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B20 VTEC-Powered 1988 Honda CRX w/ Age-Defying Style & A Rich History

2,600 miles of shipping, 16 years of waiting and a 2-year stint in a 1-car garage culminate in a "forever car"

by: RodrezMar 23, 2020

It's not all that common, but sometimes a feature car like this B20 VTEC-swapped 1988 Honda CRX truly stands the test of time and the builder's choice of customization remains relevant several years later. For example, if you look back 15 years, many of the popular modifications of that era might not sit so well with the modern crowd. To be fair, this car was actually built just a few years ago but it was based entirely on Wayne Denman's original, well-known CRX from the early 2000s. That car, taken in an instant without his consent, was followed up with another build prior to a very long hiatus from cars altogether, and eventually the reality of never being able to fully enjoy his first CRX project prompted a return to form.

Hawaiian Honda History

To get an idea of where his roots originate, you need to take a step back to the early 2000s, at a time when internet capability and usage weren't nearly what they are today. Nevertheless, the slow-moving information superhighway still made a major impact on our community. At the time, a group of dedicated enthusiasts in Hawaii under the Endless Garage banner began making a name for themselves. Not the way that you see today, with strategic hashtags and share farming, but instead through posting to heavily trafficked forums where the crew became unknowingly internet famous and spawned copycat builds and a general influence in style that spread like wildfire.

One of the vehicles in that illustrious lineup was Denman's Mocha-colored CRX fitted with Spoon SW388 wheels and a Mugen-style body kit. Like almost all of the Hawaiian cars from the group at that time, it sat low and aggressive, confidently blurring the lines between track, street and show car—all the while partaking in all of the above on the regular.

The B20 VTEC Mocha CRX

The unique-colored CRX was powered by a B20 VTEC and less than two weeks after he completed the car and had it tuned, it was gone—a total loss after an accident that left Denman considerably injured, but not willing to give up.

"I ended up buying another CRX and went straight to work." In no time, the new CRX build was underway with Endless Garage building a custom cage, the salvageable parts from the original build transferred to the new chassis and it was handed off to a friend for paint—this time covered inside and out in Championship White. "We dynoed the motor again and I ended up racing that car until our track closed in 2006."

That closure not only impacted Denman and his friends, but the entire enthusiast community in Hawaii at a time when the region had become well known for churning out some very memorable builds. "After that, I sold it to my best friend Shaun and I moved to the mainland (Oregon) with some car buddies from back home."

Cars had been the focal point of his life for years in Hawaii, but after the accident, the rebuild and the loss of the only available track which served as the biggest motivating force on the island, Denman pulled away from the automotive world entirely and focused on life in Oregon. The urge to build again just wasn't there until unexpectedly, it was sparked, albeit lightly, by his best friend years later. "One day my buddy Shaun calls me up and says he's sending me everything from my old CRX except the car. He clearly wanted me to start building cars again."

Jumping Back into Honda building

A 12-year hiatus from custom car building and word that a pallet of parts and the engine from a project over a decade old don't instill a ton of confidence, but after thinking it over, Denman felt he was up for the challenge. "I decided I wanted my old Mocha CRX back. I never thoroughly got to enjoy the car before I crashed it, so here was the opportunity to have it again. I went on the hunt for the exact same model, a 1988 HF. I looked for months and eventually found one from a local shop."

His previous two builds were done under the watchful eye and helping hands of close friends at Endless Garage, but that was a lifetime ago. This time he'd be solo and sentenced to handle every aspect of the build in his one-car garage located over 2,600 miles away from his past build network.

Steadily, the parts collection grew, and the hours of labor increased as Denman took it upon himself to cover the details that many would overlook. Stick your head inside the wheel wells and you'll notice micro-sized stitch welds that carryover into the rear interior. Various body mounts were also strengthened, and he built a custom cage that he just wasn't satisfied with, so he cut it out and started over again. This time a Safety 21 bolt-in rollcage would serve as the foundation while he welded-in custom dimple die gussets—the protective measure a nod to the original Mocha build that was laced with an intricate rollcage which ultimately saved his life during the accident.

