If you’ve always assumed a proper driver’s car has to have its power fed to the rear wheels, prepare to rethink. Here's how to find the perfect Honda Integra Type R
How much to pay
• Project £1000-2500 • Good £4000-7550 • Concours £8000-10,000
Running costs ★★★★
DIY friendly ★★★
It would be hard to imagine Honda without its Type R division, but until the Integra Type R arrived in 1997 many enthusiasts had never heard of the marque’s sporting offshoot.
The Japanese market had been able to enjoy a track-ready Integra for a full two years already, and in 1992 there had been an NSX Type R for the home market. However, for most buyers this was their first chance to dip into the Type R brand.
It was worth the wait, though, as the hotted-up coupé is widely regarded as the best front-wheel-drive sports car ever made. Yes – it really is that good to drive. When Russell Bulgin reviewed it for Car magazine, he described how its ‘race-car throttle sensitivity and rev lunacy’ combined with ‘fetishistic levels of steering and precision braking’. He concluded the Type R was ‘as extreme a car as you can buy’.
It’s easy to see why the Integra is so highly regarded, because in typical Honda fashion there were no half measures. The bodyshell was strengthened with extra spot welds and strategically placed thicker metal, but to offset any weight gain there was a thinner windscreen, lighter wheels plus less soundproofing. Naturally the 1.8-litre engine was also beefed up, with high-compression pistons, polished intake ports and a revised VTEC system. The result was 187bhp, 131lb ft of torque and a red line set at a crazy 8700rpm.
Tipping the scales at a mere 1140kg, the Integra Type R – which was internally codenamed DC2 – could despatch the 0-60mph sprint in just 6.2 seconds before topping out at 145mph. But to focus on the stats is to do the Integra a major disservice; it’s the way the car steers, handles, brakes and rides that makes it such a thriller.
One of those rare models that’s as much at home on the track as on the public road, the Honda is good enough to make you revise your opinions if you’re a die-hard rear-wheel-drive enthusiast.
Your AutoClassics Honda Integra Type R inspection checklist
Despite the stratospheric redline and high specific power output, the B18C twin-cam engine is incredibly reliable if looked after. That means oil changes every 6000 miles using a fully synthetic lubricant, and a fresh cambelt plus new spark plugs every five years or 60,000 miles. The coolant and fuel filters should also have been replaced within the past four years or 48,000 miles. Check that the official Honda air filter is still fitted; aftermarket ones tend to strangle the engine at high revs.
If there are rattles from underneath as the car is driven, the chances are it’s nothing more than a loose heatshield on the exhaust; this can be tightened up within minutes. Knocks as the engine is revved is probably because it’s making contact with the bodywork due to a failed rear engine mount, but that’s easily replaced.
The transmission is strong, but it’ll only take so much abuse. All Type Rs came with a five-speed manual gearbox, limited-slip diff and hydraulic clutch; the slave cylinder for the latter is prone to leaks, but this isn’t any cause for concern.
A grinding noise when you dip the clutch suggests that the release bearing has had it, or it could be that the gearbox bearings are tired. Also check for crunching changes at high revs, which indicates that the synchromesh is worn. Both of these symptoms suggest that a gearbox rebuild is due, but this isn’t especially costly.
Suspension and brakes
Nobody buys one of these cars to potter about in, so the brakes and suspension always have a hard time. While there are no inherent weaknesses, the suspension bushes (especially in the trailing arms) are likely to be tired, so home in on them first – polyurethane replacements are available. If the shock absorbers and springs have been on the car for more than 60,000 miles, the chances are that they’re past their best; a fresh set will probably transform the driving experience as a result.
While the brakes are perfectly adequate even for fast road use, excursions onto the track will probably lead to them wearing out. Juddering under braking betrays warped discs. Everything is available and there are plenty of upgrades available, and unless you get carried away parts costs are eminently reasonable. Also take a look at the gaiters on the steering rack; these split, which is an automatic MoT failure – and splits won’t do the rack much good, either.
The original Type R came with 15-inch wheels, which seem rather weedy nowadays. Don’t be tempted to fit anything bigger, though, because the chassis was optimised for these rims. Fit larger wheels and you’ll spoil the driving experience – guaranteed.
No cared-for Type R will display any signs of significant corrosion. The worst you should expect is some paint chipping on high-mileage cars, and you also need to check the windscreen for cracks or chips. Honda reduced the thickness of the glass to save weight, so it can crack more easily, but this isn’t a particular problem.
Thanks to low values, many Integras have passed through the hands of owners with more driving enthusiasm than skill. Consequently, you should scrutinise all panel gaps, which should be tight and even. Also check the boot floor and front inner wings for rippling; if you spot any, find another car. Japanese domestic market (JDM) models are more likely to have been crashed than UK editions, and it’s impossible to ascertain their history.
The heavily bolstered seats are trimmed in Alcantara. Not only does this attract dirt, which gets ingrained, but the bolsters wear badly, sometimes collapsing altogether. It doesn’t help that the belts also rub against the seats, which accelerates the rate of wear. Repairs are possible but expensive.
As long as the electrical system hasn’t been butchered it should be reliable, largely because the Integra isn’t crammed with luxury equipment. It does have an electric aerial, though, which can fail because of water ingress causing the mechanism to seize. If the aerial is then activated there’s a good chance a fuse will blow, and then it won’t work at all.
Make sure that the red ignition key comes with the car as well as the regular key. If you lose the regular part and you don’t have this red alternative, you’ll have to stump up for a replacement from a Honda dealer. These are expensive because of the amount of reprogramming involved.
- 1995: Integra Type R goes on sale in Japan, with rectangular headlights.
- 1997: Integra Type R goes on sale in other markets, including the UK, with four round headlights.
- 1998: A facelift brings a reprofiled rear bumper, bigger brakes and revised gear ratios, along with 16-inch wheels.
In order to understand the Integra’s appeal you’ve got to have the driving experience high on your list of priorities, but if you want to savour every moment behind the wheel then this is the car for you. Throw in incredible reliability plus a decent level of practicality, and you’ll see this is no one-trick pony. Just don’t let anybody tell you the Honda isn’t a classic.
The Integra Type R market is quite polarised, at least in the UK, with the buyer’s age usually determining what they want. Those in their 20s normally want modified cars that they’ll build themselves; older fans prefer something more original.
The JDM look is popular; UK cars are sometimes converted, with later JDM editions or ‘98 Spec’ (from 1998) being the most sought after as they have more power, extra equipment and tweaked styling. Mileage isn’t an issue if the car is looked after, but a professional inspection is worthwhile.
Picture courtesy of Honda UK
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Honda Integra Type R