Back in 1997, the Honda scene was still in its early stages. Looking back, some of us remember the growing pains the scene was going through with our wild body kits and neon green paint schemes. Some of us, on the other hand, hadn't even sat in a driver's seat for the first time yet.
Al-Michael Franco picked up his 1996 Acura Integra GS-R that year. The car was slightly used and came equipped with a set of OEM fog lights, Eibach Sportline springs and some white faced gauges, a good starting point in those days. Through the next two years, Franco continued his mods. He added all of the hottest parts of the time, going with an Akimoto intake and a DC sports 4-2-1 header (a staple at the time) dumping into a GReddy Power Extreme exhaust. The car also got a set of Neuspeed plug wires and clear bumper lenses to add a bit of bling, inside and out.
He then picked up the first of a handful of Alpine head units that would grace the Integra's dash over the years. Franco replaces the Alpine head unit almost every year with the newer, cooler top-of-the-line Alpine offering.
Back then, the Teg rolled on a set of 17-inch Racing Hart C2's. "Everybody wanted those wheels back then," Franco says. Later, he replaced the Eibachs with Skunk2 coilovers over Tokiko Illumina shocks so he could get the car to sit lower then it already was. A trio of DC sports braces spanned the front and rear strut towers and between the rear lower control arms. The 17-inch Racing Harts were sold in favor of a set of the same Racing Hart C2's, this time of the 18-inch variety.
"[At the time] the only thing better than 17-inch C2's were 18-inch C2's," Franco recalls. "Nobody had 18's then."
Around the turn of the millennium, Franco's father started to put his influence in on the progression of the GS-R's build. Franco's father had raced mid-70's Mitsubishi Lancers in long-distance rally events in the Philippines. Since these Lancers were only offered in Asia, Japanese aftermarket parts were the only thing available. When he saw his son building a Japanese car using primarily American parts, his interest arose and some research ensued. After searching for a while, Franco's father opened his eyes to the world of JDM. From there on out, every part on the car had to be Japanese, and a transformation began.
"I went to the Japanese bookstore in Chinatown to look at Option and Carisma mags. I liked the way the Japanese guys were building their cars. It looked cleaner and the parts seemed more functional."
In late 2000, Franco picked up the OEM ITR front end conversion to start the GS-R's JDM metamorphosis. Before he could get the front end on, the car was in a pretty major accident.
"I was on the west Seattle bridge with my cousin when a car rear ended us at 45 miles per hour. Thinking my car was totaled, it was time to search for a body shop."
Franco found Millen Autobody, in nearby Redmond, which determined that the Integra would not be a total loss. Rather than replace the rear end with the stock panels, Franco opted to go with the '98+ rear bumper and taillights. The front and rear end conversions were installed, the side moldings, rear emblems and "Integra" markings were shaved, and then everything was sprayed in a custom PPG Frost White with a lavender pearl.
With the exterior looking more JDM, the goal for the next couple of years was to make the rest of the car follow suit. The Skunk2/Tokico combo was swapped out for a set of TEIN HA coilovers. "I went from Eibach to Skunk2 to get lower. I went from Skunk to TEIN to go faster," Franco says.
Mugen and Spoon units replaced the DC Sports strut tower bars and rear tie bar, respectively. The DC header was also swapped out for a Type One Racing (T1R) piece. A Mugen Twin Loop axle-back was set in place of the GReddy exhaust, but the B-pipe remained.
The interior was next in line. All in one fell swoop, the interior went from plain Jane USDM to JDM hotness. The seats were all replaced with units from a JDM Integra Type R. The pedals, steering wheel, shift knob, and the new JDM ITR gauge cluster's bezel all got some Mugen love. The most notable USDM to JDM styling change was the wheels. The 18-inch Racing Harts made way for a set of 16x7-inch Black Racing Phantom's. The Phantoms weigh in at 12 pounds, which makes them perfect for the car's "function over form" theme.
