Patience. Perseverance. The long haul. You could use any of these terms to describe Romeo Palacios' approach to building his '96 hatch, a near dead-on JDM Type R conversion. He didn't do it overnight with a fat wallet, but rather over years of planning, tweaking, refining, making contacts, sourcing parts. Palacios has old school attitude, largely because he is old school. A native Los Angeleno, Palacio moved to Chicago 13 years ago for work. What he thought would maybe be a one-year deal has turned into an extended stay.
"Chicago's a great place to live - once you get used to the weather," he says. When Palacios first arrived in the Windy City with an Si trimmed with HKS header and exhaust, the few import heads on the scene were blown away. He used his L.A. connections to source more JDM rarities and continue flustering those who were trying to out-JDM one another.
Honda Tuning: You bought this car four years ago, and the one thing I notice is that there doesn't seem to be any pattern to the build up. It looks like you just grabbed those sick parts when you found them, regardless of where you were in the build up.
Romeo Palacio: Yeah, that's about right. I bought this car from auction. The passenger quarter panel and door were hit. It wasn't that bad. It was repairable. So I got it on a salvage title for $3800 and started doing it from there. I had the Recaros already from my old car. You know, back in the day nobody was looking for these parts, so I got very good prices on most of my stuff.
HT: So you were going for the Type R conversion thing? Was that the plan?
RP: Yeah, that was the plan. I tried to get a right-hand drive over here, but the price and [difficulty] of registering here in Illinois...it wasn't gonna happen. I tried going through all the loopholes. So I just built one then.
HT: Will you do the right-hand drive conversion someday?
RP: I've actually got a front clip. But I'm gonna do another EK, a black one. And I got another [Civic] with a GS-R motor. One of those is gonna end up right-hand drive, and probably do it EK4 style. I got the interior for that already.
HT: Where did you source these parts?
RP: Well, I'm from L.A., so I know a lot of people down there, people who get containers and guys who bring in motors from Japan. I got a lot of parts from them, some from eBay.
HT: Friends and connections...
HT: Right before you swapped in the K20, you had a B16 in there. Before that, you had the B18 LS/VTEC? Why swap out the LS/V for the smaller B16?
RP: Well, we took it to shows with the LS and people liked it. We were winning trophies. But I always told my friends that I wanted a photo shoot. So we tried to get attention, tried to stand out.
HT: Any problems swapping in the K20?
Honda Tuning Magazine