The cars we loved.
1997 Acura Type R
The Integra was Acura’s first compact coupe and sedan (before the RSX and TSX). The Integra concept goes back to 1980 with the JDM Quint. By the time It arrived in America as a Acura for the 1986 model year, it had become the Integra. The name lasted for three generations in The States, being retired in 2002 when the RSX took over. While all generations of the Integra could be exciting and fun to drive, it was the third that is most sought after by the performance enthusiast.
Integras were always a step up from the Civic from which they were closely related. Where the Civic Si usually topped out at 125 to 130 hp with a 1.6 , the Integra would start at 1.8, combine VTEC and DOHC technology for 142 hp or more on base models. Base models were light weight and with their fully independent suspensions, offered excellent road-holding.
1996 Acura Integra LS base
While there were other Japanese compact cars being sold in America, the Integra was always near the top in performance amoungst base trim competitors due to light weight and modest power. Step up performance models like the 170 hp GS-R lacked some of the flash of turbo Diamond Star cars or the 6 cylinder 626/Probe pair. Acura however made up for it with a high level of refinement and a free revving engine matched to a class leading five-speed manual transmission.
The GS-R and later the 195 hp Type-R were more unique in the market. Their performance matched or exceeded more expensive cars like BMW’s 318. They offered as much refinement while being a better value thanks to their reliability and low operating costs.
I have always been impressed by Honda’s restraint with the Integra’s design. Even when the GS-R trim was made available on the Integra for the first time, it was as sedate looking as the regular LS. The only clue to it’s more sporting character was the controversial front end treatment. All 3rd gen Integra were updated to a four round headlight design. The Honda Integra in Japan had a more conservative traditional lens treatment. The Toyota Celica-like front end prompted a vibrant aftermarket that focused on restoring the Integra to it’s JDM appearance.
2000 Acura G-R sedan
Acura was always keen on selling more sedans in its bid to compete with the Europeans in the small sports sedan arena. It even went so far as to make the rear spoiler a dealer installed option in it’s quest to project grown up refinement. Despite their efforts, the coupe remained the most popular variant.
The image of refinement extended to coupe also. While many coupes were fitted with a factory spoiler, Acura kept the boy racer tendencies in check. The 4 wheel independent, double wishbone suspension insured great handling while the posh leather interior and 6 speaker stereo made the ergonomically sound cabin a good place to be.
1994 Acura Integra GS interior
When performance was key, the GS-R. It’s 170 hp VTEC four had been the top of the line for most of the third generation. Ar only 2670 lbs., it created a stir when it arrived in 1994 due to it’s handling and favorable power to weight ratio. However, the ultimate Integra performance came when the Type-R made it’s debut in 1997. It immediately jumped to the top of many best of lists, crowning decades of ever improving Honda performance car progress. With a a 67 lb. weight and 25 hp advantage of over the GS-R, it would become one of the most sought after performance cars of it’s era. Some even consider it the greatest front wheel drive performance car of all time.
JDM 2000 Honda Integra Type R
The Type-R’s hand built 1.8-liter DOHC VTEC engine achieved it’s 195 hp rating without turbocharging. Honda used INDY Car and hot rod tricks like weight reduction, polished and tuned intake ports and modified intake/exhausts systems to achieve the Type-R’s amazing technical specs. With a 0 to 60 time in the low 6 second range, it was as fast as many V8 powered cars of the day. Acura even allowed itself to be flashy (by it’s standards) with a large spoiler and monochromatic wheel and body color schemes.
The legend of the Integra Type R has spread on to lesser trims in the used car market. Sedans of any trim seem to be rare with the occasional LS or GS coupe being the most common survivor. Type -R today can fetch upwards of $60,000 or more. Even a GS-R in good shape can go for as much as $20,000. More likely you’ll find a beat up $3,000 GS or LS undergoing a transformation to look like a GS-R/Type -R. Even those cars can be worth saving, as the Integra combined economy and performance with a touch of luxury.