Casey Whitaker's '98 Integra Type R Whether you've just blown a big game, overcooked your chicken, or happened to misplace that jackpot-winning lottery ticket the day they pull the magic number combination, it's rare that life is generous enough to give you another crack at things. But we accept our fate, practice harder, choke down that burnt piece of bird, or simply cry-simultaneously shaking our fists at the sky. Every now and then however, we get another shot to make things right. It's not common, but guys like Casey Whitaker of Kernersville, NC, will attest that when you're given a second chance at something, you best not mess it up.
All the way back in 2002, Casey picked up his Integra, second hand of course, and was delighted to discover that the original owner had installed a few aftermarket parts, like a second generation Mugen wing, Mugen ECU, and a Mugen shock tower bar.
For Casey, this was an amazing come up. "I've always had this infatuation with Mugen," he said. "Their parts serve a purpose, but end up looking great in the process. Back in the day, I saw photos of a '97 ITR with a Mugen FG360, Mugen twin loop, and a few other Mugen goods. Looking back, I remember thinking the Mugen steering wheel was OEM at the time-it just looked like it belonged there!"
But not being much of a mechanic, Casey wasn't planning on a serious, through-the-roof build. He wanted a car to showcase all of his favorite parts, not necessarily one that could go nuts at the track, or tear up the streets. Just a nice, tasteful car with a couple of kick-ass parts to boot would suit him just fine.
"In the beginning I wanted to do a few minor things. Track or show, I really wasn't aiming to do either. I just envisioned a car with every part I wanted that I could take out occasionally," Casey said. "Not to mention, the DC Integra platform is great to play with, with plenty of options for any aspect you want to change."
Not surprisingly, Casey got caught up in the whirlwind of sourcing parts and dreaming of mods, which altered his plans of 'not doing much of a build' to 'doing a huge, impressive build'. While he sourced and dreamed of parts, he drove the Integra as-is for a few months and enjoyed the North Carolina summer with friends, cruising from town to town, and enjoying his new ride.
It wasn't long before Casey's dreams were shattered though, when financial Armageddon struck and he was forced to sell off the Integra to someone he knew wouldn't love it the way he had. Unloading it, he resigned himself to driving beaters for a while until he could get back on his feet financially.
With patience, perseverance, and a lot of hard work, Casey was able to pull himself out of his monetary sinkhole, which meant that he could finally pick up a new car. In an unprecedented move, he decided to check up on his old Integra, which he discovered was being stored at a local shop after the 3rd owner decided to spend some time in jail. And coincidentally, the shop's owner just so happened to be a friend of Casey's who told him the car was back on the marker, and offered it up to him first. Incredibly, he was getting his old car back for another chance to do it right.
"After waiting four years to check up on the car, I never thought I'd see it again," said Casey. "I wanted it back mainly for sentimental reasons-I had a lot of great memories with the car-and the price was too good to turn down."
Though the price was good, to say the car was in bad shape would be the understatement of the millennium. After spending nearly four years parked under a tree the paint was destroyed, and hundreds, possibly thousands of insect families had moved into the engine bay.
"The paint was completely oxidized and had very little shine left. The moldings were wrecked, and there was mold growing on parts of the engine bay," Casey said. "It needed a lot of work and had wasps, ants, and spiders living in it."
In addition to being filthy and bug ridden, the previous owner had spun a rod bearing and toasted the bottom end, which nearly wrecked the engine block. The one saving grace of the car living under a tree was that the interior was barely disturbed, besides a little dust and grime. The interior was easily cleaned, the bottom end was an easy, but pricey fix, and the engine block was technically salvageable. However, Casey decided to rebuild the engine to give the car a fresh start and a new lease on life after so many years of abuse and neglect.
"I really could have re-used the old bottom end, but a friend of mine had a B18C5 block already built that he was planning on selling. Conveniently, another friend of mine was on the search for a bare bottom end. I was able to pick up the engine block and unload the old bottom end-so it worked out well for all three of us."
With the car back on the road and relatively drivable, Casey transported it over to his friend Chad Slagg's spot to do the engine work, stored the car during the build process, and got down to business sourcing Mugen parts.
"The engine build went relatively smooth," Casey said. "I just wanted a little more pep than the stock engine could offer, so it wasn't really an in-depth build at all."
