If you're thinking Jeffrey Nguyen's 1991 Acura NSX looks familiar, congratulations; you've been coming to Super Street Online for at least six years. But why would we go to that well again? Simply, it's not the same car—meaning that while it is the same foundation, Jeff's understanding of and appreciation for quality has come a long way since he first set out on this project. That translates into an almost continual refinement of the Honda supercar build that lasted over a decade.
Jeff was kind enough to explain to us with remarkable detail all the stages the car has been through and how much it set him back; it's important to stress that he did a lot of the work himself. The story that follows is one of starting off doing the big things kinda like a noob to eventually refocusing on the small things in an effort to elevate the car to a new level, one worthy of being considered among the greats.
Every journey begins with that initial stride, and Jeff's happened in 2006 after college when he took out a loan from the bank of mom to buy this NA1 for $20k, which by today's standards is a smoking deal. The NSX had 150,000 miles on the odometer and its previous owner had already converted the transmission to a newer 6-speed manual box with a CT Engineering clutch and lightweight flywheel.
It took Nguyen three years to pay back mom before he could start saving up for parts, but by the end of 2010 he had developed version 1.0 of the car. Arguably the biggest milestone of this iteration was the front-end rhinoplasty, where he swapped to a nose from the 2002-and-up NSX, a conversion Jeff says is actually pretty simple, requiring just headlights, bumper and hood (the original front fenders can be kept). Luck was on Jeff's side when he scored a set of headlights on the forums, getting them for half the cost of the $1,500 OEM lamps usually run. For a front bumper cover he went with the Downforce version and mated it to one of their carbon-fiber lips, and the NSX-R styled hood is from Seibon, where he also got his hands on an NSX-R-style rear spoiler.
The Wings West side skirts and Downforce 2002-and-up NSX rear valance found their way into the build at this stage, and stance was achieved with Tein Flex coilovers and front air cups as well as a foursome of TE37 replicas from Varrstoen—a purchase he still cringes at today. "I burnt all my budget on the conversion and paint (granted I saved money doing the labor myself)."
The interior featured limited upgrades—NRG hub and Momo steering wheel—and by this point Nguyen was about $10k into the build. He was eager to modify the car because the local Las Vegas NSX group he belonged to was hosting the annual NSXPO on their home turf that year and Jeff was in charge of judging. Over 200 entries rolled through and Jeff describes the event as an eye-opening experience to see so many well thought out executions. "NSXPO taught me all about quality brands, [and I] also saw the Science of Speed (SOS) NSX with its ITB setup—a must-have for me in the future."
The Super Street Stage
By 2014 Jeffrey was feeling pretty good about his NSX. He was receiving attention and accolades from local meets and shows. He was driving the car a lot, experiencing firsthand the platform's renowned handling on twisty roads (and thinking of ways to further stiffen the chassis). He even lined up his first photo shoot with us.
In the run up to that December shoot, Nguyen had fleshed out his ride further. He decked out the cabin in Recaro seats, Takata harnesses, NSX-R red carpet, and wrapped the door panels. The engine bay, frunk, and under the car saw additions of the Pride high-flow cat, headers and exhaust, Prospeed cold-air intake, and KCMachine battery tray with Shorai lithium ion battery. And outside, Jeff groomed the NA1's look with Downforce carbon side skirts and side scoop, custom LED tails, NSX-R carbon diffuser, and Seibon carbon roof cap, punctuated by Gram Lights 57Xtreme rollers in front of Rotora big brake kits front and rear. Altogether it was another $10k toward the bottom line.
Then came the reality check; Jeff competed in his first California show, Hot Import Nights in San Pedro, and looking around at that event realized there was another level to car show competition. "I met Michael Mao and Leon Casino and saw how detailed their builds were and knew I had to do more to get to their level," Nguyen admits. "I walked out of Hot Import Nights almost as a ghost; [my] car didn't get much attention or notice."
After HIN and the SS feature, Jeffrey was more driven than ever to raise his NSX's game, to get it to stand out more. High on his list of engine compartment to-dos during this time was to get that individual throttle body setup he dreamed of installed and dialed in, but the decision didn't come easily. "The response and the sound the [SOS ITB] kit makes is just intoxicating, and it looks beautiful," Nguyen says. "It's also different from the common turbo-/supercharger setup. However, I will say after doing the conversion, the money-to-horsepower ratio has got to be one of the worst. I could have spent half the cost and went with a supercharger kit and gotten double the horsepower; I still love the setup, and each and every time I drive the car, I smile."
Jeff's also got words for critics of the plenum-less conversion. "To those [who] say ITBs are difficult to tune or maintain, I've had the kit for five years now, driven it 250 miles across the Stateline several times, done mountain/canyon runs, and auto-crossed with them, and never had an issue. You just have to adjust them every six months and it's very simple to do. Hats off to SOS for the kit and my tuner Kyle LeBlanc (@kyletunedit)."
