In '84, Honda commissioned car designer Pininfarina—of Italian supercar notoriety—to conceptualize an all-new mid-engine sports car for the brand that'd ultimately target Ferrari's 328. They called it the HP-X (Honda Pininfarina eXperimental), a concept car that paved the way for the prototype and later production model—the NSX (New Sportscar eXperimental)—a project led by chief designer Masahito Nakano and executive chief engineer Shigeru Uehara, both of later S2000 fame.
Honda relied on the NSX, which launched in late '89 for the '90 model year, to showcase its burgeoning technologies, most of which were derived from its involvement with Formula One, like VTEC, and its use of what were then unconventional materials for car construction, like extruded aluminum for its chassis and titanium for its connecting rods. Honda went on to further tap into its Formula One toolbox, appointing drivers Satoru Nakajima and Ayrton Senna to help fine tune what would ultimately become one of the best handling cars ever made.
Honda offered the NSX in a variety of configurations during its 15-year run that culminated in '05, yet only 18,000 or so were ever made, making the NSX just as rare as it is exotic.
Model after '02 received a face-lift. Most notable changes included the fixed HID headlights, wider tires and improved suspension.
Although no slouch, the NSX's initial 270hp and later 290hp V-6s were never its most endearing trait. It's the all-aluminum chassis and body that's its most impressive feature along with its all-aluminum independent suspension at both ends. An ordinary aluminum suspension this is not, though. The unique system up front was the first for any production car and featured a compliance pivot that located the control arms but did so independent of the chassis for simplicity and reduced weight. At each end sits anti-sway bars, a series of aluminum braces, and enough triangulated arms and pickup points to make you just assume it's something special only because it looks so complicated.
The C-series engine that sits underneath the rear glass is more like your mother's Accord's F-series than anything else, but in a good way. Here, Honda didn't bother to reinvent the engine's cooling system, timing belt assembly, or oiling system because it didn't have to. As it turns out, the C30A1 and C32B2 did pioneer variable valve timing for the brand, though, and it is the only Honda engine to ever feature titanium connecting rods. As with any modern Honda engine, maintaining reliability well past the 100,000-mile mark from the C-series is the rule, not the exception.
The Good and the Bad
+ Lightweight aluminum body and chassis
+ Cast-aluminum, fully independent suspension
+ Ayrton Senna had a hand in the final product (just one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time...)
+ As reliable as an Accord yet as exotic as a Ferrari
- Aluminum body and chassis typically unforgiving to impact
- C-series engine sorely underpowered when compared to competitors
- Many replacement parts can be costly
- Even older models are skyrocketing in price
Where to Find One and For How Much
You can thank the impending release of the second-generation NSX for older models going up in value. There are fewer than 9,000 roaming the U.S., but at any given time a couple dozen or so can be found for sale. Plan on spending at least $35,000 for a well-cared-for early model NSX with moderate mileage and upward of $70,000 for something newer and with the miles to show for it.
Looking into the Future
Being able to actually buy the second-generation NSX will soon be a reality. Except for the fact that you probably won't have the estimated 150 racks it'll take to get into one. But that's no reason for you not to get excited about the all-new supercar that'll feature roughly 550 hp by means of a twin-turbo, gas-burning V6 and a team of electric motors that'll manage torque at each corner. Unlike older models, the new 75-degree six-cylinder will be mounted longitudinally, which will lend itself better to the car's SH-AWD configuration. Honda doesn't seem to be holding any punches here; aside from the un-Honda like pair of turbos, a dry-sump oiling system will be standard along with a nine-speed, dual-clutch gearbox and a whole lot of carbon fiber.
Bad NSX in SS History Espirit, December '11
Espirit takes racing very seriously, so serious they took an NSX, tore the rear apart and fabricated engine mounts so that the motor can sit longitudinally. They did this for a two reasons: first, to fit in a Hewland sequential transmission; second, to achieve the perfect weight distribution. As if that wasn't crazy enough, they mounted two TRUST T517S turbos to pump out 690 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque.