2008 Acura TSX 6-Speed Project Car
Practicality that is FUN to drive with JDM simplicity. The story of my year long project car mini rebuild of a 2008 Acura TSX 6-Speed.
Manual transmission cars are dying….
After owning a manual 1996 Acura Integra LS I have always enjoyed driving stick shift cars. Most new cars come with automatic transmissions as they can shift faster than a human with a manual clutch, but the fun and joy of driving is lacking. I finally decided to pursue a sporty but practical car that was available in a manual. Hence the Acura TSX came to mind! I have always looked at these cars going down the road and just like the overall styling.
The Car Search
They say all good things come to those who wait. Easier said than done! I scoured the internet and local lots high and low for almost a year before finding the TSX with my name on it. Multiple phone calls and stopping to look at cars that were over priced, rode hard and put up wet. About nine months into my search I was starting to think maybe I cannot find a manual TSX in good condition that has not been modded and had the holy cuss ran out of it.
It was five in the morning and I was laying in bed awake waiting for the alarm to go off when something told me to look at Facebook Marketplace. I did not have any search filters on when this was the fourth TSX that populated on my phone. Black on black, no rust, car was a bit dirty but had every option except navigation (which I did not want) including all the original floor mats and trunk mat! The car was located in Detroit, Michigan and I was instantly skeptical about “no rust” in the vehicle description. On a whim a Facebook Message was sent with an almost immediate reply from the seller! I asked my thousand questions and the seller was giving all the right answers.
Two days later plane tickets were bought and I was on my way to buy the car. It was worth the wait…….
Engine Bay and Suspension
Comptech Ice Box Intake| ECU Chip Re-flash | DC Sports 4-2-1 Header | Factory A-Spec 1″ Drop | A-Spec Koni Street Struts | 22mm Rear Sway-Bar
The goal behind the power plant and suspension was more torque and a sporty supple ride. Keeping everything super reliable and naturally aspirated, I decided to just upgrade bolt ons and re-flash the ECU. The Comptech Ice Box created a dramatic increase in low end torque without the loud open cone intake sound a four cylinder will make. Reprogramming the ECU Chip entailed a smoother power band and engaging the VTEC Cam at 4200 RPM instead of the factory 6000 RPMs. Bolting on the DC Sports 4-2-1 header instead of a 4-1 header increased lower end torque even more. Daily driving around town does not require revving over 3800 RPM through each gear as there is now plenty of torque.
The factory A-Spec edition came with a one-inch lowering utilizing progressive springs. Tein High Tech Springs were mounted onto Koni Street Struts for a smooth non-bouncy ride. The combination of the progressive spring and strut immediately gets stiff when pushing the car through corners but still maintains an almost factory ride cruising on the highway. Rounding out the suspension upgrades includes a larger diameter 22mm rear sway bar, adjustable rear camber arms, Moog stabilizer links with ceramic cross drilled and slotted zinc coated rotors and pads all the way around for excellent stopping power without fade.
2008 Acura TSX 6-Speed Project Car Engine Bay Parts Upgraded
- Comptech Ice Box Air Intake with internal K&N High Performance Filter (better hp gain than Comptech Filter)
- DC Sports 4-2-1 Ceramic Header
- ECU Chip Reprogrammed
- NGK Laser Iridium Premium Spark Plugs
- NGK Premium Ignition Coils
- Slightly Oversized Radiator with new cap, sensors, upper and lower hoses
- Bosch Starter (factory starter labored to turn crank over)
- Optima Battery Yellow Top
- PCV Valve
- Water Pump
- Power Steering Pump
- Serpentine Belt
- Belt Tensioner
- Idler Pulley
- Acura OEM Driver and Passenger Side Drive Axles with all new seals
- Timing Chain Tensioner with new outer door
- Gaskets – Throttle Body, Intake Manifold, Header, Valve Cover, Spark Plug Gaskets
- Valve Adjustment (mechanical lifters)
- Transmission Flush
- Power Steering Flush
- Brake Fluid Flush
- New Exhaust Hangers and Bolts (factory exhaust is high flow)
2008 Acura TSX 6-Speed Project Car Suspension Parts Upgraded
- Rear Hub Wheel Bearings
- Ceramic Cross Drilled & Slotted Zinc Coated Performance Rotors and Brake Pads
- Front Moog Stabilizer Sway Bar Links
- Rear Moog Stabilizer Sway Bar Links
- Rear Adjustable Camber Arms – Hondas often do not come with adjustable camber arms!
