If there is one universally accepted truth about cars that we all love, it’s the desire to be lower. Not everyone wants to be slammed to the ground, be “stanced-out” and not everyone wants their cars to have just a two-finger gap—but low, that’s something we can all agree on. The definition of “low” has certainly changed throughout the years but suspension modification is often times the first thing any of us do when we get started on a project. From the early days of cut/lowering springs to the more modern twist of adjustable coilovers and air suspension, you can get low any number of ways—and no matter which of those options you choose, you’re getting that car to drop down. How far you’re willing to go at that point is up to you.
Honda enthusiasts will rarely use air-height adjustable suspensions, because in their eyes, air bags are meant for luxury vehicles or VIP builds. There are a couple of Honda guys out there that run air systems but they are usually met with mixed emotions. Honda people also have an almost unlimited amount of suspension options available to them as well, so they will always manage to find a way to get as low as they want to go. The whole wheel fitment “game”, if you will, has become all the craze nowadays, so many have had to adapt their suspensions to fit their aggressive or low offset wheels. Some want to have the wide wheels and are willing to sacrifice a little bit of ride height to fit the wheels while others have taken on the challenge of getting those wheels as close to their fenders as possible without damaging any other components.
Since riding on bags is seen with an almost sacrilegious eye within the Honda community, enthusiasts have looked to new ways to get lower. Well, not “new” in a sense—more like the old way actually, where people have had to customize their cars in other ways to achieve the ultimate low. Kazu Imai loves the low life. He’s the owner of this Integra and it’s a car that has become well recognized within the worldwide Honda population. Photos of it are floating around the Internet and it’s safe to say that it’s one of Japan’s more identifiable privateer Honda builds. What many may not know is that this Red Mica Crystal Japanese Honda Integra is a legitimate Type R—and it is also daily driven in this exact state. Due to its aggressive posture and immaculate condition, you would expect Kazu to park this thing in his garage and never drive it. No matter where you live, you always expose your car to potential risks every time you get behind the wheel. This ITR is a show-oriented build—it’s heavy on the aesthetics but he drives it every single day, whether it is a quick cruise down the road or putting it through the wear and tear of Japan’s harsh winters.
At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself that your car is lower. But how does the condition of your car stack up? If it’s equal to or better than, pat yourself on the back for a “cool car bro”. Other cars might be lower or stanced-out but rarely are they ever in this good of a shape. Trashed undercarriages, dented exhausts and barely-there oil pans are such the result of the “low” life. Kazu has taken very special steps, however, to avoid the pavement while keeping it low. Not a single thing is flawed from the bottom. To accomplish this, he first modified his Innovative motor mounts in such a way to allow his motor to be positioned 5mm (0.196850394 inches for Americans) higher than stock. Millimeters may not seem like much, but every bit of clearance is vital when it comes to driving your precious oil pan into the concrete. A muffler is frequently the first expensive piece of equipment that tags the floor so Kazu opted to go with a Mugen Twin-Loop exhaust. The Twin-Loop was designed by Mugen not only to perform, but so that it can be tucked tightly underneath the rear bumper.
Those of you who remember seeing photos of this ITR on the web may recognize it more when it used to sit on silver 16-inch Work Meister S1s. Meisters will always be a classic look but when Kazu was faced with the opportunity to build a custom set of BBS LMs, the decision to ditch the Work wheels was an easy one. Imai used a set of 16-inch BBS LM faces, stripped them and had the faces anodized in gold before mating them to 17-inch step-lipped barrels. Upping the wheel size an inch in diameter also gave him additional ride height clearance overall. Much like the raised engine position, the difference is minimal but otherwise necessary. What has us scratching our heads a little is the 195-width on the tire—and no, that isn’t a typo. For those who aren’t tire-savvy, a 195-wide tire on a 17x9-inch wheel is the equivalent of putting any type of underwear on Ice-T’s wife, Coco; all material is stretched beyond comprehension and there is still plenty of exposed mass. How he drives daily on those thin Goodyear tires is beyond us but he assures us that they are adequate.
Every time he goes over an imperfection on the road, there has to be some serious clinching of the butthole. It’s a good thing he has a set of 4-pot Rotora big brakes up front so that he can stop his ITR instantaneously. Another issue Kazu deals with every day is the possible damage he could do inside his engine bay. Before swapping in his ’98-spec B18C ITR motor, he had the bay filled and shaved for a more streamlined appearance. It doesn’t matter how great the quality of work is, vibration is the enemy of body filler and a bumpy road is a worthy adversary. The slightest jolt could crack parts of the bay at any time. If you’re a “glass half full” kind of person; you’ll be happy to know that in times of daily driving-distress, the air conditioning is still there to keep him cool. Having the A/C around doesn’t mean that it has to be an eyesore, though, so even those lines have been meticulously hidden from plain sight.
All this work just to sustain a specific look or ride height seems superfluous but such is the way of the low life. Every day someone is going above and beyond to take their cars to new extremes. Kazu Imai has absolutely no regrets about his build and is very content with driving his R daily. Not only does he have no regrets, he also has no fear driving it. “When I started this build, I had a very specific style in mind. I wanted to build an Integra that was cool in my own eyes. I care very little about what others think about my ITR,” Kazu says. “I have no fears daily driving my car because I’ve done basically all the work on my own. I don’t recommend that others do this because there is a great deal of work involved. Other Integra owners have to remember that these cars are pretty old and the suspensions are usually in need of a complete overhaul. I’m very detailed when it comes to building cars so there are quite a bit of parts that I’ve changed or modified that you can’t even see.”
1996 Honda Integra Type R
Owner Kazushige Imai
Hometown Kurashiki-shi, Okayama., Japan
Occupation Not a japanese pornstar
Engine 1998 Honda 1.8L B18C; Innovative engine mounts; ported & polished cylinder head; BDL Industries high-flow fuel rail; Hyakushiki Jidousya carbon fiber air intake; Mugen Twin-Loop exhaust; 5Zigen 4-2-1 header; Skunk2 radiator cap; KOYORAD radiator; Samco Sport cooling hose kit; Password: JDM radiator shroud; NGK Iridium spark plugs; completely wire-tucked & shaved engine bay; custom A/C line tuck
Drivetrain Exedy clutch and lightweight flywheel; ATS limited-slip differential; ’98-spec OEM ITR 4.785 final drive
Footwork & Chassis Hyperco front springs; Swift rear springs; BLOX Racing adjustable front camber kit; shortened front knuckle; reverse-mounted front tie rod ends; roll center adjustment; Function7 lower control arms w/spherical bearings; Benen lower tie bar; adjustable camber arms
Brakes Rotora 4-pot front big brake kit; EK9 Civic Type R rear brakes
Wheels & Tires 17x9" BBS LM (CNC-machined gold anodized wheel faces, gold chrome wheel fasteners, custom reverse-mounted CNC-machined and clear-anodized lips); 195/40R17 Goodyear LS2000
Exterior Custom Red Mica Crystal Shine paint; J’s Racing carbon-fiber air intake duct; EDM taillights
Interior OEM ITR Recaro seats; EDM 260km/h instrument cluster; OEM MOMO Lancer Evo steering wheel; Defi water temperature gauge
Thanks You Grinders (bumblvd.com)
WWW bdlindustries.com; bloxracing.com; kingmotorsports.com (Mugen); skunk2.com