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The Red Fastback - MA8 Project Thread


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Hi, I'm Patrick and this is my '96 Fastback which bought in late 2019 as my first car. Or at least how it looked a few years ago.

Lots of stuff has been done to it since then and I will try my best to dig up some pictures of the process as we catch up to the present. :)



The previous owner, who bought it brand-new, was an old man and pretty much all the dents are his work, by the way. Just wanted to clarify. ;)

It is (was) a bone stock, base-spec, MA8 with the optional 'Comfort' package installed from factory.

Meaning it's got a 1.4l engine that makes 90hp, electrical windows in the front, power steering, A/C and no ABS, with drum brakes in the rear.

Oh, and that atrocious fake wood that fools absolutely nobody and looks cheap as hell. What were they thinking?




Oldest pictures I could find, was already on some lowering springs by then. Also removed some fugly flower-stickers from the doors and got rid of the 'Comfort' badges.



Like every responsible young man before me, I of course immediately went ahead and installed some lowering springs and got myself a nice, quality exhaust.
The springs are from Eibach and, if memory serves me right, the exhaust is made by a Polish company called 'Ulter'.


We did some proper maintenance, though. You need a good foundation to build a house, right?

That, and my old man never would have let me get away without doing some maintenance anyways. :P



Beauty shot of the freshly unboxed exhaust.


The exhaust arrived on a weekday at around 7PM and me and my old man got giddy like a bunch of kids on christmas eve as we put or grubby hands on it.

We immediately went out into the freezing cold to get it installed ASAP. :D




Roughly an hour later we were done and it felt like it was the coolest car on the planet for that moment. If I only knew what was to follow... ;)

Might be able to find a video, but no promises.


In the next episode...! Broke 18 year old me finally saves up enough money to get a set of wheels.


Something big on the horizon.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

Finally found the time to continue this thread. Work has been hectic lately.



When I finally saved up enough money to buy myself something nice, I reached out to a buddy of mine who (at the time) worked for a certain wheel manufacturer...



Guess which one it was.


I got that set of Turbos for an amazing price and let me tell ya, unboxing a set of brand-spankin' new wheels is really something else. :D


Ordered some nice tires to go with them and did a test-fit. With the car being my daily driver, I chose some with good grip in wet conditions.




Sadly, it was in the middle of winter and I had to put the ugly ol' steelies back on, as I didn't want to get into trouble with the race marshalls. ;)



A few months of pretty much nothing happening went by and a peculiar thoght crossed my mind.


'Didn't my pa tell me he did lots of engine swaps back in the day? Maybe I can do one, as well?'


Well, you can guess what came next...

I actually consulted the owner's manual (of all things) to find out which engines I could choose from, as swapping in an engine that came stock in your chassis is a lot easier and cheaper to get entered in the car's registration.


So, some scrounging up money and searching the interwebs later, this ugly duckling arrived on my doorstep:




A D16Z9, a 1.6 liter single-jingle with 126hp.


Not that much, sure, but a huge upgrade over the stock 1.4 engine, barely coughing up 90hp.




About 8 hours of work later, the engine was installed and we fired it up for the first time- Success!


The swap was surprisingly straightforward and actually... easy? We could'nt believe ourselves how simple it was.


This was around spring of 2020, mind you.

Half a year after I bought my first car, it had already been engine-swapped.


I would call that a resounding success. ;D


By the way, I was still running the original 1.4l ECU.

Without any problems, I might add.


Oh, and I also kept the 1.4l transmission- the gearing is *chef's kiss.



Folks talk a lot about S20 transmissions on D-Series engines (A000 is what you'd want, by the way) but nobody ever talks about the fact that trannies made for lower displacements are also naturally geared shorter than those made for higher displacements.

Makes sense, no? Less torque = shoter gears for same acceleration.


My pa also told me that folks often used Diesel trannies for their builds back in the day, as they were a lot shorter than the 'regular' ones.


