K-swapping EK Civics is a tried-and-tested route these days – but Raymond Ho has never been one to follow the rules as his K24 Civic demonstrates…
From Fast Car magazine. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Dan Sherwood
As the old saying goes, power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. But unlike so many facets of modern living, this is the kind of corruption we can get fully on board with; after all, while we have a lot of respect for the less-is-more principle, there’s a lot to be said for exploring how much more the very concept of ‘more’ can be stretched to.
For owners of hot Hondas, this is a subject of much debate. Famously recalcitrant to mapping on the factory management, there’s a wealth of aftermarket ECUs and piggybacks for these engines that can allow one to unlock the myriad secrets of power within… but then, what next? Strap on a turbo, or a supercharger; a relatively quick way to gain extra horses but also engineering further complexity? Just how does that interplay with the very concept of VTEC anyway – do you lose the engine’s top-end-screamer character if you thicken up the curve down below?
As with most things in life, it’s a matter of perspective. You see, there’s more than just one kind of VTEC. It’s no exaggeration to say that VTEC is one of our favourite things; the nature of having two different cam profiles with the ability for the engine to supernaturally switch between them at a certain point during the rev range is frankly some sort of witchcraft and we’re very much here for it. Some people may bemoan the lack of low-down torque in, for example, a DC2 Integra, but that’s not what they’re about – the point is to keep it pinned and make that motor sing, finding all the joy in the top end. Switchable-cam Honda motors are built to be thrashed.
At least, that’s the street-racer view, but Honda as a company caters to a broader customer base than that. Sure, we have the type of VTEC that allows for endless hilarity and ‘just kicked in, yo’ memes in EP3 Civics and DC5s and what-have-you, but far more prevalent in the market is the other kind of VTEC, the sensible kind. The setup you’ll find in, say, a Honda CRV is there for economy, not silliness: in earlier variants of the K24 motor, you get a beefy 2.4-litre displacement, but the VTEC system has two cam lobes on the intake side and only one on the exhaust, running on twelve valves below 2200rpm before slightly opening the other four. This is done for economy. This is grandpa-spec VTEC. A bigger engine, but not built for the lols.
The answer, then, is to fuse the best of both setups to create a freaky hybrid. The K20 engine that you’d find in EP3s, FN2s and DC5s is well-known in tuning circles as being an absolute belter of a motor. So why not fit the advanced K20 head, with all its clever and sporty VTEC gear, to the bigger 2.4-litre block of a K24? Then you get a larger displacement with all the revvy lunacy of the Type R setup.
That’s precisely what Raymond Ho has done here, and the results speak for themselves. 287bhp at the fly is not to be sniffed at; indeed, in a car as light as an EK, it’s borderline hysterical – and the fact that it’s backed up by a respectable 206lb ft of torque is surely enough to silence the naysayers.
It’s a hell of a lot of effort to go to for the sort of numbers that would be far more easily achievable via forced induction though. Why didn’t Ray just take the easy way? Ah, well if you knew the fella you’d understand – there are no shortcuts in his world, this is a man who does everything with great care and consideration; getting it done right is always preferable to getting it done quickly.
“As a tuner and mechanic, I wanted to do some more R&D work on different engines,” he says. “I used the K24/K20 hybrid as a base for testing and development for future builds. Also, I just like building and swapping engines!”
So it’s a very scientific and methodical approach, but a fun one at the same time. And it’s fair to say that Ray’s been taking his time to get this right; after all, he bought the Civic quite a while ago and the ideas have been bubbling up since the beginning of the Obama era.
“I’d owned an EG Civic before, and I always liked the shape of the EK,” he says. “I bought this car from a mate about twelve years ago; the engine had problems and the bodywork wasn’t all that.” Nevertheless, the price was right and Ray was going into this with his eyes open – he knew that it’d be a project, and he knew he’d be rolling his sleeves up and getting a few things done. Perhaps the scope of the project wasn’t immediately apparent from the outset, however…
“No, I didn’t expect to go this far with it,” he laughs. But what’s been achieved here really is remarkable, and it all begins with that superb engine choice. A K-swap was always on the cards, but Ray likes to do things a little differently and there are a lot of other people across the globe K-swapping EKs. It’s a tried-and-tested route to drop in a K20, you can near-enough buy all the conversion parts off the shelf; if you want to supercharge it for 300bhp-odd, that’s all in the catalogues too. But where’s the challenge?
