Acura Integra Type R | Buyer's Guide

Scott
By Scott Lear
Aug 13, 2022 | Acura, Honda, Integra, Integra Type R | Posted in Buyer's Guides | From the Dec. 2009 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Scott R. Lear

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.]

Racers make up a small portion of the buying public, so it’s rare that we get personalized treatment in the form of a special-edition car that’s truly suited to our needs. A few marques with a deep legacy of racing—think Porsche and Ferrari—do offer special production-based models just for their track-hungry customers, but the cost of admission for these purpose-built racers is exceedingly high.

Inexpensive sporty offerings do exist, but since manufacturers try to please as many potential buyers as possible with a single product, there are compromises. The model with the hot engine often comes with the added weight of power windows, a moonroof, leather and a big stereo. Even when it’s possible to order a car with just the go-fast bits and none of the luxury bloat, the basic foundation is the same as every other car bearing the same badge, be it Cooper S or Mustang or 135i.

From 1997 to 2001, Acura defied this logic by selling a genuinely special performance version of the Integra. It was called the Type R, and it could not have been more contrary to Acura’s positioning as the luxury division of Honda. By eliminating many of the comfort items and adding a host of performance upgrades to a revised unibody, the Type R offered a purity of sporting intent unmatched by anything else on the market, particularly in its price range.

Bred for the Track

Rather than just bolting go-fast goodies to an otherwise normal production model, Honda made fundamental changes to the Integra chassis for the Type R model. Since a front-wheel-drive car’s inherent weakness is its tendency to push in corners, the first goal was to increase body rigidity in the rear.

Thicker steel was used for the wheel house, the rear pillar upper girder and the upper rear roof rail segments. The damper gussets, rear wheel arch extensions and lower arm brackets were also more robust. A pair of so-called performance rods were added to further stiffen the car, one to the lowest point on the suspension and one aft of the hatch area.

With the chassis squirm minimized, engineers addressed the actual suspension components. Compared to the more common yet far from slow Integra GS-R, the U.S.-market Type R sat 15mm closer to the pavement. Its front springs were 22 percent stiffer at 246 lbs./in. Out back, the springs were changed from a linear-rate coil to a progressive (and stiffer across the board) 140-246 lbs./in. specification. The dampers were calibrated accordingly.

The Type R has the same 24mm front anti-roll bar as other Integras, but to promote rotation under cornering the GS-R’s 13mm rear bar was nixed in favor of a dramatically larger 22mm unit. The Type R’s anti-roll bar was also attached with ball joints instead of rubber bushings. The tubular steel front strut tower bar from the GS-R gave way to a handsome aluminum bar with Type R markings.

Suspension improvements include a 22mm rear anti-roll bar and chassis stiffeners—the front got a special strut tower brace. Photography Credits: Scott R. Lear

To beef up the four corners even more, Honda traded out the standard Integra’s 4x100mm lug hubs for more robust 5x114.3mm pieces. A helical gear limited-slip differential was fitted to a close-ratio five-speed transmission to help get the power down out of the corners. The brake discs grew by 20mm front and rear, and larger calipers were fitted. To further enhance braking characteristics, the Type R even got its own special antilock braking system, one that shaved 12.3 pounds off the car and was tuned for track use.

Keeping the mass down was a priority for the design team, and they again started with the chassis by omitting the melt-sheet insulation found on regular cars. The moonroof was left off, as were the dashboard insulator and the drive shaft and shifter dynamic dampers.

Cruise control was also deleted, and the earliest cars didn’t even have vanity mirrors or a rear wiper/washer assembly. Even with the larger brakes, limited-slip differential and heavy-duty chassis enhancements, the Type R weighed in at 2577 pounds, nearly 100 pounds lighter than the GS-R model.

Revs to Forever

The Integra Type R’s 195-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine was pretty special, too. In fact, when the B18C5-spec powerplant debuted, its 108.5 horsepower per liter surpassed everything else ever available to the general public.

The figure bested the Ferrari F355’s rating of 107.3 horses per liter, and the Type R’s record held until Honda’s own S2000 engine raised the bar to 120 ponies per liter several years later. Because of the relatively long stroke, the piston speed in the Type R’s engine was also higher than any other engine in the world—faster even than Honda’s own IndyCar and Formula 1 engines.

To accomplish these feats and still put a standard production-car warranty on the thing, Honda took great care in the design and production of the B18C5 engine. Forged connecting rods were machined with great accuracy, manually assembled, and matched so precisely that the weight difference was all but immeasurable. The forged crankshaft had eight balance weights, and the crankshaft journals were carefully polished. A surface-oriented crystal bearing material bonded oil to the bearing surfaces to reduce friction.

