'00 Acura Integra GSR The car on these pages is no longer. Dead, kaput, shit-canned, flat-lined. Now, before you get all nostalgic and teary-eyed, know that this isn't the reason we're telling you all this. Life and death are never black and white in the automotive world; anyone who's pieced together-or parted out-a car on the used market can attest to that. Hai Le has been on both sides of that coin, and while he's the man who created, enjoyed, and destroyed this silver stallion, he'll be the first to laugh off its unpleasant demise. Life, death, going fast, and going for broke are all to be expected when you live at the pace he does.
Hai has built his life by managing what happens post mortem in the automotive world. Think of him as an automotive undertaker/mad scientist, and his mortuary-Importwerkz Autobody N Paint in Stockton, CA-as the automotive equivalent of Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory. "I was always into cars," begins Hai. "All my older friends were into them when I was younger, so I was around the parts market from day one." Even before he could drive he could wrench. At 16 Hai began learning bodywork and paint from his mentors, and by the age of 18, he noticed a lucrative business opportunity: Scavenging parts from the dead, and creating monsters to flip for monster profits. Kind of. "I started out buying wrecked cars and pretty much stocking them," he says. OK, so maybe not monsters. "But Hondas were the big sellers, and after fixing and selling about a dozen of them, I started learning how to make money off customization." Muwahah! Monsters! "I've owned and built-up pretty much every Honda except for a DA Integra," he tells. "An EM1 Si, turbo '98 Integra GSR, a couple CRXs, lots of EGs . . . you name it." And somewhere, amidst those long, lonely nights, like the good doctor, he decided to create himself a companion-one with a slightly more radical build than the rest.
He had the knowledge, the facility, the connex, the cash . . . and in late 2006, it was the discarded, faded red shell of a wrecked '00 Integra GSR that caught his eye. "As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect," he says. When we say this thing was stripped, rest assured-it was. But not quite enough for Hai. He stripped it down to the bare shell, knocked out the bodywork within a few days, painted the chassis and engine bay S2000 Silverstone Metallic inside and out, and began the reassembly process.
"Almost everything on this car, I bought used," he says, shamelessly. Hours of scouring eBay and Craigslist, and Honda-tech and NWP4life forums netted him a complete B18C5 engine and transmission, and a full JDM Integra Type R front-end and interior conversion before even taking possession of the car. Within a week he was adding Ground Control coilovers and Koni Yellows inside the wheelwells, and then stuffing them with +20mm 16x7.5 and 16x8 Sprint Hart CPR wheels he found a deal on from an Infinit Wheels rep in L.A.-five-lug, of course, which necessitated the ITR brake conversion front and rear. "The wheels were aggressive for the time," he notes. "I didn't want to get too crazy, being that this was going to be my street car." Good reasoning. We don't see what about that made him want to turbocharge it, but whatevs.
"I went through three used turbos and one bad stand-alone ECU," explains Hai, on the unspoken downside of the used parts market. The first turbo was an eBay special that just didn't cut it. The second was a Turbonetics unit that someone rebuilt-poorly-and as for that baller ECU, "I dunno what happened," Hai says. "My tuner thinks someone fried it somehow." Eventually the decision was made to order a new T3/T04E turbo directly from Garrett, couple it to a used Love Fab equal-length tubular manifold, and load on the goodies. Did we mention all this happened within two weeks of Hai owning the car? Another couple months would see him build that B18C5, having its bottom end bored out to 2.1 liters by way of 9:1-compression JE pistons and Eagle rods, its head machined to accept Skunk2 aspiration enhancements, and the whole mix retuned to just shy of 400 whp with the help of a Hondata S300 ECU.
It was a cold and stormy morning when we first met Hai and his completed creation. Stashed away from public eye in a subterranean parking structure beneath San Francisco's Japantown district, the dirty, throwback appeal of his DC2 looked refreshingly awry amidst 200 or so polished and pimped Wekfest '09 Showgoers, its dented rear quarter-panel and visibly used-some of them abused-components screaming stoplight kill stories, freeway pulls, and daily excursions infinitely more fun than yours or mine . "I built it to be my beater," laughs Hai. "It was probably the most fun car I've ever owned. I drove it daily, took it to the drags, whooped up on fools on the street, took it to shows for fun." Now would be an appropriate time to interject that Hai and the DC2's 20+ show wins-from HIN and Battle of the Imports, to JDM Theory-all happened while he "pretty much did everything with it and didn't worry about a thing." That was until another stormy NorCal day, when Hai found himself inside his DC2, facing the wrong way in oncoming traffic, smashed against a guardrail. "I effed up," he laughs. "I lost control of it in the rain and totaled it." Simple as that.
From the ashes it rose, and to the ashes it, well . . . didn't exactly go. Most of Hai's schwag was still in useable shape, so all he really needed to get rolling again was a bare chassis, something we're guessing he had sorted out even before he hit that rail, by the small number of days that passed before he started swapping over to the new car. The ghost of this machine can be seen in Hai's new car, as featured in our sister publication Honda Tuning's October, 2010 issue. Hint: it's white with gold wheels, and stands out in a crowd for entirely the opposite reasons why this one did.
Owner, Importwerkz Auto Body N Paint
"I built my car for the haters."
Output: 398 whp / 354 lb-ft of torque
Engine 2.1L '00 B18C5; 84mm 9:1 compression JE pistons; Eagle connecting rods; balanced crankshaft; Skunk2 Stage 3 camshafts, valvesprings, retainers; ported and polished cylinder head; Rev Hard intake manifold; RPM throttle body; custom exhaust; STR adjustable cam gears; Garrett T3/T4 turbocharger; Love Fab turbo manifold; Greddy FATT; HKS blow-off valve; Tial 38mm wastegate; Blox boost controller; Koyo radiator; FAL slim radiator fans; MSD 6AL ignition; NGK plugs, MSD plug wires; 1,000cc/min RC Engineering fuel injectors; STR fuel rail; Walbro 255lph fuel pump; Hondata S300 ECU, tuned by Derrick Parris Engine Dynamic
Driveline OEM Honda LSD; Driveshaft Shop axles; Skunk2 shifter; Competition clutch; Fidanza lightweight flywheel
Suspension Ground Control springs, adjustable collars; Koni Sport dampers; Cusco front and rear sway bars, rollcage; DG Industries rear strut brace
Wheels/Tires Sprint Hart CPR street wheels (16x7.5 +20mm front, 16x8 +20mm rear); 205/40-16 Falken Ziex 512 street tires; Exospeed Star 8 race wheels (13x9 +30mm front, 15x3.5 -10mm rear); Mickey Thompson race tires (24.5x9x13 slicks front, 15x3.5 skinnies rear)
Brakes OEM Integra Type R brakes, front and rear
Exterior JDM Integra Type R front-end conversion (front bumper, bumper support, fenders, hood, radiator support, headlights); JDM angler front license plate frame; JDM front lip spoiler; Spoon side mirrors
Interior JDM Integra Type R conversion (complete door panels, dash, gauge cluster, console, Recaro seats, carpet, floor mats, steering wheel); Skunk 2 shift knob; Takata harnesses
Electronics Auto Meter boost gauge; Greddy FATT unit; Alpine CDA-7995 head unit
Gratitude Importwerkz Autobody N Paint crew; H1 Garage; Logic Audio; N1 Concepts; Minh Le; Chen; Hoang Dao; Thuc Huynh; Adam Nguyen; Derrick Parris