- Koni Street T Struts Front and Rear
- Tein High Tech Progressive Springs – 1″ Drop
- Progress Group Suspension Rear Sway Bar – 22mm
Car is good for another 100,000 miles (160,934.4 km) with no maintenance needed and piece of mind!
The Test Drive
When I flew to Detroit with my wife and son to help me validate my craziness, I remember thinking about all the what ifs and what it would be like to drive a new car 800 miles (1,287.48 km) home. We rented a car as a backup plan to either return to the airport or drive back home if the car was not to expectations. I was fully prepared the backup plan could happen.
The seller was nothing but nice and had even changed the oil for me as he knew of my long drive home! The car looked better in person than pictures had shown and sounded good warming up. During the test drive I could tell a few things the car needed: suspension was worn (normal), third gear whined but only under power (low transmission fluid) but overall it was mechanically sound. The seller was having second thoughts about selling during the test drive as he was telling me how much he liked the TSX. That is when the envelope of cash was slapped on his chest and myself stating: “Too late brotha I am driving her home.”
After paperwork was signed we were off with my better half in the rental car in tow. Stopping at a gas station to fill up the car with 93 Octane and about freezing to death (it was early May and still winter there) I was pinching myself that I had finally found the car I was after! We drove across Michigan to Kalamazoo to turn in the rental car and stay the night for the long drive the next day.
After visiting Tim Hortons for some wake up juice and breakfast, we started the journey back to KC via Chicago. Nothing like getting used to a new clutch in heavy traffic in Chicago! I realized I was going to miss my exit and made my way across eight lanes of traffic when I realized there was a toll booth ahead. Trying not to kill anyone including my family, I tested the braking and totally forgot to clutch. The look on the poor tollbooth workers face was priceless! I came in hot and killed the car right at the gate. She gave me “the look” like out-of-town moron and I happily paid my toll, laughed, started the car and headed South.
The car drove great on the highway, and I was starting to learn all the interior functions with the help of my wife saying: “you drive and I will get the manual out” 🙂 We stopped at a Lake Michigan access point and took in the view of the Chicago Skyline across the lake.
Driving the car home was a great learning experience and helped me put together a mental list of all the upgrades and preventive maintenance actions I wanted to perform.
A-Spec Front Under Spoiler | A-Spec Rear Under Spoiler | Trunk Lip Spoiler | Paint Restore with Ceramic Coat
The paint was in good shape but the clear coat needed some work. The car went through a full paint restore process done by myself in a long weekend in the garage. Starting out with Meguairs Ultra Cut, Swirl Remover 2.0, Ultra Finishing Polish, Machine Glaze, Clay Bar then Gtechniq’s Panel Wipe to prep the paint surface for a ceramic coat. The clear coat came back to life with almost all the surface scratches removed including the trunk lid where the former owner placed their purse. Next step was applying a two phased ceramic coat made my Gtechniq. Getchniq’s C1 EXO Ceramic Coat was applied in two applications followed by Gtechniq’s Cyrstal Coat. The car looked amazingly new when finished!
Keeping with the factory A-Spec look, front and rear under spoilers were installed with a custom rear trunk lip. Brighter halogen bulbs were replaced all around the car along with new Phillips Custom LED Chipset Fog Lights. The car’s HIDs are in great shape and between the driving and fog beams, the car lights up the night sky really well. New exhaust tips came with the rear under spoiler and a class one hitch was installed for my bike rack.
The car has a neat, clean factory looking that does not garnish attention.
