StillNoCones GRM+ Memberand None
9/9/18 11:44 a.m.

Hey there GRM, longtime reader brand new subscriber. Decided it would be smart to actually log the cars' progress somewhere it can be easily viewed.

Here's a longer than intended background/introduction to myself, I am currently a senior at Kettering University studying Mechanical Engineering who really shouldn't be dumping money into projects right now but you know how car life goes. Last year (summer 2017) I decided to turn my dream of racing into something physical and started autocrossing my daily - a modified 2003 Saab 9-3 with 250k+ miles. I started out just doing it for fun, but 8 autocrosses and a Corbeau FX1 driver seat later, and the urge to do actual track days, I realized if I wanted the Saab to survive the rest of college I would need a dedicated fun car. My requirements for a track/autox car were simple: cheap, lightweight, & proven platform.I considered the obvious choices (Miata, E36, Foxbody, Focus SVT) but there was something I didnt like about each of them. I went to Gridlife Midwest Festival in 2017 and became inspired with James Houghton and his Unlimited-class winning DC2 Integra Type-R. I was impressed since everyone/internet tells you FWD sucks and rear wheel drive was faster, yet his Integra was setting lap records across the country. I knew front drive cars could be fast but had no idea they could be pushed that far. That was all I needed - decided I really wanted a 90's Honda and learn how to be fast with FWD.

Fast forward to Winter 2018. I was back on campus spending my free time looking through craigslist ads and came across a Integra that was bone stock in the pictures (which is near impossible) and was in Lansing (a short drive from Flint) so I immediately contacted the seller and setup a date to view it. I skipped some classes and went with a friend to check it out cause thats how priorities work. Low and behold the car did present itself as the ad showed - a bone stock, tired daily driver. The car did have some issues however - the exhaust sounded the equivalent of open header, the FL wheel was a steelie, no tires matched, and car had the worst alignment in history (more on this later...). I decided these were acceptable since I was gonna replace all this anyway and bought the car for $1600, which I thought was a steal at the time. 

Getting the car home was fairly uneventful except for the fact the alignment was terrifying. The FL and RL wheels both had positive camber and the rear had toe out. The car was always trying to rotate and any change of road surface (it was winter so there was a lot) made the back end step out noticeably. Again thinking that was just a poor alignment I didnt worry too much about it *Insert foreshadowing noise here*. Other than that the car drove well, most of the electronics worked, and it held steady temps despite the fact the radiator cap leaked (more on this later too...). Once it was home the car sat for a while until spring came.

Now to spring, I'm off of school semester and can really dive into what I spent my tax return on. So I go around the car and inspect every surface I can see. I came across a few things - the car used to have a sound system and was hastily returned to stock so the radio didnt work. Didnt really matter to me since it would be removed later because racecar. I looked under the car and found the exhaust leak:

The engine bay had some leaks and looked like it wasn't cleaned since it left the factory in 2000

I replaced the rad cap but noticed there was still a trail of coolant on the rad. So inspected all the visible surfaces and eventually removed the rad fan, which then revealed a massive hole in the radiator. Im sure the only reason the car made it home without overheating was the fact it was 20F outside.

And about that alignment... I checked the car and saw all the control arms were original and had limited adjustability but couldnt understand how the toe & camber were soo far out. So I jacked up the car and really inspected all of the suspension hard mount point. Then i really looked at the rear subframe...

Looks like previous owner slid into a curb, bending the rear subframe, and most likely destroyed the wheel in the process, which would explain why one wheel was a steelie. If the car you buy on craigslist seems to be a steal, theres probably a catch. Or two, or three...

Log continued in next comment

StillNoCones GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/9/18 11:48 a.m.

Knowing all the problems, I decided to continue with my platform and let the repair aka mods begin.

First thing I did was sort out the cooling system. Out with the old rad, hello to new Skunk2 Alpha radiator & Mishimoto hoses. The A/C system kept getting in the way during disassembly, so the entire front A/C system was removed because racecar. I may or may not have thought the lines were empty (the system leaked bad) and sprayed R12 all over the hood and my arm. Pay no attention to the janky header in the photo, more on that later.


Looking back at this process I wouldve just bought an off-the-shelf system. My first adventure with sorting the exhaust was not successful. I found on Facebook marketplace a ram-air intake and entire header back exhaust, $120 for everything. This turned out to be a bad move, as the header had several cracks from smacking the ground (the car it was on was dirt nasty low) and the system was missing both 02 sensor bungs as well as exhaust hangers. Which I didnt realize until I had the entire system on the car... So attempt #2 began. I didnt want this car obnoxiously loud like most Hondas in my area but I couldnt really find premade systems that I liked so I decided to buy individual components and have an exhaust shop weld it all up. I got a 1320 Performance 4-1 header, 1320 test pipes, amazon no-name catalytic converter, and a K-Tuned muffler. I got the cat purely for autox classing reasons.

