By on December 18, 2015

Integra GSR kamil

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.

B18C1

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.

1995-acura-integra-gs-r-stock

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.

1995-acura-integra-gs-r-stock-interior

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.

8000 rpm

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.

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45 Comments on “Reality Check: The Acura Integra GS-R...”


  • avatar
    turf3

    I remember the comment when Acura first came out:

    “so…Acura as in “accurate” – “Integra” as in “integrate” – what’s next, the “Masturba”?”

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I hear you on the insurance. My Legend isn’t even really part of the VTAK YO scene, it’s worth $3000 at best, and yet comprehensive on it would have been more expensive than my Lexus and Forester combined — which combined are worth more than ten times as much. So I’m going with liability/PIP/UIM only.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Ultimately, you can ask anything you want for a car. All it takes is *one* person who wants it badly enough. Even $12K is not a lot of money today. That’s less than 1/4 of MSRP for my M235i, for example, and just the taxes and registration on that BMW were more than 1/3 the ask on the Acura (with big tax bills to come annually for the next few years). So if you were a kid who couldn’t afford one 15 years ago, lusted after one, and making six-figures today, why not? Most people don’t have time, knowledge, or energy for projects, so a low-miles creampuff hits a lot of buttons. And at this point, this car is certainly much rarer than a Buick GNX, as that was a car that was wrapped in cotton and put away when it was new.

    I’m actually casually looking for a low miles creampuff ’00-’02 Range Rover. I’m probably willing to pay $15K for the really right one (though I would prefer under $10K). Which a lot of people will say is crazy when you can get a decentish one for $5k (I already have a $5K P38). But I want “the right one” and I am willing to pay for it. I can’t make the one I have as nice for $5-10K, even valuing my labor at $0/hr.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    It’s not what you ask for it, it’s what you get for it.

    Being that one could buy a rolling Integra shell for a couple hundred dollars and have the actual Type-R drivetrain bought and swapped in for ~$5K, to say $11K is a ripoff would be an understatement. 90s nostalgia imports are definitely picking up in value and a clean Type R in the same condition would probably be worth a legitimate $15-20K. But that car is a lot more than the sum of its parts and is priced accordingly. A GS-R is literally worth the sum of its parts… maybe a little less.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    To me it’s the cost of bodywork that makes creampuff original cars worth a nice premium. If you don’t need your car to be immaculate, can stand some dents, rust, and the occasional respray of a panel, sure, you can do that for a fraction of the price of the $12,000 ask on this ‘teg.

    On the other hand, OEM-level paint is extremely time-consuming and/or expensive to achieve. I’m talking matching engine bay, doorjambs, etc, and rustproofing that matches OEM. I once talked to the owner of a body shop who was in the middle of redoing his wife’s 80s Mercedes, and even 10 years ago, he said he would’ve charged about $7,000 for the work he was doing. And when he was done, you still couldn’t say the car was all-original, and he admitted that if the car were winter driven, the rust would come back within a few years. Aside from that, the bodywork doesn’t address the accumulated rust on the hardware and fasterners underneath the body and under the hood of a winter-driven car.

    To me, most of the time, the most cost-effective way to get a cosmetically-pristine car is to buy one that starts off that way.

    There’s a reason why buying advice for enthusiast cars is usually, “Buy the best example you can find/afford.”

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    “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.”

    Ehh… I don’t know about that. The Mazda3 and Scion iA (Mazda2) come closest if you’re looking for an equivalent to non-VTEC Integras. Granted, in 2017 the Civic Si should return and I’m sure that’ll be reminiscent of the GS-R.