The B18C5 engine is a screaming 1.8-liter marvel. Red stitching on Alcantara suede sets the ITR’s interior apart. Photography Credits: David S. Wallens

The intake and exhaust ports on every Type R were polished by hand. The piston skirts received a molybdenum coating, and oil jets sprayed the underside of the pistons to help dissipate heat. An oversized throttle body, larger, lightweight valves, oval cross-section springs, and a 10.6:1 compression ratio set the B18C5 further apart from its siblings. The stock exhaust even flowed 30 percent more efficiently than the one used in the GS-R.

Honda’s VTEC system appears on many cars, but its operation is particularly noticeable on the Type R. At 5700 rpm, the cams switch over to their more aggressive profile; in addition to a jump in the decibel level, there’s a fun kick in the pants as the four-banger climbs with renewed vigor toward its 8500 rpm fuel cutoff. Few engines can spin this high or sound this good.

Style and Substance

The exterior was altered for performance as well. The bumper guards along the doors were deleted, presumably to save weight. Meanwhile, the Type R got a special chin spoiler and large rear wing that conspired to reduce lift by 30 percent over the GS-R; they also trimmed the drag down by one percent.

For the first two years, you could have any color Type R you wanted as long as it was Championship White, the same hue that adorned Honda’s Formula 1 race cars in the 1960s. After a one-year break for the 1999 model year, the Type R came back, this time wearing black or yellow. Integra Type R decals on the side and the rear were standard, and the front and rear Acura emblems had red backgrounds.

Like other performance-oriented Hondas, the Type R came with amber gauge and console lighting instead of the green that was used on regular Integras. The gauge cluster was also altered to suit the engine’s uncommonly high speeds, as the tach read to 10,000 rpm. Despite all of this special engineering and handiwork, MSRP started at a reasonable $23,100 in 1997.

A Future Collectible

When the Integra Type R was being sold new, a slew of amusing stories were born. They centered around Acura customers who wanted the top-of-the-line version of the Integra, only to return the car after finding out that the Type R was loud, raw, highly wound and not at all what they expected from a luxury marque. Luckily, the majority of the buyers were educated on the product and craved it precisely because it was a race car for the street.

Honda gave the Integra Type R a lot of special attention before they unleashed it on the public, and most buyers continue to respond with similar levels of enthusiasm. Several Internet forums have active sections devoted solely to the ITR, and the Integra Type R Club of America has hosted yearly Expos—in 2003, the third Type R Expo attracted 110 examples.

Limited production numbers and impressive performance mean the Integra Type R is destined to become a collector car. However, that doesn’t mean they should be bottled up in hyperbaric time capsules. The Type R offers screaming performance mated to traditional Honda reliability, and there’s no better partner for autocross or track use. The car returns more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway, too.

The Acura Integra Type R is one of those rare cars that’s more than the sum of its parts; considering how special the parts are in this case, that’s no faint praise. There are faster cars in the world, sure, but few are as capable of involving their owner in the joys of driving. The sports car world would be a better place if all manufacturers took performance as seriously as Honda and Acura did for a few short years at the end of the last millennium.

Things to Know

The Type R was incredibly popular among import enthusiasts when it was new, but this celebrity status came with several downsides. Many of the parts—including the high-output drivetrain—can be swapped into Integras and Civics, so theft was rampant. There are quite a few theft recovery Type Rs out there, so check the title before you buy so there are no surprises.

Second, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Type R has every right to blush: Many regular third-gen Integras were modified to look like Type Rs. Very few imitators went so far as to swap to the Type R’s five-lug hubs or delete the regular Integra’s door bumper rails, but even these cues can be emulated. To avoid impostors, keep in mind that the VIN on all genuine Type R Integras starts with JH4DC231.

Modifications are common in the Type R community, so be aware of the extent and quality of the mods before you buy. Because of their high desirability when new and the limited production run, the Integra Type R has not depreciated at the same rate as other cars.

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

Body and Interior

The aftermarket gave Integra Type R owners a slew of ways to modify their cars, and the quality ranged from utter crap to the real deal. Japanese-market Integra Type Rs have a very different front end, one that trades the quartet of circular headlamps for an Accord-like pair of rectangular lights. Swapping to the JDM front end was not uncommon in the U.S., and at least the parts are OEM Honda. Watch out for poorly executed body kits, fake wings and the like.

Like many Honda products from this era, the paint is on the thin side. This issue is particularly noticeable on the black cars. Small chips and pitting are likely on the front bumper and leading edge of the hood, particularly if the car has seen track use.

