The B16 is a divine engine. Why? Because it’s arguably the opening ceremony to Honda’s golden era. In fact, you know what? It was so good, that it caught the attention of God himself. Yep – he heard the angelic sounds of vtec… and it pleased Him. God then laid His hands upon the B16, and blessed it for generations to come. Matter-of-fact, there have been just ‘3 topics of conversation’ since the dawn of creation where God & the Lucifer can set aside their differences, find common ground, and buy each other a drink. Radical engines are one of those 3 topics. And EVs – are the urinal cakes they aim at when they break the seal. But back on topic: Other iconic (and more potent) Honda engines were built upon the B16’s DNA. But the B16 was the first… the alpha.
And perhaps we’re at a point today, where the Honda B16 engine has come full circle.
B-series vtec engines were the hot Honda swaps of the 90s & early/mid 2000s. Then the K-swaps came through the scene & took the reins – understandably so. But now that we’ve had enough time for nostalgia to set in, the appeal of a B-series is coming back around… and a B16 encapsulates all the golden era energy that Honda had at their peak. For guys ‘that were there’ in the 90s & early 2000s, it’s nearly impossible to mentally separate B-series engines from Honda engine bays. When you close your eyes & imagine EFs, EGs, EKs lined-up with their hoods popped… you just picture Bs.
Statistics do not back me up here…
Because statistically, a K is better. Performance-wise… a K is better. Even emotionally, a K-series engine is equal or better in many ways. But there’s a nostalgia value about a Honda B-series that’s just… undeniable & real. It’s what defined Honda in Honda’s strongest era. And it sparked a new generation of hot-rodder & car enthusiast. The B16 is a perfect match for heavy-footed, unapologetic, aggressive driving. It makes the most out of every horsepower. Vtec encapsulates the simplistic & underrated mechanical genius that Honda possessed. Where pure driving thrill meets pure, un-exploited efficiency. It’s a dog pulling on the leash. The mechanical feel, the brappy exhaust tone, and the high-revving characteristics of a B16 is a time-warp back to what spirited driving was all about… when it was defined by sounds & senses… & not statistics.
As I was talking to Brandon Elste about his Civic here…
I realized that our stories line-up in a lot of ways. We both have golden era Hondas. We’ve both owned them for well over a decade. We both have B16s under the hood. And… we both also have hot K-swaps sitting in our garage… that we never got around to actually swapping. Our K-swaps turned into the back-up, upgrade engine that we never needed. And now that more time’s passed, we’ve begun getting nostalgic about our B16s (which are getting increasingly rare & OG to see). And we’re both wondering if the K is even the right move anymore?
I had a Honda buddy tell me (referencing my CRX)…
“I hate to say it, but I almost feel like something catastrophic needs to happen to your B16… for you to ever put the K in your car.”
And he probably ain’t wrong. But in the same breath, he confessed that while he absolutely LOVED the K-series power in his personal CRX & would do it over & over again… there is a part of him that daydreams back to the B16. Something about it just hits you in the old-school feels. Even some of the aftermarket brands & logos associated with B-series dominance are starting to get nostalgic & retro. I have another west-coast Honda friend that urged me to keep the B16 in my CRX. From a style standpoint, he says claims they’ve just become super authentic, period-correct, & old-school cool. Anyway, I’m getting off-topic, but I’m trying to illustrate a movement within a group of people who have been messing with Hondas for a long time… a movement to preserve the roots of simplistic timeless B-series vtec engines. And as I spoke with Brandon Elste, that’s where the conversation led.
Brandon’s owned this EK Civic since 2006…
It was his very first car, and he’s stayed committed to it for the past 15+ years. At some point roughly 10 years ago, he got motivated to build a top-tier Honda. Something you’d see in Honda Tuning back in the day… graced with the most highly acclaimed parts. And the icing on the cake, was the Domani front end conversion in from of the beautifully shaved bay. In fact, he built the car up so thoroughly, that it became kind of a garage queen.
Unfortunately, that was the case with a lot of the prominent cars in the 2012-ish Honda scene. Their quality & attention to detail… ultimately took them off the road. And I think in a lot of ways, it killed the natural momentum & energy of where the culture was going. But see… Brandon’s now at a point where he realizes the waste in that. The waste in NOT driving a fun car, and treating it like a Fabergé egg. Especially when it comes to a Honda! It’s not like Hondas are delicate… or priceless. There’ really no excuse not to drive the hell out of ‘em! I’ve said repeatedly now…
Golden era Hondas are a unique, visceral, undeniable, and virtually indestructible driving experience at any price point…
And the fact that Honda (in the 90s) could deliver that much punch at such affordability – is brilliant! Especially when you consider the versatility & swap-options. So the keyboard warriors that put down Hondas because they’re cheap… can go pound sand while they get their rod bearings replaced again. I honestly feel sorry for anybody who thinks they need to outgrow Honda culture. You’re jipping yourself. It’s like when some punk tells a kid/classmate there’s no Santa… and you see a little magic die in their eyes. It’s what happens when you break to social pressure, and you feel like you need to impress people you don’t know… with the perceived status of a car badge.
At this point, golden era Hondas are an addiction…
And some of us are just addicts. We need that fix: Building, ripping, driving, escaping, and prioritizing fun & purity in a world where cars are getting less & less fun & pure. And that’s it… nothing else factors into the equation. Golden era Hondas are youthful. You look back on your youth & yearn to go back to simpler, better times. But you made the choice & left… it never left you.
Photos by Ben Battles / Battles Digital
B16a2 motor swap
Titanium intake with Gruppe M filter
Skunk2 intake manifold
Shaved valve cover
Supertech valve train
Skunk2 stage-2 camshafts & header
Tanabe Hypermedalion exhaust
Innovative motor mounts
Tucked brake lines & engine bay
OEM shaved wiper cowl.
Ek4 RHD conversion
Bride Japan Stradia 2 seats
Autopower roll bar
CTR shift boot
2000 Civic SI gauge cluster
Keys Racing steering wheel
Works Bell flip hub
Cusco door bars
Plum Crazy paint job
Honda Domani front end
Jblood front bumper
Stage 21 wide fenders
Mode Parfume mirrors
CTR thin side molding
EDM rear fog
VTI rear lip
Custom front grill
PCI side skirts.
Body & Paint by Josh Croll – Crolls Customs
Wheels / Tires / Brakes / Suspension
Advan TC4 wheels – 16×8
Falken Azenus 215/45
ASR subframe brace
Beaks tie bar
F7 control arms
ITR 5-lug conversion
Titanium lug nuts