Mid-Engine RWD 1989 Honda CRX Build Is What Dreams Are Made Of
Built not bought—because there's no dealer selling CRXs like this.
The Honda CRX is one of automotive history’s shining examples of cheap, lightweight, economical fun, a dinky commuter hatchback that's gained a cult following among Radwood-era devotees. But that provenance didn't matter to Marc Williams, owner of MW Performance out of Pritchett, Texas, who's deep in the process of converting a 1989 CRX into a mid-engined, V-6-powered race car that looks as crazy as it sounds on paper.
According to his Facebook album and build sheet, the car started life as a second-generation 1989 CRX. Williams then ripped out its rev-happy inline-four to replace it with a 3.5-liter, big-turbo J35A4 V-6, found in the second-generation Honda Odyssey minivan and first-generation Honda Pilot in the early 2000s (minus the turbo). It made 240 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque in those applications—that alone would be pretty good in a car weighing less than 2,000 pounds, but a custom Infinity engine control unit, high-flow fuel injectors, dual fuel pumps, and good old boost show this one is intended to put out a lot more than that.
Cool. Except, he didn’t put the V-6 in the old four-cylinder’s place up front. Instead, he mounted it back behind the passenger cell to drive the rear wheels, creating a sort of zombie Toyota MR2 competitor that never was.
It sounds and looks crazy, but despite the intense amount of custom fabrication needed to create a new front and rear 1-5/8" .095 tube frames and engine mounts, this particular swap actually makes some sense. The J35 V-6 was designed specifically for transverse mounting in front-wheel-drive Honda and Acura vehicles, and thus can easily power the rear wheels in this setup. A six-speed manual is the final piece of that puzzle.
Still, it's a massive undertaking. The 65-plus photos in Williams' build album start in early 2018 and were last updated in March. The little CRX starts out a nigh-unrecognizable shell as Williams carefully cuts it apart to perform the engine swap, build a custom suspension system, wire up the electrics, assemble the cooling system (that rear-mounted intercooler is incredible) and create outlandish body panels like the massive front splitter and rear wing. Craftsmanship on everything—welds, plumbing, engine work, et cetera—is ridiculously good.
Because of the swap, Williams also confirms that the weight distribution was essentially reversed from the original 62% front/38% rear to 34% front/66% rear. Overall, the build only tips the scales at 1,989 pounds, which is less than the factory figure of 2,205 pounds for a fully-loaded stock one. It's also about 72 inches wide, a gain of about seven inches in track width over a normal CRX.
Between all that and the sticky Nitto NT01 315/35R17 tires, this is looking like it'll be most ridiculous Honda CRX in the country when it's finally completed. There's still a lot of work to be done—but like they say, a dream never dies.
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