The Ultimate Buying Guide for the Honda Integra Type-R DC2
Lauded as the greatest front-wheel-drive chassis of all time, backed up with a scintillating VTEC powertrain, the DC2 Type-R deserves a spot in every die-hard petrolheads dream garage. With prices on the rise, John Bee explains how find out how to buy the best version of this Japanese icon.
Here at RUSH, we don’t necessarily agree with the ‘front-wheel-drive is wrong-wheel drive’ philosophy. As you can tell from our hot hatch war series, some of our favourite cars claw at the tarmac with their front wheels, so when a car happens to be a driver-focused lightweight, with a screaming naturally aspirated engine, it’s a recipe for us all to get a bit giddy. In this buying guide, we’re going to delve deep into the world of JDM and more specifically the legend that is the Honda Integra Type-R DC2.
HONDA INTEGRA TYPE-R BUYING GUIDE: HISTORY
The story of the DC2 ITR starts in 1995 when it was sold exclusively in the Japanese domestic market. The Integra was only the second Honda to get the “R” treatment after the mighty NSX supercar and in typical Japanese fashion, they made the rest of the world wait to get their hands on this driver-focused coupe. Essentially the ITR was lighter, stiffer and more powerful than the regular Integra but to complicate matters for us used buyers, each of those qualities varied depending on model year and in which market the car was sold. To stop things from getting overly complicated, we’re going to focus on two DC2 ITRs - the UKDM car and the 1998 Spec R JDM car. The latter is seen by many as the holy grail of Integra’s and the most focused of the whole DC2 production run.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
Let’s start with arguably the car's party piece, the glorious red crackle-finished B18C. UK cars boasted 187bhp at 8,000rpm, thanks to strengthened and lightened internals but the JDM version had an improved 4-2-1 manifold and a smaller catalytic converter which brought power up to 197bhp and peak torque lower down the rev range. To help get this to the tarmac, a helical LSD was fitted and once again, the JDM version had minor revisions made to its slick five-speed manual gearbox, with a higher final drive and 1st, 2nd and 3rd closer for better acceleration.
The reliability of both the engine and 'box is generally excellent as long as they are well-maintained. Regular fluid changes at 6,000 miles are recommended so check the service history for consistent entries. Quality oil is a must (5w30 or 5w40 are popular) and it’s not uncommon for these engines to use a drop or two, so ask the owner if it’s been checked regularly. A spare bottle in the boot in this case is a good sign rather than a red flag. Cambelt and spark plugs should be replaced at 60,000 miles so again check for receipts in the service history for this work having been carried out. As with most Honda gearboxes, the action should be rifle bolt precise but the synchros can be a weak point with 2nd and 3rd being the ones to watch. Also, check for fluid leaking out of the slave cylinder. If the car has been on track - which many ITRs have - check that servicing has been carried out more frequently.
Stiffer and lighter than the regular Integra, Honda engineers went to town improving the bodyshell. Chassis strengthening, extra spot welds, thicker metal around the rear shock towers, lower mounted subframe, removal of sound deadening and even a thinner windscreen were applied to all Type Rs. A kerb weight of around 1100kg (spec dependant), means that despite their relative lack of power, they can still give a bloody nose to some more modern machinery.
Appearance-wise, UK cars differ from the JDM version by their four individual headlights compared to the Japanese cars' more ordinary-looking rectangular units. ‘98 cars also had a redesigned rear bumper and further weight reduction over the UK cars. As for what to check for, the dreaded crusty brown stuff can hit the ITR hard. Take the time to get the car up on ramps and have a good prod around the whole underside and the rear wheel arches. If it’s not been recently done, invest in getting it properly undersealed. It can cost upwards of £1000 with a reputable professional but when the alternative is cutting out untreated rust, it’s definitely the cheaper option. Check the boot hasn’t been collecting water through perished rear light seals and check for non-matching paint, poorly fitting panel gaps and signs of body repairs. As said before, many of these cars have been on track and/or driven hard, so shunts do occur.
Finally check the windscreen for chips and cracks as finding a Type R-specific replacement with the thinner glass could be difficult and/or costly, meaning your potential new pride and joy could be off the road for some time!
BRAKES AND SUSPENSION
All ITRs came with pretty special suspension using double wishbones, just like the EK9 Civic Type-R, so it’s no wonder the car has the reputation as the greatest FWD ever. Some differences, however, came within the wheels of the DC2. Both UK and ’98 Spec R cars came with a five-bolt stud pattern replacing the previous four bolts in the older cars and both were fitted with the larger brakes, 282mm front and 262mm rear discs - in comparison to earlier models with 262mm and 242mm respectively. It was the ’98 Spec R that gained 16-inch wheels and 215/45/16 tyres whereas the UK car made do with 15-inch wheels and 195/55/15 tyres.