    Most of the other cheap fun cars are either unreliable (Fords, Fiats, and VWs) or relatively uncomfortable (Miata, FR-S/BRZ). Maybe the Nissan Juke fits the bill? Oddly enough, it’s next-closest one I can think of.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Agree with your Mazda3 comparison fully (and the 2.5 makes it about as fast as the GS-R). Same audience, same adjusted price, same modestly premium concept. The Scion iA (Mazda2) doesn’t have the same level of polish or joy.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I lust after these old Integras a little less now that the Mazda3 is available. I, too, see the the comparison, and the Mazda3 even comes with a hatch, albeit in 5 door form.

      The 2017 Civic Si will be interesting, and will also force the Acura ILX to become something more than it is today.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Yellow car = bonus points in my book. I always remember Integras in black, white, silver, green, blue and red. Didn’t even know yellow was an option! Honda was pretty well know in the late 80s early 90s for selling cars in only 3 exterior colors and just 1 interior color (black!). Sometime in the mid 90s they offered more, my wife’s Civic EX for example was available with both grey and tan interiors but the exterior color choice dictated what you got inside… like it or not.

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      Yellow was only available on the Type-R, and yes, color options were limited. 97-98 model came in white only, while the 00-01 model had the option of either yellow or black.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I like to play with vehicles made in the early nineties and the nice cars i come across i will buy and put back in nice condition. 10 years ago i came across a real barn find. A nice VW 1990 Cabriolet what they called a triple white. Body was mint no damage much less any rust. Leather was dirty and the top was shot. I paid $2,100.00 for that car had approx 27,000 miles manual transmission. Power steering, brakes & A/C. They wanted $2,400.00 dollars to replace the top. Claimed a full day job. I purchased a dark blue canvas top for $250.00 and spend 2 days installing it. New tires a good cleaning of the leather and a good tuneup and the car looked like a million dollars. I drove that car for 5 years putting on approx 30,000 miles and sold it for three times what i paid for it. Only reason i sold it people used to follow my wife in I into parking lots wanting to buy the car. My wife laid the law down and i sold it. One thing i learned when buying old cars buy the car that has the nicest cleanest body & interior that you can afford. The rest you can do yourself. Body & interior work over engine work will always cost more. You can always replace the engine and transmission but you can’t replace the body.

    • 0 avatar
      callmeishmael

      Good advice, that last sentence. Buying a car with a straight body and a decent interior means that even if you do have to fix other things, you will be driving your car a lot sooner. Driving around with no hood and primer paint is only cool for cars built before 1960.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I dont know about all that, now. Of course, some rusty heap of scrap should be avoided, but Id rather have decent mechanicals over a mint perfect body/interior.

        You cant replace the body? No, but you can replace 50-60% of it and make the rest (quarters, roof, floor, etc) as like new so long as you arent starting with some heavily rusted car that isnt worth it.

        Im not in anyway suggesting that one should buy a clapped out rust bucket to make their car dreams come true with, but dings, minor scrapes, ripped or dried out (beyond saving) leather really isnt that big of a deal.

        You can have a shop recover ruined leather seats (get them to monogram sonething cool on the headrests like the GTI script or the [H] Honda logo), and a lot of body shops have at least one guy trained in paintless dent repair. None of this is nearly as expensive as a full mechanical overhaul of the car’s major systems.

        Really, if you can look ouside the rust belt, you can find cars with minor cosmetic issues but few -if any- mechanical issues and youll come out just fine for decent $$$.

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez_Returns

    Dude can ask whatever he wants for the car. Just because someone else got a great deal on another one for less (purchase cost, miles, conditions, and location not even noted in this article) doesn’t mean someone else won’t be willing to pay a premium. Cherry Integra GSRs with 35k don’t grow on trees.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I have a bone-stock Integra, too. Problem is, nobody wants a bone-stock ’90. Especially if it’s an LS… and a sedan… and Honey Beige.

    OTOH, it’s a 5-speed, and it only has 115k on it, and it had one owner from 1990-2015, and she only had it serviced at an Acura dealer.

    I got a heckuva deal at $2500, and since nobody wants it, I guess I’ll just keep driving it until it falls apart.

