Kristian Cappiello's 1997 Integra LS
The 90’s were great for the automotive world
The 90’s were a great time for the automotive world, engineers were finally figuring out how to make horsepower while still meeting emission standards, and suspension technology was moving quickly.
Honda/ Acura was no different, funneling engineering achievements from their F1 participation into their production cars, and for the Acura Integra, this was the basis of their marketing campaign. This meant the Integra was the best performing Acura model you could buy next to their exotic NSX. With already great out-of-the-box performance of Japanese imports, the aftermarket industry for them took off and hasn’t stopped since.
Unbeknownst to a younger Kristian Cappiello at the time, his 1997 Integra LS would draw him into that world of automotive modification with a nudge from his father, providing him with his first tool kit that still exists to this day.
His 1997 Integra would draw him into the automotive world
Kristian’s first love in the automotive world would be that of car stereo equipment introduced to him by a neighbor, starting in a different Integra that was unfortunately taken from him when it was deemed a total loss after an accident.
He saved the entire stereo system from that car which still resides in the Integra he owns now, which he says, “Everything back then was made simpler, and you could actually control everything you wanted to instead of preset settings”. A slew of different brands make up the stereo system he likes best in his personal vehicle; an Alpine head unit controls all the sound, Polk audio components powered by a Clarion amp, and two 12” Kicker subs powered by a Kicker amp to provide the bass.
Kristian has even turned his experience of electronics into a part-time business installing stereo equipment and alarm systems into his friend's rides.
The car you see now was purchased with a B20 engine swap already done, and although that was a good start, not a year later he decided 10lbs of boost provided by a small T3 turbo was required to bring the power levels where he desired. Professional computer tuning was the next step and it was a 4-hour drive to Shue Tuning in Virginia, which gets much more interesting when you can’t turn the engine off in fear of not starting again due to the baseline configuration in the computer.
Living in Virginia at the time he eventually fell victim to their strict car laws, and with a car as modified as this, was near rebel status. He admits that his at-the-time "young, dumb, and smart-ass" self, contributed to a traffic stop where 13 citations were all written at once ranging from high-intensity headlights, lowered suspension, and a non-factory installed turbo. It was driven in this form for a surprising 5 years and within that time had moved to Kansas, where he decided to tear it apart and go to the next level.
He admits that he was "young, dumb, and a smart-ass"
A basic Engine rebuild, and a turbo kit re-work later, a Garrett T3 60-1 brought new life to the car which he managed to drive for 3 years. Of course,like any other car guy, boredom struck and he decided to tear it all apart again.
Before the car was even taken apart, he couldn’t decide whether to take the path of an engine swap, or to just part with the car entirely. He quickly found out that the decision was not his but it was his wife that refused to let the car go, after all, this car was in his possession when they first met at a local car gathering.
A year and a half later Kristian’s “pick-up line” would be on Myspace where he asked her to another car meet, although she decided being picked up in the Integra and going on a proper date was in order. At this point, he was deciding between two engines, the obvious K20 swap or the more difficult V6 J32 swap.
His current daily driver was an Acura MDX with the same J32, and he knew with less weight and a manual transmission how much fun it could be. What he didn’t know at the time was how difficult the wiring task was about to become.
K20 swap or the more difficult V6 J32 swap
An Acura TL Type-S J32 along with an Acord 6-speed transmission was sourced, and the option of taller engine mounts was chosen over the shorter ones for appropriate oil pan clearance. The glaring issue now, is that the behemoth V6 sticks out of the engine bay with no hope for the “don’t ask where my hood is” to cover it up, but being able to safely drive the car over obstacles in the road is well worth it.
Going along with Kristian’s attention to detail, simply having a running and driving J-swap was not going to be enough, and having all the factory Integra gauges working was a must.
This is where the strange world of internet forum J-swap information was discovered, and it was as if the ones who successfully wired up the stock gauge cluster wanted to be the only ones to do so. After noticing some of the electrical systems not working properly, he found that the information he was able to come up with was intentionally recorded incorrectly.
Even with the extreme frustration, his wife urged him on to decode everything he needed which led to making himself a wiring manual for the swap as future reference. Although every gauge and warning light now work, some of the gauges are not accurate so he sets-up his phone for each drive with the additional gauges he needs via the Torque Pro phone app which he says is a hurdle in itself.
With extreme frustration, is wife urged him on
Kristian already has an idea in the works to add a turbo to the V6, and if you must ask why, well “you are clearly not about that boost life!”from what I’ve been told, and when that is completed this Integra will clearly deserve another photographic revisit in its future.
Along with that, he does plan to get some sort of hood on the car at some point, as long as his urge for an R33 Skyline doesn’t win out and take up the garage space instead. He says that this car has helped him see that if you want something, you must go after it and figure it out yourself, because not everyone out there wants to see you succeed. Even from when he moved his stereo equipment over from the first Integra to this one he had to re-do the wiring because he could see how quickly his quality improved in just a short time.
We do hope to see the continued progress of this car, as well as his quality in craftsmanship evolve, because they both seem to just keep getting better.