The rest of the interior offers a divide between hardcore street car and track car—something the Hawaiian-bred builder is all too familiar with. A Sparco Evo fixed back seat is joined by a Sprint passenger bucket, both draped with Takata harnesses, while the driver gets an OMP WRC steering wheel pushed closer to his face courtesy of @checkerdsports billet, extended hub and a shift knob now sits much higher thanks to a Fastline stalk. No digital dash or extensive electronic lightshow, as much like Denman's grassroots style of the past, an analog feel is all but mandatory.

Other than the Omni Power factory replacement tach, the rest of the dash and console are OEM Honda and the original carpet is still in place. Left and right, the door panels are long gone as is any sign of factory plastics behind the abrupt end of the factory molded carpet. In the rear rests the fuel cell mounted within the spare tire well just below a shock tower bar, all surrounded by fresh Mocha paint. And, about that paint.

Homebuilt CRX from Top to Bottom

As mentioned earlier, the color choice stems from his original CRX build, which at that time featured a battleship grey interior. This time around the neutral hue made its way to every square inch of the chassis, but without the help of a body shop. He adds, "I've never had any professional body and paint training before. I picked up any skills from experience helping out my uncle and friends. There was always someone's car that needed work."

Denman converted his small garage into a makeshift paint booth, but with such limited space, was forced to spray one side and let it dry, then turn the car around in order to allow enough room to spray the other side. A time-consuming process with an incredible result that, if you weren't told beforehand, would have you assuming a full-time body shop took care of the color change. Mugen door caps and one-layer side skirts combined with a cut Wings West rear bumper make up the majority of the aero updates while up front, a JDM conversion was completed with a FEEL's front bumper that his friend Steve Kwan helped source through the JDM conduit known as @icbmatt.

An ode to the original build, black, 15-inch wheels were used once again but this time around Work Meister S1, courtesy of his friend Shaun, are on duty up front. Though they were in rough condition when they arrived from Hawaii, Denman turned to Cooper of @cscustomizing for a thorough restoration and that same muted black feel on the original Spoon wheels carries over to the S1s with fresh powedercoat. Lightweight RPF1s in the same 15x7 sizing, trail in the rear. Upon delivering the wheels, Cooper volunteered to lend a hand in building a custom engine harness to help fire the exact B20 VTEC engine built way back in 2003, though it was freshened up since it hadn't been fired since its last few track passes in 2006. 12:1 compression Wiseco pistons and Eagle rods are in place with an ITR head stuffed with JUN valve springs, retainers, stage III cams and adjustable cam gears. 440cc injectors backed by a 255lph fuel pump and regulated by a Radium FPR take cues from a Hondata S300 that results in over 220hp and 153lbs.ft of torque tasked with pulling around a featherlight chassis.

We see time and time again, stories of builders cutting away from the automotive world to focus on other life events and oftentimes make their way back to a project car. In many of those cases, it's a whole new look and feel, as they do their best to adapt to the current atmosphere and try to find that magic combination that once made itself known. For Denman, all that he knew and lived in those early 2000s with his close friends in Hawaii is oozing out of every homebuilt pore of this two-seater. That the style and detail applied to this CRX lends itself to being as much a standout now as it was almost 20 years ago isn't the story we're after. The fact that the builder's sole purpose in putting in countless hours in a one-car garage to finish what he started almost two decades ago, certainly is.

August Cascade

Mingle within the digital confines of the Honda crowd's social media world and you've undoubtedly seen August Cascade on a sticker or apparel piece. Wayne came up with the name—which, in actuality, is a brand—as a means to connect further with the community he jumped back into with this build. "It's something I decided to start when I began building the current CRX. I wanted something to coincide with the car and have involvement with the automotive culture. If I wasn't able to do something with the CRX event wise, etc., at least I would be connected to the scene through social media/internet." The name, which refers to both the month that he took the initial step toward establishing the brand, and the mountainous region which he calls home, features unique, simple designs that steer clear of trends, and you won't find exaggerated images or cartoonish efforts. Instead, the feel is exclusive and really intended for those in the know—its maturity very much in line with this veteran builder's style and outlook. augustcascade.com