“I mean, a lot of people are doing K-swaps nowadays and I can appreciate other people’s work,” he says, “and the different parts they’re using that make every individual swap stand out – but I wanted to do something really different.” And so that’s what he did.
The result of the mad-scientist endeavours, with expert guidance from R2 Automotive, is a stock 2.4-litre K24 block mated to a K20 head which is running DC5-spec springs, retainers and flat-face valves. The cams themselves are stock Type R, and the ins-and-outs are taken care of via a 70mm throttle body, a K-Tuned fuel rail and, most significantly of all, a super-rare Endyn RRC inlet (see boxout). On the other side there’s a full custom 3in exhaust system – recently edited a little so as not to infuriate the neighbours, it’s all about evolution – and the hybridised engine sits on Innovative mounts. Mapped by Jesse at JCAL, it makes strong numbers, and it’ll keep making them all day long.
It’s a lot of power to be throwing through the front wheels of a lightweight hatchback, so Ray’s given the EK a helping hand by mating the EP3 Type R six-speed ’box to an MFactory LSD. The chassis is poised and agile too, thanks to MeisterR coilovers, Hardrace bushes throughout, a Cusco front strut brace and some uprated LCAs, and stopping power is markedly improved by upgrading to an Endless BBK, which you can see peeping through the spokes of those gorgeous Rays Gram Lights wheels. It helps to have a much broader contact patch with some sticky rubber as well, something taken care of by 205-section Yokohama AD08Rs.
With all the effort that’s gone into the engineering here, you might be forgiven for thinking that Ray’s more about the ‘go’ than the ‘show’, although hopefully the photos here are doing something to convince you otherwise. He’s a committed tuner who’s elbows-deep in the JDM scene, drawing influence directly from Asian trends to refract it through his own EK lens for the UK, and he’s made some very strong and fashion-forward choices here. The K24 Civic now wears a subtle but aggressive J-Blood bodykit, matched to NBC Racing front wings with custom arch extensions. The J’s Racing rear spoiler is a more in-your-face statement of intent, and perhaps that’s symbolic of the beautifully in-depth nature of how Ray has allowed power to corrupt him. Subtle it may be, but you can almost feel the potential energy oozing out of the Civic’s every pore.
Deep and clever endeavours to create huge thrust without taking the easy route, then – so what’s next?
“I’ll see how I feel, to be honest,” Ray shrugs. “I might turbocharge it.” Well, what better coda could there be for this chapter in the ongoing saga? He’s always finding surprising ways of doing things. Deliberately eschewing forced induction to find power, then blindsiding everyone by fitting a turbo after all, that’s just a perfect switcheroo. This new-found power is corrupting the K24 Civic EK absolutely.
Tech Spec: K24 Civic
J-Blood bodykit, J’s Racing rear spoiler, NBC Racing front wings with custom arch extensions, carbon mirrors, shaved engine bay in contrasting colour
K24 block, K20 head with DC5 Type R springs and retainers, flat-face valves, Endyn RRC inlet manifold, 70mm throttle body, K-Tuned fuel rail, stock block, stock cams, custom 3” cat-back exhaust system, Innovative engine mounts, Mishimoto radiator, EP3 Type R 6-speed manual, MFactory LSD, 287bhp
8x15in Rays Gram Lights wheels, 205/50/15 Yokohama AD08R tyres, MeisterR coilovers, Hardrace bushes, Cusco front strut brace, uprated LCAs, Endless calipers, discs and pads
Bride seats, J’s Racing steering wheel, custom mats, custom Bride doorcards, Pioneer head unit, AEM AFR gauge