1st-gen CR-V’s were never exactly power monsters in the first place. The few people who did race these SUV wannabe’s swapped out the stock engines with Civic racing engines (Yes- it’s just a civic engine), keeping original CRV trannies (which are actually pretty cool). The stock Civic engine don’t put-out much torque in the first place. With twice the vehicle wrapped around it, the CRV ended-up with terrible pickup. I remember buying a new battery for mine at Autozone. The guy behind the counter couldn’t believe the tiny battery I was buying was for my car. He wanted to see under the hood himself just to make sure.

I was sick of taking minutes to pass trucks. I was sick of traveling on the highway in 2nd-gear on cold days (well, actually it was 3rd of 4th gear on the CRV). These things just didn’t have enough power for high-speed travel. Oddly, mine had enough torque to pull out cars stuck in snow drifts in the winter, and go up any crazy hill or ditch I sent it into. For something with the ground clearance of the average sedan, it sure thinks it’s some sort of dune-buggy. But what to do about the highway? I didn’t need much boost- just enough to keep the automatic transmission happy on the freeway (with maybe a little extra for passing).

I started looking-over my options. Mod chip? Disabling the O2 sensor and pulverizing the catalytic converter didn’t sound smart. Turbo? Sure, but it’s a couple grand. For that cash, I could probably find an old tuner engine that would fit. ‘Rice’d-up Civic engines are pretty common. Nitrous? Maybe. I don’t know where you live, but around here it’s not even street-legal. I could just put smaller tires and wheels on it. It would have given me a little extra edge, but I didn’t want to lose all the off-road capability. Anyway, CRV’s look a little funny to begin with. Tiny tires would have made it “Honda-Element” hilarious. So, I looked at the air intake.

The original filter/intake system isn’t bad. Its cold-air ram by design. But, the filter isn’t quite a high-flow design. Should have been fine for just daily driving- but it obviously couldn’t even pull that off. I picked-up a “Vibrant” ram-air intake system online and installed as-is. The ram-air system didn’t quite work (as I later found from other people who’ve tried this). Though I gained a couple extra rpm, I lost my low-end torque. Odd. And the noise…Holy crap! Rice-burners will never sound like a Harley. And, intake noise just sounds like a hole in the exhaust manifold.

This wasn’t the answer, but I knew I was close. I wanted to keep the high-flow metal tubing and filter, but I didn’t want the noise. Also, I needed some restriction to solve the low-end torque problem. I needed to make a hybrid intake.

By shortening the Vibrant tube and finding some extra silicone adapters, I fit the metal tube from the engine to the existing intake dampener. The Filter box took some extra work. Some round tube allowed the round filter fit into the dampener, but the whole thing was larger than the original box. So, I cut a 1″ aluminum spacer that fit around the bottom lip of the box and attached some rubber gasket stock. Then, I bought a replacement lid to the air box to modify. I removed the rear lip of the lid, and bolted-on an aluminum plate to maintain the seal. It all got a coat or red paint to keep ‘junk-yard’ look to a minimum. Lastly, I changed the original leaf-clips that held the lid down to longer spring-clips to accommodate the new aluminum spacer. Done.

By doing the retrofit this way, I can remove all the new parts pretty easily and put in the original equipment, if I wanted. Now, I don’t have a dyno, so I can’t give HP numbers. But, I did notice something right away. Before, I would end-up stuck in 3rd gear on the highway a couple times a week. The engine simply didn’t have the torque to maintain top gear at speed (not even passing, just cruising). Now, I don’t see that behavior but once every few months, when conditions are unusually bad (hot&humid, just after starting in cold weather, etc). It’s not a perfect fix, but it’s enough to keep me from selling the car.