They have been viewed as the most modest of cars, deemed "econo-boxes" by a wider car-consuming populace, but a large enthusiast cult has also turned them into symbols of a massive global tuner movement. We're talking about front engine, front-wheel-drive (FWD) compacts, and since so-called FF started coming to the US from Japan over a half century ago, folk have been tinkering on them to improve or simply personalize them in seemingly ever-growing numbers. And from the website traffic data we monitor, it looks like the most popular front-drive platforms to modify all come from one manufacturer: Honda.
Sorry, other OEMs, but the numbers don't lie. This here listicle runs down our most viewed FF articles, but filtered through a very specific lens: cars from Japan. Super Street and JDM go together like PB&J, and if we're being honest, no individual topics reliably do better for our website than stories about Hondas and stories about Japanese Domestic Market vehicles. We put the two together, and voila—an Accord, some Integra, and a whole lot of Civic from the JDM-est of tuners, places like Spoon Sports, Tactical Art, and M&M Honda.
One last note from the editors—this list includes three cars that were, oddly enough, done in "USDM style," which gave us pause. Should we include them on a list of JDM cars? Ultimately, we said yes because all three trims—one a Civic Ferio VTi, one an Accord Tourer wagon, and one an Integra Si—were never offered domestically in the US (in addition to all three cars being in Japan). Weirder still, we had one wildly popular car—Masafumi Eto's DA Integra GS-R—that initially made the list, but then we realized it was imported to Japan from America, which in our book kinda disqualifies it from being truly JDM. Make sure to click each vehicle's subhead to link out to their story.
- Kazuma Tsujimoto's 1990 Honda Civic/Tsuyoshi Okada's 1991 Civic
- Masaki Fukuda's Honda Civic SiR II
- Norifumi Kobayashi's 2010 Honda Accord Tourer
- Taku Kusugami's 1996 Honda Civic (EK4)
- Kazuyuki Hashinaga's 1998 Honda Civic Type R
- Masanari Matsuura's 1994 Honda Integra Si
- Spoon Sports' 1985 Honda Civic (E-AT)
- Tomoyuki Sasaki's 1996 Honda Civic Ferio VTi
- Osaka JDM's Honda Civic (AH)
- Mikitoshi Hashimoto's 2006 Honda Integra Type R
These two fourth-gen. Civics hail from the No Good Racing crew out of Osaka, a city widely regarded as having one of the most unique Civic-centric subcultures in Japan. In fact, they are products of a local Kanjo highway loop underground that has been romanticized for years. The barebones approach these JDM EF were built with is meant for that scene and has a sort of purity that transports a lot of enthusiasts to their beginnings. Both hatchs are culminations of years of experience building Honda and other platforms; Kazuma Tsujimoto sees his blue, B18C-swapped, Volk TE37-shoed 1990 Civic as the ultimate Civic, while Tsuyoshi Okada, who cut his teeth on several Civic chassis, points out the favorite part of his B16 EF is the vintage Clubman race car inspired purple-yellow-red paint scheme.
So many builds attempt to touch every part of the car, but what about project cars that in comparison are lightly modded but in constant flux? That's what you get with Masaki Fukuda's fifth-gen. SiR II from club Lowered2Perfection, a captivatingly clean '90s FF hatchback that literally has its own wardrobe: 10 sets of wheels, 8 bumper lips, 5 rear wings, and 9 pairs of mirrors. On the day we caught up with Fukuda-san, his B16 hatch rocked rare Vision MUE VR-1 wheels, Vision front lip, and carbon fiber Vision Type DC mirrors, as well as a Spoon Sports carbon wing.
The story of Norifumi Kobayashi's Accord Tourer is one of unlikely roots (the owner actually built a '63 Impala lowrider prior to tackling this Honda) and blossoming love (he also met his girl through the car), but the list's only Accord and only wagon is also one that advocates a USDM aesthetic. The FWD platform is the same used for the second gen. TSX in the States, so Norifumi sourced Acura badges and even glass from the US to swap in, while the engine bay has been shaved the way us Yanks like 'em. Kobayashi is also keen on the Accord's wheel fitment—not just the proximity to the fenders but the practically non-existent clearance from the StopTech calipers.