With the youngest ITRs being over 20 years old, suspension components could well be past their best, so check for worn bushes. An upgrade to Polybushes will get things back in check and offer improved driving feedback, and fitting a set of Bilstein B6 dampers will give you a factory-fresh ride.
As with all Japanese cars of this era, interiors are bland and back to basics, even more so in the ITR. But if you’re complaining about the Spartan cockpit you’re missing the point of the car. Things to look out for is the usual driver's side bolster on the red Recaro bucket seats. You’ve more chance of finding rocking horse poo than one that doesn’t need re-trimming so don’t be too concerned by frayed fabric. Check the titanium gear knob is still there and hasn’t been replaced by a cheap aftermarket part. The original item is fantastic in hand and a true Type-R trademark. Make sure the car comes with the red master key, if it doesn’t it’s big money for a replacement. Other than that, there’s not much else to look out for that’s DC2 specific. A good feel around the carpets for signs of dampness is probably wise and check the few electrical components work as they should.
As mentioned previously, quality oil and regular changes are a must. 4 litres of the gold stuff ranges from £35-£60 depending on what brand you choose and an oil filter is around £10. Check the service history for coolant changes and get the system flushed if it’s not been done in a while. Being a bare-bones 4-cylinder, front-wheel drive coupe, it can be pretty affordable to keep one of these in fine condition, providing you keep rust at bay. Get it properly undersealed and cavity waxed and keep it in a garage if you can. Regular use is better than no use at all, so don’t expect to lock the car away for months at a time and for it to run like clockwork after hibernation. If you’re up north I can highly recommend TDI North in Warrington for anything from servicing to major builds, they know Honda’s better than anyone and are my choice with my own FN2.
Unfortunately for us enthusiasts, prices have skyrocketed recently. Gone are the days where you could pick a half-decent example up for £4500, you’ll be looking at around £15,000 for that now and Concours-worthy cars are going for nearly £30,000! Good luck finding a standard, unmodified car too, so check any work that's been done is to a high standard, with quality parts. It shouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker if it’s got a few choice mods, it can often enhance the experience and many original components will be beyond their life expectancy by now anyway. Items such as bushes, exhausts, intakes, springs and dampers are likely to have been upgraded for aftermarket parts so check receipts in the service history. Finally, if you are lucky enough to get your hands on a good example, please enjoy it and don’t lock it away!
OWNERS POV - Chris Tsoi
Having worked my way through a Honda Civic coupe and the underrated 5-door MB6 Civic VTi-S it felt like a natural progression was to look at the Integra. More power, lighter and rarer. I never fancied going for cars that my friends were into at the time like the French Saxo VTS and Clio 172, they were the obvious choice. The big boys' cars like the E36 M3 and Impreza Turbos were cars out of my budget and reach at the time.
The Integra DC2 as it’s known by its chassis code has an almost mystique about it. At that time, during the dial-up internet era (what’s that you may ask!), there was only one online forum to seek information about it. Rumours of some bespoke engine work, chassis treatment and even thinner glass pulled me in with the prospect of it punching above its class. Growing up with Max Power and Fast Car magazines I couldn’t help modifying it straight away, replacing some worn Honda badges, adding a Momo steering wheel and a budget intake. I continued on a path modifying trying multiple intakes, suspension setups and attending regular track days in it. The more I drove it the more I realised Honda had it right out of the box.
The standard suspension is a work of art, it’s the right side of subtle with perfectly matched damping for our A roads. The B18C engine has just the right amount of power and one of the best VTEC notes in the Type R line up goading you to push it all the way up to its dizzy 8,400rpm limit. The Recaro seats were superb, built for the slight Japanese driver but snug enough to hold you during hard Cornering. The bolsters can take a beating like most bucket seats with high sides but luckily it’s an easy fix and replacement sponge can be had online. The downside to such a special car is that it’s quite visceral to drive, the lack of sound deadening to keep the weight down and short gearing that helps to keep the engine in its sweet spot wasn’t that great for covering long-distance drives.
But what it does do and it does it like no other is offer a driving experience that many, if any can match. It’s a car that allows you to exploit its limits and balance all aspects of the car's chassis, engine and brakes. All its elements and subtle tweaks by Honda HQ combine to give the best driving experience and for me is still the best front-wheel-drive car ever to be made. A true legend.
Engine - 1,797cc naturally aspirated inline-four, DOHC-VTEC, 16v, max 8,500rpm