Word association is a fabulous thing, and entirely subjective to personal taste, education or interest. It’s the natural reaction of bringing any number of random thoughts to the forefront of your mind at even the slightest stimulus. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and its study can tell all manner of things about a person. Play word association as a petrol head and it’s likely to conjure up vivid insights into car culture at large. Say Honda to someone with a lust for all things JDM, and chances are the word Civic will pop up much quicker than something like Prelude or Stream, but then other words follow on as the association runs deeper. In a typically Japanese sense of rigid formality, two other 5 letter words have become synonymous with lovers of Honda’s humble economy car, they being Osaka and Kanjo!!Even Better is this Kanjo Civic
On the face of things, Osaka appears to be just like a number of other large Japanese cities. Built around a large port similar in size to Yokohama, the City has swelled as people flock to live and work in a true Economic hub. With a population of 19 million, second only to Tokyo, Osaka seems rather mundane. Attractions run to a few amusement parks and museums, as well as art galleries and sports teams, but shopping is one of the largest draws. It’s always seemed to me that Osaka is Japan’s fashionable hub, where individual style plays a large role for locals. Yet, at night, Osaka is home to a totally different attraction that is secretive, illegal and intoxicating in equal amounts.
Circling the heart of the city is the Hanshin Expressway, an almost 9 mile stretch of road elevated above the city streets as an orbital route for weary commuters. Think of it as Osaka’s M50 and you get the idea. During the day, the road is clogged with countless thousands of people on their way to and from the city centre, but once darkness falls, it becomes the playground of the Kanjo Racers!
As a race highly regarded for its very meticulous approach to structure and organisation, the Japanese sure know, almost better than most, how to just disconnect from the monotony of life and go out and find pure enjoyment. The size and variety of the domestically produced vehicular output means this escape can be seen in all manner of quirky Japanese ways of enjoying car culture. The Bosozoku guys get that buzz from massively over the top styling and excessive noise, as well as ever pushing the boundaries of camber and sensibility. While this might never have caught on elsewhere, imagine what the few guys out sliding their Corolla’s around mountain roads in the 80’s would have thought if you said their quest get away from it all would turn into a worldwide mainstream sport with professional teams and drivers. While drifting and tuning in Japan are designed to show off, the Kanjo is at the other end of the spectrum.
Much like those mad men that gained notoriety racing at huge speeds around Tokyo’s Wangan Expressway in the 90’s, the Kanjo is mired in secrecy and all that goes on happens very much in the shadows. At the dead of night, countless drivers take to the Loop and make it their racetrack, with other cars becoming no more than obstacles to be navigated around. The Honda Civic has become the ultimate weapon of choice, as the nimble front-drive hatch has become engrained in Kanjo folklore, as countless hockey mask wearing driver’s use every last drop of V-Tec power to become the fastest. This is pure lunacy, and naturally law enforcement takes a very dim view on these antics. Stories go that cars can appear to race week after week in all manner of new paint schemes to avoid detection or to conceal the identity of the driver.
The Kanjo is an expression of style and a massive, noisy two fingered salute to the system. These guys are sticking it to the man every time they enter the slip road under the glare of the street lights. The cars themselves are as un-apologetic as the people involved, with pure function taking precedent over form. While some of the few available pictures of the Kanjo racers may depict well maintained Civics of a variety of generation, the reality is these cars are often hacked together simply to go fast, and fit and finish up close can certainly leave a lot to be desired. Then again get up close with any drift car and it’s usually the very same story, where owners know that getting the car to perform far out ways aesthetics.
But while we could daydream for hours of Civics buzzing around darkened Expressways with limiters bouncing off tunnel walls, the reality is that we lie nearly 9000 miles away on the other side of the world. Us Irish share a lot with our Japanese brethren, both island nations not overly fond of their neighbours and boasting centuries of unique heritage. We have soaked up the automotive offerings from the land of the rising sun unlike almost anyone else, with countless square plated imports roaming our streets on a daily basis, from mundane people carriers to high performance weapon. But here I am standing on the docks in Cork on an overcast Sunday looking at possibly the most anticipated arrival to our shore in quite some time!
To see a Kanjo inspired Civic is generally very cool, as their distinctive race car style and large rear wings are a sight to behold, but actually getting up-close with a genuine one is a rare treat. As I said earlier, these cars are built to race, so many are pushed until they can give no more and then the carcasses are picked over for any re-useable part. Seeing a complete car leaving Japan is uncommon, but when Domie Morey spotted this in the JDM auctions he knew full well that this was the ultimate Honda to add to long history of cars from the brand.
The thing that grabs you visually from any distance is the vibrant colour scheme and the distinctive Motul Oil livery. First seen on the 1987 JTCC Honda Civic, this colour scheme has adorned some of the most successful racecars to have taken to the likes of Fuji Speedway or Suzuka. This car is an EF model Civic, and the paint work is just that, actually, properly finished paint. Everything about this car is designed to stand out, and that is certainly achieved as countless heads turn to look as we get through the shoot.
While the paint scheme steals all the attention, the bodywork it adorns is pretty much bog standard and exactly as it left the factory 27 years ago. Each corner is adorned by 16 inch BuddyClub P1 wheels finished in what appears to be the same bright white as the car itself, while another P1 sits in the boot showing signs that it has seen action at some point.
Inside, sparse would be a kind description. Devoid of any manner of sound deadening or carpet, Domie reluctantly declares that it’s quite a rattly and noisy place to be. In true racecar-spec, the interior floor genuinely looks like it was painted with a roller brush, and little if any care was taken when what appear to have been a screwdriver or hammer was used to hack a hole for the roll cage through the dash. While the passenger is given nothing more than a flimsy looking original seat, a properly mounted Bride LowMax along with a Sabelt harness keeps the driver pinned in place, with the response from the front wheels fed through a Fujitsubo Racing steering wheel.
Pop the Motul liveried bonnet and there’s certainly no wheezy 1300cc Single Carb unit lurking beneath. Sitting proud is the much vaulted B16 lump, ultimately regarded as one of the greatest affordable performance engines of all time, and while the full internal spec is unknown, there are clues all around the bay that give rise to this Civics savage acceleration. An all new larger Mugen head is an obvious sign of work done, as is the Cusco strut brace and aftermarket ECU, but delve deeper and you find a stainless Jasma manifold and other details.
Listening to the Civic both at idle and flying past, you would very easily be mistaken for thinking there was nothing connected to the end of the manifold, and truthful there isn’t much! A complete straight through is routed beautifully under the car, with a Jasma back box sitting out the rear. Full BC coilovers at every corner keeps the EF planted to the ground, and it appears that they can only adjusted lower when Domie investigated.
While we may have countless more expensive or quicker cars that have rolled off the boats from Asia, all it took was a single camera phone picture of this car from Dublin Docks that sent the Internet pretty much into a frenzy. There is nothing out there that ties together a unique style, a story and a sense of hard-core driving and manages to pull it off. Most don’t understand it, but like everything in car culture, just appreciate it for what it is. Ireland need more nutters like Domie, who in a good way dedicate themselves to a certain style and aren’t afraid to make their dreams a reality and bring some of the coolest cars ever seen to these shores!!
Autoheros is held by the Irish Drift Championship. Its the time of the month when everyone gets together in Mondello park and hits the track in the grip session, drift session or even in the static show.
I was doing the shakedown for the Ek civic so didn’t get too much time but here is a quick glance on the day.
Photo Credit Cian Leonard : The Low Life