The Last Puzzle Piece, Part 1: Purchasing My 1992 Acura Integra LS Sedan 5-Speed

Odometer (Legend Coupe):  559,191

Odometer (Legend Sedan):  157,914

Odometer (NSX):  109,834

Odometer (Vigor):  109,341

Odometer (Integra Hatchback):  247,112

Odometer (Integra Sedan):  117,318

Trip Distance:  1,514 Miles

If you put on your fancy pin-striped suit and walked into your local Acura dealership about 25 years ago in 1993, you might hear “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by UB40 played over the radio in the showroom.  If you had the means at that time, you could say to a salesperson, “I’ll take one of everything,” and then you’d proceed to drop about $210,000 MSRP ($365,000 equivalent in 2018) on the six different models that Acura sold at the time.

acura_dealer

Today, cars of that era are cheap.  So cheap, in fact, that two of mine were bought on credit cards.  Just like that.  As if you’re picking up a candy bar at the local CVS Pharmacy, but instead you just bought yourself an entire automobile.

A lot of people have collections.  A friend of mine collects Pyrex cookware.  My sister-in-law collects vintage luggage.  And I just happen to collect Acuras.  This past weekend I successfully closed the loop on a matching “set” that I’d been striving 20 years for, since about age 16.  Do I deserve a recognition award or rehab therapy?  I’ll let you decide.  Jalopnik thinks I’m a little nuts, but that’s okay.

Here’s how the timing worked out and where I got each of my six now-classic Acuras from:

  • 2003:  1994 Legend LS coupe 6-speed in San Jose, California
  • 2008:  1994 Legend GS sedan 6-speed in Logan, Utah
  • 2011:  1992 NSX 5-speed in San Jose, California
  • 2015:  1994 Vigor GS 5-speed in Denver, Colorado
  • 2016:  1992 Integra GS-R 5-speed in Seattle, Washington

And now #6:  The newest adoptee into my family of early 1990s Acuras is a “Torino Red Metallic” 1992 Integra LS sedan.  Here are the many reasons why I had to have it:

  • All original paint and interior (Flint Black was my first choice, but Torino Red was second)
  • Completely rust-free body and undercarriage
  • Unmodified / stock configuration in every way
  • Low miles, 116,562 as of the sale date (that’s 4,400 per year)
  • Only two owners, the second having owned it since 1996 and then donating it to charity
  • Functional everything (A/C, electronics, clutch / brakes / engine / trans)
  • 5-speed manual transmission (I would not even consider an automatic)
  • 1992-93 model year “refresh” design styling to front and rear, super rare to find on the Integra sedan “DB1” chassis
  • Clean title
  • Recent timing belt maintenance history
  • LS trim deletes the ABS (anti-lock braking system) which is often times problematic (as is the case on my 1992 GS-R model)
  • Accessory OEM wing spoiler with LED brake lamp
  • My family’s first Acura was a red, second-generation Integra sedan in 1996.  It’s like going back to my roots.

This was not an easy car to find.  Oh no, not by any means.  I’d been on the hunt for literally years, scouring SearchTempest to collect craigslist postings from nationwide on a nearly daily basis.  I had at least a half-dozen friends on high alert, too.  I almost settled a few times.  One car that surfaced in Salt Lake City was everything I wanted but with extreme rust and a fraction of the price.  I was willing to make concessions but that wasn’t one that I wanted to deal with.  It seemed that for every 10 second generation Integra hatchbacks, there was only 1 sedan.  Rare, rare, rare.

Then Friday, March 9th came along.  In my typical fashion, I revved up my Internet browser in between meetings at work and did my customary “1992 Integra” keyword title search on the craigslist aggregation site.  I saw a posting 3 lines down in SF Bay.  “1992 Acura Integra – for auction – $700.”  Without knowing any of the other details, I clicked the ad and my eyes got as big as those hearts on the heart-eye emoji.  Sedan, check.  Manual, check.  Original, check.  It was too good to be true though, because it was 12 hours away and available via live auction only.  A phone call to the selling dealer was disappointing, as they would not deal with any offers remotely.  “You have to be here to bid,” the representative told me.  Damn.

The wheels in my head got spinning.  A last-minute flight from PHX to SFO would run me $360 and put me on the ground a little after midnight, so I’d need a hotel.  And then what if the car was junk and I didn’t buy it?  I’d be spending that same amount to fly right back home.  Could I risk dropping $800+ just for the chance to buy?

Then a crazy thought came to mind.  I was already planning on going to Los Angeles the following day to meet up with friends for a cars & coffee event.  What if I drove out earlier, took a massive side trip north to Redwood City, attended the auction, and then back-tracked to LA for my scheduled events?  Could I?

