Back when Acura made cool coupes.
Acura is finally getting its groove back. We’re still not entirely sure why Honda’s premium brand decided to alter course several years ago from being a BMW competitor to something nearly as bland as Lexus (as it was back then, prior to its own rebirth). During its heyday, not only did Acura sell the now iconic first-generation NSX, but also fun to drive mainstream models like the Legend and Integra.
It was the Integra that attracted many of us who earned our driving licensees in the 1990s (this writer included) because it was more premium than a Civic yet still had a VTECH engine. On top of that, it looked good and if aftermarket tuning was your thing, it offered endless possibilities.
The Acura Integra first launched in 1985 but was sold only as a sedan or 3- and 5-door liftback bodystyles. It was one of Acura’s first models in the US. Even back then the Integra was closely related to the Civic but with a number of upgrades to justify its higher price tag. Above all, the first-gen Integra established the model’s basic credentials: inline-four cylinder engines, front-wheel-drive, and a fun-to-drive character.
The second-gen Integra came for 1989 and it added the highly regarded VTEC to the engine lineup. Bodystyles were now limited to a three-door hatchback and a traditional four-door sedan. In general, the Integra was more powerful and more refined than its immediate predecessor. And then in 1993, the third-gen Integra arrived.
Although it was still very much related to the Civic as well as the Accord and even the Prelude, the Integra still had its unique personality. Sold as a coupe or sedan, this Integra is generally what most of us remember best. Its unique "bug eye” four headlight design helped make it stand out and its overall design inside and out carried a more premium feel than its Honda cousins. Power came from a 1.8-liter four banger rated at 140 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. Two transmissions were offered: a five-speed manual and four-speed slushbox.
This Integra generation was so good that Acura didn’t phase it out until 2001, when it was replaced by the RLX. During the third-gen model’s lifetime, a number of trim packages were available, starting with the RS, followed by the LS, SE, GS, and GS-R. Acura did launch a Type R for the Japanese domestic market in 1995 but it was never sold in North America.
The best third-gen Integra one could buy was the GS-R, and we happened upon one for sale on Craigslist in Los Angeles. This one-owner 2000 Acura Integra GS-R has 60,000 original miles and has never been in an accident. That owner was a 92-year old man who had the car for 19 years. The seller does admit the front fenders and bumper have been professionally resprayed. Oh, and it’s completely bone stock. No modifications. The blade wheels are also original.
The GS-R trim, which stands for Grand Sport Racing, was offered as both a coupe and sedan, and power came from the 1.8-liter VTEC with 170 hp and 128 lb-ft. This example is equipped with the five-speed manual as well as leather seats. Supposedly everything works, from the sunroof to the air conditioning. Asking price: $10,000. A bit pricey? Yes, but finding a nearly 20-year old Integra in bone stock condition with very little wear and tear is not always so easy to come by.