Salvage yards conjure up mixed emotions for any thoughtful car guy-particularly an old-school cat like Arvie Gimeno. On the one hand, it's where tired and expired machinery goes to die-whether it was simply its time, or whether circumstances sped up the evolutionary process a little, you only have to pay two bucks and wander in to Octopus, or Cadillac on a Stick, or any number of Pick-Your-U-Pull-Parts brand boneyard emporiums. The must of rainstorms absorbed into exposed cloth and upholstery, the leaking oil, antifreeze and various other evaporating fluids; combined, it smells like death.
The flipside of this: if you're building up an older car-something, say, roughly two decades old-this is the place to go for parts. The donations of the deceased can provide continued existence for those older machines still soldiering around the freeways of America. It's automotive Darwinism: the weak and injured die so that the strong may continue to live-and thrive.
Just four short years ago, Arvie bought himself a red '91 Integra, built it up over a period of time and rolled his red DA around the mean streets of Pomona, CA. All that time, he was collecting parts-choice engine components, body parts, decals, you name it. Skirts here. Rear spoiler there. Bits and pieces were amassing in his garage. And then... the unthinkable: on the way to the Nisei '06 show, Arvie biffed it, leaving his prized Integra beyond its value to repair it. See that red car on the forklift? That's not an Oldsmobile Achieva, as your bonehead author suspected at first glance. Rather, it's Arvie's old Integra. In the pics, it looks fairly clean, but trust us: it's little more than tasty meat for boneyard buzzards now.
Today's first smattering of irony: Arvie bought the rolling shell of a '91 Integra LS to replace his machine-a car that was far less complete, all things considered, than the machine he had abandoned as a write-off. A lesser man would have considered it a write-off and packed it up into boxes to await transport to the yard. In his import-drag-racing-mad home country of Guam, Arvie could have taken these bare bones and built a fairly stout strip machine out of his DA-as is the fashion these days in that American territory, we're told. Or he could do something just as cool-and a little more versatile.
Instead, Arvie decided that his new stripped shell allowed him to build and paint his car however he wanted, without having to pull everything apart. Weeks of labor, saved. What price, time? As deep as Arvie wanted to go, and as many parts as he wanted to replace, getting a completed car would have just been a hassle. Plus, Arvie now had a one-stop depository and showpiece for all of the cool JDM and Mugen components he had been saving up.
He had collected pieces of a period-correct Mugen bodykit from various sources: the wing came from one place, the side skirts came from another and the nose was discovered new in the box in Arizona-it came complete with instructions. Such a find is like manna from heaven. Even so, it took a year to find all the pieces.
So what is it about Mugen that moves you so deeply, Arvie? "I've always loved this bodykit for the DA. Plus," he adds, "the parts fit perfectly, their style is clean and simple, but attractive. I consider myself a Mugen collector." A flaw-free white paint job helps to stress both the clean lines and a clean build.
Arvie also went whole-hog on the JDM pieces here too: thinner side moldings, one-piece headlights, different taillights, door visors, fenders with side-marker lights, and thinner JDM-spec bumper supports among them. (Badges have been shaved, but a collection of Japanese door-jamb and underhood decals now grace all of the correct spots.)
Irony number two: Arvie's pal Kenny, who operates his shop SoKwik out of the very yard that these photos were taken in, did the yeoman's share of the labor in putting things back together once Arvie's pal Yugi-san painted it all up. (Yugi-san also painted it there in the yard, with Arvie's former car nearby, its spirit overseeing the proceedings.) It also made dress-up items like the hidden wiring loom that much easier to execute.
This adherence to period Mugen-wear had its price: for example, bigger brakes were out of the question. "I put Brembo rotors on," Arvie says, "but limiting myself to certain wheels from that year, I couldn't go bigger."
Inside is unlike virtually any other DA Integra you've ever sat in: A complete JDM Integra XSi interior-down to the front and rear seats with headrests, door panel material, double-din stereo, seat belts, gauge cluster and floor mats-has been installed. Even the bronze-tinted Japan-spec glass has made its way onto this former rolling shell. Everything, save for moving the steering wheel to the other side of the cabin, has been co-opted into Arvie's Integra. The only parts that aren't factory JDM are-you guessed it-Mugen: the shift knob and sport steering wheel, primarily. "I'm only missing the decal with the pinstripe," Arvie laments.
Under the hood? A '90 VTEC, still displacing 1.6 liters but bumped up to 12:1 compression and running 100-octane fuel. A painted valve cover, and the lack of arm-thick wiring looms snaking about the engine compartment, is the most obvious of the underhood enhancements. The rear suspension has received the bulk of the attention underneath, with JDM lower rear control arms and a ball-joint rear shock setup instead of the forked piece.
Recently enhanced with the vigor and quality of a newly-built machine, there are many years still ahead, and many miles to traverse, before Arvie's JDMesque DA Integra shuffles off this mortal coil and joins its predecessor in its final resting place.
Owner Arvie Gimeno
Hometown Pomona, CA
Daily Grind mugen collector
under the hood Honda B16; 12:1 compression, Comp camps, Eagle rods, Wiseco pistons and rings, Civic Type R crank, ported and polished head, built by Kenny at SoKwik, hidden wiring loom, custom Island key bolts, painted and shaved valve cover
Driveline 1992 YS1 5-speed manual transaxle with limited-slip differential; ACT clutchROLLERS Mugen MR5 wheels; 15-inch Kumho tires
Stoppers stock with custom-bent stainless lines, Brembo rotors and Mugen pads
Stiff Stuff Tein basic struts and shocks; Spoon front tower brace; Miracle-X rear brace, Energy Suspension bushings, JDM DA6 rear lower control arms; total 3-inch drop
Outside complete Mugen body kit with rear wing; JDM window visors, one-piece headlights and foglights
Inside complete JDM conversion including front and rear seats, door panel materials, seatbelts, gauge cluster, double-DIN audio system, arm rests, sun visors and floor mats; Aeroduo carbon-Kevlar drivers' seat; Gathers head unit, CD player and speakers with DVD entertainment unit
Props Rocketjay; Mom and Dad; Kenny at SoKwik; Yugi-san; "DPK" JP; Rudy; David, Jimmy, Carlos, Gump and Alex; Jason; Roy; Ronald at Aeroduo; Danny at DigiHorizon; JDM Marc; Dajay, Big Mike and the Fresh Drive Homies; Drew "Spek1;" Ernie Euy and GG
Www advancedclutch.com; compcams.com; dunloptires.com; mugen-power.com; pistons-online.com