On 9:00 p.m. on Friday night, I departed from my friend Kyle’s birthday party in central Phoenix behind the wheel of my garage queen 1994 Legend GS 6-speed sedan – a car that had only been driven about 1,000 miles in the prior 9 months.  I’ve owned it for a decade and I know that it’s up to date on maintenance, but most people would still agree it was a little gutsy to get into a 24-year-old car with 156,000 miles on it and plan to drive nearly 800 miles, alone, in the middle of the night.

The I-10 corridor is no unfamiliar place for me.  In the dozen years I’ve lived in Phoenix, I’ve driven the interstate to LA probably a hundred times.  So I set the cruise control, fueled up on a Monster “Mean Bean” energy drinks, and watched the miles go by while listening to some hits on my 80-gig iPod classic with a cassette tape adapter (for that true period-correct experience, of course).

By midnight local time, I was near Palm Springs.  Around 1:00 a.m, I was in LA.  And by 3:00 a.m., I was already northbound on Interstate 5 with my sights set on the San Francisco Bay.  The Legend hummed onward in 6th gear with little effort, delivering a remarkable 27 miles per gallon on one of my fillups.

Daylight started peeking out over the eastern horizon a little after 6:00 a.m., and by that time, I could already see the finish line.  I was northbound on Highway 101 crossing through San Jose – oddly enough, the same place where I’d purchased my NSX and my Legend coupe years ago.  Clearly it’s a good place to find quality cars.  I arrived at the auction house in Redwood City well before it opened, so I had a $15 omelet at Squeeze In about 3 miles away and collected my composure for a busy day ahead.  I think I had 3 bites of food.  My stomach was in absolute knots.  But I liked the sound of this omelet for obvious reasons.

I’ve been to plenty of auctions before.  Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale has been an annual tradition for me lately.  But I’ve never bid or even been serious about buying before.  And for that reason, my anxiety was through the roof.  Because the minute I walked into the warehouse and saw the Integra, I got this feeling like I knew I would be buying it.  Parked between a Ford utility truck and a Volkswagen Golf, it was the oldest of the 21 different vehicles up for charity auction that day.

Auction City allows prospective buyers to check out the inventory before the bidding starts at 10:30 a.m.  So, I did just that.  I cranked up the car, checked the electronics, and gave the clutch a few kicks.  The engine bay looked remarkably clean, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw a yellow sticker:  The timing belt change record.  April 2012 at 111,000 miles.  Score.

At this point it was “game on.”  I found myself getting protective every time someone else got in or around the car to take a look at it, slam the hood, lean up against it, or rev the motor.  I tried not to get my hopes too far up, and I also tried to keep my head on straight.  The combination of racing thoughts and complete lack of sleep left me feeling lightheaded a couple of times.

An old man next to me leaned over and commented on the Integra, “Needs a lot of work,” he said.  “I ran the Carfax and the timing belt hasn’t been done yet.”  I knew he was wrong, but I didn’t say it.  Keep your bids off my car, man.  A sheet of paper on the dashboard said “Suggested Retail $1,925.”  What would it go for?

At registration, I had been given bidder #37 so I got my card ready as soon as I saw the Integra was almost up.  I stood near the car and tried to understand the mumbo-jumbo coming out of the auctioneer’s mouth in the echoey building.  Luckily the numbers were understandable if nothing else was.

I raised my hand repeatedly like the nerd in the front row of the class who knows the answer to every stupid question.  I had a max bid amount in mind, and I was going to keep my hand in the air as long as I could until that number was reached.  At least 3 other people were fighting me for that car.

Two minutes later, it was SOLD for $2,700, the auctioneer exclaimed.  I won it.  Giddy.  Amazed.  How the heck did that just happen?  I was on cloud 9.

Immediately I started looking into logistics.  Within 30 minutes, I had pre-paid for a Montway transport truck so the logistics were taken care of (or so I thought – more on that later).  After all 21 vehicles in the hall had been sold, I met with a representative to handle payment & paperwork (he of course asked why I’d felt compelled to bid to the point that I did).  By the way, the Integra was the only car of the 21 to sell for a price point above its posted “Retail” price.  Yeah, so what.  I was prepared to go even higher.

With that, I knew the deal was sealed and my nerves calmed back down.  But my weekend adventure wasn’t over yet.  For the next 6 hours, I fought heavy rain almost all the way back to the Los Angeles area, including a horrendous construction zone on the north end of the city with poorly marked lane lines and heavy traffic.  By the time I rolled into my Super 8 in Torrance, I’d white-knuckled so long my hands were permanently gripping the Legend’s steering wheel.

