Project Car Diaries: My 2006 Honda Civic Si Is Drivable After a Year of Blood, Sweat, and Swearing
The saga of this 2006 Civic Si will take you through what it’s like to revive a cheap, beater tuner car.
The great-handling chassis, satisfying shifter, and intensely Jekyll/Hyde personality of its high-revving engine make the eighth-generation (2006-2011) Honda Civic Si a GOAT in the sport compact scene. Of course, the one I bought was a bit of a shitbox. Undoing the sins of previous owners and setting this car up for myself has been fun, miserable, and educational. And the adventure with this Civic’s only just getting started.
Tuner cars have been my thing for as long as I can remember. Forget The Fast And The Furious; by 2001 my friends and I were fantasizing about how to make our some-day cars look like what we’d seen on grainy Best Motoring clips downloaded at 56 kbps onto a beige computer tower the size of a truck tire.
Honda Civics in particular have been special to me ever since I was toted to preschool in dad’s ’88 LX Sedan. It was metallic blue, like every other car in the ’80s, and stayed with the family for decades.
Flash forward to the mid-’00s and the eighth-gen Civic came out toward the end of my high school days. My tastes were finally maturing beyond body kits and blingy wheels but the FG2 coupe’s clean lines had an instant chokehold on me. Once I saw that immense tachometer, lit in red no less, I was done for. Anybody remember that scene in Wayne’s World when he sees that Stratocaster in the window?
Anyway, I could barely afford the salvage-title non-VTEC Integra I drove back then so a brand-new car was completely out of the question. You can see where this is going: in 2021 I finally found myself in a position to start a new project and realized I could afford an eighth-gen Civic Si. Once my colleagues validated the choice as a great cheap candidate for track-day fun (I still don’t feel comfortable spending new-car money) I locked into the idea as my automotive experience.
When it comes to used car shopping, prevailing wisdom is to buy the cleanest, most stock, fewest-owner machine you can find. But I wasn’t looking for a cherry example that might ripen into an earnest collectible with careful stewardship. I wanted a car I could take apart and try to put back together, then flog on rough roads and in bad weather—an inexpensive example I wouldn’t feel guilty about dinging or letting my dog stink up.
My only actual requirements: 2006-2008 (the first front facia design) Civic Si coupe with no navigation and a clean title. Since Honda’s never made an automatic Si, I didn’t have to worry about narrowing two-pedal cars off my list. There are compelling reasons to focus on later cars if you're shopping yourself, but I'll get into that in another post.
After months of searching (the 2021 used car market was tough), I found such a car, and when I realized it was local with relatively low mileage (109,000—young for a Civic of that vintage) I more or less made up my mind to buy it before even test driving it.
Once I did drive the 2006 coupe I'd found on Craigslist, I won’t claim it was love at first ride. The car ran like it had a cold, smelled weird, and had clearly been painted pretty poorly. Carfax reported half a dozen owners—yeah, BringaTrailer would reject this hooptie.
Having just looked at a ‘91 Civic Si, colored like an old apple from rust, for almost the same price, and seeing no other interesting prospects on the used car market, I figured what the hell—my goal was to get better at tinkering and this car certainly needed it.
In the 14-odd months I’ve had the black ’06 coupe I bought that night, the mission with it has been focused on creating my idea of the Ultimate Civic Si. Well, that, and getting the car to run and ride nicely enough to be tolerated for any extended period of time.
Andrew’s Conceptual Recipe For The Ultimate Honda Civic Si
- Revvy engine
- Great-shifting manual trans
- Palpably stiff but not punishingly so
- Mellow at low speed but manic (in sound and aura) at max attack
- Manageable power, modest appetite for fuel
- Reliable and practical
As you might be noticing, those attributes are pretty much what the car ships with stock. This is exactly the point—I’m looking to set the car up to have the same vibe as it did from the factory, but with all its traits accentuated just a hair closer to “performance” and further from “compliant commuter car.” Like, maybe what the Civic Si would have been if it'd cost 25% more. And also be my winter beater.
Since I was just talking about how battle-weary the particular Civic I adopted was when I picked it up, there’s a lot of restoration I’ve done and will do. I’m excited to share my trials, tribulations, and takeaways in our project Car Diaries series this year.
As it stands, the car’s finally running and riding nicely but I’m still chasing down noises and fixing plenty. My mission right now is just to put as many miles on it as I can to really get to know it and ponder the next phase of optimization.
The main tasks I’ve jammed through so far and will soon share insights on include:
- Significant steering and suspension rebuild (so many steps, a few weird hangups)
- Cat-back exhaust changeout (surprisingly taxing)
- Engine computer tuning (science!)
- Seat repairs (a lost art)
- Tracking down oddly errant interior pieces
- An unusual shift boot installation (I’m very proud of it)
- An epic interior stink-out (tobacco stank can indeed be defeated)
I know; a professional mechanic would consider my list child’s play and I’m not even here to disagree. But I’ve learned a lot from these little projects. If you’ve ever wondered what you’re getting into buying a slightly rough, cheap tuner car or want to learn more about the eighth-gen Civic Si specifically, you’re in for a fun series of posts.
Meanwhile, I welcome any new info about these cars you might have and be able to share in the comments!