  • avatar

    Maybe someone watched this video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VXnf785ADQ

    (same color, but different car – you can tell by the looks of the engine bay)

  • avatar
    Shawnski

    Wow, I could score (and prefer to) an E36 M3, or ’96-’98 SVT Cobra in very good condition for less money. Not knocking anybody that was a wee one when Fast and Furious came out and can now pay a small ransom for one of these.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Well, I must say that I am not a typical Honda “tuner”. You wont find my cars [email protected]$$ lowered (or lowered at all) with Maxwell House can muffler, ironing board “wing” and so on.

      Im a fan of some Honda/Acura products but I wont be the one adding +5hp sticker power or a gaudy body kit that makes the car look like its been wrecked on all sides and poorly stiched back together.

      Tasteful, and I mean TASTEFUL mods are okay, but I dont want anything to do with it beyond that. None of my Accords, CRXs or Civics were “modded” F&F style. Not my bag, baby.

      My ideal Integra would be (another, I had a 98) GS-R, this time with the JDM Honda Integra front end to rid the car of those goofy bug eye headlamps they stuck with for Acura models.
      I find the JDM Integra front end (last half of the last gen) far more attractive and although it requires extensive modification to a USDM car for it to fit, Id do it in a heart beat. Make a great car even better. That being the case, hell naw I wouldnt spend $11k on a mint one, even if it was disposable income. Id sooner buy a clean, unmodded, rust free and mechanicly great car with MINOR front end damage so as to justify the cutting and welding to swap the JDM front clip for A LOT less. Ill take the leftover money (after the conversion) and flip a coin to decide how to spend it:
      heads= 98+ Prelude 5spd (SH would be great);
      tails= 88-91 CRX Si.

      Or I might buy a 318Ti 5 spd. He he! (Not the one recently posted.)

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      *I* have no interest in this car either – but it only takes ONE person to sell it. And today, the Internet makes it a lot easier to find that one buyer.

      As I have said on here before – all used cars are unique flowers.

  • avatar
    zososoto

    I just don’t get many of the claims I see on this website. Maybe it’s because I live in California, but I see ALL TYPES of integras running around. Daily drivers, ricers, clean machines, and 300,000 mile examples with the original owner.

    Pristine 1st gen 5 door hatchbacks. Beat up 4 door 2nd gens (DA integra, they are invariably red in color) lowered an inch or two and with an entire family resting their arms out the windows. A silver GSR on the proper wheels has been at the local BHPH lot for the past 2 months. And a debaged sunlight yellow Type R parked nonchalantly in midtown.

    Maybe Sacramento is just some sort of hidden holyland of cars. I regularly see old fiats, a VW Eos here and there, daily driven Subaru GL wagons, the mini cooper coupe, BMW i3s, 2nd gen preludes, etc on almost a daily basis.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Your environment is way kinder to cars that have somewhat frangible bodywork. Your examples have reliable mechanicals (well, most of them) but have bodies that don’t hold up to winter salt and a lot of moisture. My time in Palm Desert had me looking at cars that, while faded, had bodywork that was fully intact. I was amazed at the age of some of them. Dry and a no salt diet is pretty easy on a car.

    • 0 avatar

      You do. I marveled at our host’s Volvo 240 when we stayed in SF. Not a bubble and he’s a granola, not a car guy. Saw all kinds of stuff, clean. Cars wear out there, not rot. (can you wear out idling in traffic all the time ?)

      In some places, we destroy perfectly good cars with municipally purchased salt and get unhappy if it isn’t tossed at us all the time.

      The biggest realization I had in SF is that it NEVER freezes here or you couldn’t have 45 degree roads. That and the water/sewer systems must be works of art.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      If you are California born and raised you simply have NO idea what happens to cars like this in the rustbelt. And then add in states that have a real safety inspection AND copious amounts of salt… In Maine these Acuras did not generally see their 10th birthday. They are GONE from the roads here.