For the first time since Thursday, I finally settled in and took a minute to breathe.  The next day came early, as I picked up a long-time friend named Kazuhiro from his hotel nearby and we went to Cars & Coffee South Bay in Gardena.  Kazuhiro was on vacation from Japan for a week.  Back home, he has a 1995 Legend GS sedan that looks exactly like mine.  It was great to finally meet him, as well as reconnect with other friends from southern California despite the drizzly weather.

I headed back home to Phoenix at the conclusion of lunch at Eatalian Deli and enjoyed the next 6 hours of solitude and success after having achieved all of my trip’s goals.  After unpacking the car, I made the most long awaited reunion of all:  My flannel pillow.  What a weekend.  Now I just had to figure out a way to get the car home.  Come back to the next post to see how that went!

So that’s the story of how after a 20-year quest, I ended up with a fleet of every vehicle configuration that Acura sold in the early 1990s.  And I only paid about $53,000 for all six, so I guess you could say I got 75% off.  And that’s a bargain deal I can live with.  Check out the 19-minute video including scenes from the auction itself.

Welcomed to Redwood City bright & early after an all-night drive

Arrival at Auction City on Saturday morning

That engine bay – clean!

Paperwork showing the “suggested retail” price of $1,925

Left rear quarter.  Those exhaust tips are not OEM!  (But that will change)

Front left quarter.  The car needs some TLC but it’s a strong start.

These were the makes, models, and final prices for all 21 cars auctioned.

These are the 14″ GS trim wheels I’ll be getting when I ditch those hubcaps.

That spoiler!  Shot from the accessories brochure.

Picking up Kazuu in Torrance on Sunday morning

My friend Ryu at cars & coffee (and a Honda Beat in the background)

With Kazuu and Fred

Kazuu’s car, back home in Japan

Raul, Rob, Kazuu, Tyson, Jay, Brett, after breakfast

Headed back home to AZ

My roommate had a Toyota C-HR on test last week.  Aztec Green anyone?

And my friend Sunny visited – was great to see him!

Come back soon for the adventure that getting the car home involved!

32 Responses to “The Last Puzzle Piece, Part 1: Purchasing My 1992 Acura Integra LS Sedan 5-Speed”

  1. So awesome!

    • Thanks, Mark! I’m glad someone can validate this quirky obsession of mine. Big plans for that little red sedan, time and money permitting. You’ll see it here in the coming months! Hope your week is going well my friend.

  2. OMG! You’re in so much trouble! If I had known all these “risks” you were undertaking (driving long distance alone in an old car, at night; going without sleep… and still driving; anxiety level through the roof) I would have cautioned you — and at least offered to assist you in some way. Where do you get this obsession?? Wink. Maybe now you can relax and spend all weekends (and spare time) just chilling rather than chasing across the country seeking your puzzle piece. Haha. It’s a good thing you have that garage! I look forward to meeting your new family member.

    • Spare time, what’s that? I never sit still. Carpe Diem – I learned that from someone else I know! Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll drive up the new/old car.

  3. Stl_Dave Says:

    Congrats on another goal achieved – I’m really happy for you! It’s always a GREAT story with you – thank you once again for taking us along. I loved hearing Rammstein doing their job keeping you awake and I literally laughed out loud at the 4.5 miles/hours correction. Hopefully you’re all caught up on sleep by now!

    • Ha!! I’m caught up on sleep now, thankfully. Rammstein – I freakin’ love Du Hast even if I have no idea what it’s saying. Had to look it up. Came out in 1997 and still gets my juices flowing 21 years later. Thanks for reading, Dave.

  4. Finding this post was the perfect way to start the work morning! Wow, I can’t believe the adventure you went through to get this beauty. Much respect here. I really would want to know the car’s history and the owners. Was it a church/grocery getter to only achieve 4k+ miles a year?! I don’t know how I’d be able to handle the tense atmosphere of that auction. Haha. You think a little PDR will get that rear door looking like it should? Looks like a fun cars and coffee turnout too. Looking forward to Part II!

    • Thanks for reading! I also would like to know the car’s history. I actually sent an email to the auction place yesterday with a few photos of the car at home with its new “siblings.” I told him to feel free to forward the photos to whoever donated the car to charity. Clearly they took some kind of pride in it since they kept it for 22 years. According to the Carfax emissions records, it was actually only driven about 20 miles in the last TWO YEARS!! This thing did a ton of sitting. As for that driver side rear door, it’s pretty buggered up. I’m thinking that one may need a new door. I’ll be on the lookout for one, just like you’re looking for a Pebble Ash door for the 6i, right?

