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Random Sightings - John Cruz's 1986 Honda EA-T: A History Lesson

March 15, 2016 6 min read

The EA-T Civic is the last of a dying breed. A 30+ year old Civic that is still adorned and cherished by the masses, yet few examples still exist. A car that set a precedent for Honda as a car maker and brands like Mugen as an aftermarket parts specialist, the 3rd generation Civic raised the bar and showed that the Civic was not just an econobox with the sole function of commuting. But instead, it could also be utilized as a full blown race car with nimble handling and quick response. And while this has been lost in translation as years seem to pass us by and most of these Civics becoming owned by people who have no care for the lineage of the car or due to a great sum of these Civics withering away in junkyards and being used as donor cars, there still are enthusiasts who take it upon themselves to restore and preserve these great examples of what possibly was the birth of the modern Honda race car as we know it. And that is where enthusiasts like John Cruz come into play.

But before we can talk about his personal 3rd Gen Civic, a brief history lesson is in order. What helped cement the Honda Civic as a race bred, daily driver for years to come? Well for that, we must turn to the 1987 Mugen Motul Civic that competed in the JTCC (Japanese Touring Car Championship) racing series.

(A replica of the vaunted Mugen Motul Civic sitting in the Twin Ring Motegi Honda Museum. Photo Courtesy of Joey Lee)

In 1987, Honda’s right hand brand for parts manufacturing, Mugen, entered the JTCC setting out to birth their legacy. A brand known for their aerodynamic body kits and OEM+ engine upgrades,the Mugen EA-T Civic was the second car on what is now a long list of Honda chassis to receive a full Mugen body upgrade (The first being the beloved 1984 Ballade CR-X). Equipped with an enhanced aerodynamic exterior, a Mugen powered Twin Cam Si engine, and further upgrades throughout, the Mugen/Motul EA-T was poised to take over the racing world and set a high precedent for Honda as a race car manufacture. And it did much more than that.

Entering the 1987 JTCC race series, the Civic was piloted by Osamu Nakako and Hideki Okada. What these two men did behind the wheel of this Civic is something that will forever live in infamy, as their skill truly showcased the power and agility that the chassis was capable of. Racing in the Division 1 class (For cars featuring engines of 1,001 to 1600cc), the Civic began obliterating all the competition that stood in its way. Not satisfied with demolishing the competition in Division 1, the Civic also began to overtake the cars in Division 2, and even began to box with the cars in Division 3! (A class reserved for cars with motors as big as 2,500cc). Needless to say, the Mugen Motul Civic walked away with an overall JTCC class victory and changed the way the world would view the Honda Civic, forever. It would now have to be mentioned that not only was the Civic a good, economic car for the driver in search of the best MPG. But, it was also suitable for the driver who also wanted something sporty and capable of having fun. The legacy of the Honda Civic was born.

Though not seen on the circuit as often as they may have been in their hay day, the EA-T has once again become popularized in modern times due to a different form of racing. Car shops like the famed Car Craft Boon/Osaka JDM have showed that the car can still indeed hold it’s own on the circuit, but have also showed that it is now the modern day symbol of the Kanjo, and is a car often piloted on the famed Osaka Loop. This modernization of the chassis has opened the door once again for enthusiasts like John Cruz to begin to preserve, restore, and appreciate these timeless examples of what Honda motorsport embodies.

Shown here is a photo of John’s EA-T Civic at last years Japanese Classic Car Show event in Long Beach, California. What I love most about this look on the car is how period correct it looks and how little it needs to be aggressive. Complimented by a set of old school Bride Brix reclining seats and a Doobie/Purple Speed lip (Which we helped John acquire), the Civic may be limited in modifications but makes up for it with personality.

At this time, John’s EA-T was on a set of 14 inch Weds Sport Kurage wheels, one of the first offerings by the now famed Japanese wheel company. Notice how similar they are in styling to other popular wheels of the era. Speed holes around the face like a Mugen NR-10R and a popped out face with a polished lip like a BBR Comp, the Kurage has a look that can be best appreciated on the boxy body style of the 3rd generation Civic. But surely, only generation specific wheels can look good on this EA-T right? Newer styling would surely ruin the car, wouldn’t it? And that is where the Civic truly shows its versatility

Volk TE37SLs, wheels that are 30 years newer than the car itself, were swapped to Johns Civic and show just how good the car can look, regardless of if it is featuring period correct goods or not. The TE37SL may not have been around at the time of the EA-T's inception, but they sure as hell fit the car great and we aren’t complaining about the aggressive look they add to the car. Also take note of the Osaka JDM wing fixed to the back of the hatch, which further brings new school styling to the old school Civic. The wing makes the flatbacked Civic look that much more mean and aggressive, showing that while period correct parts look good on the chassis, a proper balance of parts from the new and old school can definitely mesh together.

You’re sure to constantly see this car out and about everywhere, as John truly tries to take it out and enjoy it as much as possible. Whether at a Japanese nostalgic car event, competing in the VTEC Club series or getting track time at other events, or just using the Civic to get from point A to B, John appreciates the fact that he has the Civic and enjoys it in any and every way possible. He is sure to keep it in pristine condition for as long as he owns it and has even gone as far as to call it one of his dream cars. We can only hope that John hangs onto the car for quite some time, as if you know John, he is often notorious for his buying and selling. Yet, he is the first to remind me that since buying his EA-T Civic, he has calmed down on the buying and trading and is ready to settle down and hang onto the cars he currently owns.

(We didn’t even mention his beautiful, recently acquired, Dark Amethyst Pearl EK hatch that is legally BAR’d for a GS-R and is literally immaculate. John recently purchased some pieces from us in the form of Dimes Performance Bushings, an AutoPower Roll Bar, a Circuit Hero knob, and more!)

(A photo of Johns EK hatch because I said so)

But that is besides the point! This post is about Johns beautiful 3rd generation Civic. I have watched this guy build some great cars over the 5+ years we have been friends and it never ceases to amaze me what he is able to come up with. When I saw his EA-T on the TE37SLs last night at a local, private meet, I immediately knew that I had to pay my homage in some sense. Though my history lesson is not as thorough as someone who lived through the times that these cars were on every street and my only encounter with the Motul/Mugen Civic was on Gran Turismo 4, it is still important to try to understand how the things we love today got to the point they are at. Though we may never be able to go back in time to understand these things first handed, we can always reference all the sources we can find to help us understand why things such as the 3rd gen Civic should be appreciated by not only our generation, but for all future generations as well. Because without cars like the EA-T, the Honda brand as a whole could have shifted altogether, and the hobby we all love may have taken a drastic shift into another direction. Who's to say?

A big thanks to John for always building inspiring cars and having a great outlook on the scene in general. Someone who has definitely taught me a lot over the years, I look forward to learning more and seeing more of what you do as time goes by. Keep a look out for John’s EA-T anywhere from a local meet to your local circuit. And also keep a lookout for his DAP EK running in the VTEC Club series.

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