The build slowed down for '04 and '05. A few parts were added here and there, but the major work had already been done. A Spoon Sports carbon fiber lip and a set of Spoon Sports carbon mirrors were added, along with a vented carbon fiber hood from Buddy Club. A Rockford Fosgate amp, three SPL subwoofers, a 5-inch LCD screen in the rear view mirror and some Alpine component speakers finished up the ICE.
Future plans call for a new set of wheels and some aero changes. Franco isn't sure what direction he will go for the wheels, but plans on using a C-West rear bumper and side skirts to complement the OEM front bumper with the Spoon lip. There is also talk of boost. "I'd like to go turbo, as long as I can keep my A/C and power steering." This car, with boost, air conditioning and power steering, sounds like a perfect daily driver to Franco. Sounds pretty good to us, too.
1996 Integra GS-R
PropulsionFranco's B18C1 is internally stock from the valves down. Integra Type R camshafts tap on stock valves held up by Jun valve springs and titanium retainers. A pair of Tangken Tuning cam gears offers cam timing tune-ability. An Akimoto intake with a Blitz air filter feed the beast, which exhales through a T1R four-into-one header into a Tangken Tuning catalytic converter connected to a GReddy B-pipe, and out a Mugen Twin-Loop axle back. Spark is supplied by an MSD 6AL and MSD Blaster 2 coil. The charge is sent from the MSD cap and rotor to a set of Spoon Sports plug wires, then to NGK-R plugs. Under the kick panel, a JDM '98 Integra Type R ECU runs the show.
160whp on a DynoJet chassis dyno; 14.7 second ET in the 1/4 mile.
TEIN HA coilovers suspend the car from all four corners, while Integra Type R sway bars cross the front and rear. Mugen front and rear strut-tower bars help a Spoon Sports rear tie bar and a J's Racing C-pillar bar stiffen up the chassis.
Stock calipers coax Endless pads to create friction on Brembo replacement rotors to stop Franco's Teg.
RIMS & Rubber
This DC2 rolls on some super-sick, mad-dog rare, JDM sauce Black Racing Phantoms in 16x7-inch trim with a +45 offset and a 4x100 lug pattern. These babies are wrapped up in a set of Kuhmo 205/45/R16 tires.
Body: The most obvious of the GS-R's exterior mods is the JDM Integra Type R front end conversion. Attached to the JDM bumper is a real-deal Spoon Sports carbon fiber front lip to match the Spoon Sports carbon fiber mirrors that adorn the doors. A Buddy Club carbon fiber hood lightens things up while maintaining the 1x1 carbon weave motif started by the Spoon Sports parts.
Mugen replica side skirts replace the stock pieces on the rockers, while '98+ pieces update the rear bumper and taillights. The side moldings, rear emblems, and "Integra" markings on the rear bumper have all been shaved, and the rear windshield wiper has been eliminated. Rather than shaving the door handles, Franco opted to use rear door handles from a four-door Integra to get the keyless look and keep the functionality of stock handles. The whole exterior was shot in a custom PPG Frost White with a lavender pearl by Millen Autobody in Redmond, Wa.
Inside: SRR harnesses strap Franco and a passenger into the JDM Integra Type R Recaro front seats. The JDM ITR seats in the rear can accommodate two more passengers. Mugen Sports pedals, a Mugen shift knob and N1 steering wheel gives the driver total control over the vehicle. A Mugen gauge bezel dresses up the JDM ITR cluster in the GS-R's dash. A JDM ITR armrest delete replaces the stock armrest. The door panels and shift boot have also been replaced with their JDM ITR counterparts.
The center of the Integra's multimedia system is an Alpine head unit, sending signal to a Rockford Fosgate 8000a2 1,100-watt amp, which powers Alpine front and rear component speakers and three 10-inch SPL Soudstream subwoofers. A 5-inch LCD screen has been mounted in the rear view mirror for some eye candy.