2008 Acura TSX 6-Speed Project Car Exterior Work:
- A-Spec OEM Lip Front Under Spoiler
- A-Spec OEM Lip Rear Under Spoiler
- New Exhaust Tips
- Trunk Rear Lip Spoiler
- Sylvania SilverStar High Performance Halogen Lamps replaced throughout the car
- Headlight Lenses Restored
- Phillips Custom LED Chipset Fog Lights with new lenses
- New Wipers
- Dents Pulled from Body
- Complete Paint Restore using Meguairs cutting and glazes
- Gtechniq C1 Ceramic Coat
- Gtechniq Cyrstal Coat
- Class One Hitch (for bike rack)
Class A-B Stereo | Window Tint | LED Lighting | Hardwired Radar Detector
Interior work was minimal on this TSX. A DEEP CLEAN was performed including using a steamer twice! The leather was in great shape to begin with. Simple cleaning and conditioning to help preserve the leather was carried out. Replacement of various trim pieces that were broken and or scratched along with full LED interior lights were installed. Cabin filter replacement and carpets cleaned brought the interior back to life.
The car came with cheap do it yourself window tint that I removed and had custom printed 35% window tint that truly blocks UVA/UVB Rays without sacrificing night vision.
On to the good stuff…..
Hardwired my Escort Passport 8500 Radar Detector to automatically turn on and off with the ignition utilizing a rear view mount. The factory stereo setup was interesting as it utilized six speakers including a set of 6x9s in the rear deck that were used only for low mids and lows (almost like a subwoofer.) In fact, the previous owner told me: “the subwoofer rocks in this car.” I wondered what they were talking about as I knew there was not a subwoofer in the car from the factory. As a hi-fi enthusiast, I was after a clean, warm, efficient sound trying to replicate my living room and studio setup. Keeping with the factory look and not wanting to draw unwanted attention, I kept the factory head unit as it has a decent pre-amplifier and worked well. A six channel sound processor was installed to restore true full range sound to all six channels from the factory head unit. Component Focal Speakers in the front of the car were installed as well as Focal Rear 6x9s. The rear door speakers were disabled as it was too much sound and they were simply not needed. Having two ten inch JL Audio Subwoofers back in the day I knew right away one JL Audio 10W3v4 10″ subwoofer would be more than enough low end. A custom subwoofer volume knob was installed on the driver’s side of the center console for easy on the fly adjustments while driving.
After some fine tuning the stereo sounds amazing at all volumes on most genres of music. This was the end goal! The best part of the stereo install is the hidden factor and you can enjoy at any volume.
2008 Acura TSX 6-Speed Project Car Interior Work:
- New Window Tint (35%)
- Interior LED Lights
- Misc. Trim Pieces Replaced
- Leather Treatment Restore
- Escort Passport 8500 Hardwired install
- Cabin Filter Replaced
2008 Acura TSX 6-Speed Project Car Custom Class A-B Stereo:
- Focal Front Component Speakers
- Focal Rear 6×9 Deck Speakers
- JL Audio 10″ 4-ohm Subwoofer
- LC7 Six Channel Line Output Sound Processor (restores full range sound for all six channels from factory head unit)
- Focal Class A-B Four Channel Amplifier (interior speakers)
- Rockford Fosgate Two Channel Amplifier (subwoofer)
- Eight Gauge Power and Ground Leads with a Twin Fuse Box
- All New Twelve Gauge Speaker Wire
I have always wanted to do a project car just was never sure of the timing or if I had the skill sets to rebuild a car. A few hundred hours on YouTube, TSXClub.com, in the garage, local friend, and a gracious wife, this was easier than I thought. Many weekends and Fridays off were spent wrenching and laboring in the garage. Bonus of doing a project car is the new tools you will acquire along the way! I know every bolt, nook and sound on this car now which is mentally satisfying for an engineering nerd like myself.
The Acura TSX is one hundred percent JDM and the quality shows all these years later. Every time I get behind the wheel I smile and think all the work that went into this year long project was well worth it. I often get asked about costs as this is an older car and I replaced, upgraded a fair amount of parts. I purchased the car for around $5500 and had a total material budget of $5500. If you were to add up all my labor hours the total cost would have been quadrupled. The car has only gone up in value since purchased and I have received multiple offers from other import enthusiasts that far exceed my total investment. Response: “Thanks but no thanks! Too emotionally invested at this point”