Knocking on 11's - Ramanan's 12 Sec Hybrid Civic

by Joe Rogers
In case you haven't noticed, the new age of hot rodding is upon us.   Civics and Integras have replaced the Camaros and Mustangs and the classic Ford/Chevy rivalry has been replaced by the Honda/DSM rivalry. The cars have changed and so have the buzz words, but basic principles of hot rodding are still intact.  Increase the performance as much as possible, and make it look way cooler than stock 

One of the classic ways to improve performance in the past was taking a big motor from another car and swapping it into the body of a smaller much lighter car.  This classic recipe is the still used in making Hybrid Honda Civics, by dropping in a larger motor from the closely related Acura Integra. 
To make a potent Hybrid Honda Civic, take one Honda Civic VX hatchback, preferred because it is some 500 pounds lighter than a loaded EX Coupe, and drop in an Acura Integra B18C GS-R motor and transmission.  Its a bolt in swap, with only a few wiring changes necessary to plug in the GS-R's engine computer.  In just one Saturday, the boring 92hp VX economy car turns into a 170hp adrenaline pumping speedster.  And the Civic will remain every bit as reliable and smooth as it was before the swap. 


The B18C 1.8L DOHC VTEC is the motor of choice, because it is the largest and most powerful motor that will bolt into a Civic.  It is arguably one of the best motors ever mass produced.  The performance aftermarket has embraced it and significant power can be added with the right parts.  With careful selection, proper tuning and good preparation, the B18C powered Civic can become an extremely fast street/strip weapon. 

One person following this recipe is Ramanan Thiagarajah.  He first dropped a B18C into his Civic Coupe EX over two years ago.  An unfortunate hit-and-run freeway accident destroyed the car, but not the motor, and gave him the opportunity to choose a new body. Ramanan did his homework and chose a 92 Civic VX.  Instantly it was a terror.  His first trip to the strip resulted in a 13.45 @ 100 mph at Bakersfield, a half second improvement over his coupe.  And he just keeps getting faster and faster. 

Amazingly Ramanan has managed to push the envelope of the B18C tuning learning curve without sponsorship or help from the big-money shops.  How? Excellent application of his UCLA engineering skills, the willingness to try the extreme, never settling for 'fast enough' and NO FEAR. 

October Battle of the Imports Los Angles County Raceway
Los Angles County Raceway, Palmdale California.  2700 foot elevation

In the far lane is a turbo-B18C powered Civic.  Ramanan lines up in his lane. 
Slicks on the front.  Interior stripped.  Weight reduced doors and hatch installed.  Header only. With the tires heated up,  pre-stage and stage lights glowing, he brings the revs to 7800 rpm.  RED YELLOW YELLOW YELLOW dump the clutch GREEN wheelspin 'Damn she's hooking good, got the hole shot', watch the tach, 8900 rpm comes fast, clutch shift, a little wheelspin 'YES!!'  tach 8500 rpm, clutch shift, pulling on the turbo car, 8700 rpm, clutch shift, hold it down, turbo car is starting to gain, traps still far away, 8000, 8200, come on, 8500, shift? NO, 8700, 8900, FINISH!! First! Get on the brakes, slow it down.  Perfect run.  Turn around, pick up the time slip. 12.716 @ 106.313 with a 1.763 sec 60 foot!! 'Damn! 

Unfortunately his dial was 12.8'.  Eliminated, but nobody beats his 12.7 normally aspirated and Ramanan wins the Fastest NA Honda/Acura title for the event. 

Just think, a 12.72 at that elevation corrects to 12.3-12.4. 

A Ride in Ramanan's Rocket
November 10, 1997

Ramanan and I are heading over to a fairly traffic free area.  Just driving around,  there is zero indication that this Civic is capable of sub 13 sec quarter mile runs.  Its smooth, fairly quiet and feels like any other lowered Civic. 
As we stopped in the turn lane, we notice another Civic ahead of us.  Lowered, Si-R sticker, funky clear and red tail lights.  Ramanan gives him the benefit of the doubt 'Could be hybrid.' Not me, 'no way man, he's Riceboy.'  Traffic pulls us along side him and we all look at each other for a second.  Riceboy looks hard at us from the other lane, drops a gear and revs hard squirting through a hole in the traffic ahead.  Ramanan, ' Ah man, why'd he have to do that.  I wasn't going to do nothin, but he's asking for it. Somebody needs to get taught a lesson.' 

Ramanan downshifts and quickly matches speed with Riceboy, hovering a foot away from his bumper.   The right lane opens way up with no cars ahead, and Riceboy floors it.  His exhaust gets loud, as he starts to pull away.   Ramanan pauses for a second, then ITS ON!!  His engine screams, and he comes up on Riceboy like a rocket.  I am thinking that we are going to rear-end him, when Ramanan, still accelerating strong, drops to Riceboy's right into the parking lane!  I'm terrified, but before I can even react we are already past him.  Ramanan pulls across to the left lane, and slams into third gear at about 8500 rpm, with a ton of wheelspin.  He keeps his foot in it, and his Civic just keeps pulling, wailing up to 8000+ rpm in just seconds.   Riceboy is history but maybe not.  The light ahead is approaching extremely fast and is very very red.  Ramanan gets hard on the brakes.  But he's watching the rear view very intently.  Sure enough, Riceboy is trying to time the green light to blast past us.   The light turns green and Ramanan nails it from about 20 mph.  The engine screams again, wheels spin, and I am pushed back in my seat.  I can just then sense Riceboy's car coming up on the right, and then it fades back again.  A second later Ramanan backs off and we slip through the next yellow light leaving Riceboy to reflect on his lesson. 

Of course for the next few minutes, Ram is nervous and all the lights behind him look like cop car headlights... 

So how does Ramanan get a street driven Civic to turn 12 sec ETs? 

Click here to see Ramanan's setup 

Ramanan doesn't own another car.  No trailer, no back up car.  Truly daily driven. After the drags, he puts back on his stock doors and hatch, gaining a couple hundred pounds, bolts up the street tires, and the street exhaust.  His 12 second sleeper gets him to school, to work, and to the store.  Everyday.  But that doesn't stop him from pushing it. 

What's next for Ramanan?  Type-R intake cam and an underdrive crank pulley.  And 11s.  No shit.  Ramanan isn't going to stop until he hits 11s normally aspirated. And if he does hit elevens, will he rest then?  Nope, after that  Ramanan plans to add 150hp of direct port NOS and aim at the 10s!!! 

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