Here is an excerpt from the manual, please ignore the fact that it's all in German:


As you can see in the table, the maximum speed per gear (when revving up to the limiter) is the shortest in the 1.4l version.



I think not!


As I now got my hands on a VTEC engine, yo, I also wanted to use the VTEC. Duh.


So, I grabbed some tools and, as I was learning the trade of an electronics technician, got to work.


After about a week, I had managed to create this absolute abomination:



Behold, breadboard!

It's a super simple cicuit actually. A simple step-up converter for the power supply, a microcontroller for the logic and a 12V relay to switch a bigger relay in the engine bay, finally switching the VTEC solenoid.



It didn't work.



Turns out, the RPM signal is not a voltage-based signal, but a pulsing signal with rising frequency as the RPMs increase.

Had to get an oscilloscope to figure that one out...




This is what the signal looks like @4800RPM, for anyone interested.


With that being the case, I had to go back to the drawing board and design a new curcuit, capable of boosting the roughly 1.4V signal to a nice 5V signal so the microcontroller is actually able to detect it.

With the added difficulty of not changing the signal as it does so.


Lots of research later, I came up with this: (again, in German :P)


This cicruit uses a voltage divider to supply an operational amplifier with a fixed voltage of 0.5V to compare with the 1.3 to 1.4V signal coming from the ECU.


Why 0.5V and not 0V? You might ask.


To filter out noise, of course. :)



The rest stays the same, with an Arduino (microcontroller) to do all the comparing and deciding when to switch the solenoid on, and a few relais to do the heavy lifting.


Writing the program for that thing was ... enlightening.


You see, I already had a pretty good grasp of programming languages, as I went to a technical school and had IT as one of my four 'major' school subjects.

Different countries and school systems, you know the drill...


But even though I already had, ehh, maybe three years of programming experience, this was a challenge to pull off.

Not only does it have to count the individual pulses of a relatively high-frequency signal, but it also has to evaluate that signal an decide whether to switch fun-time on or off, while staying accurate in reading the RPMs...



I did it, though. :)


I now had a fully working D16Z9 with functioning VTEC, all while keeping the original ECU. :D

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At that point, I decided it was time to give the engine bay a small glow-up and started with a good clean.




And some knock-off goodies. ;)




I know, I know.

But there simply are no legit Mugen valve covers made for D-Series engines...


Me personally? I like the way it looks, and that's what's most important in my opinion. :)



This was around July of 2020, and my next step was a reliability mod.

Oiling, to be precise.


I heard that D-Series engines suffer from cavitation and oil starvation if you give them a good thrashing, and with this being the legitimately only D16Z9 you could purchase off the Internet, I didn't really plan on blowing it up...


So I got myself an upgraded oil pump from ACL and installed it real quick.

Also checked the oil pan for any kind of debris or other stuff.


It is a used engine, after all...




But there was nothing out of the ordinary, thankfully, and the installation went pretty smoothly.

I even had a chance to check out the bores from underneath.




And I found out that this engine is even more interesting than I thought.


Turns out, this engine comes out of an automatic EJ1 from the US of A.


This bad boy went trans-atlantic at some point.



Buttoned everything back up, took out all the spark plugs and cranked the engine for a few seconds to see if it build oil pressure.


A minor oopsie on my part, as I quickly learned.


Cranking the engine with the plugs out fried my ignition coil.






Well, bought a new one and installed that as well.




Guess which is the old one...



With more power and reliability checked off on my to-do list, I went on to improve the handling side of things.


I got lucky and actually managed to snag a used MG ZS180 front-arb for very little money.




That thing is a certified chonker.


Paired it with new links and slapped it under the car.


To say it was an upgrade would be an understatement.

That thing transformed the handling of the car drastically.



With that also checked off, I decided to address the looks.


Appearances matter, you know? :P



Got a new set of headlights, and to round everything off, I got a set of used taillights.




Not that big of a difference, but lots of small changes quickly add up.





The taillights were a huge upgrade though, they look a lot better than the pre-facelift orange ones!



