It takes faith to get on the cover of Hot Car List. It takes faith and a lot of hard work and planning. God damn, didn’t I write this once before? Look here, didn’t I say last month, and the month before that, and hell, even the month before that it takes more than a JDM-style body kit and a set of clear taillights to get your share of respect in this industry? Individual experiences will vary widely, of course, but the road to import stardom is more often than not one fraught with great sacrifice and financial hardship.
Take Ron Samonte, from San Diego, Calif., as a shining example. This is his ’89 CRX, a car that Samonte has watched slowly morph into the import show car of his dreams–and when I say “slowly,” I mean just that. If Samonte had a fairy godmother, he could have simply asked her to wave her magic wand and mold the Mugen body kit and custom fender flares into the factory sheet metal. She could have snapped her magic fingers and transformed the CRX’s diminutive powerplant into a built, turbocharged and intercooled B16A mill. She could have sprinkled a pinch of magic fairy dust over the stock paint and watched it melt into a full-on lowrider-style, metal-flaked golden skin that entrances all who gaze into its gleaming, clear-coated depths. If Samonte had a fairy godmother, all of this could have been executed in a day, no doubt, and at no cost to him.
But, as you probably guessed, Samonte does not have a fairy godmother. You see, fairy godmothers do not exist; they are only make-believe. Consequently, our friend Ron had to build his car the hard way: He broke out the tools, and the checkbook, and the super-sized bottle of Advil, and got to work.
Possibly the one thing that will snare your attention most effectively is the car’s rear end, and the Acura NSX taillight conversion, the only conversion of its type of which we are currently aware. The NSX is an $80,000 car, so you wouldn’t expect any replacement parts to be particularly cheap. The one-piece reflector itself cost close to a grand, according to Samonte, and that price didn’t include bulbs or wiring harnesses. The conversion was executed by the now-defunct Greenfield Auto Body in El Cajon, Calif. The same shop also added the Mugen body kit, the vented Gude hood, and the APR wing, shaved all exterior distractions like the door handles, updated the headlights to ’92-’95 Civic assemblies, and gave the car its first custom paint job, white mixed with blue pearl.
One other shop in the San Diego area assisted Samonte in massaging the CRX’s exterior. He enlisted Nice And Easy in Chula Vista to apply a new paint job, something that would set him apart from his peers. That’s exactly what he got, a new skin that would just as easily fit on a hydraulic-slammed ’69 Impala: Candy Gold Metallic Flake. Stress the Metallic Flake part. While they had his car, Nice And Easy also flared all four fenders so Samonte could stuff some truly huge running gear beneath them, 18×7.5-in. Racing Hart C2s. These were wrapped with ever popular Toyo Proxes rubber of the 215/35-R18 variety. Skunk2 adjustable coilovers using Tokico dampers drop the chassis over the wheels and tires. Behind the big C2s, you’ll see the brake assemblies, PowerSlot rotors in front and stock drums in back, have been chrome-treated, as have the springs, shocks, and various other suspension components.
When Samonte got the car back he decided to tackle the interior work himself, vinyl-dying all the panels and inserts white, and installing the Sparco buckets and polished six-point roll cage. An array of custom mounted AutoMeter gauges give readouts on his engine’s condition, three in the passenger side dash, two in the top center console, and three on the driver’s A-pillar. I don’t even want to know how he mounted them himself and got them to look so clean. Captain Ron also designed and installed the sound system, which is centered around a Kenwood head unit with integral video monitor. A single chrome-treated Rockford Fosgate amp powers Cerwin Vega components and dual Rockford Fosgate lows. The passenger side of the car has been transformed into Samonte’s PS2 gaming center, which incorporates the gaming console in the footwell and a Madcats steering wheel controller thingy mounted below the dash so it looks like the car has two steering wheels. Speaking of steering wheels, the actual tiller has been replaced with a Sparco unit with integral “fire in the hole!” nitrous toggle switches for on-the-fly control. Speaking of nitrous, you did see the two chrome bottles mounted “The Fast and the Furious” style under the rear hatch, didn’t you?
This brings us to the engine. Remember in the beginning when I talked about a built, turbocharged and intercooled B16A powerplant… well, I wasn’t lying. This motor was assembled by Pann Auto in San Diego over the better part of a year. Samonte testifies that they weren’t lagging. They were just taking their time, assembling an engine for him that would last the life of the car. And frankly, when building a forced induction system around an engine that was designed as naturally aspirated, it’s better to err on the side of caution than to start sending pistons through your carefully polished valve cover. The bottom end has been strengthened with JE pistons and Crower connectors. CTR cams and Skunk2 adjustable gears mastermind valve operation. The forced induction system uses a Drag manifold to drive the turbine, a Garrett T3/T4 snail to compress the air, and a GReddy blow-off valve to release excess pressure. The charge is chilled by a massive A’PEXi air-to-air front-mount intercooler core fed and relieved by polished piping that was custom-bent by Pann Auto. The charge then travels through a Venom Performance throttle body and Venom chromed intake manifold. A chrome Venom fuel rail and Venom-modified injectors supply the juice. For a little extra “bling,” Pann also installed a 50-shot single-fogger NOS system. For the finishing touches, various bright and shiny chrome and polished stainless parts and pieces were thrown in for the show-quality presentation: valve cover, Fluidyne radiator, various braided hoses and lines, hell, even the motor mounts.
Apparently, Samonte’s gold flake paint has gone to his head, because now he’s in full lowrider swing and is thinking about gutting his suspension and putting the car on air bags. While he’s at it I think he should just take it to the wall and get one of those anodized-flame steering wheels (you know what I’m talking about) and a purple velvet interior to go with that paint, but who the hell cares what I think, anyway? For help on his project Ron wants to thank the crew at Pann Auto for building his engine, and shout to his S.D. bros Rove, Marvin, Vinh, Jr., James and his crew Team Sik for their support. As a final note, he would like to dedicate this Import Tuner cover experience to the memory of his cousin, Clyde Sanchez, who would be proud of this creation, no doubt.