Years before Toyota and Nissan brought the Lexus and Infiniti brands to North America, Honda created its Acura luxury division. When the first Acuras showed up here in 1986, there were two models: the Legend midsize luxury sedan, developed in partnership with Rover, and the Civic-based Integra. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those first-generation Integras, found in a Northern California self-service yard recently.

The 1986-1989 Integra was available here as a liftback with two or four doors (Japanese buyers of the Honda Integra could get a sedan version). It was based on the fourth-generation Civic chassis but got a more powerful engine and snazzier interior.

The U.S.-market 1988 Integra got a 1.6-liter DOHC engine rated at 113 horsepower and 99 pound-feet. This was eight more horses and one more pound-foot than the most powerful new Civic available here that year.

The first-generation Integra was quick for its time, especially with the base five-speed manual transmission. This car appears to have been bought as a comfortable commuter machine, however, because it has the four-speed automatic. Note the Hondamatic-inspired D4/D3/2 shifter positions.

The emissions sticker tells us that this is a “49-state” car, not originally sold in the Golden State.

It drove 293,237 miles during its career, which is decent for a late-1980s Honda but nowhere near as good as others I’ve found from the same era. At the moment, the highest odometer reading I’ve found in a discarded Honda product was 626,472 miles in a 1988 Accord. The highest-mile Acura-badged Junkyard Gem so far is a 1995 Integra with 342,768 miles.

This car is a high-zoot LS model, and its MSRP with the automatic transmission would have been $13,144 (about $34,966 in 2023 dollars). The 1988 Civic LX sedan with automatic listed at $10,205 ($27,148), and it had the same excellent build quality.

The Integra got a bunch of standard comfort and convenience options that cost extra on the Civic, however, and of course the 1988 Civic sedan had a trunk instead of a hatch.

Air conditioning was not base equipment in this car, but the original purchaser opted for it. That was a wise move for those long Central Valley commutes during summer.

Formula 1 technology… aaaand it’s street-legal.

Soichiro Honda‘s love of racing paid off in the showrooms. Not bad for a guy whose first couple of factories were destroyed by B-29s and an earthquake.

It was known as the Honda Quint Integra in Japan, at first. Michael J. Fox did JDM commercials with a Huey Lewis soundtrack for this car.