A Legend in the Making: Arcadio Burgos’s Acura RL
Originally envisioned as a competitor to classic Japanese luxury sedans such as the Toyota Crown and Nissan Cedric, the Honda Legend was first sold in America as the flagship entry of Honda’s new luxury brand, Acura, in 1986. The sedan, which utilized Honda’s first V6, was an instant hit, winning awards and accolades from many American magazines. The second generation Legend continued the first model’s success, mixing Honda FWD performance and reliability with classic RWD proportions. Both the sedan and coupe were offered with manual transmission packages that continue to excite Honda enthusiasts. 1996, however, signaled the end of the Legend as an enthusiast choice. The redesigned car, now called the RL in America, was a large, stately cruiser, altogether very different than the sporty generations before. This change largely removed the RL from the limelight until its redesign in 2005. The 2nd-gen RL was supposed to be a return to the original athletic nature of the Legend, and with a VTEC V6 running Acura’s SH-AWD system, hopes were high.
The automotive landscape in 2005 was vastly different than the late eighties, however. Spurned by new competition of the Japanese luxury brands, the German’s had largely cemented their spot as the go-to luxury marques. Lexus, originally a response to the Acura brand, had moved past their humble Toyota badge-swapped roots to a company that produced worthy (although somewhat dull) alternatives to the Teutonic three. Most buyers demanded a car that was offered with a V8, even if they didn’t necessarily buy it. And with that, the RL found itself again as another also-ran in a competitive landscape that centered around big names and big power. The introduction of Acura’s wonderful TL in 2004 didn’t help either, as the attractive and barely smaller little brother cannibalized the sales of the fresh (but more expensive) flagship.
This Nighthawk Black Pearl RL is actually Arcadio Burgos’s second attempt at the KB1 platform. His first, a 2005 white model, was also modified but the complex AWD setup proved too much of a hurdle for airride manufacturers at the time. Frustrated, Arcadio sold the Acura and began work on an Infiniti G35, installing the air suspension that had eluded him previously. But as his family grew, he realized his time with a two door was drawing to a close. Coincidentally, Easy Street Air Lift had contacted him, letting him know that they had addressed the issues with the AWD system for the RL, and was wondering if he was still interested in the product. Arcadio took that opportunity to pick up a loaded 2008 model, and built what he envisioned with the RL years before.
Historically speaking, the second generation Acura RL is not a particularly important car. While this isn’t necessarily a knock on the vehicle itself, it is doubtful that enthusiasts will be clamoring for low mileage unmolested models in the future. Even within the Legend line itself, the KB1 will probably become a footnote in this history of the brand, its soul eclipsed by the Legends of the early nineties, and its novelty replaced by the upcoming RLX. But this scene has shown us time and time again that the passion of an owner can become paramount to a model’s own pedigree. This particular RL impresses us not because of its engine or drivetrain, but because of what it has become outside of its own vanilla existence. Some cars are born legends; the Type R Integra, the Boss 302 Mustang, the LFA. Yet, others cars are created into a lifetime of seemingly simple appliance. And yet, in the hands of the right enthusiast, those cars can still stir the soul. This humble RL is one of those cars; a legend, not in inception, but in the making.