If you've been involved with car culture for more than a handful of years, you've undoubtedly run into your fair share of mixed personalities. From the impatient, constant builder who seems to get in over his head with every project and never nears the finish line, to the ones who flirt with various cars, never quite finding the one that suits them (or the masses for that matter) before moving on to a different hobby entirely. Then there are those like Linh Nguyen, owner of this immaculate '01 Acura Type R, who figured out exactly what he wanted and had the patience to see it through.
That's not to say he didn't test the waters prior to purchasing his dream car. Linh has a resume that includes a number of Civic and CRX builds, as well as almost a dozen Integras, so it's obvious that his loyalties lie with Honda. He adds, "I first got interested in cars in the mid-'90s watching all of my older cousins modify their cars. The Honda scene at that time was pretty prevalent. I spent a lot of time helping them wrench on cars and just fell in love with Integras."
That love was never more apparent than in the summer of '05, when he spotted this stock ITR. The only problem was that the car was located in Washington and he lacked all the funds needed to make the deal actually happen. He recalls, "I told myself I was going to do whatever it took to buy this Type R. I worked two jobs, did a bunch of side stuff, even got some help from my girlfriend." The hard work would prove to be worthwhile as the car was purchased and driven back to NorCal, where Linh began making changes to the Flamenco Black Pearl virgin that included a JDM front end, Recaro seats, and a number of different wheel swaps.
Weekend track days and trips to school and work began to rack up more miles than Linh cared for, so he decided to take the car off of daily driving duty and the car sat, untouched, for months. "Around that time, I started working for a local shop. That occupied a lot of my time so I wasn't working on the car." His employment with the shop resulted in a chance meeting with Dan Phan of R*Crew and the two became close friends. "He offered to buy my motor for one of his customers, and he offered a really good price that I couldn't refuse. I pulled the engine and sold it to Dan knowing that my only option was to go K-series."
For the next year, Linh gathered parts for the swap, but progress was slow and the dust layers continued to settle on his ITR. The standstill was a result of his new business venture (see sidebar) that threatened to keep the Integra on the disabled list. That is, until a former acquaintance stepped into the picture and helped get the ball rolling again. "With the help of my old coworker Nick Mitchell, who works for BLOX Racing, along with Mike Choi, they got Dave Shih on board to sponsor my build. They helped me out with a lot of things for the project, like cams and other performance parts." A call to Dan Phan resulted in a K24 block and K20R transmission along with R*Crew's signature header and a ported RBC manifold. The networking continued to pay off when Speed Image landed Supertech goods for the build and Inspire-USA helped to source mounts and other accessories.
The momentum didn't stop there... Linh, with help from a few friends, painted the engine bay and worked on a proper brake line tuck, followed by a complete re-wire with harnesses from the motorsport electronics gurus at Rywire. However, before the stock 2.4L would find its way to the bay, Linh had a change of heart. He states, "I decided I wanted big power. Ngoc and Mike at Synergy assembled the short-block after it was bored to 88 mm with 12.5:1 compression pistons. DNR Dave did the final assembly and dyno-tuned the car." The combination netted more than 280 hp—a considerable jump from the once-stock DC2.
Finally ready to get back on the road, Linh felt that a new look was in order, but not one that strayed far from the owner's original intentions. "I tried to stay consistent to my theme. No crazy wings or anything." With inspiration from Fred Chapman of ATS*Garage, Linh acquired a set of CP-R wheels and had them refinished in a matte and gloss black combo. An aggressive Spoon lip was installed, but not until after he applied his personal touch by filling in the vents for what he describes as a "flush look." After modifying a laundry list of Hondas over the years, it was Linh's encounter with an ad for this '01 Integra Type R that served as a tipping point of sorts. What resulted is a network of colleagues and close friends, a new business venture, and a build almost 10 years in the making that finally got its chance to shine.
What began as tinkering in his garage, eventually led to powdercoating services and painting bumpers, engine bays, and at times, even complete cars for customers. The only problem was, none of this was legal to do at Linh's residence, and the city didn't appreciate his efforts as much as local enthusiasts did. With more than a dozen cars parked around his house, the city dropped by for a visit. It could have been much worse, but fortunately, ended with a warning and a 72-hour notice to move the vehicles off the street. Plagued by thoughts of turning away so many clients, the idea of opening his own shop moved from the back of Linh's mind, to the only thing he could think about. Eventually, Linh gave in to the pressure and quit his full-time I.T. job in order to open Garageworks. He adds, "I decided to just take a risk and leap into working on cars full time. Ultimately, it worked out great. Currently we specialize in mainly Hondas and classic American vehicles, '75 and under." firstname.lastname@example.org