My Curbside Classic: 1997 Acura Integra – Not Just A Fancy Honda

(Today’s My CC is by Steven Libby)

Reliable and economical. Two words that come to mind when you think of Honda. That begs the question “what two words come to mind when you think of Acura?” Oh, I know…a fancy Honda. Although true for the most part, there is an exception to every rule.


In a time when domestic auto dealers were buried up to their necks in badge engineered vehicles, Acura released a redesigned Integra that, on the outside, was nothing like it’s Honda brethren. With bug eye headlights, frameless windows on the sedan, and a hatchback variation, the third generation Integra was worlds apart from any other Honda on the market.

Introduced to America in 1994, the third generation Integra was produced until 2001. It was available as a four door sedan and three door hatchback for most models. Throughout its seven year run, it was available in six different trim levels: base model RS (through 1999), mid-range LS, high end SE (1995-1996) and GS (1997-2001), high performance GSR, and race-inspired, three door hatchback Type-R (1997-1998, 2000-2001).

Though sized like a Civic, the Integra was priced closer to a comprable Accord. In 1994, the base model RS sold for around $14,000. GSRs ran for close to $20,000 or more and about $24,000 for the Type-R. It was a high price to pay but as Acura is a luxury brand, buyers paid the luxury price. Unfortunately, the closest thing to luxury available as a standard feature on the Integra at the time was a CD player, leather seats, and a moon roof.. Even keyless entry was an option on these cars, and a rare one at that!

All third generation Integras were available with a 1.8 liter engine. While the RS, LS, SE, and GS came with a 142 hp DOHC cam engine, the GSR and Type-R, however, were available with the more powerful VTEC engine. But, with great power comes get responsibility…in this case, the responsibility is the requirement of premium fuel. The GSR and Type-R were only available with manual transmissions.


In 2007, I was in the market for another car. My 1995 Dodge Dakota had been nothing but a financial burden. More and more, I began to long for the 1993 Honda Accord LX it had replaced in a fit of youthful foolishness. So, when my parents said I could start looking for another car I had four criteria: I wanted a sedan, I wanted a stick shift, and I didn’t want leather. Oh, and it HAD to be a Honda. What did I end up with? A two door, automatic with leather. But you don’t complain when you get a 10 year old Honda with 48,000 miles.

That was five and a half years ago, and 98,000 miles. The Integra truly speaks to Honda’s reliability. In all the time I’ve owned it, I’ve done nothing but routine maintenance: spark plugs, tune-up, timing belt service, tires, oil, rear trailing arm bushings, and a radiator. In 1994, an Integra commercial said “not since Hot Wheels has a car been this much fun.” I fully believe it.


There is absolutely nothing special about a 1997 Integra. It’s the last year before the typical Honda mid-generation facelift and it was the first year they used the “mesh” wheels. What makes mine special, though, is that it’s one of the few that remains relatively unchanged from the new. No performance mods, it’s not lowered, and it still has the original muffler.

I’ll admit, I haven’t been easy on it, either. I moved myself to college in it, helped move my friend several times, and in the early days I drove it like a young man would drive a sporty-ish car. It had a hole put into the rear quarter panel when a friend backed into it with his 1972 Mercedes 220D, and one night in college I managed to fit six people into it…one of whom voluntarily rode in the trunk.


And yet, the little car keeps on ticking. And I’m not just saying that because of the typical old Honda valve tick. But with 146,818 miles on the clock it promises me many more miles of adventures and driving pleasure.