A tale of two Cities

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BY
VIVEK VENUGOPAL

January 30

Let me admit, this story wasn’t bound to happen this month. We were making a Civic special but the last car we were about to shoot for this issue, a Civic turbo in Bangalore, threw up its high pressure hose and died. And while they couldn’t get the reliability issues sorted, we abandoned the idea and started looking for the car that sparked the Honda enthusiasm in our country – the Honda City 1.5. And since we couldn’t agree it could be a standard one or the later VTEC, we got both.

The two red Honda Cities you see here are perfect examples of classy modern tuning. There are no big body kits, no bling alloys and no fancy spoilers – only OEM parts that are enhanced with some well chosen accessories. The City 1.5 has an OEM-style body kit that looks the part and black, 17-inch five spoke alloy wheels. The VTEC sticks to the time honoured tradition of JDM simplicity even further. There isn’t any body kit and the only add-on to its clean lines is the subtle chin spoiler under the front bumper. The wheels are more practical 15 inchers- the perfect size for this class. And they are sweet BBS deep dish, mesh rims clad in good lookingYokohamaS-drives.

A true JDM lover, Shanaz Kurikkal fromCalicut, got his VTEC almost two years back from a relative with nearly 1lakh kilometers on the odo. It was black, but it had these BBS wheels and imported smoked headlights with amber reflectors. He got a full exhaust done soon and later a head rework from Kumar’s garage inCoimbatore. He also got hold of a JDM spec D series manifold and throttle body, which cured some of the inherent VTEC jerkiness at low revs. It also improved the breathing and the motor revs more freely than ever. As his regular speeds began to soar, he started to feel the lack of high speed stability in his City even more. That left him looking for a better suspension and there weren’t many choices at that point of time, he began making his own. He started with shorter springs that are stiffer and got adjustable perches fabricated to fit them on. The front is now as low as it would go and while he was getting the suspension sorted, he also got an upper strut brace made.

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And six months back, he decided to give it a new coat of paint and he settled for the lovely Ferrari Rossa Corsa. The golden wheels were given a shade of matte anthracite. The car has a short ham antenna at the rear and vortex spoiler fins above the rear glass. The styling was decided to be kept simple and the only thing you would find are some JDM stickers, Soshinoya badges and SOHC-VTEC stickers on the rear doors- like they are on a factory-spec EK Civic. The styling is followed by dechroming the side window trims, front grille and rear number plate garnish.

Shanaz has also done some DIY mods on his car like the front grille that was wrapped in carbon fibre trim. The centre console and the instrument panel console have also been given the same treatment. The instrument panel itself is made special by imported indiglo dials that look stunning in the dark. The OE steering has been swapped for a smaller, more comfortable MOMO deep dish wheel. Barring some classy bits for the gearknob and some Mugen badges, the rest of the interiors are almost stock with OEM fabric and everything.

Like Shanaz, Primal George was also keen on buying a City when he came across a blue 1.5EXi. His previous car was a Lancer 1.8INVEX, an interesting car by itself, but he didn’t think twice before swapping it for the Honda. The mods began the same day and it was off to get painted and the body kit fitted at Ostler inCochin. He got these 17 inch wheels from Lenso Raiden series and painted the calipers behind them, gold. Then there was a full exhaust made from Raj Hingorani inBangaloreand later a Green cotton filter was fitted. The last job, he tackled was sorting the ride height with a set of Vogtland springs. The lowering it seems is perfect and the car sits well on the road.

Primal has gone one step further in getting his seats retrimmed in a classic beige and black combination. The wood finish centre console and the AC vent trims have been painted grey like they are on a City 1.3. The OE steering has been retained, though you can see aftermarket bits for the gearknob, handbrake and pedals.

Think of it, these two Honda enthusiasts have a lot of things in common apart form their red cars. They both bought nearly 1lakh run cars and spend a fortune doing them up to their tastes. They think their sub 1-tonne cars with roughly a 100 horses are as good, if not better than other fast cars on the road. They don’t have big heavy audio systems in the boot that add weight and blunt performance. And like you and I, they get wound up quite easily everytime anyone compares their cars to any other City.

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BY VIVEK VENUGOPAL

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