano

    Patience. You’ll break 17.5 once it turns cold and the air gets dense. I’m sure I heard that somewhere.


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