How I was reunited with my Acura TSX after 16 years


Back in 2006, I did a very unusual thing: I ordered an Acura. While ordering your car is always unusual in this country, doing so for an Acura (or Honda) is even stranger given how few combinations of color and options there are. The chances of finding what you want at a dealer are high. Despite the odds, though, I needed to order my 2006 Acura TSX with the combination of Arctic Blue paint, touchscreen navigation and, crucially, the six-speed manual transmission. Three months later, it was in the driveway.

Fifteen months later, however, it was out of the driveway. I had just got my dream job as an automotive journalist and no longer needed a daily driver. The TSX would just be collecting dust and depreciation down in a garage, I hadn’t exactly grown attached to it after so little time, and it certainly didn’t seem like a collectible car to hang onto for posterity. After months of trying to sell it (turns out all those dealers were on to something with their inventory builds), a nice young man named Chanc flew to Los Angeles with a check in hand. I took off my RIZ plates, he slid that manual transmission into first, and off my TSX went to its new home in Utah never to be heard or seen from again.

Until Christmas Eve of last year. While enjoying an egg nog, I pulled out my phone to find I was tagged in the below Instagram post by someone named Tyson Hugie. It took me a second to process what I was seeing: somebody handing over keys to an Arctic Blue Acura TSX with a red bow on top. “Wait, what?” I exclaimed.

 

“I’m an Acura brand aficionado, some call me an addict,” Hugie explained to me on an episode of the Autoblog Podcast recorded in the TSX itself. That’s putting it lightly, and it’s an addiction that’s resulted in quite the following on Instagram and YouTube, where he documents his collection/projects.

“I’ve been a fan of Honda and Acura products since the late ‘90s. Whenever I come across a particularly rare model, it kind of stays with me a long time.”

His collecting started back in 2011 after Acura threw a red-carpet party for him, and more notably, the Acura Legend he owned that rolled over 500,000 miles. It has since crested 585,400. Nearly 30 other Acuras and Hondas have come, gone and stayed alongside it in Hugie’s garage since then. The list of cars that resided there at some point in 2022 alone is kind of awe-inspiring: a ’92 NSX, two Integras (a ’92 GS-R and ’89 LS 5-Door), five Legends (’88 and ’94 Sedan and ’90, ’94, ’95 Coupes), an’02 RSX Type-S, a ’96 SLX (look it up kids), an ’07 TL Type S, a ’21 TLX Type S, an ’89 Prelude Si and an ’04 S2000. Oh, and a 2006 Acura TSX 6-Speed in Arctic Blue.

“My brother had a classmate from southern Utah who I knew had a blue 2006 TSX six-speed manual,” Hugie said. “That car was one I’ve always had on my checklist in the back of my mind. How cool is that color? You never see them.”

He first saw it in 2013 while passing through southern Utah, in that ’92 NSX no less.

“The TSX still looked pretty darn nice. It was only seven years old at a time,” Hugie continued. “But the following decade wasn’t as friendly to it. (Chanc) ended up buying an EV as his daily driver; the TSX was relegated to side parking at his house, and the sun in southern Utah was not friendly to it. The paint got absolutely destroyed. I don’t think the car was as actively exercised as much, so that contributed some deterioration as well.”

This definitely isn’t the only TSX out there with paint that looks like this. In fact, it’s more the rule than the exception. To be frank, Honda and Acura paint, at least from this era and earlier, wasn’t exactly the best.

“I was after Chanc to let me give this car a good home,” Hugie said. “I knew full well that this car was a rare spec to begin with, and I think there’s always some heartstrings being tugged at that this car deserved better than to eventually just be on Craigslist sold to some college kid who’d run it into the ground.”

He finally pried the TSX out of Chanc’s hands last December with 187,673 miles on the clock, which is, of course, when I was alerted to “my” TSX’s continued existence. Although I was never especially attached to it, I couldn’t have been happier that Chanc had enjoyed it so much over the years and still had it. That it would continue to live on with Hugie or whomever he eventually sells it to is even better. I’m sure most of you reading this would similarly love to know that an old automotive friend was still being cared for instead of being abused or rotting away in some junkyard awaiting a photoshoot by Murilee Martin.

The story does not end there, however. There was work to be done. First things on the checklist were basic safety items: tires, brakes and fluids. Eventually, he would replace both headlight assemblies and fog lamps, the clutch, battery and brake pedal pads, plus resurface the flywheel. He even found new OEM floor mats. The big-ticket item, however, and the most important, was the body work, which sent the car to Apex Wet Werks in Phoenix for two months. That included a full repaint of the Arctic Blue Pearl, plus the addition of a decklid spoiler and rare European Accord R body kit. Oh, and the deletion of the window tint I had dealer-installed.

