Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Pursuit of Perfection - Serge's Mugen GT-4 CRX Replica Build: Part 1

What does it mean to be called an artist?  Webster says an artist is 'a person who creates art: a person who is skilled at drawing, painting; a skilled performer; a person who is very good at something.' I believe anyone can be an artist by simply using any medium as a form of self expression, but what does it mean to be a craftsman and have your work, your work being your trade, considered art?

Who are some of those who most would consider artists in their trade?  Michael Jordan, Ayerton Senna, Mies Van Der Rohe, Raymond Lowey?  When Michael Jordan played basketball, it was at a completely different level than that of his peers.  He loved the game he played and it came out in his play.  There was a beauty about it that allowed his level of craft to be considered art.  Ayerton Senna was very similar.  His effortless and impeccable talent, combined with his obsessive drive towards perfection and love for speed, made him drive a car like no one else.  Today, his craft is also considered art.  Mies Van Der Rohe and Raymond Lowey's love for beautiful things was expressed through their world-renowned designs.

I believe it all boils down to passion.  Anyone can complete a task, such as playing a game, driving a car, or designing a building, car or train, but what separates greatness from others, is the passion that is expressed through the task.  Greatness is defined by those whom experience it.  When someone experiences greatness in someone's craft, they are able to connect with the passion that inspired it.

Talent, and passion such as this is rare, and even rarer still are those that posses such qualities, but who are also CRX fans.  That's where Serge comes in.  When the long-time CRX fanatic, and master builder decided to choose a medium to express his passion, he chose a rusty, 1985 Honda CRX SI.  He didn't see what it was, he saw what it could be.  A legend.  Not just a CRX legend, but a Honda legend.  He decided to build a replica of the 1985 Mugen Honda GT-4 CRX.

It was early in 1985 when American Honda Motor (A.H.M) partnered with Mugen Japan in an effort to get Honda performance on the American radar.  They came together and built a CRX to compete in the Sports Car Club of America's GT4 class.  The engine and drivetrain was built by Mugen's Formula-II race team in Japan and Honda provided the upgraded body, which was completed by Dix Erickson and the American Honda Special Project Team.  Honda had so much faith in the factory suspension setup, that they left it unmodified.  It didn't take long for the car to have success.  It won it's debut race at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, and went on to win the 1985 and 1986 National Championships.  This was the beginning of Mugen in the US.  The success of the Mugen GT4 CRX not only cemented Mugen's place in the US as a premier aftermarket/racing parts supplier, but it allowed fellow CRX racers from different classes to upgrade their cars.  The CRXs in the Showroom class of the same year, benefited greatly from the use of the 13" Mugen CF-48 wheels.  With the help of Mugen part upgrades, the first generation CRXs won many races that year, including the class championship.  By the end of that year, the CRX had already made a name for itself.

In order to create an accurate replica, Serge got in touch with the parties who were involved in the creation of the original GT-4 CRX, and they graciously obliged.  Below are the actual snapshots that they provided for the build.

There have been several articles written about Serge's car, but none have featured the detailed process that he went through to create such a work of art.  We're so used to just admiring the final product and never fully understanding all that went into its creation.  In my opinion, the process of creating art is the most important part.  That's where this posting comes in.  I had the pleasure of following Serge's build on RedPepperRacing.com.  It was fantastic to watch the car come together over several years.  Sadly, many of the photos in his build thread are no longer visible.  My goal here is not only to preserve Serge's work via images but to highlight the incredible effort and skill that went into the completion of his replica.  Thankfully he took many images during the build process, and kept them all.  So many in fact, that I have to split this blog posting into three parts.  So enjoy part one of this journey through the eyes of Serge Ruiz, the master builder.

Body and Paint:

The car Serge started with was a 1985 SI model, that most would have sent to the scrap yard.  It had significant rust damage; behind the front quarter panels, in both foot wells, as well as several other areas.  Thankfully Serge isn't 'most people', and this was merely a challenge to him.  Not an easy challenge, considering the fact that it took him a year just to complete the body work, but a challenge he knew he could complete.  Work began by removing all the rust from the body.  This required sanding down the body and cutting out large sections of both floor pans, and behind both front wheel wells.  Since there were no replacement body panels readily available, Serge created replacement panels by hand, shaping them to match the factory panels.  Then he welded them in leaving a final product where only a trained eye could see that they had been replaced.  After the rust was removed, the headlight areas were modified to fit the mounting hardware for a pair of second generation Honda Prelude headlights.  Serge also welded in custom supports for the Mugen wide-body kit that he obtained from Houseman Autosports in Ontario, Canada.  Fitting the Mugen body kit to the body was no simple task, in fact it took many hours of cutting, refitting, trimming, and modifications to the chassis to achieve the perfect fit.  He also had to hand carved the front bumper to allow for the Mugen badge to be in-laid into the front of it.

Once the metal work and body panel fitment process was complete, the entire body was sealed with epoxy and then the underside of the body was coated with an anti-gravel coating.  Finally, Serge painted the body in Honda's Grand Prix White, Mugen's racing color.  Next, the stripe locations were marked, and painted.  To complete the body, Serge had scoured the internet and found all the correct decals to finish the body, and spent hours making sure each was applied to the car accurately.

Please enjoy the following images that were provided by Serge to showcase his craft.  I'm sure by the time you reach the bottom of this post, you'll understand why it's easy to consider his craft as art.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog posting which will cover the interior and suspension.  Part 3 will focus on the engine and the finished product!


King Motorsports Unlimited

Revs Digital Library (Stanford University)


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