Behind the Wheel with Juan Burgos
From daily driven to passion project.
Interviewer | Clifton Hernandez
Photos | Phillip Pratt
Where does the admiration of an inanimate object come from? What drives (no pun intended) us to keep a pair of shoes or hat way past it’s prime? Sure, we could take a ride down to Foot Locker and buy a fresh pair of Nikes and probably a new snap-back, of course. But we know what’s good when we get back home. When it’s time to jack the car up and get to work, we know what’s going to be on our feet and absorbing the latest batch of sweat off our head. We sat down with Juan Burgos to talk about his car, racing, and… other stuff, to answer this question.
Street Racing Illustrated: What got you into cars?
Juan: Honestly, ever since I was little, 2 or 3 years old, my parents always told me I had a fever for cars. I always had little toy cars. My grandma, she used to take care of me a lot, she’d be the one playing cars with me. Back in Colombia (where Juan is originally from), I used to fight with my parents to stay home from daycare to go with my dad instead. I used to put nails in his tires just to see how it would get fixed.
SRI: So, you were definitely a @#@$# kid… How old are you now?
Juan: I’m 23 about to turn 24.
SRI: When did you come here?
Juan: I was about 4 or 5 years old when I first got here.
SRI: What was your first car? The one you learned to drive in, doesn’t have to be yours-
Juan: It was always a Honda. I had multiple ones, including this one, my 94’ EG 4-door, I bought it to fix up and sell. It was originally meant to be a project for a class in high school. I was going to fix the head gasket and then sell it. It was my senior year project to graduate from technical school. It was a single-cam [back then, of course]. I loved it so much, ended up keeping it as a daily, but the fix didn’t last. I blew the motor.
SRI: This is the car you have now? Your first car is the still the car you have now?!
Juan: Driving, driving, like taking it out to get registered legit, yeah. I don’t daily it anymore, I’ve got a truck for that. But this was basically my only car under my name until I got my truck.
SRI: This is interesting… If I gave you an unlimited budget to build anything you wanted, it’d be…?
Juan: I’d probably stick with this same car. My same Honda. It’s been a long process. Honestly, [with this car] there’s never any end to it. Even now, there’s not that much to it. I’m not fast enough to make it to the [Street Racing Made Safe] Top 10 list, as is, but if I had the budget I’d go K-series. Right now, it’s got a B-series because it’s within my budget. The Ks can be a bit expensive; like, I’d have to go with a Dog Box because the transmissions never hold up…
SRI: Are you saying your dream car is the car you’re driving?
Juan: I’m not saying [the Civic] is my dream car, but with an unlimited budget, it’s the one I’d continue with.
SRI: How old were you for your first race?
Juan: Probably 17 or even earlier than that. My parents don’t know but I used to drive without a license.
SRI: Well, there’s no way they are going to read this… What was the race?
Juan: Me and my friend’s car, another EG 4-door, but automatic. It was his sister’s car. Just the two of us going down the block, neck-to-neck the whole way, bone stock cars! I don’t think we even made it to 70 [MPH]. But it was entertaining!
SRI: What’s the best race you’ve had so far, since then? I don’t mean that stock foolishness. I mean a real race?
Juan: I like going up against high-end cars. When I’m at the track for an event I go to like GT-Rs and stuff. Try to find one as stock as possible and put them to shame. My favorite race though was against this blue GT-R. It was pretty close. His trap speed was about 128, mine was 121. My goal right now is to beat one.
SRI: How does that go down? When you’re approaching these hundred-thousand-dollar cars and asking them to race your Civic? I mean they really have more to lose than to gain going up against you.
Juan: First thing they ask is ‘what’s done to the car’. I tell them it’s a 2.0 bottom with a 1.6 head (B20) on 8lbs of boost. They call me a liar and say I’m making five or six-hundred horsepower. Right now, it’s only making around three-hundred to the wheels. I offer to show them a dyno-sheet and everything. It’s hard to get a race.
SRI: Are you like the only gear-head in your group of friends?
Juan: Nah, I have a lot of guys around me that are into racing. Mostly people from my neighborhood. Ever since we were teenagers. There’s a group of us called Four-Seven Built. Daniel is one of my friends I hang with the most. He’s got an S10 with an LS swap. He goes to track with me every time.
SRI: So, who’s car is faster?
Juan: I’d say mine… when he’s off the juice. All-motor he’s not faster, but on the juice, he’s got me. [laughs]
SRI: What’s your favorite aspect of the whole hobby? Is it the racing, the satisfaction of building something you know can compete?
Juan: I just love the adrenaline you get behind the wheel. The car isn’t all that pretty on the outside-
SRI: Been meaning to ask you about that. Is there something you want to do to it…?
Juan: I sent it to get painted once. Some guy in Hialeah that knew my dad. The biggest mistake I’ve ever made [with the car]. It’s why it looks the way it does now. The car was beautiful for like two weeks, shinning. I’ve got one video and one picture of the car when it first came out. After that… the paint just went to crap. I paid the guy $900, just for the labor. It was a learning experience. Once I’m done with the new motor set-up, I’ll get back to making it look pretty. Not into body-kits so much anymore, but I want to make it clean. As OEM as possible.
SRI: What magazines were you into coming up? Did you have Super Street posters on your wall and stuff like that…?
Juan: Every time I’d go to the grocery store with my parents I’d go over to the magazine rack and get Lowrider, I always liked that-
SRI: So, boobs, then.
Juan: [laughs] I guess you can say that!
SRI: I’m sorry but, ten-year-old with a Lowrider magazine, you aren’t looking at no damn cars… I’m kidding.
Juan: If it were in my budget to do it, I’d build one [a Lowrider] today. A 59’ Impala. Hydraulics, clean undercarriage, sound system… But it’s expensive.
SRI: Don’t hear Lowriders around these parts too much. What got you into that?
Juan: I don’t know, I just like them. I used to watch a lot of West Coast Customs-
SRI: Just say it, you watched Pimp My Ride! Say it, you like goldfish in cars!
Juan: I watched it! [laughs]
SRI: The guy that wants to keep his Civic was OEM as possible on the outside, is also into Lowriders with all their elaborate, deep paint jobs?
Juan: I want to keep it [the Civic] as factory looking as possible. As of today, the car has full interior, everything still. I don’t think I’ll ever cut up the car to save two-hundred pounds or so. I want to keep it fun and safe.
SRI: Well it’s been real Juan, got anyone you want to shoutout?
Juan: I’d like to thank my wife Julissa and my brother Alejandro for helping me work on the car and getting it to where it’s at. She doesn’t mind getting dirty like other girls. And last, my friend Daniel for helping me out on the build as well.