We at Jalopnik love marveling at how mint-condition examples of relatively inexpensive cars from the 1990s and early 2000s are now selling for absurd figures as young professionals try to buy up their childhood dream machines. This time, let’s look at a 1997 Acura Integra Type R—a car that sold for ~$24,000 when new—that is in such immaculate shape that someone just picked it up for $82,000.
To your average person on the street, this white sports coupe probably looks like a standard 1990s-era Honda Civic. And that’s fair enough, because the Acura Integra was largely based on the Civic’s platform. But this is no Civic; the Integra Type R is arguably the most legendary front-wheel drive car ever sold in the U.S.
Before we get into that, let’s peek at this specific machine that a Chicago-based premium used car dealer bought for $82,000 off Bring a Trailer, our primary source for Holy Crap Did This Once-Cheap 1990s Car Really Sell For That Much? content. It’s a 1997 model, the first year available in the U.S., it has apparently only ever had one owner, and it’s only got 6,000 miles on the odometer.
Practically speaking, a car with low mileage and few owners isn’t necessarily any better than one with high miles and many owners, but in the car resale world, those help make this machine a gold mine. Also key to this car’s value is its rarity (it was one of only 320 built in 1997 according to the listing) and condition (it looks mint), as well as the fact that it has received recent maintenance and it comes with the original sales literature. From Bring a Tailer:
A new timing belt, tensioner, and water pump were installed in July 2019, and this ITR is now being offered for sale with its original window sticker, maintenance records, factory manuals, period literature, a clean Carfax report, and a clean Missouri title in the seller’s name.
But if this were just a Honda Civic, this machine wouldn’t sell for nearly 82 grand, even in excellent condition and with the sales literature and lack odometer rotations and owners. No, what sets this machine apart is that it is, in many folks’ eyes, the holy grail of front-drive Hondas, for reasons that I will allow my colleague William Clavey to expound upon. From his review of an Integra quite similar to the one in this listing:
But the purpose of the Acura Integra Type R was incredibly singular: the business of giant-slaying.
Today you can pick any number of YouTube videos where you can watch this happen. There’s one where an Integra Type R goes after a Subaru WRX STI on the track, or another where it holds its own against a Skyline GT-R. A warning: these videos may leave you fists clenched, on the edge of your seat, marveling at how a front-wheel drive compact with economy car origins and just a tiny 1.8-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine can somehow still brawl with turbocharged, all-wheel drive machines.
The 1.8-liter engine made 195 horsepower an 130 lb-ft of torque, and though the latter number isn’t impressive, the former absolutely is considering the displacement and lack of boost, and also the vehicle’s tiny, roughly 2,600 pound curb weight. “What about the hardware?” you ask? Let Clavey once again walk you through what Honda gave the little four-banger to turn it into an 8,400 RPM monster:
Before the Type R was a thing, the Integra GS-R was the hot Acura to buy after the NSX. Thanks to VTEC, Honda’s signature variable valve timing technology it used for over a decade to give power to its engines, the little 1.8-liter churned out 170 horsepower, which was already impressive for a naturally aspirated four back then.
Really though, and excuse the pun; the GS-R was nothing more than a prelude to the almighty R. Introduced in 1997 (and 1995 in Japan), the Integra Type R kicked off where the GS-R stopped. Honda figured the 1.8-liter could take a little more abuse, so it gave it a bunch of race-inspired technology like a higher compression ratio, high-strength but lightweight connecting rods, reshaped intake valves, high-lift camshafts, a larger throttle body, a high-volume exhaust manifold and molybdenum-coated aluminum pistons.
On top of all that, Clavey mentions, the five-speed manual from the GS-R Integra got shorter ratios, and Type R got a special limited slip differential and “full weight reduction and chassis rigidity treatment, revised springs, dampers, brakes and larger sway bars.” Car and Driver’s writeup from 1997 also mentions a special intake manifold and a lighter flywheel.
Basically, the Integra Type R—sold in limited quantities in the U.S. for model-years 1997, 1998, 2000, and 2001—was an absolute beast when it debuted, instantly earning a place in the pantheon of legendary driver’s cars. It remains in that place to this day.
Of course, what I’m writing here isn’t exactly news. We’ve already written about a 1,200 mile Integra Type R selling for $63,800 just a year ago, Hagerty an article about why the car is fetching such high prices these days, and our friend Doug DeMuro did a whole video on the topic:
Still, the fact that this once-$24,000 (roughly $39,000 in today’s money according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index inflation calculator) 1990s economy car-based Acura has reached a selling price of $82,000 seemed remarkable enough to point out. So the next time you see one at a car show, feel free to let your jaw drop a little more than usual.