      Hondas and Toyotas simply did not last long enough here to get the reputations they have elsewhere. Volvos and Saabs are the cars with the last forever reputation simply because they dissolved so much more slowly, even if they had more issues along the way. Even now, the typical 10yo Honda in Maine has very visible rust on the body (and looks a lot worse up on a lift).

  • avatar
    -Nate

    This isn’t a high price for a clean low mileage Coupe if you want a really nice daily driver that’s also mucho fun to drive .

    My Son bought a 1995 Acura Integra Coupe that was about four years old , from a back alley body shop that bought wrecks and 1/2 assedly repaired them and sold for well below market value on salvage tiles .

    The guy who’d bought it from the Insurance Auction knew bupkis about what it was other than a very popular car at the time . this one came loaded with good quality speed parts , no wing , no fart can muffler , some C.A.R.B. compliant exhaust manifold and system , new cam etc. , etc. ~ once it passed 8,000 RPM it slapped you (further) back into the seat and the real fun began .

    I’ll never forget it , finally a modern Japanese car I’d like .

    He wrecked it a couple years later (with me riding shotgun) and dumped it to a buddy who wadded it in a month or three .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    90s kid here. We had a 91 Accord EX manual that my parents let me use in high school. My best friend had a GSR Integra. Others had Civics. Thankfully my taste in friends didn’t include any that riced theirs out.

    But this car was just a ton of fun. We took it everywhere. For me, this was THE car that embodied the best of old Honda.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Heh, here’s a funny thought. $12K will get you a pretty clean 2006-2011 Civic Si, which aside from the higher center of gravity and slightly less feelsome EPS is a better driver’s car in nearly every way. I have a non-Si and have had numerous “golden era” DWB Hondas…. the 2006-2011 is on par with any Honda DWB chassis outside of this Integra’s Type-R body, which had a slew of added seam welds and body enhancements. DWB was OK but a bit useless when the body it was attached to had the integrity of a limp noodle, which was definitely the case here. Meanwhile an 8th gen Civic Si has 30 more HP, a mechanical LSD, a 6 speed transmission, a stiffer body and suspension geometry that is just as good as long as you extend the front lower ball joints to keep the LCA at the right angle. $12K can get you a LOT of good metal….

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Which is completely true, but irrelevant if you are the guy who always wanted one of THESE. Nobody is going to buy this car as a daily driver. It’s going to be a show toy, taken out occasionally, and rubbed lovingly with soft cloth diapers.

      I know a guy who spent $12K on a late ’80s Volvo 745T a year or so ago. Because it was PERFECT, <50K, and the car he wanted. Unicorns happen in the auto world.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        One could (and many do) buy a regular clean Integra shell, completely strip it and have it painted to OEM standards, swap in a low mileage JDM B18C and STILL spend MUCH less than $12K. The only way paying $12K for this makes sense is if one sees this as an investment…. given the fact that Acura made a ton of these over an unusually long model run, even when you factor in ricercide I am just not seeing it. Type Rs? Yes. EM1s? Maybe. GS-Rs? I’m not so sure.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Why does it have to make sense? Does it makes sense that I spent 4x this much on an M235i when I already have a perfectly nice 4yo BMW wagon, a Range Rover, and a Spitfire? You buy something like this because you *want* it. Somebody will pay all kinds of money for this car simply because they want it. As I said before, the Internet makes it relatively easy to find that one person who simply wants the car and is willing to pay for it.

          And there is NO WAY ON EARTH you could build a car like this from bits for $12K unless you do it yourself and value your time at $0/hr. And it still probably won’t be as nice as a well preserved low-mileage one.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            One could take $12K and make a bonfire too. Just because a purchase is emotional doesn’t mean it has to be completely irrational or have no kind of considerations for value whatsoever. A $12K GS-R is not a high value proposition at this point in time.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    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.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    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.

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