Monday, April 4, 2016

The Track Car Project: Part 2... My new Civic is here!

After a 1600 km road trip over Easter weekend, my new track car is finally here! Here is the story of the new Civic so far...

Alex and I decided that the most fun way to travel to Tiverton, Ontario to pick up the car would be to make a weekend family road trip out of it. We recruited my mother (and her Honda Fit) so that the driving could be shared on the way home (I would be driving the Civic). This is why we chose Easter weekend, as the daycare would be closed Friday and Monday and Alex and I would not be working those days either. The plan was to leave Friday morning and return Sunday evening, so that we could still have a relaxing day on Monday.

We left home at around 9:30 on Friday and were in Kingston by lunch time. We were happy to find a Panera restaurant to enjoy a leisurely lunch. In order to keep the boys in a good mood, we tried to break up the car travel into manageable stretches. We drove straight through Toronto and stopped at a Swiss Chalet in Guelph, only 40 minutes away from our destination for the night, in Drayton, where we would be staying with my uncle Peter and aunt Christine. Say what you will about Swiss Chalet, Alex and I enjoyed our chicken and the place was very kid-friendly. We got to Drayton before 9:00 pm. Oscar had fallen asleep, but we managed to transfer him to his travel crib without really waking him. Jules was quite excited and did not go to bed very early. He shared a bedroom with my mom while Alex and I shared one with Oscar. 

The next morning, we decided that Peter and I would go see/buy the Civic while Jules, Alex, Christine and the boys stayed in Drayton. There was to be an Easter egg hunt in Drayton and this was deemed to be the most fun option for Jules. 

Peter and I headed out to Tiverton, on the shores of Lake Huron. We rode in Peter's Dodge Caravan, a very comfortable vehicle for the passenger (me!). I appreciated not having to drive, but the roads were quite boring, being mostly straight lines through farm land that began to all look the same to me. We easily found our seller's house. Brian, the seller, had a nice detached workshop, and the Civic was inside (along with a 360 hp turbo CRX!). He rolled out the car, and I knew right away that everything he had told me about what good condition the body was in were spot on. We headed out for a drive, Brian driving the first portion and taking us on a twisty access road leading to the Bruce nuclear power station. The road was almost covered in winter sand, but the car gripped. When he floored the gas pedal, I was not blown away by the acceleration, but it was more than brisk. I drove the car back to his place and I was sold. There was nothing visibly wrong with the car and it was really nice to drive. As I had pre-negotiated the sale price with Brian, the deal was basically done. We filled out the paperwork and, after loading up a few spare parts, Peter and I headed out. I was very happy with my purchase. We stopped for lunch in a local diner and met the family back in Drayton. Jules was ecstatic about the Easter egg hunt... He had won the draw in his age group, the prize being a John Deere carrying case with toy tractors and animals in it. We loaded up the Civic and the van and headed to a family party for another of my uncles, Tim, who loved 15 minutes away in Palmerston. 

I took my uncle Gordon out for a spin on the farm roads outside Palmerston, and he was impressed with the car's power to weight ratio. We headed back to Drayton after the party and had an early night, as we would be returning home the following morning.

On Easter Sunday, we managed to leave the house before 9:00 am, which was a pleasant surprise. I rode alone in the Civic with the rest of the group in the Fit. We had brought some old walkie-talkies, but the batteries died after an hour. Anyway, we knew where we were going. We had a stop to make on the way home, in Pickering. 

While shopping around for a track-oriented suspension for the Civic, I had been offered, by Sajan of Synoptic Tuning, a used set of Dynamics coilovers from the 2005-2006 Honda Michelin Challenge Series. This was a 2500$ item in its time. Sajan had a used set. I was doing research online to see what a fair price would be for the used set... that's when I came across an ad from 2014 on the Ontario CASC race forums for a new-in-box set of the same suspension (not exactly the same, Sajan had modified his set to make it height-adjustable). I sent a message to the seller to see if they were still available, and they were. The price was 1200$ negotiable, so I offered 1000$, which was accepted. The deal was, of course, conditional on me actually buying the car when I saw it in person. 

So we stopped at John's house in Pickering to pick up the suspension. John was a hardcore Honda guy, having worked for the company for 27 years. He had a Pilot, a CRV, a 99-00 Civic SiR (with Honda Michelin wheels on it!) and, in his garage, a 60's Firebird and a mint condition 1992 Acura NSX! He had raced a bunch of Honda's in the past, even an NSX it turned out. We could have talked all day, but the family was waiting to get home. John also offered me some Cobalt race pads for 50$ a set, so I picked up 2 sets and we were on our way.

We stopped for lunch before leaving the area and had surprisingly good bagel sandwiches. After lunch, Alex and the kids came aboard the Civic for the rest of the ride home and my mom headed home alone in the Fit. It seemed to me that the car's engine was improving over time, maybe due to the fact that the winter gas, with added fuel stabilizer, was being gradually replaced with fresh gas. Anyway, the car was super stable on the highway and has a lot of available torque, for a Honda. I'm sure it's nothing like the new turbo models, but I was duly impressed.

We stopped in Cornwall and the kids played in a lovely park on the waterfront. We made a final stop to eat at the first Quebec service center and took our time getting home. We got home pretty late from the kids' point of view, but we had Monday to recover.

So that's the story of how I ended up with my 6th Honda Civic. I have to thank Alex and my mom for making the trip into a fun weekend with the family instead of just a there-and-back trip to pick up a car. It turns out you can go on car-related road trips even when you have a family!

As for the car itself, all of the seller's representations about the car were spot on and this Civic should be very fun to drive on the track, while still being civilized enough for the street. The colour, officially called "Euro Yellow", will not be to everyone's taste, but it's starting to grow on me. I like that it's a rare colour, as it was only offered in 2002. At least people will know I have arrived when I show up at the track! In the next chapter, I will cover the SAAQ provincial inspection and, hopefully, the installation of the coilover suspension.

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