The Integra Type R DC2. What can be written about this legendary car that hasn’t already been said in numerous publications and forums over the years? “Best handling FWD of all time”, Giant killer, future classic, insane high revving engine, perfect driving position and layout, reliable, affordable, best car to get into track racing on a budget, the list goes on and on and it’s overwhelmingly gushing in its praise.
I could re-tread all these themes and I agree with them, but for the sake of being different I will instead focus on what it’s like to own one of these cars and whether after a year of ownership the gloss has worn off.
This is my 1998 Integra Type R DC2, known to enthusiasts as simply a 98spec DC2. The 98spec refers to the mid-life model update of the DC2 starting from 1998 to when its production run ended in 2000. Bigger brakes and rotors, larger diameter wheels with 5 lugs instead of four, different gear ratio’s to improve low down torque and few exterior tweaks like rear bumper changes pretty much round out the changes made.
As mentioned I have owned it for a year now and it like most DC2s out there is not stock, however the changes made are in keeping with the nature of the car so as not to detract and stray into the garish land of the ricer. These mods include Demon ECU, adjustable coil overs, oil catch can, baffled sump, bigger injectors, skunk2 cams, titanium retainers and valve springs, carbon synchromesh, hybrid HKS-Mugen system exhaust and a factory OEM Type R body kit.
With that being established what it’s like to drive? Well one answer is harsh, noisy as hell and uncompromising. The other is exhilarating, rewarding and addictive, the truth lies in the middle somewhere and that for many people is what driving these cars is all about. If you love the act of driving, visceral feedback and no driver aids apart from ABS then the experience in this on a windy bit of open road is immensely satisfying.
The heart of the car is the B18C, a legendary donk and for good reason, the power per litre is staggeringly high from factory at 200BHP (149KW) more than 110HP per litre. Tickle it a little and a few more ponies can be gained. My DC2 nets an extra 10KW and a bit more torque over factory, nearly 120BHP per litre. All this however is still extracted in the upper limits of the rev range which is why DC2s still feel slow and lacking in torque when used in the stop start nature of city driving.
The Interior is functional 90s sports styling at its best, The SR2 Recaro seats are suburb and for skinny guys like me super snug with a low seating position, fatties with find them cramped and uncomfortable and usually wind up collapsing the door-side bolsters the only weak link of these seats. Hydraulic steering rack with good weight and a small fat Momo steering wheel provide sensational driver feedback. Classic Type R yellow, red and white gauge cluster looks the business with the Rev counter where it should be in priority view. The shifter with its weighted billet knob is in the perfect position for snatching gears whilst the three billet alloy pedals are well spaced for heal toe action, classic 90s sliding heater controls and a couple of questionable cup holders in a slide out tray pretty much complete things. Like all good sports cars, being in a DC2 you feel like your strapping the car on as an extension to yourself as opposed to riding on/in it.
Looks are as always subjective, but I think the exterior oozes that cool and long lost 90s Japanese coupe styling from the same vein as RX7s, Silvia’s, 180s and Celica’s of the same era. Not a lot visually separates a Type R DC2 over a normal Integra except for Type R stickers and 16” 5 lug Alloys. Closer inspection will uncover bigger brakes and rotors, lower ride height and a tougher looking stance, but for the most part it’s all internal. The Kit on this is Honda original but was optional when buying new, interestingly it came standard on some DC1s and it is not unheard of for enthusiasts to buy a whole DC1 Integra just for the factory kit.
So do I drive it every day? No. Could I drive it every day? No. Ask any former DC2 owner why they sold theirs and the answer invariably comes back to this. Dailying a DC2 in a city even a stock one is an exercise in frustration. Manual, noisy, harsh, low, no torque, every douche wants a race and every punk wants to steal it, after a month of this as your only car all you want is to be rid of it and sitting comfortable in a quiet, automatic and air-conditioned diesel.
What this is then is a motorbike or a Jet Ski, a single purpose pleasure craft for the street. A one trick pony for those times when an empty road beckons, the screaming B-series on full vtec threatens to blow your eardrums while the razor sharp chassis try’s to re-align your spine. What this is then is a recreational drug, and like all good drugs it is a high that you want to experience again and again. But as any addict can tell you, the good times just don’t last if you’re shooting up every day.
So my DC2 sits in my garage. It’s not going anywhere, it’s not being sold, the thing is it’s not my first one, it is my fourth, every time I’ve sold one for reasons stated above I get withdrawals, all the drawbacks fade away leaving only the great memories and before long I find myself in the classified’s looking to recapture the magic. In 2017 however, finding looked after examples of these now classic cars are few and far between. In the US they routinely sell for over 20,000 USD, I’ve been to Japan twice in the last year and was shocked to find that they are all but gone over there too, and any that I could find for sale were all nudging 2 million yen or on ships to well-heeled overseas buyers, or as half cuts to big parts merchants.
So this is the last one I will realistically ever own, hope I can keep it this time.