Where did spoon sport come from? This 1985 JDM Civic started it all
Spoon Sports is a brand that stands for everything to do with Honda performance, especially when it comes to what enthusiasts refer to as the automaker’s golden era spanning the late 80s to early 2000s. From the bright, screaming yellow and blue colors to the revered company founder and incumbent president Tatsuru Ichishima, the name and product line are recognized and respected worldwide. And while you’ve undoubtedly seen Spoon calipers, ash gray SW388 wheels, and signature Kevlar pieces scattered across every auto show you’ve ever attended in the past few decades, make no mistake, the heart and soul of Spoon Sports are part of it on the track.
In 1985, long before the company took over, a then 33-year-old Ichishima concentrated on just one thing: racing. He had built this ’85 Honda Civic E-AT chassis rail vehicle that not only stood its ground in battle but also stood the test of time. By nature, raw and functional, Ichishima eschewed all of the non-essential components and the little comfort that Econobox standards offered in the mid-1980s, before developing an engine program that would maintain longevity and reliability for countless racing adventures. It’s been through hell and back, touring the US at a number of events after being repainted and freshened up. Thanks to GoTuning Unlimited, the authorized North American distributor of Spoon Sports, I was able to photograph both Ichishima’s iconic Civic and the brand’s modern CR-Z before they were shipped back on Jan.
Bare bones for battle
With the aim of getting the car to an area under 2,000 pounds, taking into account the added weight of a roll cage and air jack, most of the Civic has been completely bare. Inside, you’ll find little more than a dashboard, door panels, and an extremely tight carbon-kevlar bucket seat. I had the opportunity to drive the car during the photo shoot, and compared to one of Spoon’s off-the-shelf Kevlar bucket seats, this version felt painfully slimmer. When I was pushing myself no more than 60 percent of the way into the seat (as far as I could) I noticed the custom instrument cluster and warning lights, the roll cage bars flanking the cab, and the ECU, along with a team of metal dials, from which I suspect acted as precursors to VTEC controls that became trending about 15 years after this car was introduced.
Hell on wheels
The Civic is harder to start than you can imagine. A number of attempts have been ignored from the 1.6-liter ZC powerplant, which to this day is still silent regarding internal modifications, but eventually the silence that surrounded GoTuning’s headquarters was cut in two by an angry bark of the primitive car Halves cracked exhaust system. Stepping on the accelerator caused lightning-fast, sloppy outbursts of anger to pop up right under the passenger door, and I headed out, just a short drive to a nearby location to snap a few photos. The clutch has a hairpin trigger, the ride is disgustingly tough, the sound is utterly deafening, and three decades worth of creeks and moans make themselves felt with even the mildest concrete imperfections – it’s perfect! Everything you’d expect from a nude, no-nonsense, purpose-built track demon is wrapped up in this micro-sized hatch. It literally begged to be abused and almost fought me as I tried to slow down through a narrow parking lot.
Back to basics
Aside from the eye-catching paintwork, the exterior of Ichishima’s third generation remains subtle by today’s standards. No canards, oversized splinters, or massive rear wings; In fact, the only aero changes happen under the car’s belly with a flat screen that goes from bumper to bumper. There are Enkei center lock wheels wrapped in Advan rubber on all four corners, and just behind the front rollers is a set of air jacks with a third unit in the center of the stern to quickly lift the wheels off the ground .
Spoon sport in the USA:
About 26 years fast forward and a two-door hatchback known as the short-lived CR-Z dwarfs Ichishima’s third-generation Civic. The excitement built when Honda took the long lead for its sport hybrid offering. Fans constantly pointed out his CRX-like physique. Since there wasn’t a fun, affordable hatchback in the Civic range, the CR-Z was tuned for size. Unfortunately, it was quickly discovered around the world that the “Sports” department was sorely lacking. Separately, Spoon Sports began developing parts for the two-seater even before its official launch. They built a demo car specifically for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill Challenge – an annual racing event considered the longest single race in the United States
Knife to an exchange of fire
Finishing Thunderhill is a task in itself. Reliability is vital for the all day / night affair. The team relied on the factory 1.5 liter heart with some features like the tall camshaft and ECU kit, the GE8 Honda Fit intake chamber rebuild, the Venturi gas and the signature air filter and N1 muffler. Despite these changes, performance is well below the competition – a huge hurdle, especially with a chassis that weighs in at over 2,600 pounds. To reduce this number, the car was completely dismantled and fitted with one-off dry carbon fiber doors, a hood and Plexi windows.
Stay on track
After a strenuous 25 hours of non-stop racing, the Spoon CR-Z not only finished the event, but also took third place home. The fuel consumption, the low tire wear and the unmatched reliability kept the team ahead of the competition despite the considerable loss of performance. Spoon Sports applied the same formula to the CR-Z it has been using for reliability and consistency since the ’80s, and the results speak for themselves.
Ichishima’s old, battle-hardened ’85 Civic serves as the starting point, if you will, as the foundation for starting a company praised by Honda fans around the world. Much of the theory, simplicity, and raw feel put into the CR-Z and more recent endeavors was a direct result of the work that has been put into the E-AT chassis over the years. And the president doesn’t seem to be slowing down a bit with his company.
1985 Honda Civic
ENGINE: 1.6 l DOHC ZC; Spoon built block and head; custom exhaust manifold and straight exhaust; Spoon sport valve cover, aluminum oil pan and oil c
DRIVE: Five-speed manual gearbox with close gear ratio; Spoon sport clutch and flywheel; customized limited slip differential
ENGINE MANAGEMENT: Keihin ECU
FOOTWORK & CHASSIS: Showa adjustable suspension; Custom Air Jacks aluminum roll cage, front torsion bar and rear springs; Spoon Sports front bumper rod, pendulum rods, spherical end links and adjustable Panhard bar
BRAKES: Nissin calipers; adjustable metering valve; two-piece drilled rotors
WHEELS & TIRES: 15 “x 8” front, 15 “x 6.5” rear Enkei wheels; 205 / 55R15 Yokohama Advan SS tires; Single lug conversion
EXTERIOR: Spoon Sports Signature paint job, tow hooks, hood pins; EC Works Type A side mirror; Custom Air Jack rod in the fender and flat panel display along the bottom of the case
INTERIOR: Spoon sports steering wheel and carbon-kevlar shovel; custom displays, instrument clusters and seat mounts; Simpson dishes
2010 Honda CR-Z
ENGINE: 1.5 l with IMA hybrid system; Spoon Sports high camshaft, valve cover, inlet chamber GE8, oil pan with baffle, venturi throttle body, air filter, N1 muffler, thermostat, radiator c, oil c, magnetic oil drain plug
DRIVE: Spoon Sports limited slip differential, drive shaft set
ENGINE MANAGEMENT: Spoon Sports ECU
FOOT WORK & CHASSIS: Spoon Sports unique full damper, stabilizer set
BRAKES: Spoon Sports monoblock calipers, brake hose kit, brake pedal box; Winmax pads and liquid
WHEELS & TIRES: 17-inch Volk Racing TE37SL wheels; 245 / 40R17 Yokohama Advan A048 tires
EXTERIOR: Spoon Sports dry carbon fiber doors, hood, under panel set, aero mirrors; Customized plexiglass windows and permanent lighting
INTERIOR: Spoon sports steering wheel, carbon-kevlar bucket seat, gear knob, wide rear-view mirror; Takata five-point harness