As you know the ITRCA has for years represented not only an established network of Type R owners in the United States, but with it comes an almost AAA like free insurance from the friends and family of both past and present ITR owners. Never in my life did I dream that in 2004 when I attended my very first ITR Expo that I was joining the single best fraternity of friends who can be recognized by a distinctly shaped and colored capital letter R. The camaraderie, for lack of a word that means far more, has continued to blow my mind over and over again throughout the years. I often find myself trying to explain to others how unique the relationships that we've formed really are. I'm not sure, however, that it's something you can quite comprehend until you have been affected by it directly.
For years now, our cars have been the target of thieves throughout the country, and much like soldiers in battle who watch each other's backs, we too have done the same. An extremely unique set of circumstances has for years made what is arguably the best front-wheel-drive car ever produced next to impossible to enjoy without having to arm it as if it were painted in gold and rolling on diamond wheels. It's the only car you can park next to a Ferrari overnight and find missing next to an unscathed exotic worth more than five, six, even seven times its value. I'm not sharing information that all of us don't already know, however, the general public has been clueless about how real the threat to owning "just a Honda" has been ever since these cars hit our shores in 1997.
Having had the same Integra GS-R stolen twice in three months, I speak from experience when I say that it sucks waking up to your economical, yet performance-oriented, form of daily transportation having completely vanished and finding nothing but a picture of your newborn niece that the thief kindly threw out the window before pulling away. In 2010, after losing my car twice in a three-month period and being stuck in the worst sales job ever, I went back to school to be a high school Spanish teacher. My wife, who has been nothing short of amazing throughout me playing with cars and going back to school, said, "If you are going to do this second degree right, you must go study abroad." I said jokingly, "Honey, I'll go study as many broads as you'd like." I knew that my trip was going to be a major expense. It took all of three sad seconds for me to realize that meant liquidating my parts and selling my Type R.
So what's the big deal, right? I can always buy another. Well, not exactly. I guess you could say fate had sort of dropped a '98 ITR No. 804 directly into my hands. Upon what could have been the end of my life and my '00 JDM ITR-powered EM1 Civic Si, less than a month later I was driving to Expo 5 in Omaha, Nebraska, to track my ITR for the very first time. Many thought I was crazy for tracking No. 804 because of how "tmnt mint" it was. That year we parked the car inside the hotel banquet hall on display for others to see. It was, and still is, perfect despite more than 10 track days, including visits to epic circuits like Watkins Glen, VIR, Autobahn Country Club, and the list goes on.
For years the cleanliness of my car was preserved when not on track by keeping it waxed and on display inside the showroom of Innovative Motorworks in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was there that it hibernated during the winters. They loved having it, and it was peace of mind for me that the car was safe. I'll never forget the owner calling me one day to say the shop had been broken into. We watched thieves dance around my car on video, taking less money in stereo equipment than the flawless Gunmetal TE-37s that were on my car at the time. Bill and Derek Robinson (father and son) and myself just sort of smiled and chuckled.
The point I'm trying to make is that the odds have been stacked against us (ITR owners) forever. No. 804 continued to live in its showroom condition despite years of track events, being parked outside overnight, and driving it off the road one winter as the result of a freak snow squall, and is still one of the single best examples of an all-original Championship White '98 Type R.
I ended up selling the car in 2011 less than a week after listing it for sale without the buyer trying to negotiate at all. A car this clean demands a premium, and it has gotten it, not once, not twice, but three times since I sold it. The gentlemen I sold it to ensured me it was going to a great home and would be kept for a long time. Less than a year after I sold it, however, I received an email while living in Argentina that it was back up for sale. I could have reached through the screen and punted that guy into Brazil. He at least had the courtesy of contacting me first. Then, I had a 5-second conversation with my wife about not buying the car back and keeping my life instead.
So let's fast-forward to me learning that the car was shipped to Orange County, California, where I feared it would disappear or—worse yet—get cut up and a JDM front end put on it. You could say the community gets their panties in a bunch over cutting up virgin R's. Then, a month ago I received a random email from the fifth owner thanking me for taking such good care of it all those years that I owned it. I thought to myself, Where is it now? I quickly learned after a few emails back and forth with the new owner that it was in Texas. That's not California, but still far enough that I knew I wasn't going to see it.
Mark Plummer, the current owner, has been awesome about keeping in touch and sending me pics of it regularly. He, like myself, has an understanding and appreciation of knowing where your previous vehicle is and how it's doing. Obviously with the cultlike following that exists with the ITR community you almost always know where your car is, but it's another thing to feel comfortable with it being in the possession of someone else. When Mark sent me a photo of the ITR secured in his garage parked by his E92 competition package M3 I knew the car was in good hands. Over the next few weeks we exchanged pics of cars and chatted about random coincidences we had including growing up 10 minutes from each other. Unknowingly having bought our first childhood bikes at the same store, we realized how small this world really is.
Since 2005 I have held what the community refers to as the annual PA ITR MEATZ (Meatz, because we wrap everything in bacon). The day has annually consisted of a dyno day/barbecue during the afternoon, followed by an epic "spirited drive" through Michaux State Park on the way to my house, where we end up burning down the evening with great food, more craft beers than you can count, and countless stories being retold about past Expos and regional events. With me graduating in May and applying for teaching jobs everywhere but Pennsylvania, I announced that 2013 would more than likely be the last Pennsylvania meet. I, of course, informed Mark about the get-together and invited him to join us if he was interested in flying in as many others do from different parts of the country. Furthest travelled award goes to Ryan Conley aka "Coolhandluke" or "Rukis" for making the trip from San Francisco.
So I'm eating lunch at school one day when I receive a text from Mark that says, "Are you ready for me to make your day?" I wasn't prepared for what he was about to tell me. I think I read it four times to make sure I wasn't missing an April fool's joke somewhere. Nope, no joke! The text message read, "Jon, I'm shipping 804 to my uncle's house in Maryland, and I'll have your old car present for your last event." I wish I could have seen my own face after it sunk in that what I was reading was actually going to happen. I have not seen my car for two years, and never actually thought I would ever see it again, let alone drive it like he has insisted upon. There are few people in this world who will ship a car thousands of miles to show up to a barbecue with your old car, but it's no surprise at all that one of them is a Type R owner. There isn't a city in America that you could break down, need a place to sleep, need a part, need a hand doing anything you can imagine that an ITR owner won't drop whatever it is they are doing to try and help you.
I'd like to thank the hundreds of individuals (too long to list) for the acts of kindness that have been given or shown to me over the years. Each one of us bought a Type R for our own individual reasons, and every one of us will agree it was one of the best choices we ever made. It truly is one of the few cars ever to be manufactured that came standard with unconditional friendships, unforgettable memories, and the understanding that what goes around comes around, and sometimes even comes back!