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1995 Acura Integra GS-R - Graftwork

The True Story of a Boy, a Toe, and an Integra

Bryn MacKinnon
Oct 1, 1999
Photographers: RJ DeVera, Matthew Pearson

Thoe. Say it. Thoe. It’s a friend-of-a-friend story. It takes place in the ’70s. When he was four years old, Andrew’s thumb got chopped off by the lawn mower or a big knife or maybe a dog bit it off. I’m not sure. But that’s not the important part. The important part is that he lost his thumb, the very body part upon which hinges our superior status in the animal kingdom.

Without our opposable thumb (that means it bends the way it does and helps us grab things), how could we make and hold the tools we use to build, dig, write, paint, and shovel food into our mouths? We couldn’t grab an extra-large pitcher of frosty root beer and pour a round for our buddies after a hard game of Chutes and Ladders at the local watering hole or pinch the rear of a particularly attractive person who happens to be walking by us at said watering hole. And that would be a tragedy.

But back to Thumbless Andrew and his fascinating predicament. His doctors decided that, since it is much easier to learn to walk on four toes than it is to be an upright human without a thumb, they would cut off one of his big toes and graft it onto his hand where the thumb had been lost. Brilliant! All of the doctors nodded their heads in agreement, rubbed their big bellies, and murmured to themselves in satisfaction.

The operation was a success. Andrew’s hand accepted that big toe as its own digital leader, and Andrew learned to use his new “thumb” very well and quite quickly. Modern science is amazing, isn’t it? Those doctors were able to take a small boy’s misfortune and, with a simple medical procedure (borrowed from horticulture), turn his life around and make him a fully functioning human being. It’s just too bad they couldn’t stop his neighborhood chums from permanently nicknaming him Thoe (thumb plus toe equals Thoe), a crushing humiliation that rendered him so self-conscious about his appendage that to this day he wears a baseball mitt on that hand, which actually cuts down on the functionality of the hand, which was the problem in the first place. Not really the result the doctors had hoped for.

The moral of our story is that pre-teen boys can usually reverse any adult’s attempt to help someone’s self-esteem, but that doesn’t change the fact that grafting really works, as can be seen in such wildly successful examples as the tangelo (a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine), broccoflower (a disgusting combo vegetable with the color of broccoli and the chalky taste of cauliflower), organ donations (which keep many Third World countries’ economies afloat), and Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups. Also on this list of hybrids should be Julian Nieh’s ’95 Integra GS-R.

In this case, the reason for the transplant wasn’t a tragic accident like Thoe’s. Julian decided to build his car to represent the East Coast with a positive attitude, plus he was fed up with the small increases he was getting with bolt-on parts. If Julian’s name is familiar to you, it’s because he has been kicking audio arse in IASCA and USAC competitions since 1995 with the ’91 Integra he built before this one. He has also been featured in pretty much every car audio magazine there is. As a two-year undefeated IASCA champion and a four-year overall champion, Julian learned to take his time and never take shortcuts in the quest to create a rolling masterpiece that will stand the test of time—Julian is not interested in what’s trendy. He builds cars for consistency.

On this latest creation, he opted to go all out: Japanese OEM front end, conversion kit, cams, transmission with LSD, strut bar, and radiator support; all kinds of aftermarket parts, including STR gears, JE pistons with a compression ration of 9.0:1, Turbonetics turbo with Tial wastegate, HKS Powerflow air cleaner, and a whole lot of other go-fast parts, all listed in Fast Facts. A ton of custom equipment—like aluminum plates for the Saleen wing, a coolant reservoir, a radiator, and stainless steel heat control under the hood—was made to bring this Integra to the state in which it appears now.

Since this Integra is Julian’s daily driver, as well as a race car and a show car, all of the mods had to work well together in every context. It took careful planning to balance the show-and-go aspects with the driving-to-school aspect. But true to his mission, Julian took care of it. The GS-R sits low thanks to H&R fully threaded billet coilovers accompanied by an Energy Suspension full urethane suspension kit. For chassis-stiffening, there’s every kind of bar you can imagine, each carrying a different logo: Z.Speed/ Skunkworks antisway bars, a Type R front strut bar, a Neuspeed rear upper strut bar, and a DC Sports rear lower tie bar. Volk Racing TE37s of the 17-inch variety surrounded by 215/40ZR17 Toyo F24s keep the car rolling. It looks like Julian’s plan worked, as his 1999 accomplishments list includes being awarded Firsts at both Import Autorama and Battle of the Imports and placing Fourth out of the Top 50 cars at Top Flight Invitationals.

With the extensive sound competition career in Julian’s recent past, it was a given that this Integra’s in-car electronics would be of utmost importance. Sig Young installed the stereo components (which consist of an Alpine CVA-1000 head unit and CHA-5604 CD changer brought to passengers’ ears and rears by 5.25-inch Boston Acoustics Pro Series 5.0lf speakers and Audioquest 16-gauge wiring. Any car with this much time, money, and care invested in it better be able to protect itself while the master is away, so Lee Diehr and “IASCA” Chris from Sound Solutions in Chantilly, Virginia, installed an Alpine 8081 security system.

And just like the doctors did to that big toe, the experts at Gary Best Kustom Finishes performed a graft of their own by molding in Supra reversed taillights and brake lights and then sprayed the whole thing with Supra Blue paint with a pearl added in for dazzle.

With testimony like this, who knows? Maybe if Thoe’s whole body had been coated in Big Toe Pearl after his transplant so many years ago, his story would have ended better.

By Bryn MacKinnon
15 Articles

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