At the same time I decided to refreshen the rest of the engine bay 'while I was in there' (this phrase is deadly to your bank account) and did the valve cover, spark plugs, plug wires, valve cover gasket, and removed unnecessary parts within the allowed limits of SCCA D Street Prepared class (upgrading your radiator and fan automatically puts you in this class sadly).

I also bought a new Integra Meshie wheel and brand new BFG SportComp2 tires on ebay all for $350 (I'm new to Hondas and loving how cheap everything is). With all this work done I took the car to its first event - Detroit Region Season opener autocross.

Heres a video link to my best run of the day

Autocross is a great way to shake a car down and really learn what the car needs. I knew the brakes were bad but they were the equivalent of useless (car had full autozone brake pads and drilled+slotted rotors, which all 4 were warped), the car had miles of body roll, very easy to rotate, and was LOUD. Almost as loud as it was with the exhaust leak.

Over the next few weeks I got adjustable rear toe and camber links to at least bring the rear alignment close to spec. Started out with 2 degrees positive camber and 3 degrees of toe out, which is also known as ridiculous. Got the camber to zero and toe to 0.5 deg toe and was a massive improvement. Then I took it to a track day, SCCA Track Night in America at Gingerman Raceway. Heres a link to a video of my best lap. Dont get your hopes up, no records were broken that day.

I noticed I had absolutely roasted the edge of my front tires, so installed a camber kit in the meantime before I could get coilovers. This helped a bit but body roll like this will always roast your tire shoulders.


N7Prime Reader
9/9/18 12:05 p.m.

Keep it up. I'm about to pick up my new 90's Civic and are looking for inspiration.

StillNoCones GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/9/18 12:19 p.m.

In reply to N7Prime :

Thanks man. Glad to help out anyway and good luck!

StillNoCones GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/9/18 12:36 p.m.

Forgot to mention in the previous post I also replaced the shot rotors with Centric blanks, put on Hawk Street/Race pads, Russel stainless steel brake lines and high temp brake fluid.

Old rotors:

New rotors:

Heres where things start to take a major turn.

Ideally I was going to keep the car mostly stock for future time attack classing reasons (lower classes are fairly restrictive) but I wasnt really happy with the state of the car and the autocross class it was in. so I decided to make the car really setup for track days.

First thing I did was add a second muffler - driving 2.5 hours to Gingerman and then back home took a toll on my hears. I was practically deaf when I got home due to the drone and shear volume, so I cut out section of pipe in the middle of the car and installed a Vibrant Performance 6" round muffler. This was the best thing I couldve done. Now when im cruising around at light throttle the car is quiet. But when under WOT it opens up nicely without being raspy or droney. The way a car should sound IMO.

Next I went on a weight savings spree. All interior rear of the front seats, all speakers, radio, and anything else not needed. I reused the Corbeau from the Saab, got a harness bar, 5 point harness, PCI seat mount (I highly recommend if this is available for your project since their mounts included mount points for 5/6 point harnesses). I work at a test track where vehicle scales are accessible so I weighted the car before and after all weight reductions. Stock the car weighed 2685 lbs, and got the car down to 2475 lbs (200+ lbs reduction!).

This was a big committment. With the car now stripped, the lowest class I could compete in at Gridlife next year is Track Mod which I am sure to not be very competitive since that class allows for engine swaps, forced induction, and functional aero mods. With this in mind, my first time at Gridlife will be just going for the experience and the fun rather than actual competition. For those curious, the car now fits in Street Modified Street Tire for SCCA events. This class is almost a 'catch all' meaning all types of different cars can be grouped together unlike normal SCCA classes.

I came across a lightly used set of Buddy Club N+ coilovers for a great deal and picked them up immediately.

Next, I decided to tackle the rear bent subframe. I picked up a Godspeed rear sway bar and subframe brace, Spec-D lower control arms, and Blox spherical sway bar end links. Normally I would shy away from brands like Godspeed for major components, but I did some research and the brand shifted focus to solely suspension components cutting out all other products to make good quality stuff at good prices. I also saw a lot of west coast time attack guys use their sway bars and decided it was good enough for me. I researched countless articles of other Hondas with smashed subframes to find what works best. I picked up a come-along and some straps, convinced a buddy that works in a shop for time on a lift, and had a big rear end suspension party.

To fix the bent section of the subframe, we tied one end of the comealong to the LCA bolt, and the other end to the back of my buddies Suburban. We simultaneously heated up the bent section with a torch while cranking on the come along. It really didnt take much force to straighten the chassis. I thought we would run into the limit of the wench (2 tons) but we were no where near that. I estimate we had a max load of ~500 lbs of force. Kind of worrying how ductile Honda produced these subframes on all their passenger cars.

Heres how it came out after straighteneing before spraying anti-corrosion paint. Yes there is a small crack on the bottom but this will be addressed at a later time.


After the straightening, we threw on all the new parts. After about 2 hours of removing frozen LCA bolts, cant forget that adventure.

Log continued on next post

StillNoCones GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/9/18 1:54 p.m.

In natural fashion, all the rear end suspension work was done 2 days before the next autocross i signed up for. An Alfa Romeo Owners Club event at Oakland University. Mother nature was not on my side as the entire day was rain.

