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Acura NSX-R - Street Level

A Short Biography Of Honda's Greatest Achievement

Adam S. Geczi
May 1, 2009
Photographer: Courtesy of American Honda
Htup_0905_01_z+acura_nsx_r+front_view Photo 1/1   |   Acura NSX-R - Street Level

The Honda NSX, sporting Acura badges in the U.S., approaches the unsuspecting ear with a distinct rumble. It is a genuine sports car from birth and it sounds like nothing else. It hums like a sewing machine but with a slight throaty cackle. Powered by the 90-degree, C-series V-6 powerplant, Honda's famed mid-ship sports car was introduced to the U.S. for the 1991 model year and soon after was named Playboy magazine's "sexiest car." It was. The paternal twins also known as the Honda and Acura NSXs were arguably sleeker and sexier than the Barbie twins featured in the popular men's magazine that very year. Since its introduction to the world almost 20 years ago, approximately 18,000 units were sold, but fewer than half of those made their way to America before Honda halted production in 2005. As rare as the NSX is, its NSX-R derivative is even rarer-none of which were built in LHD configurations nor shipped to the U.S for legal sale. Ever.

The NSX is intriguing. To the untrained eye, it changed little throughout its production. It underwent a major facelift in 2002, when its fixed headlights replaced the pop-up configuration, but little else varies to the unassuming save for the updated taillights and side sills. While some equate this evolution to the chassis code change from NA1 to NA2, the code indeed changed in 1997 when, among other improvements, manual transmission models received the 3.2-liter C32B engine that replaced the less powerful C30A. In Japan, that year also saw the introduction of the lighter and more nimble NSX Type S, which featured a stiffer suspension, Recaro bucket seats, a Momo steering wheel, and lightweight BBS wheels. The Type S chassis was, however, already stiffer and lighter since, in 1995, the NSX-T (Targa) was introduced. The NSX-T marked a major change, requiring extensive modifications. Opening up the top meant compromised rigidity unless larger extrusion-molded side sills were used as well as higher tensile strength aluminum throughout. The frame's rigidity became legendary when the fixed roof was once again added back into those cars, as is the case with the Type S.

But the most sought after NSX model was introduced in 1992 as the highly respected Type R, officially referred to simply as the NSX-R. Only available in Japan, the RHD vehicle was a purebred race car with a total weight savings of 265 lbs when compared to the original production NSX of that same year. The NSX-R was stripped of its comfort features to achieve the desired weight reduction, revolving around the idea that equal power in a lighter car would make it faster. It did. This concept was as unique as the car itself, but Honda stopped NSX-R production in 1995 before selling even a single LHD unit in the U.S. market. The NSX-R was re-introduced in 2002 in the fixed-headlight variant only to be available outside of the U.S. Based on principles not unlike its predecessor but weighing a scant 2800 lbs, the NA2 NSX-R was the lightest and most rigid NSX to ever be produced. It was, in fact, the stuff that legends were made of.

The NSX-R remains an engineering marvel for all who can appreciate its style, performance, and ingenuity. Honda continues to be proud of the accomplishment, while a few thousand committed fans continue to keep the dream alive that began almost two decades ago. Owning one is an exclusive affair, one that, until now, remained out of reach for the American consumer. Today, all of that changes.

By Adam S. Geczi
17 Articles



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