From Boy-Racer To Modern Collectible, The First Honda Integra Type R Is The One To Get
Photography by Will Broadhead
Before me is an expanse of white, a description that for most cars would be dull and uninspiring, a vacuous nothing, a featureless landscape never evolving and never ending save for a brief fleck of crimson, a red letter that makes all the difference in the world and labels this particular Integra as something that might just be a little bit special. Couple the vision with some audio, and suddenly the low rumble of an inline-four brings this picture of bright white to life in the form of the eminent Integra Type R.
The base Integra was launched in 1986 as a successor to the insipidly-named Honda Quaint. The mix of hatchback, coupe, and sedan still wasn’t all that stimulating, but the Integra was praised for its handling, at least. Something was on the horizon though to change up the banality of the Japanese compact car, something to inject a bit of life into Honda’s road car offerings and remind people of the sporting origins of Soichiro Honda, who began plying his trade by modifying and then racing stock cars. The Type R moniker first appeared in 1992 on NSX models, but in 1995 the first Integra to have the Type R treatment was introduced to the Japanese market.
Of course, many of the original JDM-spec models have either been thrashed, crashed, modified well out of the realms of taste, or have simply rotted away, so to find an original DC2 Type R is no mean feat. Nick Bailey is one such lucky owner, though, who has recently acquired the car in picture: a remarkably clean and low-mile 1997 JDM car that is stock save for the wheels, dampers, some audio components, and the exhaust, all of which are modifications in keeping with the period of this machine.
Bought at auction in Japan, Nick tells me that this car is unusual in the realm of your typical Type R, as it comes complete with all of the paperwork and a full Japanese service history, and while it doesn’t have the more desirable larger brakes and wheels that were standard on the ’98 models, Nick tells me it was more important to him to find one that hadn’t rusted away.
At the heart of it all is the red-capped V-TEC engine, the B18C 1.8L DOHC inline-four that was capable of pushing out north of 195bhp thanks in part to the V-TEC’s variable valve profiles that changed in real time and helped the Honda produce more horses per liter than most supercars of the time. Yes, that’s a naturally aspirated motor in there, with a compression ratio of 11:1 that sends power through a close-ratio fiver. These engines were reportedly ported and polished by hand, and the 8,400rpm redline provides some solid evidence to the fact. Other features of the Type R cars were a seam-welded and strengthened chassis, upgraded suspension and brakes, and an overall lower weight thanks to a thinner windscreen and less sound insulation and the omission of items like the interior mirrors and airbags—which had to be fitted to the models that were sold to the worldwide market.
To look at, the car is the paradigm of less being more. It doesn’t punch you in the face with its looks, or even it’s sound if I’m honest, but spend enough time looking at it and it will reward you as its subtle features come to the fore. It’s a wonderful shape; simple, clean, purposeful, and much more pleasing to the eye than the DC5 that superseded it.
Nick’s DC2 features the trademark paint job of the Type R models: white with red Honda badging, reminiscent of the RA272 which gave Honda its first Grand Prix victory in 1965. Classically Japanese, with a “face” at the front and only the addition of the rear spoiler and red Recaros hinting at its sporting intentions, this is a machine that in stock form could still earn nods of pragmatic approval when meeting your girlfriends’ parents for the first time, yet to those in the know it will equally bag you plenty of credibility amongst your hooligan mates.
Being a true Japanese import and having only been in Nick’s possession for a short time at time of writing, this Integra isn’t yet undersealed and protected against the British winter roads and their layers of rust-inducing salt, so we were unable to take the car out for a proper drive this holiday season. A shame, considering how many times I’ve heard people say this is the best handling front-wheel drive car ever made for the street—and who am I to doubt them? It is a machine that very much sits at the top of the modern classic pile for those who grew up during the “tuner” boom, and for a certain generation there are few cars that elicit choruses of “Ooh, I always wanted one of those!” like this one can at any given fill-up station. With stock wheels sourced and ready to be fitted when the weather turns back around—and a brand-new set of sticky boots to complement them—I’m sure Nick cannot wait for the better weather so he can take his new toy out for a proper introduction. And come to think of it, neither can I—I’m free in April, Nick!