Rust is not a huge issue, as most Type R Integras are still fairly new. As with many Hondas, one spot to watch is the aft corner of the wheel arches on the rear quarter panels. The Integra came from the factory with a black rubberized edging on the fender lip, and a wise Honda CRX owner once advised us to remove this edging to prevent trapped moisture—no guarantees, but it can’t hurt. Another potential spot is below the headlight assembly, but investigation requires removing the bumper cover.

All U.S.-market Type Rs came with a special interior. The seats are covered in black fabric and Alcantara suede with red stitching. The Alcantara tends to wear in high-traffic areas like the bolster near the doors and on the center armrest. The hard plastic surfaces are finished in a vaguely carbon fiber-looking pattern—we call it carbon fauxber—but for some reason, the factory neglected to apply the pattern to the passenger-side HVAC vent surround. The floor mats are not terribly durable, and we have seen many deteriorate from regular use.

The stitching on the leather-wrapped shift knobs on 1997 and ’98 cars can deteriorate, leaving holes or even allowing the leather to fall away.

Drivetrain

U.S.-market cars have a 4.4:1 final drive ratio, but Japanese-market cars sport a shorter 4.7:1 final drive that’s a popular swap among enthusiasts.

Clutches start to go after about 60,000 miles of spirited use, but 100,000 miles isn’t unheard of. Also, check for grinding issues due to worn synchros—the two-three shift is usually the trouble spot.

Many Integra Type Rs have been used for their intended purpose—motorsports—and the regular use of R-compound rubber at autocrosses and track days can take a toll on the wheel bearings. 

Engine

The Integra Type R’s B18C5-spec engine is an absolute gem. Owners tend to drive theirs pretty hard, so look for evidence of regular oil changes. Many owners who use synthetics report losses of about a quart every 3000 miles due to blow-by—some owners have found that conventional oils can actually combat this oil loss. Check the level after a spirited drive and add oil as needed.

It’s a Honda: Leaks are not common, and the engine should run smoothly everywhere in the rev range. Type Rs idle as high as 1100 rpm when the a/c or several accessories are turned on, or as low as 600 rpm with minimal load. The VTEC system is extremely reliable as long as the oil level is correct.

The B18C5 is an interference engine that uses a timing belt, and the recommended interval for changing the belt on 1997-2000 model year cars is 60,000 miles. The spec jumped to 100,000 miles for 2000, but many owners play it safe and change at 60,000 miles anyway. If you’re buying used, make sure that the belt was changed at the proper interval; if it wasn’t, there’s no harm if the belt didn’t snap, but don’t tempt fate by putting it off any longer. It’s easy to check the condition of the belt by removing the valve cover and rotating the crankshaft counterclockwise.

Valve adjustments can be performed easily with a set of sockets, some valve tappets, a flat-head screwdriver and a torque wrench. There’s no better tool than the factory Helm service manual, either.

One of the easiest ways to get free horsepower from an Integra Type R is to tune the timing on a dyno. The factory spec is 16 degrees BTDC plus or minus 2 degrees, and many Type R owners have found 18 degrees BTDC to be the sweet spot for power.

Bolt-ons like cold-air intakes, headers and exhaust systems are common. Many are upgrades in every sense of the word, as they offer more power and reduced weight. The U.S. Type Rs came with a very heavy cast-iron exhaust manifold, while Japanese cars received a much lighter four-into-one steel-tube header.

The stock Type R exhaust is quiet and actually flows pretty well, but many headers necessitate an upgrade from the U.S.-spec 2.25-inch exhaust to a 2.5-inch exhaust. Others may require an adapter.

Modifications for the B-series engines abound, and many Integra Type Rs have been altered internally—some wisely, some less so. The B18C5 is very highly tuned from the factory, so upgrades that genuinely improve performance are usually expensive and have a questionable impact on a car’s future collectibility. That said, there are Type Rs out there with more than 200 horsepower at the wheels—naturally aspirated. Turbos are not uncommon, either. Do your homework on a potential purchase, and be aware of the trade-offs if you go in for a heavily tweaked car.

Chassis

A Type R in good condition should exhibit razor-sharp handling characteristics—it’s considered by many to be the best-handling front-wheel-drive car ever made. Dampers don’t last forever, so if the car has more than 50,000 miles and the shocks are original, it may be time to replace them. If the alignment is correct and the tires are decent, torque steer should be minimal or nonexistent.