The next few months were spent deep cleaning the interior and exterior, while Casey and friends sourced. For starters, he picked up a brand new JDM ITR valve cover, UKDM rear fog light, and some PIC coilovers; enough to tide him over until he could source everything else.
With the fog and coilovers thrown on at Casey's North Carolina digs, the ITR was rushed over to the paint shop for a fresh respray. He decided to stick with the OEM Champ white paint since he couldn't think of a good enough reason to change something that belongs to the ITR. As the paint dried, the intensity of the hunt increased:
"When it came down to Mugen parts, since most of the good ones have been discontinued, searching online was the only way I could do it," Casey said. "I never really had a set vision in my head from the start, and never expected to create what I did. As the build snowballed, I started to get an idea of exactly what I wanted, and I would usually get lucky when something I wanted popped up in the states."
Aside from being a well-done build with an extensive use of original Mugen parts, Casey cemented his place in the Mugen history books with his ultra-rare, one-of-ten in America Mugen DC2 hood. "These hoods are rare in the states, and equally rare in Japan, so it was the last piece I got for the exterior. A friend of mine sourced it for me, and I had to wait almost six months to pick it up," Casey said. "This is definitely the rarest and most sought after part on my car."
With the hood being the last thing he had dreamed of, and lacking any ideas for further mods, Casey was done with the build. "I knew the car was finished when I had every Mugen part I ever wanted, and the engine bay was customized to my liking-without the sterile look that so many Mugen builds have," he said.
And just like that, Casey was done. He got his second chance and didn't waste it. After showing it off at Import Alliance in '07 and '08, soaking up all the feel good Mugen vibes, Casey said goodbye and parted the ITR out, starting over with a new project. After all, how much further could he have taken it? If he'd gone too far and screwed up, would he really have gotten a third chance to do it all over again? Not likely.
Bolts & Washers
C&R radiator with slim fan
Mugen radiator cap
Samco Sport purple silicon hoses
MFactory magnetic drain bolt for oil pan
Buddy Club Spec 3+ camshaft
Rocket Motorsports Gen1 valve springs
Rocket Motorsports Gen1 retainers
Customized Mugen valve cover
OBD2 290cc injectors
Golden Eagle rails
Earl's Prolite lines
Trick Flow filter
Aeromotive pressure gauge
Power Plus 65mmm throttle body
Outlaw Engineering ThermoBlok spacers
TDM long tube header
Mugen DC2 Twin Loop axle back
NGK spark plugs
S80 ITR transmission
Skunk2 short shifter
Competition Clutch stage 1
Exedy Racing Chromoly flywheel
Chrome chipped P28 ECU
PIC Apex full coilovers (12k front, 10k rear)
Ingalls camber kit (front and rear)
Mugen Gen1 shock tower bar
Mugen AGBS front brake rotors and calipers
EBC green pads (front)
Axis Ultimate (rear)
ATE Super Blue fluid
Mugen stainless steel brake lines
Rims & Rubber
16x7 Bronze Volk SE-37 K wheels (+33 offset)
Kumho SDT 205/40-16
Sikkens Paint complete respray
Mugen DC2 Aero front bumper
Mugen DC2 hood
Mugen DC2 side skirts
Mugen Gen II adjustable wing
JDM HID front end
EDM rear fog light
Mugen S1 bucket seats with Mugen sliders
Mugen FG-360 steering wheel
Mugen sport pedals
Mugen shift knob
JDM ITR gauge cluster with Mugen
aluminum bezel and Mugen sport meter
JDM radio block off plate
JDM fog light switch
Mark Riley at Turbo Tune
Dave at Monster Motorsports
Gary Essick of Gary Essick Imports
Brandon AKA Blackstar
Stunna for the amazing pics
Screen name or nickname
Casey, Casey from the Internet
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EP Gonzalez' OG Tracked Mugen ITR
Sourcing Japanese parts is tough enough, but sourcing discontinued JDM goods can be downright impossible. As with all things Honda, the classifieds section of the larger Honda forums can be the end of the rainbow. After all, it's usually the first place people go when they've decided to move on from the current project car. Gauging the market is always important to insure that you're not overpaying for something that can be found elsewhere for cheaper. And of course, with all things rare, comes the law of supply and demand. If something is highly sought after, and only a few people hold the key, you can bet those individuals will have no problem charging an arm and a leg for the sacred items. Do your research, keep one eye glued to the classifieds at all times, and keep your fingers crossed-with any luck you might end up finding that pot of gold.