Reality Check: The Acura Integra GS-R

Kamil Kaluski
by Kamil Kaluski
reality check the acura integra gs r

Chris Tonn’s find of a stock, low-mileage 1998 Acura Integra GS-R is definitely a rare one. It certainly had me feeling giddy as a past and present Integra GS-R owner. And then I saw the asking price — $11,800 — and nearly fainted.

On the magical internet scale of nice price to crack pipe, this is the lovechild of Robert Downey Jr. and Charlie Sheen. Allow me to explain.

When they were introduced in 1994, the third-generation Integras became instantly popular with the yuppies of the day. Here was a uniquely styled car with a premium badge, it was quick, fun to drive, and featured very-important-at-the-time Honda reliability.

The base RS model could be had for less than $14,000 brand new, but most people chose to go with the nicer LS (GS and SE models came in subsequent years). Enthusiasts bought the GS-R for around $20,000.

Unfortunately, in late ’90s the whole import scene exploded and the Integra became its poster child. Show car, drag car, loud car, track car — if there was a niche, the Integra would fill it. With that popularity came jealousy and hate. Integras were being constantly stolen for their parts because they easily fit into Civics, which were significantly cheaper to buy, lighter and faster.

Fast forward to 2015: We live in a world in which just about every automaker has an affordable, quick, fun to drive, comfortable and reliable vehicle in its line-up. Integras are still around and, shockingly, are still being stolen. They’re also still being raced, shown off, and — in rare circumstances — driven daily. There are a lot of them for sale, too, but a vast majority of them are completely butchered, rusted, or some combination of the two.

A decent Integra with the iconic B18C VTEC (yo!) engine can be had for $4,000. If you get lucky like I did, you might find one that’s stock or close to it. It won’t be perfect — the rear quarter panels are made of paper and will rust upon being looked at, the paint will be faded, and some so-called mechanic would have hacked something to over the years — but it will be good. Parts are cheap. Many people pick these up in any condition they can and make a business of parting them out. New OEM parts are still available, too.

Two years ago, I bought a 1995 Integra GS-R out of pure nostalgia; nowhere to park it and no time to drive it. It was an all original, one-owner car I got below the already low Kelley Blue Book price. The owner didn’t know anything about it. He bought it because he really liked the Integra back in 1995 and wanted a black one “with a stick.” This was the only one the dealer had, so he bought it. On my test drive, he confirmed his lack of knowledge by asking why the car was making such a weird noise above 6,000 rpm.

I threw my money at him.

It wasn’t perfect and, in hindsight, I should have just flipped it. Despite spending only a few garage-kept years in New England, the car needed more than simple maintenance. I replaced its fuel lines, brake lines and — after finding an incredible deal of a set of Tein adjustable coil-overs — every nut, bolt, and bushing in the suspension. The muffler was bad, so my OCD drove me to buy the rare OEM JDM Integra Type R header, high flow cat, and an OEM Integra Type R muffler.

Being a project car, a whole lot of other minor work went into the Integra. I had minor rust repaired and the whole car wet-sanded and polished at Ciro’s Autobody and IPS Racing, both great and highly recommend establishments.

This brings me to the ’98 Acura Integra GS-R Chris found and its bizarre asking price. Because I have a full-time job, two little kids, and I write when I should be asleep, I had no time to do any of of the work myself. I don’t even have the time to take decent pictures of my Integra. Therefore, I actually paid someone to spin all the wrenches and do all the work on this car. Even with that — and all the taxes, fuel, insurance (!) and a set of nice SSR Competition wheels — the total cost of ownership for my car is below the $11,800 asking price of the car Chris posted today.

While a stock Integra GS-R with low mileage sure is rare, it was never a limited production car like the infamous Integra Type R, Grand National GNX, or other such cars. Therefore, to demand that kind of money for a vehicle that doesn’t even have the proper wheels for the model year is just insane.

Regarding the market for the rare Integra Type R, it’s a whole different animal. My friends at IPS Racing have one that will be for sale soon. It’s a bit of a barn find and requires a “little work” but it will be perfect when it’s done.

Hit up the comments if you’re interested in seeing more progress updates on the car below.

Join the conversation
2 of 45 comments
  • Olddavid Olddavid on Dec 19, 2015

    I am glad you have the staff of writers you are employing today. Point, counterpoint. Next it will be "you ignorant slut". This is more fun than having no opinion and driving an appliance. Chris would never buy a 40 year old Mercedes or an old European turbo sedan, but there are gearheads that do. The point is that maybe the $11k price is acceptable to one driver and not another. I have never understood BMW bike riders, but I am a minority, and many are confounded by a Harley. Me, too, but almost all of my riding cohort has at least one. Do you see a theme here? Our rides have an emotional component that is unique to each individual. There is no right and wrong, unless you're talking CVT.

  • PandaBear PandaBear on Dec 21, 2015

    Daily (well, almost) driving Integra (automatic, base model RS) owner here. I do see its appeal over a typical civic or corolla, but GSR wasn't that rare back in the days and I sure as hell won't pay $12k for it. $6-7k maybe. It is reliable, almost corolla level reliable if not because the cooling system is weaker than corolla and you have to be careful of the higher system pressure (radiator crack more often, any overheating will warp the cylinder head, etc). It is fun and useful if it is a hatch, it is good on gas especially on highway, and if you have a 2 door it is a looker (if you are into the 90s). At 255k and 2 head rebuild later, I'm still keeping it.

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that