“Everything else is ‘as James drove it off the showroom floor’” Hugie said.

Well, I’d be the judge of that, because as it turned out, Hugie and I would both be crossing paths at the Acura Integra Type S first drive event in early June. As if letting me know any of this was going on wasn’t nice enough, he drove the TSX out to Ojai, Calif., and left the keys with me for a reunion weekend. I know, right, how cool is this guy?

The interior is probably the most impressive element. While fading paint is often out of the control of a car’s owner, the interior condition can definitely be managed, and Chanc did a tremendous job over the years. Apart from some expected usage wear on the driver seat side bolster, the turn signal and metal shift knob topper, I’m not exaggerating when I say the interior looks exactly the same. Everything works, too, including that navigation system I ordered. It got me where I needed to go and was just as easy to program as always – I even remembered the exact series of commands to quickly enter a destination with the voice commands.

I ultimately chose that option for the touchscreen and improved functionality it added, though, specifically for a newfangled car feature I had recently fallen in love with: satellite radio. The screen simultaneously shows six presets and song information – exactly as it should be, if only today’s car makers didn’t keep trying to reinvent what Acura figured out nearly two decades ago. Sure, the graphics are extremely dated, but unlike most navi-equipped cars from this era, it still benefits the car. The screen size and accompanying control layout are also pretty similar to what you’d find in cars today. Turns out the TSX interior was ahead of its time.

The driving experience is more of its time. True, after about 189,000 miles, this TSX’s 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four is a testament to Honda engineering. It sounds and runs exactly the same, zinging up to its 7,100-rpm redline. That also means it reminded me that this was the car that made me realize I prefer cars with lots of torque. This car has very little: 164 pound-feet at 4,500 rpm. Its 205 horsepower is achieved at 7,000 rpm. By comparison, today’s turbocharged Integra produces 200 hp at 6,000 and, crucially, 192 lb-ft at 1,800 through to 5,000 rpm. In other words, you have to wring the TSX’s neck, which is good for noise and encourages you to row the oh-so-sweet six-speed manual transmission that myself, Chanc and Tyson all went out of our way to get.

You’ve probably read some description of today’s Honda and Acura manuals, and I tell you, those gearboxes all feel descended from this one. Remember, I drove the TSX back-to-back with the brand-spanking-new Integra Type-S. I’ve also driven Honda/Acuras from before the first-gen TSX, as well as the contemporary TL’s six-speed manual, and none are like this one.

“This K24, Japanese-built platform with the manual is one of Honda’s most crowning achievements,” Hugie said, because he definitely knows more than I do on the subject. “If they could sell this car as the Accord in Europe, which they did, you know they had a lot of faith in it. Because that nameplate carries so much weight.”

Now, despite all of the work done to this point, there’s definitely work left to be done. The brakes are a bit mushy, and the front suspension is pretty knackered – I wouldn’t be surprised if the shocks need replacing at the very least. It’s obviously been 17 years since I drove it last, but the damping has been reduced and I would swear the steering used to have less play on-center. The alignment’s definitely off.

All of that is fixable, though. That’s what time and, well, more money thrown at it are for.

“I like to buy and restore cars that most people wouldn’t bat an eye at,” Hugie said. “Not everyone cares enough about an ’06 TSX to spend twice what you spent on the car on paintwork. That’s just financially stupid. But you know what? I’ll never see another one of these in Arctic Blue with the six-speed and the navigation system.”

And how long will “my” TSX be residing in Tyson Hugie’s garage? He’s not sure at this point, but I got the impression it won’t be forever. After all, of those cars I listed earlier, he sold six last year to make way for the TSX and others. Past members of the collection have included a ’93 Civic del Sol, a ’96 TL, a ’99 2.3CL 5-speed (of course), a different SLX and, my personal favorite, a ’94 Acura Vigor in Arcadia Green (teal) and a manual transmission attached to its wackadoo longitudinally mounted inline-five.

“I can’t keep them all. This is sort of catch and release for me,” Hugie said. “I can always take pride in knowing I might have saved this car from a worse life. I enjoy it, I have fun with it, and sometimes I keep them, sometimes I let them go.”

Should that happen, you now know exactly where to find a 2006 Acura TSX in Arctic Blue Pearl with navi and a six-speed manual. And if you end up being lucky owner No. 4, please don’t hesitate to reach out to No. 1. It’s always nice to hear how old friends are doing.

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