      • 20 miles in the last two years?? DANG! It must have been ensconced in a garage or port of some sort. Yeah, the Pebble Ash door issue is still alive. lol

  5. Congrats on the newest addition to the garage! This was a terrific write-up, and I really appreciated being able to ride along (virtually). The car looks terrific- perhaps a video tour can be arranged?

    Kind of inspires me to someday create a garage full of 2-door Accords… 😀

    • Video tour is on the way! In Part III, you’ll see details of the interior and I show the step by step process for getting the car cleaned up and ready to put in the showcase. And if you need an Accord coupe from 1989 to add to your upcoming collection, I still have my friend Kai’s SE-i in my possession for the time being! We had to move it to the other garage on the other side of the house since I’m now using all 6 spaces in the big garage for my Acuras. Thanks for reading, Tim!

  6. Love the story! Kind of reminds me of the last-minute fly-and-drive to pick up my E46 M3 with my friend Joey. Super cool that you finally have the whole collection completed and I look forward to reading the second half. Now you’ve got one “normal” car for every work day and the NSX for weekends 😉

    • Thanks Jake! Sometimes those crazy “fly-in, drive-home” trips are the best. There’s nothing like an extended drive home to help you get accustomed to a new car. I remember your blog post on the E46 M3 and loved it! We’ll see where I go with this little sedan. I drove it to work today and I’m sure the attendants in the parking garage are like, “WTH is he doing with another one?”

  7. Wow, such a great acquisition story of how you came to own your new (old) Integra Sedan! Aside from the couple of small adjustments you’ll do (tailpipes, rear door & the GS wheels), the car is in superb condition – was really worth the wait. The car looked so smooth on your first drive, you must be stoked! Look forward to reading part two, thanks for sharing this epic adventure with us.

    • Absolutely! I was so excited to be finally driving the car during that first run down the block. I was pleased to discover that all the core mechanical components seemed to be in great working order – engine, clutch, brakes. So that made me a happy camper, especially since I had bid/bought the car without doing anything more than making sure it started and ran! Thanks for reading, Adam!

  8. What a great find! She looks minty fresh as can be. Congrats on outbidding all those mere mortals.

    • LOL! Mortals. Aw, man, you just reminded me. I took a photo of an Accord in your gen, your color, with an IL plate a few days ago and meant to send it to you but forgot. For a split second, I thought, “Brad’s back in town!” Which reminds me – c’mon to see us again soon! My mower will need an annual oil change sometime later this year 🙂

  9. Very nice car and color. That engine bay is very familiar to me. That valve cover and distributor look a lot like the ones I had on a 1987 Acura Integra I once owned.

    • Hi Carlos, that sounds about right! Seems the engine bays probably had a lot of similarities between the first and second generation Integras. This one is a 1.8 liter that only puts out 140 horsepower which isn’t much, but it’s enough to scoot it around comfortably.

  10. Conor Kenrick Says:

    If I haven’t told you enough times in the past, you are my hero. That is all.

  11. The dashboard of my 1987 Acura Integra was also identical. Same gauges and same placement even though the 1987 was a first generation Integra.

    • It’s kind of fun to see the evolution of the body styles over the years. It’s also interesting to see how many shared components there were across different models of the era. Did you know that the rubber pad on the clutch pedal is the same part number for all 6 cars in the collection? That’s good use of resources.

  12. Do you think you will start a 2000’s Acura collection one day? Acura also made some amazing cars in that era. 😉

    • I’m at max capacity in the garage right now. But never say never 🙂 I really enjoyed my 2007 TL-S and I wouldn’t mind picking up a 2003 CL-S someday. What is an Acura year/model that you really think I need?

  13. It’s always a pleasure when our paths cross Tyson. It was great to see you guys too! Congrats on the new addition to your garage! And what a cool story too!

    • Thanks Sunny! Guess you’ll have to come down again to see the new ride sometime. I hope the rest of your travels went well. I’m still headed up to the SLC area in mid-April so I’ll keep you posted as the details on that come together.

  14. Just reading this I was on the edge of my seat. Like as if i didn’t know the end result already. Glad you finally got the car you’ve been searching for.

  15. What a garage! But we all know you aren’t done shopping yet. . .

    • Haha, how dare you encourage me! Yeah we’ll see what the future holds. For now I’m VERY content (and even a little overwhelmed) with the existing collection. Seven maintenance binders makes for an entire library of recordkeeping.

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