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Mugen Redux - 1984 Honda CRX DX
As The Mugen Edition Civic Si Makes Its Debut, We Peer Into The Company's Past And Guess At Its Future
By Dan Frio
Photography by Mike Shin
Honda Crx Front Left View
It's a dream scenario for many Honda enthusiasts: buy a new Civic or maybe a TSX from your local dealer, spring for a Mugen performance package that includes a twin-loop exhaust, tuned headers and 17-inch NRs, roll it all into a chunky monthly payment and drive off the lot under full warranty.
In the mid-80s, Honda and Mugen very nearly made that possible. The factory and its tuning partner launched an aggressive effort to establish Mugen in America on the back of the CRX. Any Honda dealer in the country could order and sell Mugen parts, and a handful became certified Mugen Performance Centers-MPCs-trained to install and maintain new exotic gear (for Hondas, anyway), like limited-slip diffs.
The program met an abrupt end after only three years, but yielded a handful of CRX project cars, including this white 1984 DX model.
Honda Crx Front View
The nine-piece wind tunnel-tested Aero Line body kit made of fiberglass reinforced plastic opened our eyes to the classic Mugen aesthetic: function dictates form. The Air Spoiler was also available.
"The first CRXs were very reasonably priced, but also had a good base for motorsports," says Takashi Uno, a former Mugen engineer who served as technical liaison coordinator between the two companies. "There was a need for CRX tuning parts and Mugen was trying to sell to that market."
Uno remembers planning for the North American push in 1983, shortly after he'd joined the company, moving forward in earnest in 1984. Hirotoshi Honda, Mugen president and son of Honda Motor Company founder, Soichiro, led the project. A long-time motocross enthusiast, Hirotoshi was encouraged by Mugen's success earlier in the decade when rider Johnny O'Mara rode his Mugen bike to victory in the 125cc class at the 1980 USGP.
"The first couple of years, I was with three guys from American Honda parts division," Uno recalls. "We sold parts, did mechanical work for works racing teams and prepared CRXs for [SCCA] GT4 class. The second and third year, I did a lot of work with King Motorsports and the Comptech people. We raced together in SCCA and IMSA."
Honda Crx Engine
Takashi Uno, former technical liaison coordinator for Mugen, and his crew converted this carbureted D15A2 to PGM-FI fuel injection (the CRX 1.5i offered in Japan had a 12-valve fuel-injected engine). Note the battery where an intake filter would be.
Uno's crew built a small fleet of CRXs for various uses: autocross, road course, and general mule/prototype work. Scott Zellner, president of King Motorsports, one of the original MPCs, remembers a black CRX used for autocross that was the most developed of the bunch. But the well-preserved DX shown on these pages was used mostly for show and as a test mule for development, and is now housed in a private collection as the only existing reminder of that historic partnership.
"This is the North American 'carb' car," Uno explains, noting the conversion from carburetion to fuel injection, similar to the 1.5i version sold in Japan at the time. "I remember it had probably the equivalent of Japanese N1 Taikyu class-level modifications. It had the original FRP body. It was used at shows, events and demos. But the bucket seats were too small for most Americans."
In the June 1986 issue of Auto X magazine, Dick Turner recalls taking this prototype for a spin: "We entered a 90-degree turn in mid-range second gear. Since I was testing, I added more power than I thought we'd ever put to the ground before reaching the apex. I couldn't believe how the car shot off the corner and down the straight. No inside wheel slip, hop or squeal-just go."
Mugen calls it a Silencer Set. We call it two pipes and a muffler covered in baked-on, heat-resistant paint with a stamped logo for good measure