Hong Kong-born Raymond Tam has always been surrounded by cars. Growing up in Saskatoon, Sask., Tam spent his childhood helping his father out in his automotive shop. Moving to Toronto as a teenager, Tam studied mechanical engineering but traded in his textbooks to become an automotive technician.
While he works on all types of vehicles at the performance upgrade shop he co-owns, AutoElement Automotive in Markham, he has a soft spot for Hondas, specifically the Acura Integra. Seven years ago, he was able to buy his dream car, a 1992 Integra GS-R.
“When I went to look at the car, it was in pretty good shape,” said Tam. “The seller’s father didn’t really drive the car, and it spent most of its time in the garage, maybe out on nice days or to get groceries. That's why it had 106,000 kilometers on it after 30 years.”
Tam tells us why he loves his vehicle.
“This car is special to me because my dad bought me the 1990 Integra GS – a lower trim version than the GS-R – for my high school graduation,” said Tam. “But I only had it for three years. When we moved to Toronto, the insurance for it was too expensive, so my dad sold it.
“I started driving my mom’s four-door Integra because its insurance was little cheaper. Like everybody else at the time, I did an engine and transmission swap, suspension work and all that stuff. Then one night on the way home I totaled that car.
“The GS-R was only produced for two years, 1992 and 1993. It’s kind of like a black sheep for Honda,” said Tam. “It has a 1.7-litre, DOHC, 4-cylinder VTEC engine that didn’t even exist in Japan, only in North America for those two years. It’s also one of the first cars in North America to get a VTEC engine. For Honda guys (Honda is Acrua’s parent company), VTEC was a big deal back then. Everybody swapped out their car’s engine for a more powerful engine with VTEC in it. That’s why this car is special.”
“When I bought the car back in 2015, these older Hondas weren’t worth a lot, but I’ve put tens of thousands into it,” he said. “I’ve replaced the suspension and exhaust. I’ve quite a few parts stocked up: a subframe, headlights, taillights, suspension parts, alternators, AC compressor and more. I’ve stocked up on whatever I come across that I can afford to buy and have sit in stock. I wanted to keep it as original as possible.
“It feels good driving the Integra. I usually only drive it on the weekends when the weather is nice, and it’s not too hot. Getting into the car brings back memories. Quite a few people ask me if I’d sell a car. I just say, ‘No, it’s not for sale.’ I won’t even consider an offer. I want to keep the car for myself.”
A CLOSER LOOK: 1992 Acura Integra GS-R
An edgy shape
“Not too many cars have a bodyline like this one,” said Tam of his Integra. “I like the shape of this car. It’s really edgy; like really square. It’s got some sharp lines on it with long headlights that just stands out.”
While he wants to keep the car as original as possible, he has changed the wheels. “At the time I got the car, wheels were getting really hard to find for it. A lot of cars wheels nowadays have got five bolts, but this car has four bolts. So, I didn't have many choices, but I came across these 16-inch Advan RG2 which I had bought and got shipped up from the States. They were pretty much what I was looking for – white rims on a red car. The contrast really stands out.”
“The car brings back high school memories,” said Tam. “When I first got into this trade and the auto business, these cars were the kind I worked on. When I work on them, they make me feel young again.”
This article was edited for space and clarity. To be featured in Why I Love My Vehicle?, email us at email@example.com. Renée S. Suen is a Toronto-based lifestyle writer and photographer. Follow her on Twitter: @rssuen.
- BODY STYLE: Three-door Hatchback Coupe
- DRIVE METHOD: Front wheel drive
- ENGINE: 1.7-litre four-cylinder VTEC, 160-hp; 117 lb.-ft. torque
- FUEL ECONOMY (CITY/HIGHWAY): 9.8/8.1 litres per 100 kilometres
- CARGO VOLUME: 453 litres
- PRICE: Starting at $16,655 (U.S.) in 1992