1992 Honda Civic VX - Project Sipper

Not Your Typical MPG Car: Part 4

Text By , Photography by Cale Bunker,

Rays TE37 SL Wheels

Selecting the perfect wheel to complement our project build was a tough decision. We knew that the OE aluminum wheels already came lightweight from the factory but were only 13 inches in diameter, not to mention hideous looking on the car. We were determined to select a wheel that not only looked good, but was also lightweight to justify our build. With that in mind, we contacted Mackin Industries for their expertise. General manager Eddie Lee suggested outfitting our ride with a set of Volk Racing TE37 SL wheels. The Black edition (overseas exclusive model) is a one-piece forged wheel that uses the latest technology and mold-forming tool to allow weight savings in comparison to the previous model TE37. We weighed our 15x6.5 wheel (smallest size allowable to fit our Falken ECO tires) to the tune of 10 pounds each.

Rays Duralumin Lug Nuts

The Rays Engineering Duralumin lug nuts feature a strong and lightweight design. In comparison, standard nuts are typically around 55 grams, compared to the Rays lugs, which come in at only 23 grams. The Duralumin is available in four colors and features one seven-sided lug nut per wheel for locking, which can only be removed with a special key for security purposes.

Evasive Motorsports Custom Alignment

Evasive Motorsports owner Mike Chang helped to mount and balance our wheel and tire combination before loading the car onto their Hunter alignment rack to dial in our vehicle.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the new Falken Ziex Ze-914 versus our OE tire, which offers some visual insight into the tread design's superiority and large contact patch for achieving low fuel consumption and excellent handling and braking characteristics also on wet surfaces.

Since we lowered our Civic more than 2 inches on each corner, we asked Evasive to inspect our alignment a second time around and to no surprise, we were informed that both toe and camber settings were off. This was a problem we were glad to address, knowing bad alignments can impede fuel economy and cause rolling resistance, which leads to decreased fuel economy.

Falken Ecorun Tires

A key component in helping to obtain improved fuel economy was choosing the perfect tire for our vehicle. Falken recently introduced their Ziex Ze-914 Ecorun tire designed specifically for low rolling resistance, a perfect counterpart to our Rays TE37 wheels. Designed as a hybrid vehicle tire, Falken engineered the Ze-914 to deliver 20 percent less rolling resistance than its previous model Ziex Ze-912 thanks in part to a new silica infused compound that has been proven to deliver fuel savings. The Ze-914 Ecorun tires consist of an asymmetrical tread pattern, chamfered corners for improved wear/handling performance in both dry and wet conditions and a UTQG rating of 340, a grade that's typically not found on Eco-type tires sold on the market today.

FCS Custom Aero

When we first began mapping out a plan for our project a few months back, we knew aerodynamic parts would be vital in helping us achieve increased mpg. Keeping that in mind, we commissioned FCS Race, otherwise known as Fluid Control Solutions located in San Fernando Valley, CA, to fabricate a custom underbelly pan for our Civic. If FCS doesn't ring a bell, chances are you don't own a Honda. FCS specializes in a wide range of custom fabrication that varies from fuel cells to suspension components. When owner Jason Park isn't spending late hours at his shop, he can be found testing and tuning his 1,200hp 9-second Outlaw Street FWD Class Integra at the local dragstrip.

Typically, track cars running true flat bottom setups are also running a side dump exhaust. Since this isn't a race car, and we weren't willing to run a side exit exhaust, we decided to design a bellypan that covers the front subframe. Using an underbelly panel provides improvement for the aerodynamic drag with a smoother, more uniform surface for air to pass evenly without causing turbulence, thus leading to a lower drag. Using lightweight aluminum, FCS integrated an air dam to the front spoiler to improve drag by reducing the airflow under the vehicle. Dzus fasteners were cleverly devised into the two- piece panel to allow easy access to the oil pan bolt when changing fluids.

Sparco Quick Release Spring Latches

To give our Flex-a-lite (FAL) molded rear window an OE appearance, we installed some rubber trim, which we purchased at a local parts store. We then proceeded to secure the window using a pair of Sparco quick release spring latches we creatively powdercoated in Eastwood electric blue.

Sparco Fighter Bucket Seats

Marketed as a street performance seat, the Sparco Fighters are lightweight as well as comfortable enough for us to endure our soon-to-be trek across multiple states. Having owned/sat in numerous bucket seats in the past, we can honestly say that the Sparco Fighter is one of the more comfortable seats on the market today. The lumbar pads definitely help keep your backside from falling apart when driving in either harsh race or long road trip conditions.

Sparco recently introduced their newly designed seat rail. We used spacers on both the rails and under the seat to angle the buckets for driving comfort.

Fuel Sipping Engine Modifications

Prior to focusing on additional engine modifications, we replaced our OE head/catalytic converter and exhaust setup with a DC Sports 4-2-1 header, Buddy Club Spec II Racing exhaust system, and Blox Racing telescoping test pipe. While planning out an attack strategy on the D15Z engine, I struck up an interesting conversation with Doug Macmillan of Hondata. "Ever consider a hot air intake?" Doug asked. My initial response was "Doug, are you serious?" But upon research, I quickly realized why it would be plausible for our mpg vehicle. A cold air intake is a familiar part within the performance market and designed to ingest a denser, colder inlet charge to create power, which causes the ECU to compensate to run a richer air/fuel ratio and burn more fuel at the expense of sacrificing fuel economy. The hot air intake, on the other hand, is a concept that motorsports legend Smokey Yunick brought to fruition in the '90s with his turbocharged Pontiac Fiero that delivered a mind-boggling 51 mpg. The theory behind using heat was completely opposite of what many of us were taught over the years--that heat is your engine's worst enemy. Dubbed the "hot air engine", Smokey used coolant heat and exhaust waste heat to heat the intake air. The purpose of warmer/denser air allows the car's computer to lean the air/fuel mixture that in turn takes less fuel to complete a combustion stroke and allows a more complete burn, which increases fuel economy. Smokey's Fiero ran a mind-boggling 22:1 air/fuel ratio, and offered additional horsepower and better throttle response.

We took a page out of Smokey's book and created our own hot air intake using a galvanized air duct vent we purchased at the local hardware store. At first glance the duct looked awkward, primarily due to its shape, but after a few hours massaging the piece using a pair of shears and taking careful measurements, we were able to fabricate an intake plenum box that engulfed the headers' primary tubes that would be used to draw heat into the intake. If you haven't noticed by now, there's a reason why Honda designed the intake pipe so small. The small diameter, high velocity intake runners contribute to swirl in the cylinders, which promotes good combustion.

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Cani Lupine
Cani Lupine

Sooooo many errors in this article series. For example: "The purpose of warmer/denser air.." Warmer air is LESS dense than cold air. Less oxygen=less fuel to maintain the proper ratio.


That's pretty cool with new wheels and the computer to lean out the fuel mixture. So what's the new mileage?

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