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1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education

Built vs. bought vs. both

May 7, 2019
Photographer: Josh Rivera

You log onto your favorite automotive website or flip through the pages of Super Street and see various well-executed builds sporting top notch parts that seem to be incredibly fun to drive on the street or track. The inner workings flawlessly cooperate in a blissful, trouble-free environment. But like they say, every build has a story, and it's not always the user-friendly build-up that clicks together seamlessly like a pre-built Lego kit.

1998 Acura Integra GS R Turn Signal Photo 27/27   |   1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education

Omar Morel, owner of this '98 GS-R has a story for you. What looks like a slick, well-rounded Integra that carries a more subtle and understated style rather than an in-your-face version of Acura's sporty icon, didn't happen during a month-long garage thrash with a group of friends. Instead, this DC2 has been by Omar's side for over a decade in various states of tune, and spent much of its early life limping or stowed away in the garage nursing wounds. That is, until he took matters into his own hands...literally.

1998 Acura Integra GS R Front Splitter Photo 27/27   |   1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education

In 2007 Omar approached a local dealership to get a closer look at a Civic on the lot. The closer he got, the less interested he became as battle scars and a poor general condition turned him off. On the way through the lot, he'd taken notice of a black GS-R, but without a price or a dealer plate he assumed it wasn't for sale. A quick chat with a salesman produced an introduction to the car's owner and some back and forth resulted in a deal being struck on the spot and Omar picking up his new Integra the following day.

1998 Acura Integra GS R B18C1 Photo 27/27   |   1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education

Mild intake and exhaust upgrades, the type that most anyone starts off with, made their way onto the Integra and during an impromptu "spirited drive" alongside an Eclipse, the B18 waived the white flag. Omar states, "My car was making a funny noise. At the time I wasn't mechanically inclined and didn't know what I was looking for. I ended up taking it to a mechanic to find out that one of my cylinders had little to no compression. I was stressed out because at the time that was my only car—I had no other way to get to and from work." The injured 1.8L was barely operational but with no other options, continued to be used for the daily commute. Saving up enough cash to fix the issue, the shop Omar went to informed him that a chunk of one of his valves was missing. With the head already off the car, a Skunk2 valvetrain and cams were added to the repair bill along with CP pistons and ARP studs. The savings account allowed for parts and labor but weren't enough to get the car properly tuned. "Once everything was installed the only tune I had was with an A'PEXi VAFC. It ran like crap but it took me from point A to point B."

1998 Acura Integra GS R Rear Bumper Photo 27/27   |   1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education

Not the ideal setup, but the Integra was once again reliable ... for a year, at least, before it suddenly shut off and showed no signs of starting back up. Though he began attending UTI automotive technical school he had to pull out of classes once his wife became ill. Omar had to borrow an oil burning Ford Escort station wagon from his mother until a new daily could be purchased. By this time the Integra had been stagnant for over 6 months and selling it was all but guaranteed. That is, until he and his wife attended a local meet and Omar explained to his wife that he envisioned his Integra with similar mods. He recalls, "my wife told me to make a list of parts and she was shocked at the price and I didn't even include labor. She encouraged me to do my research on how to do everything I wanted to the Integra and we agreed on spending the money for parts but only if I figured out how to install them myself." For the next four months Omar went online and absorbed every bit of knowledge that he possibly could and after his good friend Noel turned him on to The Chronicles website, he spotted Michael Cristi's GS-R and the inspiration came pouring in.

1998 Acura Integra GS R Kinsler ITB Photo 27/27   |   1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education

You've heard the "built vs. bought" argument time and time again, and it's not hard to find solid ground on both ends. In Omar's case, this stage of the build simply wasn't going to happen without getting his hands dirty. "One day I decided to go to the garage. I started to look around the engine bay for a few minutes and just started disconnecting plugs." A visit from his friend Noel had the two working side by side and in no time they had the engine and trans removed and took note of why the car wasn't starting: a broken timing belt. Fortunately, none of the valves were damaged and new gaskets and seals were installed to freshen up the engine. To achieve the "Bluetooth" engine wiring look of Cristi's build, Omar spent hours going through his stock harness and modifying it to run outside of the bay. With everything re-installed, the engine fired up and was once again roadworthy, though a mismatched tune allowed for way too much fuel and Omar was changing plugs monthly.

1998 Acura Integra GS R Type R Wing 01 Photo 27/27   |   1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education

A guy goes from zero technical knowledge to being able to remove, rebuild and replace his engine, complete a wire tuck and more after having spent hours online researching—that could be the end of the story, but Omar hit a low point personally, having separated with his wife, he turned to his garage for a bit of an escape. Taking a long look at the Integra, he was content with his progress but wanted more and this time around, he decided to bring in an experienced builder. "I contacted a friend that owns a local shop named XMP and told him about my plans on redoing the entire car and once I had it completely taken apart, he came to pick it up." XMP shaved the bay, tucked the brake lines and resprayed the car while Omar ordered more parts in preparation for the GS-Rs second debut. Parts that included Kinsler ITBs, Hondata's coil-on-plug conversion and a Wilwood brake package.

1998 Acura Integra GS R Recaro Pole Position Seats Photo 27/27   |   1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education

Omar took to both sides of the built vs. bought debate and in the process, learned about his car, managed to successfully perform some major work to it himself, and with help from XMP, completed a build that he couldn't be happier with. "It gave me the confidence to help build other cars and also fix some of my friends and families cars. I owe so much of my success to my wife—if it wasn't for her pushing me to build it in the first place, I wouldn't have the knowledge I do now."

1998 Acura Integra GS R First Molding Hood Photo 27/27   |   1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education


By Rodrez
956 Articles
1998 Acura Integra GS-R - Hands-on Education
Tuning Menu
Owner: Omar Morel
Occupation: Conveyor Technician
Instagram: @im_aaaight
Engine: B18C1; Hasport billet engine mounts; CP 12:1 pistons; Skunk2 valvesprings, retainers, Tuner 2 cams, black edition cam gears, radiator; Spoon sports radiator hoses, radiator cap; Kinsler 55mm ITBs; RMF header; Hondata coil-on-plug conversion; Downstar hardware; Rywire tucked engine harness; Blox S2000 clutch master cylinder; shaved bay, tucked brake lines
Suspension: Skunk2 Pro S2 coilovers, Ultra lower control arms, Pro Series rear camber kit; ASR subframe brace, Blox 23mm sway bar
Brakes: Spoon brake calipers; Wilwood discs; ITR brake pads
Wheels & Tires: 16x7 Volk Racing TE37; 205/45-16 Nitto Neo Gen
Exterior: Complete OEM restoration; Night Hawk black pearl paint; Spoon side mirrors; First Molding vented carbon fiber hood
Interior: Recaro Pole Position seats; Spoon steering wheel, shift knob; NRG short hub adapter, quick-release
Thank you: To my wife Madina for pushing to do this build, my friend Noel for the guidance and help, Jason and Edgar for giving me a hand, KJ from turban build helping me with the knowledge and electrical, Mindy for being my moral support and last but not least, Xul from XMP Performance for not only the great bay and brake tuck work but also with the help to accomplish my dream.



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