Additional photos by Wednesday Night Social
One of the most rewarding things I've been able to be a part of is being a judge for the Sony Gran Turismo Awards at the SEMA Show. Even during my tenure at eurotuner magazine, I was a co-judge for the European car category—this award has been special to me for a minute! This year I was again put in charge of picking the best "Asian Import" at SEMA, which isn't the easiest task with over a thousand vehicles on the show grounds. But having the power to give the winner the possibility of being rendered into the actual video game, there was simply no room for error, and I had to pick a car that not only was the best of the best, but would be appreciated by hundreds of thousands of gamers and car enthusiasts from around the world.
Along with judges for the best Hot Rod, Domestic, Truck, and Euro, each of us submitted our selections to Gran Turismo founder Kazunori Yamauchi after the first day of the SEMA Show. He then picked the overall winner, which is announced at their annual party held at Marquee Nightclub inside the Cosmopolitan. Needless to say, I must be doin' a decent job because I've had not one, but two selections reach the top of the podium. In '15, Sung Kang's Datsun "Fugu Z" took gold, and for '17, Philip Robles and his '92 Honda Civic CX became the overall champion.
Phil's Civic caught my attention for many reasons. First and foremost, Honda Civics are cars nearly each and every Japanese car enthusiast can relate to and you simply don't see too many nice grassroots-built Hondas at SEMA. Second, Phil's story is one we can all respect. He's worked hard his whole life, picked up cars and racing as a hobby, and continues to live out his passion with his son Jesse building cars together in their own garage. It's a story you don't come across too often at SEMA, which is even sweeter and someone like the founder of Gran Turismo can appreciate it. Last but not least, this Civic is frickin' awesome and has a great history behind it as well. It started out as a daily driver decades ago and slowly turned into the dedicated race car it is now. Phil even learned how to race in it, having gone through many transformations and competed in different types of NASA and ProAutoSports time trials. It's currently on the road to unlimited time attack competition and you can bet your lunch that it'll be ready to break some records at our very own Super Lap Battle.
The current setup features an all motor K-series engine swap; however, it will be turbocharged shortly after SEMA. Other major highlights include a Quaife sequential transmission, custom Brembo brake setup, and AiM MXL2 datalogger, plus a Rocket Bunny/Pandem widebody conversion. It's easily one of the best looking Japanese import builds ever to display at SEMA.
Phil's magical night was shared with his son Jesse as he was recognized on stage, followed by a live concert by artist T-Pain. From all of us at pbskids, we'd like to congratulate Phil on a job well done. And you can be sure to catch a full feature in the magazine in the coming months ... again!