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Background:
I have a 2004 Milano Red TSX Automatic w/Nav. I've always loved it, yet after 9 years, my TSX was looking rather run down: the outside was dented and painfully faded (almost pink!). I thought it was time for an upgrade.

So I researched and (more often than not) test drove a TON of cars: Naturally the new TSX, TL, RL and ILX; the Audi A4, A5, S5 & A6; the Mercedes C- and E-Series; Infiniti G37 (both coupe and sedan); Hyundai Genesis (ditto) and Honda Accord (ditto again!).

Yet, after each, I reached the same conclusion: it was fine, but not materially better than my TSX. I still think it's gorgeous inside and out, and while it might be a bit underpowered, I live in a metro-dense area, and don't really race anyway. So I finally decided that I wanted to restore my TSX to look brand-new -- and I allocated $7,500 to the task.

The Purpose of this Post
The reason I'm writing this is to describe how I'm spending the money (it's literally being worked on right now -- I should have it next week), and get people's opinion -- along with ideas (maybe I could push the budget up a bit, if I missed a nice idea or two!).

As I discovered, there are ENDLESS ways to spent $7,500 on a TSX. You could easily devote that much to the engine itself, and what you spend it on really says a lot about what is important to you as a person.

In this case, I'm a 39 year old corporate type. I will never race this car, although a bit more engine pep would be appreciated. My goal is not to impress would-be racers. I primarily just want it to be absolutely gorgeous.

So here's how I'm spending it:
1. A quality paint job.
More than half ($4,200) is going into a really nice paint job. Now, I realize that opinions about paint can run hot: No doubt some of you think it's outrageous to spend more than $2,000 on a paint job, and others will scoff that high-end paint ALONE costs that much, before labor. I don't know the answer. But I do know that this place came recommended by a car enthusiast friend, and when I visited the facilities, they were repainting a Maserati and a BMW 6 Series. Good enough for me. For $4,200, they fully dis-assemble the car (well, as much as possible), thoroughly prep every piece, and use high-quality PPG paint. They've just finished prepping it; I'm having it painted its original Milano Red, but with some level of metallic flake in it (I'm actually approving paint chips on Tuesday).

2. Replacing the entire outer trim
All of the chrome, the front grill, the drip molding (black plastic pieces than run from the front windshield over the roof to the back), door seals and (as luck would have it) the front windshield to boot.

This was a tough decision, because it was all in good (but not spectacular) condition -- but I was afraid that if I didn't replace it, then it would look like an old car with a new paint job, rather than a new car. The new door seals are to ensure it stays quiet.

3. Fully restored OEM wheels w/ zinc-plated slotted/drilled rotors, and restored & painted (silver) calipers.

I originally considered larger wheels, and maybe this was a mistake. But I do know that I prefer the stock wheels to virtually ALL of the third-party wheel pictures I've seen (someone did an excellent job of setting up a Flickr site with TSX aftermarket wheels, and I swear I disliked every one). I do like the Work VS-SS 18", but then I heard that larger wheels might negatively impact performance & road noise, and got spooked. Plus, this way I can keep my tires, and avoid another $600 or whatever in expense.

I replaced the rotors and painted the calipers because they were terribly rusty and plainly visible -- I had to do something. I considered getting a Big Brake Kit, but at like $2K it seemed a bit much: and if I did, then I'd probably have to get 18" wheels to match, and even THEN the engine wouldn't justify any of it. So no Big Brake Kit.

4. Cold Air Intake & Hondata Reflash
I've always wished the car had a bit more pep to it. It handles really well (IMHO), but was never quite powerful enough. I'm hoping that this, plus my plan to start using the Sportshift (which I just started getting into before dropping the car off three weeks ago at the shop), will do the trick!

5. Restored Interior
Any piece that was scuffed in any way is being replaced with OEM parts: New floor mats (obviously), new door sills (the cool ones that say Acura), a new center console (the leather on it was a bit worn), and a few other panel pieces here & there. (Overall, it was in pretty top-notch shape already, so fortunately not too much.)

I'm not replacing the leather seats. They're in good, not great, condition, but at $1K a pop, I can't justify it. If all goes according to plan, those will be the only element of the car that doesn't look brand-spanking-new.

6. M3 spoiler/trunk lip, rolled chrome exhaust tips, splash guards, nice license plate frames and new license plates.
The M3 spoiler/trunk lip seems pretty popular already, and I've always been a huge fan. Naturally, it's being painted to match.

