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!!
Hi, I’m Marty and I’m the founder and owner of Freshfix. It’s not unknown between my friends and family that I change my cars more than my boxers! Writing this post makes me realize that they may be right about that. Let’s go back to 2007 when I had just turned 17 and passed my driving test and it was time to buy my first car. I had spent years dreaming of my first car being a Jap import or something fast. I was lucky enough to have friends who were older than me and would own these very cars – I just wanted my own. Well, lets just say that didn’t really go to plan. To cut a long story short I was roped into buying a 2003 Ford Fiesta 1.4 TDCI….even typing this has sent shivers down my spine.
That car lasted 3 days, yes 3 days! I absolutely hated it and went straight to the bank and took out a €4,000 loan to go get a car I really wanted, or thought I wanted! A close friend was selling his Glanza non-turbo, but for me it was still €2,500 for insurance. You can see the only picture I have above, I loved the car, it was clean, loud and I felt like one of the LADZ, that was until one morning before school I used the remote start to warm it up before getting out of bed. A massive bang followed by the alarm going off which revealed the car was left in gear the night before and had crashed into the front of the house! I had to replace the bonnet and front bumper and got a massive bollocking off my folks!
At a time when the scene was massive and if it wasn’t a SIR or Type R, well people just didn’t think it was cool or good enough. I always liked the Honda Ek Civic but sadly couldn’t afford a SIR or TYPE R and never mind the insurance. The closest I could get was the 1.5 engined EK3 – a fresh import too! This was the first car I spent a crazy about of money on changing it around and trying to get it up to the EK9 standard without actually changing the engine. I had it for about a year and a half and sold it on to a guy who eventually stuck the Type R heart into it. I came across it recently on the Honda Page on facebook before a track day only to be told it was written off on the way to the track day.
Que the sticker bomb era and yes I did go with it. I picked up my first car with VVTI. This was a fun car with the two stages but trying to feed this car the petrol it required was tough so it didn’t hang around too long.
One of my favorite cars to date was my Mk4 TDi which was remapped and produced roughly 300Ft-lbs of torque, it did everything I needed at the time and had the heated leather Recaro’s from the Anniversary model. I used to contact the guy I sold it to from time to time, asking to buy it back but he never would sell it! When I sold my Mk5 golf in 2016 the buyer actually owned this car and he still wouldn’t sell it!!
This is one of my spur of the moment ‘lets buy this’ cars. It was a 1.6D with a k24 turbo strapped onto it. It ran like a pig but was funny and just turned heads. Again I didn’t keep it for too long. Check out this video of it on the dyno! SMOKE AHOY!
My first ever RWD car and the car which caused me to capture that dam track day virus! I bought this while in college for €5750 I think from Darren Mc Namara (Dmac) in Cork. it had no interior whatsoever and a roll cage and was in good need of some TLC in the engine bay and interior. The good thing about the Ae85 at the time was I could get it under classic insurance. We agreed to do the deal based on the fact it would go through the NCT. Months passed and I had finally got the text to say the car was ready for collection. I didn’t spend much on making it look pretty more just drove it and even learned how to do a few skids with the help of the Dealtwidth crew.
I used this car while in college along with the Ae86. This was the sensible car for roughly two years and brought me around Ireland meeting people while doing work for FreshFix. Nothing fancy at all with this car, a set of JOM coilovers and fake BBS wheels. This ended up getting stolen from the new owner only weeks after getting it from me.
At the point, I started working in the motor trade and had some spare cash built up. I would never have dreamed of owning a French car but this grabbed my attention and was extremely fun to drive. It has really short ratios and stuck to the road like glue. It was so much fun I went left out the gate to Mondello one morning instead of work and just called in sick. It was strange showing up to the track day in a suit and tie.
I loved these so much I bought two! Well, one came up in the trade for very cheap so I couldn’t say no. I later sold both of them to recoup some cash as the Motorsport bug had bitten.
Talk about drinking fuel! My Evo 7 was the first proper performance car. It was remapped to 350bhp and was mighty fun to slide around in the wet. I still see this around coming home from work.
I saw this online for sale and called the insurance to see what the story was. I was able to get insured and bought it that day. The guy actually selling it worked in the same motor group as me funnily enough. This was a mega car and my first real bite at the V-Tec cherry, it ended up going to Spain in the end.
I caught the Motorsport bug and found myself competing in the Mondello Park Fiesta championship in 2015, I bought this car ready to race and spent little or nothing on it all year. I would go on to learn the in’s and out’s of Motorsport pretty quickly but also take home the rookie championship. It was also the start of a serious Motorsport addiction!
Still working in the motor trade at this point I needed something with power but also not drawing too much attention from the po-po. It was a nice car but too many things rattled and bugged me with it. Still, wouldn’t stop me owning one again. The guy who bought this off me owned my Mk4 still.
It was like going back in time with the Ek3. This time I built it from the ground up myself to compete in the Future Classic Racing Series. I had a good start to the season in 2016 but ended up with only doing 5 out of the 10 rounds. I sold this to the guys at Trackdays.ie and bought ……
Yup, another civic but this time with a bit more bhp. This came up after my good friend David Cassidy was borrowing it to finish off his ITCC season. A lot went on with the car so to save me typing it all out you can visit the VLOG to see what went on. I still own this car.
I traveled to Cork twice for this car, I also had IDC driver Mike Fitz check the car out for me before I made the trip down – goes to show how much people will go out of the way to help you – Thanks, Mike! I first went down and agreed on a price, I was left standing at the petrol station with no response or anything from the seller after he had to go “home” for the logbook. Long story short a friend had to buy the car for me. I got a towbar fitted and this brings me and my race car everywhere, it’s also good to sleep two people, the perfect all-rounder in my eyes. I still own this car and decided that when it breaks down majorly I will change it….its just clocked 178k miles and still no signs of that going to happen.
Believe it or not, I left out a good few cars that were more of a run about than something I truly enjoyed….
See you next week doc for the next session?
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