The U.S. Type R’s 15x6-inch wheels were pretty wimpy even when the car was new, so aftermarket wheels and tires are common. However, diameters of 17 inches or greater tend to be more show than go. We’ve seen slightly lowered Type Rs run 225-wide tires up front with zero problems. Some hardcore autocrossers will cram a 275/35R15 on the stock rim size—they’re stuck with the 15x6-inch size per the SCCA rule book. Despite this handicap, the Type R remains a force in D Stock on the national scene.

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mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise UberDork
9/2/21 10:36 a.m.

It should say bring $70,000-$110,000 and then get a nice type R 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
9/2/21 11:03 a.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

It should say bring $70,000-$110,000 and then get a nice type R 

Yeah, these are WAY out of reach for the normal folk like me.

 

calteg
calteg Dork
9/2/21 11:37 a.m.

Really wish I hadn't sold mine, though being (justifiably) paranoid it would get stolen every time I parked it got old pretty fast.

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
9/6/21 2:42 p.m.

I'm looking for something with a backseat and investigated these briefly. Too raw and damn those prices are going up...

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/7/21 1:28 p.m.

Back in the day, we had a '97 Type R as our press car in 1998. So I called Honda and asked if we could buy it, figuring that its time in the press pool was coming to an end. Nope, I was told. In fact, it might have been a crusher. Somewhere I believe that I have a photo of its number plate. I should look for it. 

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
9/7/21 1:56 p.m.

In reply to CrustyRedXpress :

I don't know if this helps at all, but you could get a four-door version in Japan. At least one lives stateside and is for sale:

https://www.importavehicle.com/vehicles/545/1996-honda-integra-type-r

At that price, though, I think you might be better off spending that sort of coin on something else.

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
10/26/21 11:58 a.m.

Just saw an Ebay auction that might set the current floor price for these. 1998 with a phoenix yellow paint job over some fast-n-furious body modifications done in metal. Carfax shows both accident damage and salvage title from vandalism (theft?). No pics of the engine/transmission but seller claims original and running well. Interior looks mostly original and in pretty good shape.

A stolen/wrecked/repainted and furiously modified Type R with ripped out radio may no longer be original, but somehow seems more authentic than a garage queen.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/274995113301?hash=item4006fc6d55:g:Kr4AAOSwulZhciC-

Image 21 - 1998 Acura Integra TYPE-R

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
10/29/21 12:00 p.m.

In reply to CrustyRedXpress :

Looks like it sold for $12.5k. I'd say that keeps the dream is alive for somebody that wants one of these...if they can get past the bodywork.

Byrneon27
Byrneon27 GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/29/21 12:27 p.m.

There are $25,000 drivers out there and $10,000 basket cases but we hear about the $100,000 museum pieces. I still say a $4000 gsr is 90% as good... 

Unpopular opinion... A lot of the ITR magic is in the story 

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
10/29/21 12:38 p.m.

In reply to Byrneon27 :

Agreed. People will pay bonkers money for "the best" but will ignore something that is 90% as good for 10% of the price.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/29/21 4:40 p.m.
Byrneon27 said:

There are $25,000 drivers out there and $10,000 basket cases but we hear about the $100,000 museum pieces. I still say a $4000 gsr is 90% as good... 

Unpopular opinion... A lot of the ITR magic is in the story 

Where is a $4000 GSR? I don't remember them ever being that cheap.

 

Not that I'd want one.  Way too worried about finding an Acura-shaped bare spot where my car used to be.

bmw88rider
bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/29/21 4:45 p.m.

I bought mine for 6K a couple years ago. That is about the basement for a good GSR. 

Byrneon27
Byrneon27 GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/29/21 6:26 p.m.

I've spent $4500 between 2 in the last 12 months... 

 

Both super straight and rust free both with rough clover green paint.

01 leather interior 300k at purchase coilovers, wheels, intake. GF was driving it until she bought her E90. $3000

99 leather interior 75k at purchase, cut springs, questionable turbo setup, vaguely built engine, crap tune, tree branch through windshield $1500

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byrneon27
Byrneon27 GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/29/21 6:32 p.m.
Shaun
Shaun Dork
11/7/21 1:04 p.m.

I have always loved the US front end with the small round headlights-  I'm apparently the only Honda enthusiast that is of that opinion and swapping the front over to the Japanese rectangular headlights is a thing. 

pcorad01
pcorad01 New Reader
11/7/21 1:21 p.m.

Drive it like you stole it. Because it either was or will be. 

Byrneon27
Byrneon27 GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/7/21 8:37 p.m.
Shaun said:

I have always loved the US front end with the small round headlights-  I'm apparently the only Honda enthusiast that is of that opinion and swapping the front over to the Japanese rectangular headlights is a thing. 