I've never been a fan of the stock exhaust tips -- I always thought they were a bit too understated, so I got some nice Borla rolled edge & angled chrome exhaust tips.

The splash guards are a matter of taste (I know some people hate 'em, but from what I've seen of TSX pictures, I think they look sporty).

I got some rather cool-lookng red license plate frames (WeatherTech 63022), and even brand new, shiny license plates to boot!

7. A cleaned out garage & cleaning supplies.
This car has never spent a day in a garage since I bought it -- and it has the faded paint and swirls galore to show for it. Well, no more: For the past three months I've done anything and everything to clear out our one-car garage (which had been a de facto shed), and now it's totally empty -- my "new" TSX's new home.

I also got some nice cleaning supplies, and a deal with my mechanic to apply a synthetic paint sealant every six months or as needed. (I've waxed my cars throughout my life, but have concluded that I was probably hurting more than helping -- for example, I always did it in direct sunlight. So now I'm just going to wash and let a professional seal it.)

What do you think?
So that's it. What would you have done the same? What would you have done differently?
 

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Sounds like a good plan. Take pics!!!
 

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7500 is a lot to restore. With my car i spent 1500 on everything. if you shop smart and if you need some help with locating parts to cheap, i am willing to help!!! I have Exhaust headers, Exhaust done, cold air intake, lowing springs, euro grill, and some little things here and there for under 1500. so shop smart.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you, TrueEuroR! If I need any engine parts, I will definitely reach out to you!

Yeah, I know it's a lot, but if you exclude the paint job then it was really $3300. And probably half of what remains was trim (e.g., chrome for around the window, front grill, drip molding) for which I didn't want to gamble with used, non-OEM (although I certainly researched online for the deepest discount places for new OEM components).

The non-OEM components were rather inexpensive -- the rotors plus new ceramic brake pads were $200. The CAI was $120. The spoiler was $40. The exhaust tips were $120 for the pair (a bit pricey here, too, I suppose). And I saved money where I could, by restoring the wheels and headlights.

...So I guess that while it seems like a lot, I sincerely racked my brain for ways to reduce it, and shopped online the best that I could for the lowest prices.
 

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Sweet. I will be following this. Not too often do you see this attention to detail. I love it.

Also that sounds like a very fair price for a paint job for what you are getting.
 

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Also check the maintenance schedule and make sure your up to date with that. It's on this website.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks Vi3tboy!

It's tough to drop $4200 on something when you've just read a dozen message boards that say that it's you only need to spend a quarter of that. I think paint is tricky for several reasons:
* Maybe some painters honestly CAN do a great job without removing/sanding each component. Maybe less expensive paint would be fine for my purposes.
* Or maybe to do a really good job, I should have demanded they double-sand* each component and use indestructible paint, and I'm totally cheaping out. (* I just made that up.)
* You can't assess paint quality online -- partly because the pictures don't do the paint justice, and partly because good quality paints are more durable (so maybe a cheaper paint looks great new, but terrible after several years).

So I was really flying blind here.

I finally concluded that, when it comes to paint, price is a "loose correlate" to quality: The more you pay, the higher the odds of being happy with the outcome. But there are no guarantees in either direction -- you could spend very little and be elated with the job, or spend a lot and be dissatisfied. So I tried to aim for what I thought was the upper-middle.

But it's encouraging to hear that weren't convinced that I missed the mark in either direction. :)
 

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Ah, to be more specific, it was $192 for all four rotors (from the R1 Concept site). I did get pads, too: those were an extra $72 for posi-quiet ceramic pads. Both of these products got rave reviews on this forum.

I definitely saw deals for less on eBay for virtually the same items (they looked identical), but where I couldn't identify the manufacturer. It didn't help when the auction said the picture was just a "represantation" (sic), and that the actual product might vary.

One other thing that led me to be leery of paying the lowest eBay price was my experience buying wheels. Originally I bought new TSX wheels on eBay: $350 for all four, and they were identical to the OEMs! But the next day my mechanic strongly recommended that I cancel the order, explaining that even though the looked identical, they'd be both heavier and less durable than the stock OEM wheels. So I paid $600 for 4 restored OEM wheels instead.

It's all so tricky: no matter what I do, the possibility exists that it was folly...
 

