Home Honda Owner's Literature Civic Duty
LA Car Online - March 28, 2001

Civic Duty
The Ultimate Guide to the World's Most Popular Sport Compact Car
Alan Paradise with Foreword by Oscar Jackson
Bentley Publishers (www.bentleypublishers.com)
256 pages, 144 color & B/W photographs

Reviewed by: Roy Nakano

"Back in 1989, Alan Paradise started a new car magazine called Sport Compact Car. It featured custom-tuned Hondas, Nissans, and other four-cylinder compact cars. With newsstands dominated by American hot rod magazines, Sport Compact Car was a lonely voice speaking the language of import tuners.

The years went by, and high school parking lots in Southern California took a dramatic turn. Camaros, Mustangs and American muscle cars were vanishing and being replaced by custom-tuned compact imports. The hot rod press hadn't yet caught on. The newsstands had rows of hot rod magazines, and virtually all of them ignored this new form of hot rodding. It's not clear if it was jingoism or just an unwillingness to change with the times, but the absence of coverage by the automotive press was conspicuous.

The detractors were vocal, however. Since many of the import tuners in Los Angeles were Asian Americans and the object of their affection cars from Japan, the drivers were labeled "ricers" and their vehicles dismissed as "rice burners." Today, a vehicle with excess tuner accessories is derogatorily referred to as "riced out." Meanwhile, import tuner enthusiasts have turned the term around, displaying decals proclaiming, "Got Rice?"

Although the newest hot rods were based on cars from Japan, what was being done to them was very American. When Honda introduced its 52-horsepowered Civic back in 1973, no one could have predicted that it would one day become the chosen medium for California's newest hot rods - but that's exactly what happened. As Honda tuner pioneer Oscar Jackson states in the forward to Alan Paradise's new book, Civic Duty, "Today, the Civic has become the primary choice for an entirely new generation of hot rodders. The Civic is the '55 Chevy of the import performance world."

In Civic Duty, Alan Paradise has put together a bible for the Honda Civic owner interested in hot rodding this popular compact car. If you ever thought about having a project car to customize, Paradise argues that you need not confine yourself to looking for a '32 Ford or a late '50s/early '60s Chevy. The car to customize may already be in your driveway in the form of the Honda Civic, CRX or del Sol. Paradise's book guides the owner through virtually every performance and aesthetic modification for the 1985-2000 Civic. Here's a sampling of what's contained in the book:

-A chapter on the basics of personalizing - i.e., the various routes one can take to modifying the car. This chapter assesses your needs and reveals what to expect in terms of time and money spent, depending on the modification route you take for your Civic.

-Suspension 101 - modifications for street, strip, or track, including springs, shocks, bushings, anti-roll bars, strut tower bars, wheels, and tires.

-Bolt-on performance modifications, including air induction systems, camshaft timing and overdrive pulleys, headers, exhaust systems, ignition systems, and ECU technology.

-Hardcore engine modification, including engine swap information (which are the best and easiest; which are the ones to avoid), pistons, head work, camshafts, engine building tricks, supercharging, turbocharging, and nitrous oxide enhancements.

-Side-by-side chapters on improving acceleration (Power To The Pavement) and stopping (Improve Braking for Better Use of Horsepower).

-Exterior and interior styling enhancements, including a chapter devoted to exterior design (with plenty of photographic examples using spoilers, wings, ground effects enhancements), one devoted to the interior (seats, door panels, gauges, and roll cages), and still another on graphics (including what you can expect to pay for flames, scallops, murals, panels, faces, and competition accents).

-Performance driving, including information on road racing, autocross, drag racing, and driving schools.

-Car clubs, including what you can expect by joining organizations such as the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America), brand associations, such as the Honda Acura Club, or multi-brand organizations such as the Super Street Power Club.

One of the nicest touches of Civic Duty is the introductory chapter, which provides an extensive history of the Honda Civic. Paradise does not confine himself to telling us about the Civic, however. He also covers the history of import cars in America, the history of Honda Motor Company, and the history of import tuners. Paradise misses very little. He doesn't mention the ethnic contributions to the development of the sport compact car tuner popularity. For instance, D. James Romero wrote in the Los Angeles Times (Section E, January 22, 1997) that the import tuner craze can be traced back to the lowering of Sentras and other compact cars in the Chicano communities around the early 1980s. An equally strong influence is the lowered and hot-rodded Datsun 510s that roamed the streets of Gardena in the early 1970s. Those cars were owned predominantly by Asian Americans, who, in turn, got their inspiration from the race-prepared 510s designed by Brock Racing Enterprises. But this is not a history book; it's a book on tuning and customizing Honda Civics, and it just happens to have a very fine chapter on its history.

There are now thousands of car clubs across the country to support the tuner community. In 1997, the Times (ibid.) estimated that Southern California alone had 250 car clubs that provide a social fabric for the sport compact car enthusiast. Today, the numbers are greater, now that other major car manufacturers have gotten into the sport compact tuner act.

Twenty-five years from now, will Honda Civic coupes with lowered suspensions, single-barreled wide-diameter exhausts, nitrous oxide kits, and blown VTEC engines be viewed along-side such collectibles as the '55 Chevy, or even the muscle-cars of the "Sixties? It doesn't sound as inconceivable as it once did. In the meantime, if you want to know which subcompact cars will carry high resale values, look no further than your neighborhood high schools. If you want to become a part of this history, look to Alan Paradise's Civic Duty.

Welcome to the new hot rods of America."