The last event I did the suspension was all stock leaving me to learn how the Integra would drive with stiff coilovers, big rear sway bar, stiff control arm bushings, and a not so ideal alignment - all this in standing water rain event with fresh pavement and freshly painted lines. Needless to say I had a lot manage and think about.

This was the fastest the car has ever felt. The new suspension completely transformed the car. Gone was the miles of body pitch and roll, it now was razor sharp and very responsive to driver input. Amazingly, I drove well enough to be 9 fastest overall out of 40+ cars and 2nd in class. I had 6 runs due to 2 re runs and managed to continue my streak of not hitting a cone at autocross even though I looped the car at the end of the day. Soon after the autocross I got a proper alignment, which was badly needed.

I then signed up for a track day at Waterford Hills Road Racing - a local club track not too far from Woodward Avenue. Here all that suspension work was a revelation compared how it last drove on track at Gingerman Raceway. It now feels very confident in the braking zones where it used to dramatically dive and actually pull to the right, turn in is effortless, and the car now actually maximizes the contact patch available on my 195 tires.

Next event up was Kettering University's Firebirds autocross at Autocity Speedway. This is a small oval with an infield circuit, and due to school liabilities, autocross events here are usually very low speed with many hairpin turns to reduce crash risk. This event was different though as only about 11 drivers showed up and we had the track rented for the whole day - translation lots and lots of runs. 18 for me in fact. The tightest competition was against my buddy and his newly prepped Street Modified Street Tire SN-95 Mustang. We got our cars at a similar time and his is similarly prepped. Throughout the day we were trading quicker times, often run-to-run, and made my laid back attitude for the day very serious and competitive. At the end I bested him by less than 2-tenths. Heres my best run of the day.

I returned to the Waterford a few weeks later to see if I could improve my laptimes now that I knew the circuit and the short answer is definitely. With no changes to the car I dropped my fastest, and consistent times by around 2 seconds. This was due to confidence in the car, maximizing my braking zones, and rotating into corners - something I was afraid to try in the past.

Some may say the car looks unstable going into corners but this isnt true. Its actually very stable and I rotate deliberately to carry speed into the turn. For me in FWD this is the quickest way around a turn - rather than brake hard, turn in, and get back on throttle, you do less braking, and throw the car in and scrub the speed with the rear axle, while getting back on throttle earlier. At least this works out for me, better drivers are more than welcome to drop helpful advice.  A downside from the track day: the car now has the infamous 3rd gear synchro issue. If you have a stock B-series transmission and you drive hard, you know my pain. Due to funds I will have to deal with it for now and baby the 2-3 shift as much as possible.

Future Plans

With this season coming to an end, along with my 'racecar funds', my priorities for the car are moved to 2019. Biggest on my list is proper wheels and 200 treadwear tires, followed by a new steering wheel - when im harnessed in I physically cant reach the top of the steering wheel which makes autocross interesting to say the least. I will likely experiment with different trans fluids to find one that makes 3rd gear less grindy when shifting at redline. Other than that hopefully I will drive at the Gridlife Midwest Festival and possibly the Speed Ring at the end of the year.

I will be graduating in early 2020, and that is going to be an expensive season. My plan is to build the transmission (carbon synchros, 4.9 final drive, shift bushings), swap in a B18C from a Integra GSR, and add a Rotrex supercharger kit. We'll see how that goes when the time comes.

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking around to read about my track beater!


Nitroracer UltraDork
9/9/18 8:47 p.m.

Keep up the good work with your car!  I have a 94' GS-R that has gone through a similar transformation, and now I've taken it full circle and brought it back to a fun street car again.  It was autocross, then track days, and now its back up at stock height for some rallycross action.  Its a fun platform, and one of the better handing front wheel drive chassis.  Mine has been known to oversteer quite a bit with a big rear bar.  

Mezzanine Dork
9/10/18 11:24 a.m.

Glad to hear the suspension work is yielding good results - I love the body roll pics you posted. :D

devina Reader
9/10/18 12:22 p.m.

The car looks great- I have a silver 98 setup for ITA road racing and have the same rear bar and build thread is on this site also..

Be careful with wrapping your thumbs around the steering wheel as catching some of the curbing can yank on the wheel a bit and catch your thumb..

The chassis looks decent on the outside but make sure it is still structurally sound from the rust before getting too far into this specific chassis from a safety standpoint.  

StillNoCones GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/10/18 5:07 p.m.

In reply to Nitroracer :

Taking it full circle sounds awesome. Ive toyed with the idea few times of making it a street car again, it was real nice to drive on weekends around town. I think that will be my justification for buying a Type R in the future haha.

StillNoCones GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/10/18 5:09 p.m.

In reply to devina :

Ive had the car on the lift many times before tacking the rear subframe, that was the only structural component that was questionable. The rest of the critical parts are solid with some surface rust. Have started to spray most with rust converter/preventer. But will keep an eye on it as time goes on.

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