Dude, Where’s My Car?

Auto hacking: If it's an Integra, it may have been eaten by a Civic.

For the second year in a row, the most frequently stolen car in America is the Acura Integra. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, the vehicle is heisted more than twice as often as the Jeep Wrangler, its closest contender (see chart). Why the Integra?

It’s all about parts. If you see an Integra on the road, it probably has not been pilfered. But that Honda Civic–the low rider with the oversize exhaust, racing stripes, and giant whale-tail spoiler–may well be running on a stolen Integra engine. To a street drag racer, a customized Civic body with an Integra’s high-torque guts is a veritable Dream Machine.

Street drag racing is more popular than ever and, according to a spokesperson for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the hobby recently got an extra boost from the blockbuster highjack-’em-and-race-’em action flick, The Fast and the Furious, which grossed $145 million. An undercover member of the San Diego Police Department’s illegal-racing task force (which is called Dragnet) says many street racers start out with a Civic–often handed down by an unsuspecting parent–but quickly blow out its engine. The Integra engine is a coveted replacement, and it fits easily into the Civic, where no one can tell that it’s stolen. In fact, most Integra parts are interchangeable with the Civic. Dragnet estimates that 80 to 85 percent of cars being raced on the street are Hondas and Acuras.

Acura discontinued the Integra in 2002, replacing it with the RSX. But experts say it shouldn’t take the racers long to figure out how to fit an RSX engine into the new Civic.
–Reed Albergotti

VEHICLES WITH MOST CLAIMS FOR THEFT

Make/series Frequency*
Acura Integra 21.7
Jeep Wrangler 8.5
Jeep Cherokee 4WD 6.6
Honda Prelude 6.4
Mitsubishi Mirage 6.2
Average for all passenger vehicles 2.6

_Source: Highway Loss Data Institute

* Claims per 1,000 insured vehicles_