Beyond the money, one's ability to own the car of his or her dreams requires time and lots of patience. From sourcing the chassis to the actual build, it never happens overnight. It sometimes takes a couple of scrapped projects to finally get it right, but that's why persistence is crucial for enthusiasts. Nothing ever good comes as the result of a rush job. For Dan Gonzales, building the perfect Integra Type R (ITR) required all those things, and most of all: dedication.
ITRs are gems, no matter if they're left- or right-hand drive, but a JDM '96 is a true unicorn, especially in stock condition, which this was, sans a few pieces, like the front lip and floor mats, all easily replaceable. "I found the car for sale one night while surfing Honda-Tech," Dan says. "At the time, I was on my third DC chassis, a '98 RS (base model), 21 years old, living on my own, and didn't have any money, but I inquired anyway. It was nine hours away, and I hoped for some kind of deal where I could own a real ITR, my dream car—being that it was a JDM model was icing on the cake." After some back and forth, Dan was able to trade his RS and some cash, a true steal in our book. "It was an 18-hour round trip to Virginia Beach, not to mention a learning experience driving half of that home right-hand drive," he says.
After a few years of daily driving, long distance driving, and track days, the process of teardown and restoration became obsessive-compulsive to the highest degree. But the reasoning is completely justified: It had been repainted and the bodywork started to show its wear. "I had to restore the car and do it the right way," Dan explains. "This is something I've always stood by and believe in—build it for what it's meant to be and built to be used for, which is to be functional, tracked, and extremely clean."
With the help of his friend Matt Bagley, the two painstakingly worked on restoring the ITR as funds, a place to do the work, and time allowed. But Dan refused to let Matt fix old bodywork; instead, he sourced every replacement panel he could (both new and used) to ensure it was clean before going back together. "It was amazing to be able to walk through the back half of the car," he adds. "What was once a bare skeleton looked like a real car again once Matt was finished." They didn't stop there, either—after pulling off the motor and suspension, the frame was placed onto a rotisserie so the wheelwells and undercarriage could be redone, as well as full stitch-welding of the chassis. It took some more time to get the car completely painted, and the addition of the JDM front end really sealed the deal for Dan. "It looks amazing," he said.
But bodywork completion is only part of the story—next was working on the suspension and engine. All of Dan's suspension components were freshly powdercoated, with every bolt cadmium coated or replaced entirely with new OEM hardware. The original B18C motor, which hadn't been fired up in two years, was put in after the block had been scrubbed clean, and came to life on the third crank (with the help of his daughter, Gabby, who wasn't quite sure what to make of the situation given a loud open header). Dan decided that a Spoon Sports theme would be appropriate. "Now that I'm older, less is more, and I'm a fan of clean catalog builds," he explains. The car was later Spoon-certified by Opak Racing, which is given to projects that are built with rare Spoon parts—but even more meaningful than the certification plaque and paper was when Tatsuru Ichishima, the company's owner, signed his dashboard at a car show. "That moment is more special to me than anything."
After putting the finishing touches on—adjusting body panels for better fitment, decal placement, and of course, the Type R badges—Dan could finally let out a sigh of relief. Three years of hard work had finally come to this: three great years of friendship, bonding, and building a dream. "Matt will never know how much I appreciate his love, passion, and labor that went into this car," Dan says. "He hasn't given me the bill yet, but I know I'll never be able to pay him enough for what he did for me. Now that the build is over, we don't know what to do with ourselves, but I have a feeling we'll be back in the garage soon enough."