Ted’s essays

FOR SALE: 1987 Honda CRX

The background on this car …

I was an enthusiastic, radical, seriously competitive Sports Car Guy for most of my life… okay, still am. For 20 years THAT CAR was a 1956 Porsche Speedster barn find – a very rare car that was lightweight and lent itself for high performance driving … Just what the doctor ordered.

It also became highly valued in the collector market and its sale in 1999 financed my escape from The People’s Republic of California.

After about 16 years sports-car-less, I picked up a very-well-prepared autocross car that was vintage, collectable, lightweight and ticked all the boxes for this enthusiastic, radical, seriously competitive Sports Car Guy. I spent a lot of time and money turning it into a very radical street car that scratched my high-performance itches… and ATE the lead-sled drivers who would challenge my liberty to drive whatever speed I decided was appropriate… okay, put another way, I could pass belligerent slugs at will… with or without their cooperation.

A clever, visionary move on my part boosted our personal finances last fall, triggering my wife to ‘authorize’ me to revisit my true love: TRACK TIME. I spent a lot more time and money to race-prepare it, then took my CRX to the Utah Motorsports Complex and thoroughly enjoyed some unfettered track time in a car well suited for the exercise. (see video below).

Somehow that exercise got me thinking that this car deserves an owner/driver who will either autocross it, or run it on a closed-course race car track, or both. I also realize that is not me. I reside too far from the autocrosses and race tracks to do that.

So I am switching my summertime precision, enthusiast driving to motorcycles and looking for that guy for whom this Honda scratches his itches. (Note: as the father, supporter of three daughters, I am not against a girl adopting my CRX race car, but that would be unusual. Guys are the norm in this realm.)

You might notice in some of my CRX photos that the carbon-fiber hood and sunroof replacement are black – in the raw. I had them sealed and painted along with the rest of the car for a cleaner, more original look, and the “stealth” factor.

The 50 is a very un-stealthy reminder of the weekends I spent running the Utah Motorsports Complex race track. With a heat gun or on a warm day, they will peel right off leaving no trace they were ever there. I am kind-of enjoying the memories still.

The video below is from my April adventure at the Utah Motorsports Complex with the National Auto Sport Association. The clutch couldn’t handle engine power there at that time, and has since been replaced with new flywheel, pressure plate and clutch disc (thank you Hamilton Automotive).

I can still have fun on the open highways. I am a G-Force-Junkie. Cornering is my gig. This car does that … In Spades. I live very near a stretch of highway 93 that allows me to flex the CRX legs, but the exercise is not rewarding enough to do it very often. I document my personal hillclimb track in the two videos below.

Note that since my friend and I produced those videos, I put a new, clear windshield in, replaced the muffler and upgraded to even stickier tires. The upgrades were worth another 5mph in each corner. I also did all the race preparations listed below which I have not yet run on my personal Gee-force track.

I could not comfortably do those runs without a Valentine One If enemies of my freedom of movement want to use electronics, I suppose I have to also. They make the rules. I play the hand I have been dealt.

The CRX as it sits today …

As you will see in the post section below, the Honda was disassembled, race-prepped and repainted piece by piece. I even had the carbon-fiber sunroof panel and hood sealed, primed and painted to match the rest of the car … making its performance preparation a bit more subtle to the casual viewer. Of course closer inspection finds A LOT of clues that this car GOES.

One of the minor tricks was to move the battery out of the engine compartment to behind the passenger seat. Of course it had to be a new AGM battery to make passenger-compartment installation okay. This improves weight distribution and cleans up the engine bay.

Obviously the new cross-braced, rear-braced Autopower roll bar hints that not everything is normal here, too. It adds a little weight, but stiffens the chassis for slightly improved steering response, but really was necessary to install the new 6-point racing harness, plus a safety margin for performance driving on open course tracks.

A much more significant handling tweak was the addition of front strut-tower bracing (blue bar crossing the engine bay). Most of the cornering and lateral responsiveness comes from a stiff front end. These are crucial to steering quickness, accuracy, and, as you might notice in the top video, this car goes exactly where and when the driver orders it to.

