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Heart and Soul - 1997 Acura Integra GSR

A Decade's Worth Of Integra Memories

Text By Joey Leh, Photography by Steve Demmitt

Usually, when starting on a new project, dreams and visions are all that we have. A general idea of what we want exists, but only in our minds, and only for a split second. Many of us diverge from our best intentions and end up with half-finished cars or outright hideous abominations. But not all are so unlucky. Aris Agreda of San Jose, Calif., has stuck true to his 1997 Acura Integra GSR for ten solid years and now has a clean, street-legal JDM'd two-door to call his own.

Agreda's story starts innocently enough, mirroring many of our own stories. Purchased brand new off the showroom floor after a 100-mile radius blanket search, this GSR immediately became the focus of Agreda's attention. From a RS Akimoto air intake to a GReddy exhaust to Agreda's very first set of hand tools, this red rocket saw it all. As his very first project car, this Acura would be the scene of many pioneering efforts.

Agreda's mind is filled with numerous memories about his Integra, built up over a decade of hard work. Break-ins, accidents, late night wrenching sessions, Agreda and his Acura have seen it all. However, he never lost his focus and this GSR slowly grew in modifications over the years into something more serious than Agreda had ever anticipated. In 2001, with his life more established and his finances in order, Agreda made the choice to purchase a separate daily beater and build one of the cleanest street and track Integra's that Northern California had ever seen.

The key to the transformation was the JDM 1998 Integra Type-R front-end conversion, purchased from JDM Theory and installed by Champion Autobody of Santa Clara, Calif. Combined with shaved keyholes, moldings and antennae, the body was considered complete; except for the addition of a carbon fiber hood with AeroCatch flush hood pins and a Seibon carbon-fiber hatch with a Flex-a-lite plexiglass window. Vision carbon-fiber side mirrors and J's Racing carbon air ducts add just the right amount of high tech for the shows that Agreda attends with his team, Team Showcase.

But don't think for a second that this DC2 is all show and no go. Agreda is a regular at National Auto Sport Association (NASA) Northern California-region track day events, visiting such venues as Infineon Raceway and Thunderhill Raceway. Since the GSR is naturally blessed with a potent, high-revving four-cylinder engine that already borders on the edge of race-spec, Agreda had only a few choice modifications to make.

Blox 266-degree camshafts and Spoon Sports cam gears provide the largest increase in naturally aspirated power, backed up with Supertech valves, Portflow titanium retainers and Portflow double valve springs. A Comptech Icebox air intake funnels cold air into a Spoon Sports throttle body and port matched Skunk2 Racing intake manifold, which feeds the 1.8L screamer. After co-mingling with NGK spark plugs and MSD wires, the gases exit out a Hytech header and cat-less A'PEXi N1 exhaust system. In a definite touch of cool and inventive function, Agreda had Calloway Custom Fabrications whip up a custom skid plate to protect the header and exhaust system from damage due to road debris.

Held in place by Prothane motor mount inserts, the B18C1 engine uses an ACT heavy duty clutch and Comptech lightweight flywheel combo to get power to the ground. Cooling is handled by a Fluidyne aluminum radiator, which is fed with stronger and more resistant Samco silicone radiator hoses.

An Optima battery has been relocated to the trunk to aid in proper weight distribution, but that's not the only modification done to aid handling. Agreda has taken great care with his suspension setup and at the track it shows. TEIN coilovers with Tanabe upper pillowball mounts are used in combination with a JDM Type-R rear swaybar and Beaks subframe reinforcement kit. The Integra's alignment is kept in check with Skunk2 camber kits, which are tuned to work with 205/40/16 Falken Azenis RT-615 tires.

One of the stickiest street tires out now, the Azenis is wrapped around custom 16x7-inch RAYS Engineering wheels, which are mounted on 1998 JDM Type-R 5-lug hubs using multi-colored Neo Chrono lug nuts. With the switch to 5-lug hubs also came Agreda's chance to swap out to RSX-application Powerslot brake rotors and custom mounted Spoon Sports monoblock four-piston brake calipers. Fed by Earls brake lines and Motul RBF600 brake fluid, the binders squeeze onto Hawk HP Plus pads, which are responsible for bleeding off speed after shooting down Thunderhill Raceway's considerable front straightaway.

The interior of this Integra is a mirror image of Agreda's exterior scheme, boasting both functional and show quality. JDM Type R front seats combine with USDM Type R rear seats and JDM door panels to create the perfect combination of Honda's best. A Spoon Sports instrument cluster lies just behind a Nardi Sport Rally suede steering wheel, whose grippy surface is just as helpful as the Takata safety harness in keeping control when on track. Defi oil pressure and exhaust gas temperature gauges are on hand with an AEM UEGO wideband O2 gauge to provide valuable readouts, while a host of Alpine equipment provides the necessary entertainment. That is, in addition to a sound component that Agreda lists only as "the sound of VTEC."

After ten years of hands-on work and hard-earned parts, Agreda has arrived at his final destination. If he knew a decade ago what he would go through and what memories he would gain on the way to completing his dream, could he believe it? A daily-driven, show-stopping track terror that can seemingly do it with ease is in his garage. Bringing a project to this level takes dedication and vision, and to car guys, that's where all the fun lies.

Speed Warehouse Opak Racing/Spoon Sports
Vic Hubbard Auto Supply Tech 3
JDM Theory Autohaus Automotive
National Auto Sport Association N1 Concepts
Evasive Motorsports
By Joey Leh
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