With the exception of a few, I've mostly owned Hondas. My favorite was a '95 GSR that I bought brand new and I wish I'd never sold. It was my first new car...sort of. I totaled my first new car before its third payment was due, but that's not important. I had already modified a couple of CRXs prior to picking up the DC2. As such, I made no promises as to leaving the Integra stock. No, the laundry list of parts to be applied was in the works long before I shelled out that deposit.
I started taking things apart in less than a week. It began with Tokico Illumina shocks and Neuspeed Race springs-a tried-and-true combination. Those yellow-coated springs were THE springs to have in that day. They lowered the body more than the others and, for the most part, rode comfortably enough. Coilovers were expensive and rare and wannabe coilovers were yet to be developed. Come to think of it, this was a time before cheap knockoffs altogether. An RS Akimoto short-ram intake and DC Sports stainless 4-into-2-into-1 header followed along with a Trust cat-back exhaust system, which I'm ashamed to say how much I paid for. This was the generally accepted combo of the day and was one in which Integra owners veered away from seldom. Cold air intakes were a year or so away and, well, DC Sports was just about the only header we could get our hands on. Life was good, that is, until I visited the dyno. You see, the B18C was relatively new. Many of us were beginning to realize how great it was. The previously proven header/intake/exhaust trio that worked so well on earlier projects just wasn't as effective when matched with Honda's most sophisticated four-cylinder to date. How does one better the best?
Turbocharging Hondas had yet to be perfected at this time. For all intents and purposes, there was really only one company offering a bolt-on kit.
You'd laugh at it now but in those days it was the stuff of dreams. The turbocharger itself was something entirely new, a strange homologation of a hybrid they called a T3/T4. An inline fuel pump, cast-iron exhaust manifold just waiting to crack, paired with a cheese ball external wastegate, and a tiny side-mount intercooler were status quo. That's right, a side-mount. Front-mount intercoolers weren't that big a deal yet and, frankly, the side-mount got the job done. Of course, if you really wanted a front-mount you'd go to the wrecking yard and pull one off a Starion, but I digress. The best part of the kit was its fuel management and data-logging systems, which consisted of a boost-dependent fuel pressure regulator and a no-name boost gauge. What can I say? It was the mid-'90s.
A year and a half later and it was all dialed in. That might sound like a long time, and it was. You might think I wasted much of those 18 months or so trying to figure out why my turbocharged B18C was slower than my pal's mildly modified EF and, in the process, getting laughed at for being turd slow, but that's not the whole story. Sure, I finally figured it all out but the problem actually wasn't as important as what I learned while trying to solve it. It never is. While dissecting the Integra's various systems I familiarized myself with turbos, intercoolers, and wastegates. I introduced myself to Honda ECUs, piggybacks, and, eventually, a standalone system. I even became familiar enough with the B's internals that I no longer needed a service manual to assemble one. I'll leave the reasons as to why such regularly scheduled rebuilds were necessary to your imagination.
I eventually sold off the Integra but now wish I never had. It went through several stages along the way and was my "first" in many respects. It went from a bone-stock GSR with only 12 miles on it to a 550hp street car over the course of five years. It even had a SOHC D16Z6 in it at one point. Mistakes were made along the way. Expensive parts blew up, and important things broke. I'd wish such an experience on my best of friends.There's really no better way to learn than from your mistakes.
- Aaron Bonk