Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Dreamy Dutch

In a small village, just west of Antwerp, the Netherlands, there is a small collection of beautifully restored and/or modified Honda's tucked away in a warm garage, all of which are owned by one young gentleman named Leon.  Leon happens to be one of the nicest guys I've had the pleasure to interact with in the Honda community.  He also has some serious talent when it comes to bringing old Honda's back to life and maintaining them.  His entry into the world of Honda's didn't happen as naturally as one would think, considering his young age and what he's already accomplished so far.  Even though his father and grandfather have been stanch proponents of Honda ownership for his entire life, he wasn't particularly biased towards Honda at the beginning.  It wasn't until he purchased his first Honda, a '92 Civic hatch, that a connection started to be made.  He only made a few modifications to the car, but he really enjoyed driving and modifying it.  Something started to click for him.  Before selling his hatch, due to rust, he had picked up a second generation CRX as a project car.  By the time he had completed the CRX, which turned into a complete restoration with modifications, he was a complete Honda nut.  Since then he has started, what can only be described as, a collection of gorgeous Honda's, which include a mint and tastefully modified yellow S2000, a Bayside Blue '93 Civic hatch with Spoon parts all over it, the second generation CRX that he restored, a modern EDM Civic hatch and his most recent build, a first generation CRX SI.

As with his introduction to Honda's, the decision to work on a first generation CRX didn't come as naturally as you'd expect.  Another CRX was not at all on his future project radar since he had, only a year or so earlier, completed a CRX.  That changed when he came across a comment left by a friend on a Facebook post about an 1985 CRX SI.  In the post, the owner had mentioned that he was considering selling the car.  With his desire for rare things (first generation CRX's are rare in Europe, especially in the Netherlands) perking his interest in the car, Leon decided to contact him to get some additional details.  Before he knew it, there was a black and gray, first generation CRX sitting in his driveway.  His initial plans for the car were to simply repair the rust on the rear wheel arches and call it a day, however, that isn't how this CRX story turned out.

When Leon restored his first CRX, he really enjoyed searching for NOS and rare aftermarket parts.  He invested a lot of time and money into making sure the build came out exactly as he wanted it to... perfect.  His efforts were rewarded.  He received rave reviews on the car and it even won an award at a car show.  Leon is by no means an attention seeking guy.  He made it clear that he builds his cars for himself, and not for other's to like them.

"I have never, and will never build a car for someone else to like, or be like, 'Wow, look at that!' "

However, it turns out that a lot of people like what he likes.  His success with the second generation CRX fueled his passion for not only owning Honda's, but building them as well.  So even though his initial plans for the little first gen started out as simple, the perfectionist in him soon took over and the build became a meticulous resto-mod.

When he received the car, it was in decent shape at a glance, but when the body panels came off, the picture wasn't as glamorous.  The floor pans had rusted through along the outside and forward edges of the front foot-wells.  The front bumper support, body seams along the rocker panels, sunroof and parts of the engine bay were rusted as well.  Additional damage came in the form of dents on the front and rear bumpers, a broken rear axle support member, and a cracked windshield.  That description would give you the impression that the car was a disaster, however compared to a lot of the cars I see in the US, it wasn't in bad shape at all.  However, in Leon's eyes, it was no where near where he would like the car to be.  The extent of the repairs were going to require a significant amount of skilled metal work and instead of sending the car straight to the body shop, he decided to do it all himself.  He acquired two NOS replacement rear quarter panels, some sheet metal and a tool to create and match the stamped features in the factory floor pans.  Cutting out and replacing rear quarter panels is not an easy thing to do for someone with very little experience, but he did a fantastic job.  He also made easy work of the floor pans and was able to match the stamped grooves in the factory pans exactly.

In his down time, when he wasn't making body work look way easier than it is, he was spending a lot of time tracking down NOS replacement parts and accessories, as well as rare aftermarket parts.  Leon contacted Honda dealers all across Europe to find what he needed.  Even though most of the dealerships never returned his calls, he was able to locate a large amount of hard to find parts including NOS tail lights, nose panel, quarter panels, mudguards, EDM side marker lenses, window seals and many other small bits like bolts, fasteners, seals and belts.  Not only was he able to track down all those NOS parts, but he was also able to track down additional rare items such as a JDM rear reflective panel, a set of mint Mugen MR-5 wheels, Honda fog lights, Koni shocks (which were later replaced with a Teins), a sunroof visor, and many other goodies.

After the body work was complete, the underside of the car was sprayed with a protective coating.  All the suspension and brake parts were then cleaned, painted and/or replaced.  Leon then moved on to the engine, which ran well enough to needed very little in the way of mechanical repairs, however aesthetically, it needed work.  After hours of scrubbing and cleaning, the engine, transmission, distributor, intake and other miscellaneous items were painted silver.  The valve cover was repainted in the factory black with the face of the embossed sections left exposed.  With the engine out of the car, Leon took the opportunity to clean the wiring harness and replace all the damaged sections of yellow tape that came from the factory.  Work then continued to the engine bay which required an intensive cleaning, a respray, and replacement of any damaged parts, most of which were replaced with NOS parts.

Once all the new or aftermarket body panels had been acquired, the car was ready to go to the shop for small repairs, prep, and paint.  Once the shell had been repaired, it and the loose body panels were painted.  When Leon brought the car back from the shop, all that needed to be done was to reassemble the car.   As the car was going back together, the few remaining details such as a last minute suspension change (from Koni to Tein) and recreating the damaged factory stickers (which was done by recreating the sticker content on the computer and then having them printed as stickers - done by Leon himself), were completed.

The final product of all his efforts is truly remarkable.  The car came out in better shape than it did when it rolled off the assembly line.  Why? Because not only was it meticulously restored, but it was modified to suit it's owner's driving preferences.  Dripping in NOS Honda parts, period correct factory options, and rare aftermarket parts, this car is one of a kind.  I had the pleasure of following along Leon's journey with the car on the Red Pepper Racing forum.  His work speaks for itself and I hope he keeps on building Honda's.  You can't have too many like this.  He mentioned the possibility of a third generation prelude build in his future, but since he's recently moved to a new place with a little less space than before, he might have to cut back.  Let's hope not!

Additional info on Leon and his cars can be found here:

Photos by Leon Lambert and AllCars Photography

1 comment:

  1. That is so clean. His attention to detail is outstanding. Great job.