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It was at this point that I started looking up foglights and I even found an original switch up for sale on good ol' eBay.




I also got another steering wheel, as I didn't like the original one anymore.


Sadly, the S2000 wheel I got for an absolutely incredible price didn't fit and I had to return it. :(


This left me with two options:

  1. Get an Accord Type R / Integra Type R wheel
  2. Send my OEM wheel in for some work to be done

With the prices of those wheels, I quickly settled for option 2, as I was not willing to pay 1000+ Euros for a grubby old steering wheel.


Honda tax is insane, guys.



Anyways, after sending the wheel away to get some work done to it, I found yet another goodie on the Interwebs and couldn't help myself but buy it.


After both arrived in the mail, the interior started to look a lot better...




The wheel feels a lot better now, and it even looks nice. :)

And the cluster looks super mint.


The rev counter might be a bit overkill right now, but that might change in the future... >:)



But the now nice looking wheel and cluster also made me realise that the absolutely horrible looking fake-wood has to go.

It doesn't match the look of the car anymore.


The head unit also doesn't sit right with me.



But, as life tends to do, I got a nasty surprise when I went to take a routine look underneath the driver side front fender, as I read that these cars tend to rot there.


And yes, they do. :(

Completely rotted through.




Even getting the damned fender off was an exercise in frustration, as the bolt in the middle of the rust hole was completely seized.





But with my pops being a car mechanic, we got to work.



First, we removed the cancerous tissue.





Second, we got ourselves some sheet metal.




And then we welded it in, sealing it with rust converter and lots of wax on the inside.





We then gave it some body sealer and painted it with 'color matched' spraypaint.




Looks a lot better now.





The fender was also rusted to hell and back down there and we basically replaced the whole bottom section.


Sadly, the 'color matched' paint was ... not really matched.


Eh, still better than rust. :)




We also checked the other side and thankfully found only minor rust there, so we used various products to conserve the metal and prevent any further rust for now.


With that problem fixed, I could finally go back to making things look better.


Got a set of clear (I think it was) Prelude side-indicators and some tasteful stickers to go with them.




You can see the mismatched paint if you look for it.






Also bought a different head-unit from Blaupunkt for that sweet, sweet OEM+ look.




And yes, the 'DAB' in its name stands for exactly that.


This bad boy got Bluetooth and DAB+, alll while looking like a typical boring 90's radio.

I can't stress enough just how much I dislike the look of most aftermarket head-units.


They just look so goddamn cheap!



By the way, we are now in the year 2022 (the steering wheel thing happened in 2021) and I am making progress on the foglights.


Found some nice ones from Hella and slapped 'em on the ol' Honda. :)





Also got a hold of a rear arb from an EG6, with the chassis mounts included!


They might have been a bit rusty, though...




Soaked them in a bath of coke over a few days and that took care of the worst of it.


This is an almost thirty years old car after all, and it is allowed to have signs of age here and there, so I don't mind a bit of surface rust here or there, especially on suspension components.


Got some EG lower control arms and hardrace polyurethane links to go with them and bolted them in.




They ... 'fit'.

There now is an order in which you have get them in or out, but they do fit.


Rear ARB successfully installed! :D


And this mod, again, dramatically increased the handling of the car.

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After that, I went back to the interior and looked for options on how to get rid of that fugly fake-wood trim.


As you might know by now, I do have a talent for finding rare stuff and actually managed to find a complete set of Aerodeck trim, center console included. :D




Igonre the shift knob, it was a youthful mistake.




But look at that 'carbon', look at it!


That is what I call OEM+.





Also got rid of the ugly, fake EP3 shift knob in favor of a genuine (yes, I do buy genuine if it's available) Spoon one.


The interior looks so much better than it used to now!




All the lights work, everything is hooked up properly.

Remember, this car didn't come with fogs from factory.





Also got some additional oil temp and pressure gauges from VDO.