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Excellent suggestion, jvillefinest! I will do that.

Actually, before I started the process, I had my mechanic give the car a full tune-up (replacing fluids, filters, all four spark plugs, etc). I asked him how long he thought the car would last, and whether it was on its last legs, and he said he didn't see any problems appearing any time soon, and that I could easily get 200K miles out of it (I presently have 85K).

But I'll check the maintenance schedule and make sure nothing was missed! It would be a shame to have the car looking great, and then fall flat because of something as simple as a clogged filter!
 

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Btw TrueEuroR -- the rotors I got look identical to yours! Let's assume that means we both have good taste. :)

Are those zinc plated, too? (Apparently that helps -- my old ones were rusty as hell.)
 

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Great project idea, definately interested to see the result of that paint job.

What's the mileage on the car? Does it need work on axles, shocks, the exhaust system, control arms...stuff like that? If those parts are worn I would change them too since they can help your car drive like new and fix issues such as bad alignment. Obviously if they're all good don't bother.
 

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Hey what a great thread, welcome to the forum.

I think you have 2 things going for you here:
1, You have done plenty of research
2, You are confident in your choices

That is a lot for paint but it sounds like you plan to have the car for a long time, and that you want it done right. 85k is nothing for a TSX (I just saw one for sale in "great condition everything works" with 300k) so this idea of paint/overall restoration really will be like getting a mostly new car for $7500. You'll never get all your money back when it's time to sell, but I think you know that, and plan to drive this car for many years to come.

You're right, the TSX, even a 2004 like we have, still hangs with the best of the newer cars in the same price range. No wonder it was a C&D "10 Best" for 3 years straight. It was ahead of its time and the others are just now catching up in my opinion. I had some body work done to my TSX recently and was seriously disappointed at the rental they gave me - a new '12 Chevy - had some serious power from the V6, but was absolutely inferior to the TSX in every other way by far. Getting back into my own car felt so amazing.

I'm 39 too and have a 2004 TSX. I didn't have the budget you did but thought along some of the same lines as you in doing some upgrading over the last few months - nothing major, but after a small investment I've got it about where I want it. In fact you've inspired me to update my mod page.

The Hondata is a must, it's not a ton of power but it does add some, and improves the driveability significantly. Your new trim will look nice; I blacked mine with vinyl and love it. I have a trunk lip as well, it really adds a nice touch to the car. I think you've made some good choices.

Great thread, welcome again, can't wait to see your pics.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for the encouragement, Greentrees! I have done plenty of research, but I'm discovering that "the more I learn the less I know."

It goes like this:
1. I hear someone mention an idea in a blog. (e.g., "Love my sway bar!")
2. I Google it and read entries about people who say their car is fundamentally better with it.
3. I then ask myself "why didn't Acura put it on originally?" and research the negatives of the idea: hydro-lock, stiffer ride, tire rubbing, possible blown engine, installation risk, decreased mpg, safety concerns, rattling noises, increased torque steer, possibility of no impact.
4. Occasionally (CAI, Flash), I feel confident in it -- normally I end up...leery.

I think I've discovered the secret to securing a good budget for car upgrades: Convince yourself (and your spouse) that you need a new car. Let the financial ramifications set in, and fret over them. Then, suddenly, $7500 doesn't seem so bad!

I look forward to seeing your blacked-out trim, Greentrees!
 

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Im spending $1000 on a paint job for my MR, but im doing all the work myself :) most expensive color to paint. But restoring a tsx is the way to go :D
 

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I really like this restoration plan. If i had the budget I would have done the same. I have a suggestion. If you want your car to look more sporty would you consider getting the a-spec lip kit? It would set off the car real nice and its OEM with factory paint.
Here is an example:
 

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Oh man, if they're stripping the car to repaint it you should strongly consider putting in more sound insulation (damplifier pro and luxury liner pro from secondskinaudio.com).

I only did it in my trunk and doors and it definitely helps but doing it in the floor would probably make a huge impact.

And good luck with this!
 

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Ha, the a-spec lip...how it has tormented me! That was one of a few elements that I went back-and-forth upon (and back-and-forth, and back-and-forth, and back-and-forth), and just never pulled the trigger on.

I think it's that I liked it only a bit more than the stock front-end, and couldn't justify the cost for a mostly-lateral move. But it has been painful!
 
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