A Newer Vigor: My Garnet Red Pearl 1996 Acura 2.5TL Acquisition

Odometer (TL):  262,058

I sold one obscure 5-cylinder Acura, and managed to pick up another.

Meet my Garnet Red Pearl 1996 Acura 2.5TL in all its glory.

Or, as it turns out, its lack thereof.

It’s perhaps the most basic Acura I’ve ever owned — the most stripped-down trim level of its kind, in fact.  It is equipped with cloth seats instead of leather (the brochure calls it “high-grade tricot cloth,” to be specific).  It doesn’t have a moonroof, heated (or powered) seats, keyless entry, or heated mirrors.  It’s a $27,900 example of exactly what the dealer would have sold you if you told them you wanted the bargain basement Acura TL that year.

Said Acura:

The 1996 Acura TL Series is an entirely new automotive concept.  It’s a carefully crafted pair of touring luxury sedans – sophisticated automobiles that meld the refinement and gratifying comfort of a world-class luxury car with the performance and response of a thoroughbred sports sedan.

Inspired by the elegant character of legendary old-world touring sedans of the past, but constructed to the most exacting standards of modern automotive technology, the Acura 3.2TL and 2.5TL are clearly destined to redefine the essence and the spirit of luxurious performance automobiles.

So why did I even care enough about this car to have it transported 1,454 miles to my doorstep?  I guess I’m a sucker for the underdogs.  This old TL was clearly appreciated by ‘someone;’ otherwise, it would have never made it to 262,054 miles on the odometer.  It sat in a classified listing on OfferUp for over 8 months, illustrated in poor-quality pictures and covered in leaves on a rainy day in Lacey, Washington.  The seller must have been shocked when I inquired; he probably even forgot his ad was still active.  He was selling the car for his father.

My fascination with the first generation 1996-98 Acura TL goes back over 20 years.  In April 1998, I was 16 years old.  Do you remember when you could request brochures from automakers online and they’d mail them to you?  I did that.  I ordered brochures for the RL and TL models, and the deluxe 12×12 mailings arrived a couple of weeks later.  I still have the brochures, and the envelope they came in.  Acura spent $3.00 in postage just to ship them to me.

I was of course in no place to buy a new car at that time.  I was driving my Chevy Celebrity and working part-time at a copy shop in my after-hours.  In 2003, though, I did get a chance to check out a first-gen TL in real life.  My mom picked up a 1997 3.2TL in Cayman White Pearl with around 65,000 miles on the odometer.  I liked the look and feel of the interior, the conservative exterior, and the fact that its V6 was essentially a Legend 3.2 powerplant.   Mom drove that car for two years until upgrading to a 2000 3.5 RL, which you’ve read about on my blog.

Keen eyes will note that I put 16″ Legend GS wheels on mom’s car briefly.

And in full bling-bling fashion, toward the end, the car was decked out with clear signal lenses & 18″ wheels.

The TL that just landed in Phoenix is unique even aside from being a base model.  Its engine is the 2.5 variant, otherwise known as the exact inline-5 from the 1992-94 Acura Vigor.  And the paint color is a one-year-only offering.  Garnet Red was carried over from the 1995 Legend for just one model year in the TL, its introductory year.  In fact, the color is so rare it wasn’t even listed as an available option in the brochure for the 2.5TL (see below).  But here I have proof that such a car exists.

There were only two TL colors that were one-year only:  Garnet Red in 1996, and Crystal Blue in 1998.

This ‘new-to-me’ TL becomes the second-highest mileage vehicle in my collection, having traveled 45% as far as my 574,000-mile Legend.  And so begins another project series for YouTube, similar to the 12-episode playlist I’ve created about the SLX.  I guess the bottom line is, I found a project car with a Vigor engine, a Legend color, and a rare optioning configuration that puts me one step closer to completing the 6-model late 1990s Acura full fleet lineup shown below.

Post in the comments if you can name the last vehicle I’m missing.  You better believe I’m on the hunt.

Interior – check that cloth!

176 hp of fury

After a first wash – yes, that back bumper is beat up

Sneak preview of my baby steps with the detail.  You know I love this part!

Headlight 2-step resto already completed

Oh, and you know what confirmed that this was the right car for my next project?  Guess what I saw when I Google street-viewed the home address of the selling owner.  The TL was parked next to an Acura Legend sedan.  Boom.

Enjoy this video and check back next time for the first round of updates!

18 Responses to “A Newer Vigor: My Garnet Red Pearl 1996 Acura 2.5TL Acquisition”

  1. A great new addition to the fleet Tyson – congratulations. That’s a fantastic colour!

  2. The only thing you’re missing from the late 90’s is a certain CLean coupe. Of course, you gave a pretty good CLue in the video. Hopefully, you can get one without spending a lot of CLams on the purchase. (That’s right, folks. I’ll be here all week. Try the chicken).

    Congrats on the new ride! Looking forward to seeing how you bring the TL back to its full health and glory. What’s the first few planned fixes?

    • Haha, you’re on a roll there Tim! CLever phrasing there 🙂 The TL is getting bumper refinishing this week. It already got some window tint. And today I detailed the engine bay. More to come!

  3. Can’t wait for your updates on Youtube. I love your series of videos. What do plan on using to restore the headlights?

    • Thanks Elvin! The headlight resto I use is a two-step process from Meguiar’s that has a bristle pad with a cleaning solution, then a clear topcoat spray. It seems to work really well.

  4. Fun choice! Random question- was a manual even available in the first gen TL series?

    • Thanks, I know, it’s quite the random selection but there’s a method to my madness (in terms of piecing together the late 1990s collection in its entirety). The gen 1 TL unfortunately did not come in a stick shift. Otherwise, I would have definitely sought out a 5-speed!

  5. Congrats on the acquisition! I wouldn’t even know where to begin in terms of detailing, but it looks like you approached it logically by giving the car clear eyes to see with and shiny exhaust tips to pass gas through. The essentials! 😀

  6. As a kid, I also contacted a manufacturer for a brochure. For some reason, I chose Merkur (Ford) for the Scorpio. I think it was because I thought the name sounded cool.

    I’ve had decent luck with the 3M headlight restoration kit. Hard to go wrong with 3M or Meguiars.

    Soon this TL will be ready to move from the wholesale lot to the main lot at Hugie Acura.

    • Haha, just now seeing this. Yes this car made its way into the main lot eventually. It still needs a few things sorted but it’s night and day compared to what I started with!

  7. Those ‘tips and headlights make all the difference for me! Always liked this body style and I really like that you gave the underdog (stripped down version) some love. Sticker is coming soon!

  8. Ray Oliver Says:


  9. I know bro take care of that car from 1996 to 1998 2.5 or 3.2 are the best years of that luxury car every year after 98 the quality of luxury for Acura is not so great to my I viewing unless you have the NSX, with that TL that you have fix it up the luxury is very beautiful inside and out for a car to be 20-something years old is the far best luxury car when you compare it to the other body styles to an Audi, I’m still looking for mines missed a couple of them due to cov!!

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