Building your ultimate dream car. It’s something most of us have done, and something all of us have dreamed of. Sometimes things go just as planned – parts fit, nothing breaks, aesthetics are perfect. Other times it can be a never-ending pursuit of perfection, with the finish line seeming to never quite come into view. Either way, it gets expensive fast. But it’s our hobby; it’s what we do.

What else would we spend our money on??

Losing lotto tickets? Save it?? None of that sounds like any fun at all. We rarely count the cost.

And if the car turns out just right, does the expenditure even matter??


Serious Scratch

Well with the collector car seas truly changing… and with the tide shifting very much in the favor of the “S3Mag” demographic all of a sudden… EF and EG platforms are worth serious scratch, and the tide is continuing to rise. Low mile Civic SIs, Preludes, and Integra Type-Rs are trading for big dollars lately. Many values have literally shot up 200%… or simply added another zero to the end of the price. With that in consideration, modifying these cars now comes with a new calculous. Get it wrong – and decimate the value of a car that could be worth 20, 30, even $50,000 bucks! Mario Torres had a singular vision when he set out to build his dream EF, and as it turns out, his build is right in line with the rising Honda market. The unintended consequence is a build that’s not only completely righteous, but also worth more than any of us could have dreamed 5 years ago.

The 80’s & early 90’s are as totally awesome as ever… and with shows like MotorVice and Radwood bringing so much attention to these cars, it seems like everyone is searching out that quintessential look. If you’re like Mario, who built this stunning EF, then you CLEARLY get it.


Era correct paint, modifications, and graphics make this car shine right from the start. When I saw how complete the Gathers Stereo setup was, I just about flipped. Period correct touches come no better than that, particularly in a minty EF. Gone are the over the top body kits and stanced-out look of a few years ago… replaced by that early 90’s functional tuner look that screams ‘muscle car hunter’. Pinstripe sport seats keep with the era-correct theme, and are supportive, and frankly – look the business.

The 80’s & 90’s seem almost puritanical in my memories, at least as far as modding cars is concerned. A properly tuned NA Honda engine was more than capable of producing the appropriate amount of smiles per hour. Once VTEC kicked in, these cars were all about power to weight ratio + sonorous revs rising higher and higher. Before everyone was on the hunt for giant power numbers, and before big turbos spiked budgets & put holes in blocks, properly balanced performance was what tuner cars were all about. Mario’s car is the perfect embodiment of this methodology, and a TON of the younger generation importing now-legal JDM vehicles are taking that same approach. EFs are LIGHT! And legit canyon-carving cred is the result. This car literally begs you to flog it, and thanks to proper tuning, it will do it over & over for decades to come… without the fear of grenadeing an expensive block because of too much boost or too lean a mixture. Mario has built himself a collectible classic he can enjoy, that will only continue to appreciate while he drives it.

A study in ‘the details’

For Mario, this build has been a real labor of love. Building the car to period-correct perfection meant the hunt for rare EF OE parts… and it’s become a bit of an obsession. You don’t spend weeks and even months putting together a full Gathers Audio build out by accident.

Mario was ushered into the hobby at the age of 10. “Seeing my brother Luis and his friends building cars like his 1994 Accord back in the day is what really got me interested in cars in general.”

Fast forward to 2018, and Mario had found the well kept, original paint & engined car you see here. Mario continued, “The original engine gave out at 230k. I was daily driving it at the time until I decided to really go the JDM-correct build direction.”

SiR seats were sourced, and a high compression JDM d15b VTEC engine from Japan fit the bill. Those wheels, yeah, there is a way-cool story there to. Mario explained, “I got so lucky with those wheels. The wheels were still NEW in BOX at a wheel store in Japan. They are stamped 1983 and made by RAYS. Yeah man, those were a super lucky find.”  

The car is literally a study in ‘the details’. Everywhere you look, there is a special touch. EF9 hood, EF9 bumpers, corners, side markers, power folding mirrors. From that SiR wing to the period accordion shift boot, righteous details abound. Mario mentioned, “Yeah man most people just see and old Civic, they don’t know.” I assured him… we get it! We know what’s up and the dedication to craft that it represents.

At every step along the way, PERIOD CORRECT is the theme, and it has not only preserved this build’s value… but actually bolstered it. We don’t often give much thought to resale value, or think of our builds as assets. But Hondas of this era are proving to be this generation’s  ’57 Chevy, and it doesn’t hurt to think about this aspect on our quest to build our ultimate dream car of the ’80s today. Building a car in this manner may be the best decision Mario, or any of us could make.



ef9 hood

ef9 filler

ef9 bumper

ef9 corners

ef9 headlights

ef9 sidemarkers

ef9 bumper lights

ef9 front lip

ef9 power-folding mirrors

ef9 SiR wing

J’s Racing wing

ef9 rear filler

ef9 rear bumper

ef9 rear lip

ef9 rear mudflaps for lip

ef9 taillights

ef9 indiglow center garnish

Jaf badge

Matching set of Japanese plates off an ef9

ef9 SiR oem sideskirts with mudflaps

ef hood bra with fender pieces

BNIB 90-91 usdm door visors (rain guards)

BNIB rare* civic body moldings with CIVIC font on the quarter panel molding

ef9 round fogs with complete harness and switch

Custom aero covers for ef9 power-folding mirrors


replaced dashboard, door panels, quarter panels, trunk panels, b-pillars, c-pillars, carpet, and seatbelts (to black and gray)

ef9 SiR front & rear seats

ef lower console

Personal box for non smoker

ef armrest

rear lapbelts (instead of coming across the top of the rear speakers)

ef Si cluster

Nardi woodgrain steering wheel

Nardi woodgrain shift knob

Nardi woodgrain e-brake handle

Ktuned shifter

ef9 Gathers headunit tape and CD player

ef9 Gathers quarter panel speakers

ef9 Gathers cargo cover and Gathers speakers

Gathers satellite speakers

Old school accordion shift boot

ef9 SiR checkered floormats

Electric daisy blinds for rear hatch

ef9 SiR rear speaker trays

ef9 sun visors  

ef9 map light

ef lhd dash mat with holder

ef9 Honda access dust bin





RARE set of 15″ Shadow Legion 10-spoke made by Rays Engineering

Custom Japan 5″ springs on KYB agx combo

Skunk2 pro-series front camber kit

SPC rear camber kit

Function 7s lower control arms

DA swaybars

DA front brake conversion

beaks lower tiebar

Password JDM 3pt strut bar

Password JDM drilled/slotted rotors



high compression jdm d15b vtec

Rywire obd0-obd1 conversion harness

Monotech dpfi to mpfi harness

jdm ecu p08

AEM intake

DC header 4 2 1

Skunk2 racing test pipe

HKS sport full catback exhaust

CRX Si transmission

Exedy stage-1 clutch

Innovative motor mounts

mild wire tuck

…And currently working on swapping a B series itR complete motor and trans. 🙂



Text by @Tim Neely   Photos by @Benny Whiles