Another one!!!! Woooooot. Both Honda enthusiasts in this house are round eye fans

aw614
aw614 Reader
11/8/21 7:40 a.m.
David S. Wallens said:

Back in the day, we had a '97 Type R as our press car in 1998. So I called Honda and asked if we could buy it, figuring that its time in the press pool was coming to an end. Nope, I was told. In fact, it might have been a crusher. Somewhere I believe that I have a photo of its number plate. I should look for it. 

Oddly enough Honda did use an RS as a press car for a while too that somehow made it out without being crushed.

https://honda-tech.com/forums/acura-integra-type-r-8/1996-usdm-itr-acura-press-vehicle-2533692/

Reading the guide, I did not realize the timing belt interval used to be 60k miles vs 100k. Curious what people's experiences were with changing at 100k. 

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
11/8/21 8:03 p.m.

In reply to aw614 :

That thread is a pretty wild ride. 

I assume most (but maybe not all?) of these cars are now having their belts changed based on time and not miles. 

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
1/24/22 6:20 p.m.

2000 Phoenix Yellow ITR, 7k miles, currently $109k on BAT:

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/2000-acura-integra-type-r-51/

 

lnlds
lnlds Reader
1/24/22 8:37 p.m.

That's insane. I get it and don't get it at the same time. The thought of a type-r gives me fizzy feelings but you could have an nsx and s2000 for that price if you are a honda lover.

trigun7469
trigun7469 SuperDork
1/25/22 10:19 a.m.

In reply to CrustyRedXpress :

It surprises me but doesn't because likely 99.9% of integras have been ratted, stolen and/or crashed. I wonder in a 25 years when gas station do not exist if this car doubles in price. It really is just a collectable.  

aw614
aw614 Reader
1/25/22 11:05 a.m.
CrustyRedXpress said:

In reply to aw614 :

That thread is a pretty wild ride. 

I assume most (but maybe not all?) of these cars are now having their belts changed based on time and not miles. 

On the timing belt maintenance, I meant more on the side of normal driving conditions, ie. daily driver, etc which a lot of these cars were driven as. 

Byrneon27
Byrneon27 GRM+ Memberand Reader
1/25/22 7:13 p.m.

I changed B timing belts every 100k or whenever I get bored seems to work out so far

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
1/25/22 7:22 p.m.

Three easy steps:

1. Obtain gratuitous amount of money.

2. More money than that.

3. Find Type R that isn't completely trashed.

thatsnowinnebago
thatsnowinnebago GRM+ Memberand UberDork
2/1/22 12:36 p.m.
Byrneon27 said:
Shaun said:

I have always loved the US front end with the small round headlights-  I'm apparently the only Honda enthusiast that is of that opinion and swapping the front over to the Japanese rectangular headlights is a thing. 

Another one!!!! Woooooot. Both Honda enthusiasts in this house are round eye fans

You can add me to the pile. The JDM front end looks so plain to me, compared to the four headlights on the USDM one. I get the impression that some people think anything JDM > USDM simply because it's JDM. 

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/1/22 6:31 p.m.
thatsnowinnebago said:
Byrneon27 said:
Shaun said:

I have always loved the US front end with the small round headlights-  I'm apparently the only Honda enthusiast that is of that opinion and swapping the front over to the Japanese rectangular headlights is a thing. 

Another one!!!! Woooooot. Both Honda enthusiasts in this house are round eye fans

You can add me to the pile. The JDM front end looks so plain to me, compared to the four headlights on the USDM one. I get the impression that some people think anything JDM > USDM simply because it's JDM.

I prefer the JDM frontend, just on looks. May be rather plain, but the USDM frontend, while definitely different, is overall kind of goofy-looking to me, kind of like it came from the factory with some oddball body kit made to turn heads.

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
8/13/22 9:48 p.m.

Aren't we almost to the point where 25 year type Rs can be imported from Europe? They debuted in 1998. 

They are left hand drive, mostly identical to their USDM brethern, and commonly available under 20k before shipping, import fees, etc. 

If I was in the market I'd definitely hold off for a year.

1998 in Champ White, $16k, 62k miles and currently in Norway: https://www.theparking-cars.com/used-cars-detail/honda-integra-type-r/type-r/KJWJZLAQ.html

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/15/22 9:23 a.m.

In reply to CrustyRedXpress :

See also, kinda: JDM Type Rs looks to be priced fairly right now.

But, yeah, a Euro-spec car would also be LHD.

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/12/22 10:32 a.m.

I think prices for these are falling. 21k for a 140k mile with a JDM front, Phoenix Yellow. No word on title status:

EDIT: 1 month later he's at 20k

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