They are pretty much the go-to company when it comes to stuff like this here in Germany, as they have a lot of history with racing and even supplied the gauges to many OEMs, like Volkswagen and so on.

For example, the gauges from a MK. II Golf are also made by VDO.




And that ACL pump sure is doing a good job of building oil pressure, alright...

Even during summer, it reaches 6 bars when cold!



And we're now reaching the part where I start adding power to the engine.

I finally got my hands on a P28 ECU and installed it, getting rid of my janky VTEC-controller and the original ECU.


No pics for that one.


But I also got a few nice bits that add a bit of power and lots of good noises while driving. >:)




The throttle body and the intake manifold are both from the same company, but for legal reasons I am going to remind you all that the intake mani is most definitely an original Honda one, as you can see going by the PGM-FI lettering on it.


(It definitely is not a Skunk2 intake mani with an aluminium plate glued on top to make it inconspicuous.)


Oh, and a big throttle body completely transforms the engine's character.

It revs insanely fast now and the sounds, guys, the sounds...!


It definitely added power, as I got scared of my car for the first time when I got in the passenger seat during the test drive.


It just keeps pulling and pulling until you hit the limiter.

If you asked me, I'd say it makes peak power somewhere around 7000RPM now, but it doesn't fall off after that.


The fuel economy, funnily enough, didn't change at all...



Is that a bit of foreshadowing?

Yes, it is.




Well, because I drove it like that for a few months and, doing a routine spark plug inspection, saw that it ran quite lean.


Oopsie number two.


Got a kit from BLOX racing to convert the stock fp regulator to an adjustable one, but that kit turned out to be utter garbage and it leaked badly.

Got an AEM adjustable fuel pressure regulator after that.



Don't buy cheap, or you'll buy twice.


Lesson learned.



Moving on, I decided to do something about the cheap looking intake pipe, as I didn't like the way it looks, and neither would the police during a traffic stop.

But I had to run something bigger than that pitiful stock one, so tough luck.



Did a bit of browsing the Internet and my old man, of all people, came to me one day and showed me the product page of an intake charge air pipe for a Fiat Ducato.



Yes. A Fiat. Ducato.



Guys, I'm not gonna lie, that thing fits like a f-ing glove.

I only had to drill a hole for the breather pipe, but that was literally all it took to make it fit.


The diameter is literally perfect.


I was a bit concerned at first, because it looks like it might be just as bumpy on the inside, but no, it's completely smooth in there.


Perfect for making power! >:D






No, officer, it's stock!




It fits way too good.


The part where it mounts to the throttle body is even tapered a bit on the inside, making it a perfectly even inner diameter for the air.



Fiat, I love you.





That was everything up until the beginning of 2023.

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This spring, I finally received something I ordered almost a whole year ago.


Worst part is, the shop I got it from also is located in Germany.


Those guys literally took a whole year to ship something less than 500 kilometers.

It took a lot of threatening them with legal action and dozens of Emails, but my babies finally arrived one day.




Just look at that! :D


As I installed those juicy B6 dampers, I also decided to give my rear drums a small makeover with high temperature paint.




They were only a year or two old, but had already started to gather surface rust...




The rear is starting to look real nice. :)




Little beauty-shot of the whole rear.




The front calipers do look a bit bland, but there is no real reason to do anything to them yet, as my wheels pretty much cover them completely.



... Until the car started to veer to the right everytime I brake.


Time for some new calipers!




Of course I painted them. ;)




Even got new hardware to go with them.





And that's it!


At least mechanically speaking.


Sure, I put a sticker on the rear window and installed some wind deflectors, but that's pretty minor stuff.





But there is something on the horizon...





Here is a little beauty-shot of the engine bay as a thank you for making it this far!




Would you believe me if I told you this was shot on a cheap digicam from 2006? Well, it was. :P

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There are lots of modifications that I don't have any pictures of that also got left out, like silicon cooler hoses and a bigger radiator, but those kinds of mods aren't that exciting to begin with, so...



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