In addition to the SOS throttle bodies, the switchover necessitated Injector Dynamics 725cc injectors and AEM Series II aftermarket engine management; while tinkering on the power plant, Jeff installed SOS's coolant expansion and crankcase breather tanks, ARC titanium exhaust, NSX-R carbon engine cover, and knocked out a major tune up with new water pump, timing belt, and lost motion assemblies. Nguyen also sorted out handling with Route KS fore and aft braces, STMPO front chassis bar, GT Spec front and rear lower braces, Cedar Ridge rear tunnel brace, Comptech adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars, and SOS steering bushing kit. Cockpit upgrades from this era included an NSX-R shortened shifter, Cedar Ridge short shift kit, and Autovation pedals. By the end of 2015, Jeff was in the hole an additional $20k.
Oh yeah—Nguyen also got his hands on a pretty hard-to-find Backyard Special rear spoiler at this stage, an acquisition that comes with a story: "When I first contacted them, they said they discontinued the spoiler. I had to order five spoilers for them to restart production again! Luckily, they were easy to sell. Took me a year to get them but it was well worth it."
SEMA Or Bust
It is arguably every custom car builder's dream to one day make the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center for the annual SEMA Show, and the hero of our story wanted the same for his NA1. Jeff's chance came in 2018, when his buddy Ronne from importer TCM Japan got the car a feature spot at the trade show. Rather than double down on big mods to his machine, Nguyen decided to focus his energy on the details. With a self-proclaimed addiction to carbon fiber and titanium guiding the way, he set out to replace as many parts possible with those materials, and when he was done his wallet was another $25k lighter.
Finally in a position to score those legit Volk Racing TE37s he's always wanted, he opted for a set with some aggressive concave, which meant widening the fenders, but he didn't want to go too wide. Mark at Pride Carbon stepped in to help; the company had just developed their composite front and rear fenders, which have just a little flare but keep the original body lines. Pride also sent over their carbon-fiber engine duct while they were at it.
"I didn't want to leave the fenders in carbon, so we painted the majority of them but [left] a little exposed on each corner," Jeffrey points out. "We continued that theme with the [Seibon carbon] hood and trunk." Ray and Raul at Evolution Auto Body handled the respray of the entire car.
The wheels Jeff ordered were the TE37 Saga Time Attacks you see on the car in these photos, downsized to 17-in. front and 18-in. rear (the outgoing Gram Lights were 18-in. F, 19-in. R). Unfortunately, the front wheels didn't clear the Rotora 6-pot binders, but the brake company hooked up Nguyen with their 4-pot front and rear kit. The change took the calipers from red to silver with a red logo.
TCM Japan helped source the Do-Luck mirrors and OEM JDM taillights (which are a darker red), while Arc-Lighting custom fitted LED lights into those rears. Downforce got Jeff their carbon DF-R diffuser to swap out with the NSX-R version, Sport side vents to replace the DF-R vents, as well as the cowl and trunk lip spoiler. The NSX's rear valance went from Downforce to Seibon Carbon, and Jeff ditched the Backyard Special rear spoiler for the Do-Luck version.
Jeff wasn't simply replacing body bits at this point, though; he added a few new elements, like the Downforce carbon cowl and intake and APR Performance custom front splitter. Then Andrew at BX Built color corrected and sealed everything with ProCar ceramic coating for that extra measure of protection.
Mechanical embellishments at this stage included the titanium velocity stacks for Jeff's prized ITBs, which took Mazterpiece Automotive half a year to custom create. The engine bay also now features a Password:JDM carbon intake tube and the front trunk rocks Chasing Js titanium radiator shroud and cap. And we can't forget the Foundry3 rear titanium strut tower brace that now replaces the Route KS one.
The parts-swap bingo continued in the NA1's tight driver/passenger confines, Jeff going from Recaro to carbon-shelled Bride Vios IIIs; NRG hub to Work Bells hub and quick release; and Momo steering wheel to Mugen. NC Auto came up with the headliner, interior a- and b-pillars, center bulkhead, and center console trim pieces, all in carbon fiber, while Nguyen looks back via a ZOOM carbon rearview mirror. Lastly, Jeff picked up a Moddiction titanium shift knob, which complements nicely the Chasing Js titanium cluster trim enshrouding the gauges.
There comes a point in most builds where it's time to step back and take stock in all the hard work and countless hours put in, and in Jeffrey Nguyen's case the sheer number of parts that have been or currently are on his amazing 1991 Acura NSX. It's not to say there won't be any further evolution down the road, because like an artist the work is never complete. But as far as built NA1s go, this one certainly feels like it's achieved a perfect balance—a little racey, a little JDM, a little show queen, all excellent—that few cars ever realize. And thankfully Jeff feels the same; "This is my favorite version of the build, and I might be sticking with this look for a while."