J car owners apparently like to keep their rides forever (or maybe we're just commitment-phobes); Taku Kusugami has owned and wrenched on this beautiful EK4 for the past 15 years, which is longer than anything we've ever attempted. Assembled with a lot of help from his friends at renowned JDM shop Tactical Art, Taku's FF flips the script in a number of ways: it's got built B20 bottom with an ITB'ed, CTR cammed B18C head; aggressively concaved TE37 Sonics under each fender; and an unconventional color choice, sprayed Sepang Bronze from BMW's color swatch.
M&M Honda have a 20-plus-year rep of tuning and racing the H badge, starting way back when developing parts for the City R Kei car and EF3 Civic hatch, so Kazuyuki Hashinaga knew he was leaving his CTR in the right hands. The occasionally tracked daily driver is restrained on mods but over-the-top on execution, like its seam-welded chassis and flat-bottom diffuser (remember: it's a daily); however, Kazuyuki's JDM EK9 will likely be remembered for being the first sixth-gen. Civic Type R to have an M&M Honda Hyper Widebody kit, added-on real estate that houses eye-catching 8.5-inch wide Work Seeker GX Candy Red wheels.
We're pretty sure Masanari Matsuura's DC2 Integra Si is the first and only monk-owned build on the site, and it's both tasteful and brilliant. Note first the US-spec Acura Integra face change, complete with bumper cover, headlights and fenders, and in place of the right high beam is a custom fiberglass intake duct for increased airflow. The inlet feeds a swapped Type R B18C sitting in a smoothed and tucked bay that looks straight USDM. Masanari also has a thread of S2000 running through the FF Honda project by way of New Formula Red paint on the outside and an S2k dash and gauge cluster in the cabin.
At the risk of making a bold assertion, we're gonna say this retired FIA Group A-spec E-AT hatchback (so, third gen.) owned by celebrated Honda tuner Spoon Sports that we originally featured all the way back in '09 is probably the most iconic JDM machine on this list of top FF performers. Its livery is immediately identifiable, but the historic race car also importantly represents the beginnings of Spoon's racing concept and philosophy of today. Still tracked occasionally for demo purposes (if you were at Honda Day E-Town in 2013 you got to see it), the ol' girl is still quick, with its pre-VTEC DOHC 1.6L ZC engine and close-ratio gearset trans, and just keeps chugging along.
Tomoyuki Sasaki's sixth-gen. Civic Ferio VTi is our list's second Tactical Art build and likely the most extensively modified Civic in Japan. It also embraces a USDM vibe like others here, one that includes '99-'00 spec headlights and taillights from a U.S. model, a Skunk2-festooned DC2 R B18C-swap in a super clean USDM-styled engine bay, rims from CCW, chassis bits from Function 7, and more. Tomoyuki's Civic isn't all 'Merica, though, balancing the equation with elements like its newer Ferio Vi-RS exterior conversion and bright orange Lambo paint.
Kazukiro Furukawa's third-gen. Civic and its driver, Frenchman Franck Decadi, made a name for themselves more than a decade ago with this hatchback, putting Kazukiro's Osaka JDM shop on the map. It's a race car through and through—pared down to the basics, like its B16B/B18 swap with Toda cam and heavy supplement of Osaka JDM custom bits—furthering the ideology that less is more.
Like Tactical Art, M&M Honda has a second car on this list, Mikitoshi Hashimoto's vibrant, widebody DC5 Integra Type R. The FF was in fact an R&D car for M&M, which modified the Honda for circuit use by having its chassis seam welded and outfitted with a Cusco roll cage. Since it was the tuner's mule, it features a laundry list of M&M: titanium exhaust, Hyper widebody kit with carbon-fiber rear diffuser, hood and canards, M&M/ATS custom 1.5-way LSD, M&M/Ohlins custom Type 1 coilovers, and more.