The 1985 launch of the Acura brand and its first model, the Integra, was something special. A derivative of the third-generation Civic, the Integra was better in every way: larger, four-wheel disc brakes instead of rear drums; a twin-cam, 16-valve engine instead of a single-cam 12-valve one; and a more adept, tighter suspension when compared to its Honda sibling--the likes of which entry-level subcompacts had yet to see. It was a big deal for American enthusiasts who sought domestic alternatives when alternatives were scant.
Japan's version of the Integra, which was released a year earlier under the guise of the Honda Quint forename, didn't benefit from the impending Acura brand's hullaballoo--a brand that existed only in North America--but was instead distributed through Honda's premier Japanese Verno channel underneath the parent company's umbrella. The Integra's popularity was vested mostly in the U.S. where its lion's share was sold despite the fact that only 60 Acura dealerships had been established following the brand's inception.
Built at Honda of Japan's Suzuka plant, the Integra's visionary wedge shape did much for the car's image, but enthusiasts appreciated its DOHC 113hp engine that paid homage to the Civic's D-series more than anything and in many ways foretold the coming of what would become one of Honda's most successful engines ever--the B-series. Kazuma Urasaki won't disagree with any of that, which is mostly why he's left his '86 GSi's 1.6L ZC mill alone and instead focused on the car's braking and handling capabilities.
Longtime Honda fan and previously the owner of a Civic Ferio, Urasaki outfitted the Integra's strut-and-torsion-bar suspension with TEIN coilovers and a number of bits from storied Japanese Honda tuning house Osaka JDM. Perhaps most notably, he's gone on to replace the diminutive factory wheels and tires with more capable 16x8" Barramundi Elevens, an addition that Urasaki says makes his Integra unique.
In the bizarro world that is tuning Hondas in Japan, Urasaki appointed his Integra with U.S.-spec components, including exterior lighting, mirrors and an American-sourced gauge cluster. Not unlike American Honda enthusiasts of the early 1990s who went to great lengths to acquire Japanese-exclusive bits, Urasaki is quick to point out the difficulties he encountered while on his USDM treasure hunt, searching for parts, most of which had long been discontinued. Fortunately for Urasaki, his build accomplice, Osaka JDM's Kazuhiro Furukawa, was able to fulfill most of his wish list while scouring wrecking yards during a recent visit to California.
As Honda's proven over time with most of its lineup, North America was privy only to select versions of the original Integra: three-door and five-door hatchback RS and LS models, both featuring the same D16A1, ZC-like engine. Japanese dealerships were stocked with similar albeit right-hand drive three-door models--the GSi and RSi--but also made available ZS and LS trims that were sold with carbureted versions of the ZC. In terms of performance and accouterments, however, Urasaki's GSi, which is similar to the North American LS, beats all of them. Careful not to disturb the car's heritage, Urasaki's modifications were calculated wisely. The original seats remain intact. Each body panel remains of factory origin. And the paint, although not a color commissioned by Honda (it was sourced from Toyota's FT86), those unfamiliar with the Integra's pedigree would have no reason to believe otherwise.
Echoing the 1984-1987 Civic in more ways than one, the Integra's release was met with an uproar among enthusiasts. The excitement didn't last beyond the model's production, though, as it soon fell into obscurity. Nothing overshadowed Honda's first high-end, compact sports car more than its successor, with its more powerful and upgradeable B-series, fully independent rear suspension, and two years into production, VTEC. It would take another two decades before enthusiasts would once again look back upon Honda's mid-1980s creations like the '86-'89 Integra with nostalgia, appreciation, envy. But it's almost too late. Like Urasaki knows all too well, the first-generation Integra parts search is a formidable one, second only to discovering a suitable first-generation Integra itself.
1986 Honda Quint Integra GSi
Footwork & Chassis TEIN coilovers; Osaka JDM upper pillow mounts, front camber plates, rear camber kit and lateral rods; Mugen torsion bars; ARP wheel studs; BWR hood spacers
Brakes EF3 Civic front rotors and calipers; Dixcel pads; Osaka JDM steel-braided lines
Wheels & Tires 16x8" (+15 front, +28 rear) Barramundi Design Eleven wheels; 195/40R16 Marangoni tires
Exterior USDM Integra corner lights, taillights and mirrors; Honda optional rear wing; Toyota FT86 silver paint
Interior Nardi 330mm steering wheel; NRG quick-release hub; K-Tuned shifter; USDM Integra gauge cluster; Integra Type R shift boot