Our neighbors in Canada have long been a home to a flourishing import automotive community. They've produced some pretty incredible builds over the years--we just haven't had the chance to see them. Though they are just a stone's throw away from us, it almost feels as if we're worlds apart. A couple of times out of the year, we'll meet in the upper regions of the U.S. for various meets and shows, but for the rest of the country, the Canadian import scene is more or less unseen and unheard. The only time you'll see a nice build is from a photo that's been shared socially online. And when you do, you say to yourself, "Oh damn, that car is from Canada?"
There's a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to this hobby of ours. It's good to expand our horizons and see what the rest of the world has to offer. With that being said, we decided to go in a different direction for this year's Honda Issue and bring you this '98 Acura Integra Type R from Vancouver, British Columbia. The owner, Reggie Mah, has done a great job of building this ITR to its current state but its reputation actually precedes itself and the owner. This R was one of the first Hondas in Canada to feature a K20A engine swap years ago when the previous owner, Darren Law, toured the car throughout the country. When it wasn't on display at events, Law beat the living hell out of it at the track. To be fair, this Integra is a stud in front of the camera but in person is far from perfect; it wears the scars of its battle-tested past on the factory Championship White body. When Reggie eventually acquired it, the vehicle was literally (and figuratively) a shell of its former self.
"I've been a fan of the DC2 Integra chassis from as far back as I can remember," Reggie says. "The Type R was my dream car, and Darren's R was my inspiration. I couldn't afford an ITR so I settled for a regular DC2 and modded it. It wasn't until a year and a half later Darren offered to sell me his R. I originally planned to buy the entire car complete with all the parts on it but the price tag was just too far out of my reach. He parted it out months later and I purchased the shell with just the K-swap. I even had to bring my own seats and steering wheel just to drive the car home."
Although it was just a bare shell and motor, Reggie was excited by the prospect of finally having an R to play with. That is, until he started realizing all the problems the car had. "Nobody wants the headaches of having to deal with all these issues but I took it all in stride. You have to remember that this car had a K20 transplant back when there weren't many bolt-on/plug-and-play parts available. The swap was based on whatever parts they could create on their own from a ton of trial/error."
As Reggie explains, the entire build process has been a constant uphill battle, even up until today: "One of the first things I had to change out was the custom shifter tray they made. I'm pretty sure it wasn't even bolted down and was just sitting on the exhaust piping-I could literally see the pavement from inside the cabin while driving! The car was modified extensively inside and out so there were a lot of things about the R that just didn't work after the factory parts were re-installed. Electrical gremlins were the biggest problem. Every time I drove the car it would just die and I always had to have a set of jumper cables on me. The instrument cluster didn't work either so I never knew how much gas I had in my car!"
Hindsight always being 20/20, regrets still weren't cause for concern. There was a love/hate relationship that had developed but it allowed him to learn everything he needed to know about cars. Being a resident of Vancouver provided him with plenty of time during the winter to work on the car in his garage as well. Instead of dealing with the problems every time the car left him on the side of the road, he took advantage of the downtime and tore the rest of the ITR apart, pulling the motor and all. The electrical system proved to be too steep a learning curve for Reggie, so he eliminated any semblance of factory wiring altogether. In its place now is a custom-tailored Rywire K-swap engine harness. The complete harness not only afforded a cleaner, "tucked" appearance, but it was also easily removable via a Mil-spec quick disconnect plug.
While the motor was out, Reggie and his friends attempted their first shave and tuck of the engine bay. Over the years, the bay had seen significant wear pre- and post-K-swap so it was the right time for a refresher. Shaving the firewall smooth and eliminating the holes gave the bay a more modern appeal. Reggie explains, "Shaved engine bays are very popular down in the (United States) but up here in Canada, it's rare to see. The winter months were so cold that no one really wanted to come over and help me work on the car. I don't blame them though, it wasn't exactly fun to sit in a garage with subzero temperatures but I was determined to get it done. One of my buddies spot-welded the holes shut and then I spent 20+ hours smoothing everything out for paint."
Between shaving the bay, tucking the brake lines behind the firewall and running custom -AN cooling lines, it was as if Reggie was doing an entirely new K20A swap. The motor was serviced with new seals and gaskets during that time to ensure that it also had a fresh start. He soon realized that the factory Honda TPS sensor was one of the culprits of his electrical troubles and upgraded it with a K-Tuned unit. Engine vibrations typically kill factory sensors so K-Tuned developed a sensor in a silicone-filled billet housing capable of surviving the stress. Once the bay was re-sprayed, he acquired a new set of Hasport 62A mounts that helped for better overall engine alignment and re-installed his K.
A trip to Northern California in 2012 really helped to inspire the rest of this ITR build. "I went to the Wekfest car show [in San Francisco] and was able to see for the first time the builds that I looked up to in magazines. It was real motivation for me to try to get my car close to the level of some of the Hondas from ATS Garage. I had a chance to meet Anh Truong from ATS and he was a big help in my build," Reggie says.
Anh was able to get Reggie in contact with the guys from Circuit Hero, who later supplied him with their 3-point strut tower bar, rear lower tie bar, 3-inch intake and custom interior roll bar. To bring attention to the Circuit Hero pieces, the strut bar and intake pipe were recoated in a custom teal mix while the roll bar was color-matched in a tone reminiscent to Volk Racing's "Magnesium Blue". Up front, the use of blue accents follow suit with a pair of blue Recaro Pole Position buckets. Draped on top of each seat are white Willans 4-point safety harnesses. The concave KEY!S steering wheel bears a matching colorway but the most attention-stealing features of the cockpit have to be the STACK cluster and Circuit Soul shift knob designed to resemble a massive bullet casing.
The exterior seems to be an ever-changing part of Reggie's build. Perhaps he hasn't decided on a look that he is 100% satisfied with so he's constantly evolving. When we first spotted his build, his Integra was rocking a BackYard Special front bumper and Mugen Gen. 2 rear spoiler. Now, as you can see in the photos, his R is currently wearing a C-West front bumper and sides. The only constants that have remained since the onset of his build are the M's Racing mirrors and J's Racing Type S hood. Any Honda lover knows that if you acquire any of those two products, you're more than likely to hold onto them for a very long time. He found a J's Racing carbon GT wing to match the hood but has even customized that with taller 275mm titanium wing stands. His selection of wheels seems to vary depending on whatever fancies his tastes at the moment, but the general consensus is that this 16x8" set of Volk TE37s is by far his best choice to date. The concavity of the wheel makes it appear as if the spokes are running away from the Spoon Twin Block brakes up front. Judging by the pace in which he's swapped out aero components and rolling stock, he'll probably have moved onto another set-up by the time you have this Honda Issue in your hands.
"The car isn't complete in my eyes," Reggie proclaims. "It's never-ending. I plan to take the interior out, repaint it and leave it bare. I want to possibly repaint the entire car, too, since I want a color change. I know there'll be those who will hate the idea of re-painting an original Championship White R but I don't build my car for anyone else but myself. The car is part of my personality and I'm glad to see that there are people who will get it and people that won't. Maybe I'll redo it all over again in a year, who knows? Right now, I'm just enjoying my R."