The Sparco seat and quick-release harness are only a few months old. You wouldn’t want to have a car this responsive without having your body anchored firmly in place. This frees up your hands, arms, feet and legs to drive the car rather than wrestle against Gee forces to keep your body in place. On top of that is the obvious safety factor they add.

Without the passenger seat, it weighs 1,820 pounds. That is about 1,000 less than a typical sporting car and about half of what modern high-performance cars weigh. When it comes to handling, WEIGHT IS THE ENEMY. If someone wanted to take it a bit further, getting it under 1,800 should be reasonably easy. Heck, I already did a bit of that by removing my ham radio since my weigh-in.

In the too-much-to-list category are the demon tweaks the prior owners put into the engine. Absolutely top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art pistons, rods, crank, injectors, Acura computer and more. I am guessing they put around ten grand into this versatile powerplant that returns 30 miles per gallon when I hot-rod around like a teenage boy. I still have a thick folder of receipts, build and adjustment information.

The cam timing is easily adjusted by loosening the 5 allen screws and turning it VERY SLIGHTLY. As delivered it came “on the cam” around 5,000 rpms and pulled like a sport bike to well over 8,000. I turned it down quite a bit for more lower end and smoother street performance. It currently pulls smooth and strong from just off idle to a bit over the stock engine 7,000 redline. A whole bunch more ponies are in there if you want them.

Now it sits too much under a car cover, waiting for occasional outings. I tend to use it as my economy car, but it is more comfortable at 80 mph than 70, and we do have a tendency to pass anyone who is not running on our program.

By the way, when Ford dethroned Ferrari at Le Mans, they named their car “GT 40” because it was 40 inches tall. When I measured the Honda at exactly 50 inches tall, the name “GT 50” jumped into my head, so that is what I have been calling it, and why I used the number 50 for my track day at the Utah Motorsports Complex.

A few minutes with a heat gun and I can pull those numbers off. I just kind-of like them as I fondly remember my weekend in Utah. If I keep it around much longer, they will be coming off just to reduce my profile.

Some assembly required

A race-car mechanic disassembled, hand-sanded, painted, reassembled and set the GT50 up for track time. The TLC really freshened things up. He, by the way, did actually love the car and is a potential buyer.

I chose to have the black carbon-fiber weave of hood and sunroof panel disappear into the stock body color. People who love the old CRXs do appreciate the outward stock appearance.

The handling is amazing. I could take this to any autocross in the area and collect a top ten finish. Those events are just farther away than I want to travel for that game, though I would get major bonus points for driving all the way there to put in smokin’ hot laps, then back home again.

On a related note, weekends at the Utah Motorsports Complex are more time and money than I am willing to put in, but I am here to say they are one heckuva lotta fun in the GT50.

So it sits more than it should.

My 1820-pound GT50 could be The Perfect High-Performance Driver Training Car.

Cornering correctly feels just right, is crucial to straightaway speeds, and decent lap times. When driven into a curve too hot or drawing the wrong line through the turn, the driver needs only let off the throttle and turn the wheel sharper – which scrubs off speed without drama – no spinouts or off-road excursions to penalize driving errors.

Once a driver learns the techniques and course layout without a ton of acceleration, switching that skillset and knowledge to a faster car beats the driver who never had to work maximizing limited acceleration.

Even with The Major Handicap of a slipping clutch (since replaced), I started myself at the back of the pack every time, yet in EIGHT 20 minute sessions on track ONLY twice did I get passed by the cars who started ahead of me. I can only imagine how that would have worked had the new clutch been in it at that time.

Here is how it looked when I added it to my stable.

I almost forgot, I do have an extra set of wheels. They are Panasports – very high-valued vintage racing wheels that I will be selling separately. The ones on my GT50 are lighter, but not as cool and not vintage-racing legal.

In the photo with the carbon fiber showing it is wearing a valuable, collectible set of Panasport vintage racing wheels.