Our conversations about modern Japanese collector cars tend to circle around a handful of fan favorites. Honda Civics and Mazda Miatas at the low end; Nissan Skylines and Lexus LFAs at the top; Nissan Zs, Toyota Supras, and Mazda RX-7s somewhere in the middle. Yet the great thing about modern Japanese enthusiast cars—and maybe something that distinguishes them to a certain degree from other regions and eras—is that there were just so many of them. Mitsubishi Starions, Eclipses, 3000GTs. Nissan 240SXs, Sentra SE-Rs. Honda Preludes, S2000s, CRXs. Toyota Celicas, Corolla GT-Ss, MR2s. It goes on and on.
If you grew up in the 1990s like I did, these cars seemed to fill every parking lot. Some were obviously better than others—and only a few were genuinely fast—but the general competency level was so high among Japanese automakers during this time that just about all of them were entertaining.
The result, as the survivors from this era age into collectibility, is that I occasionally find myself stunned to see a high price attached to a car I’ve scarcely thought about in more than a decade—and then kick myself for not grabbing one when I could have. Such is precisely the case with this Sale of the Week, a 2006 Acura RSX Type–S that sold on Bring a Trailer for $22,838, including fees. That price might not seem terribly high in a vacuum (or relative to the $10.6M Bugatti we picked last week), but it’s a lot of coin for a 17-year-old car with more than 100,000 miles on its odometer, especially one that has lived its entire life in the salty climes of New Jersey. It’s also quite a bit higher than the average value people state when they call Hagerty for insurance on an RSX, currently around $13k.
And yet the price kind of makes sense. The RSX, which debuted in 2002 as the successor to the 1997–2001 Integra, has pretty much all the qualities that Japanese car lovers crave: A free-revving four-cylinder (210 hp at 7800 rpm), a snick-snick six-speed manual, and wonderful steering and handling. It also happens to be one of the more handsome cars of its ilk—upscale and understated but sporty and purposeful. (Its white-face gauges might even give the contemporary Lexus IS a run for its money as the best-looking from the era.) And whereas small Hondas from the 1980s and even the ’90s can feel just a tad uncomfortable in traffic among today’s 400-hp luxo-barges, the RSX, which hits 60 mph in less than seven seconds and has a sixth gear for highway cruising, has no such issues.
What it lacks—and what might explain why this price is as yet an exception rather than commonplace—is a name. Really, two names. The first is “Integra.” Although this same car wore that badge in Japan, Acura executives at the time were eager to move upscale and ditched the badge for more fashionable alphanumerics. The second was “Type-R.” Although the 1997–2001 Integra Type-R is remembered as one of the”it” cars of the era and today can command more than $80k in top condition, it was a slow seller at the time. The RSX Type–S effectively replaced the Integra GS-R, which had been more popular with American buyers than the Type–R thanks to its lower price point and similar on-paper performance. (Again, Japan had it better: The JDM Integra Type–R of this era made 220 hp from a screaming normally-aspirated four cylinder.)
It’s thus little surprise that 97–01 Integras, while older and less powerful, tend to fetch more money. The average value cited by people who call us for insurance on them is about $19,500–fifty percent higher than for the RSX.
Yet these underrated coupes may get the last laugh. More than three-quarters of the people calling us about RSXs are millennials or younger. As the fortunes of these up-and-coming collectors improve, so might the values of the cars they crave.
Such would be fitting for a car that, in many respects, represents the tail end of the golden age for affordable Japanese enthusiast cars. The RSX hit the market just as the SUV craze was hitting the U.S. market in earnest—light trucks outsold passenger cars for the first time in 2002 (today trucks outsell cars three-to-one). By the time it departed in 2006 (also the final year for the venerable Toyota Celica), the die was cast. Small, sporty coupes, which were mainstream cars through the 1980s and ’90s, are effectively extinct. Ditto for high-revving, normally-aspirated four-cylinders. All to say the RSX, which was never all that common to begin with—in its best year Acura sold just 30,117 of them—is only going to become more special as time goes on.
I still miss my 1995 Integra GS-R. A friend had a 2002 type-s, a fun car as well. One reason I bought a 2003 S2000. I missed the revs..
I agree I miss the revs of the old Honda/Acura products. The current stuff does not seem as fun to drive even though it is faster.
The plethora of sport compact cars diluted the focus on pretty much all of them on an individual basis. A few exceptions such as the Integra Type R and Honda Prelude VTEC (called Prelude SRV in Canada) broke new ground in terms of power per litre of displacement. Relative to the more common Camrys, Accords, and plebeian Corollas and Civics, they sold in very small volumes, and many were irreparably modified and trashed by “tuners” / street racers. That’s why finding one in any condition is meaningful to collectors.
I own several Honda and Acura cars all purchased new. A 1993 Accord SE, a 2000 Accord EXV6 and a 2004 TSX 6-spd Navi. None of them remarkable except for their condition which is mostly bone stock and in showroom condition. In fact all 3 are taking turns sitting in the local Acura dealer’s showroom just because I need the space and they like the cars. Apparently they’re good conversation pieces.
The interest in each has grown and as expected I get offers though none are for sale. But surprisingly or not, the ones that get the most interest are the 93SE & the TSX, in that order.
I’m not sure why that is but what I do know is it seems to follow a generational trend. Older boomers & millennials prefer the 93SE while millennials gravitate to the TSX. But what’s interesting to me is that over the years the TSX has been more of a sleeper. While it’s gets admiring glances, it’s never received the appreciation of it’s contemporaries. Hot Civics and Integras have a cult following, Accords not so much. It doesn’t surprise me that the RSX is coming into it’s own, a Type- S coupe with 6-spd is very attractive. Just don’t understand why the TSX doesn’t?
Still, I enjoy them all for what they are and how they make me feel and in the end I guess that’s what matters…