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1991 Acura Integra GS: Endangered Species

I drove a second generation Honda Prelude through much of my five-and-a-half years of college, after the Alfa Spider rusted away and I managed to trade-in the VW Quantum wagon of death on the happy little Honda that Could. I loved that car. Call them boring, call them soulless, but those were the days when Honda made fabulous-handling, well-balanced, reliable front-drivers with some of the best manual transmissions I’ve ever felt in a FWD car. As graduation loomed I started thinking about what I’d buy once I found that big, high-paying job that comes with every bachelor’s degree in communications. The then-new second-generation Acura Integra was the logical choice.

These days those Integras are remarkably hard to find for sale in clean, unmolested condition. The vast majority of of them ave succumbed to the whimsical fancies of folks with little money and less taste with a penchant for “personalizing” them with such baubles as fiberglass fenders with port holes in them, cut springs, coffee can mufflers, stupid wheels (for lack of a more fitting adjective), partly tinted windows, home grown paintjobs, and, well, you see where I’m going with this. Poking around my local Craigslist the other day I stumbled on this clean red example of the top-of-the-line (excepting the even rarer VTEC-powered GS-R) GS model for just $2,800.

Going back to those college daydreams, the GS was the model I wanted, as it had the key features I was accustomed to in the Prelude – namely the power moonroof and the air conditioning – as well as a few others like power locks and windows and a modern stereo that would be a real upgrade. The most important upgrade, however, was the sweet DOHC B18A motor which pumped-out almost 40 more horsepower than the Prelude’s dual-carb 1.8 and brought performance in line with contemporary competitors like the Toyota Celica, Mazda MX-3, Nissan SE-R, Mitsubishi Eclipse, and VW Corrado.

The ad for this car caught my eye with the word “Clean”. There are a few buzzwords that will make me click on an ad for a car, this is one. Also “Showroom”, “Pristine”, and “Unmolested”. Usually, disappointment ensues when I click-through but every so often I am pleasantly surprised, as was the case here.

First-off, I see only two stupid modifications to this car on the surface: the steering wheel cover and the aftermarket rims. The steering wheel cover is easily removed, so not a deal breaker. The wheels aren’t actually that bad, but then I liked the stock wheels on these cars. I’d speculate that this is a +1 setup versus stock, so again it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker – and it’s not like Acura wheels are exactly hard to find if you’re a stickler. I like the fact that this is a one-owner car and that the timing belt is recent. Even better, the air conditioning works. It’s a shame that the owner DIDN’T remove the annoying “mouse” automatically-retracting seatbelts. Anybody who enjoys driving will feel right at home in the bolstered sporty seats, which the seller reports are in excellent condition as well. At just 160,000 miles, this car should have a lot of life left – just watch for the dreaded tin worm.

So why not just buy it? Why is it not our next “Disposable Sports Car”? One simple reason: it’s an automatic. By (my) definition, a sports car has a manual transmission. A sport”y” car can be an automatic or tiptronic or DSG or whatever, but it won’t be a sports car. I realize that new supercars like Ferraris have what are essentially automatic transmissions, and I stand by my position. That said, this could still be a fun car for someone not looking to row their own, or wanting a commuter car which is, these days, something a little different from the driving masses have. As for me, when I graduated college I instead bought a used Acura Legend Coupe. With a manual transmission.


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