Celebrating 30 Years Of The Honda NSX
Honda's legendary supercar celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
2020, while not the best year, marks the 30th anniversary of the Acura/Honda NSX. Honda didn't just take a whack at the original NSX - they hit a grand slam. The legendary supercar was developed with help from Ayrton Senna and used materials from a bullet train.
It's 1984, Wendy's asks "Where's the beef?", Michael Jackson's hair goes up in flames, and Honda engineers begin dabbling with some new concepts. The heart of these new experiments is a Honda City, the car that, believe it or not, started the NSX. One of the first NSX test mules was a cut-in-half Honda City with a mid-engine rear-wheel drive setup. Laps around a Honda-owned parking lot encouraged the Japanese company's engineers to carry on with the mid-engine layout.
Acura NS-X Concept
Engine Design - Past
Honda had numerous NSX test vehicles, with almost every single one of them being equipped with a different engine. Engineers experimented with all sorts of engines, but started with a 2.0 L V6 in the first HP-X (Honda Pininfarina eXperimental) prototype. Next they moved onto an existing Honda engine, the 2.7 L V6 from the then-current Honda Legend, and then onto a 3.0 L V6. The latter was equipped in 15 test models, but wasn't the decided-upon engine. Instead, Honda went for another 3.0 L V6, but rather than the previous 3.0's single overhead cam setup, this one was a double overhead camshaft engine.
At this time, Honda was developing their ingenious VTEC mechanism, a design that current-at-the-time president Tadashi Kume decided should be fitted in the NSX. Kume pushed for a VTEC-armed NSX and, thankfully, got his way. Without Kume, the legendary NSX wouldn't have its beastly 8000 RPM-capable 3.0 L DOHC (dual-overhead cam) V6 engine. Honda's VTEC VVT (Variable Valve Timing) system and titanium connecting rods granted the NSX 700 more screaming RPMs than the VTEC-less V6, which had a redline of 7300 RPM.
Acura NSX Engine
The NSX's previously mentioned 3.0 L V6 generated 270 horsepower (201 kW) and 210 lb-ft of torque (284 nm) when equipped with the 5-speed manual, and 252-hp (188 kW) and 210 lb-ft of torque (284 nm) when fitted with the automatic transmission.
Construction - Past
Using materials from the Shinkansen bullet train, the NSX was the first all-aluminum bodied car to be mass-produced. Its aluminum construction made the NSX more rigid and 440 pounds (200 Kilograms) lighter than if it had used traditional steel materials. Additionally, its aluminum body made it 50% stronger than the then-current Porsche 911.
Exterior and Interior Design - Past
Honda called upon Pininfarina - the known Ferrari designer - to design the NSX's exterior. The first-generation NSX has an abundance of wonderful design elements, those of which include a fender-molded spoiler, 5 spoke wheels, a black roof, and, best of all, pop up headlights. These pop up headlights and other styling cues were removed via refreshes throughout the first-gen NSX timeline.
Most intriguing, however, is the fighter jet cockpit. The roof and window area of the NSX was specifically designed to resemble a fighter jet cockpit and has no C-pillars.
1991 Honda NSX Interior
Ayrton Senna's Not-So-Positive Feedback
Three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna played a sizable role in the NSX's development. While testing a McLaren-Honda F1 car in 1989, Senna was asked to try the mid-engine supercar at Honda's Suzuka Circuit in Japan. Unfortunately, Senna's feedback wasn't so positive.
1991 Acura NSX
Essentially, Senna thought the NSX wasn't stiff enough. As a result of this and Senna-attended Nurburgring testing, Honda raised the NSX's stiffness by 50%. This increase allowed the perfect balance between performance and comfort.
After a 10-year absence, the NSX returned, and came with a similar concept: It's still a mid-engine supercar with a V6. Completely different areas include the drivetrain, suspension, styling and pricing.
Engine Design - Present
The NSX's engine is still unique, and combines a 3.5 L twin-turbo V6 gas engine with three electric motors. One motor is located within the 9-speed dual-clutch transmission which is, unfortunately, not a manual anymore, and is part of Acura's SH-AWD system. The two remaining motors are there to allow for better handling by instantly sending negative or positive torque to the front wheels during cornering.
This whole hybrid setup is what makes the second-gen NSX such a blast to drive - or it could be its 573 horsepower (427 kW) and 476 lb-ft of torque (645 nm) producing engine. This power also gives it the ability to do 0-60 mph in just 2.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of around 190 mph (306 kmh).
2019 Acura NSX Engine
Construction - Present
Similar to its predecessor, the NSX of today is largely made of aluminum, but incorporates high-strength steel and other lightweight materials to make it rigid.
Exterior and Interior Design - Present
Acura's first female designer, Michelle Christensen, was the lead designer of the second-gen NSX. The interior really just has an updated version of the original NSX's cabin, excluding the fighter jet capsule, and has the same pushed forward dashboard, steering wheel shape, and seating position.
2019 Acura NSX Interior
Moving to the exterior, it has a more futuristic design, with a more rounded overall architecture. Unlike some of its competitors, the current NSX isn't overly aggressive, but also doesn't have the same striking design of comparable Porsche models.
Production - Past and Present
After 6 years of development and perfecting, the first-generation hit dealerships in 1990. Production consisted of 200 highly-skilled Honda employees with a minimum of 10 years experience. The NSX started at $62,000 (£47600.77) back in 1991, a figure that is equivalent to a staggering $116,000 (£134,111.64) in today's money. Don't be shocked though, a 1999 Acura NSX Zanardi Edition with 12,000 miles (19312.128 km) on it just sold for upwards of $200,000 (£153570.00)!
1991 Acura NSX Rear
Following first discussions in 2007, the second-generation Honda/Acura NSX went on sale in 2017 with a controversial starting price of over $155,000, making it the most expensive Acura ever produced. After selling just 2 units in 2019, the NSX was discontinued for Australia.
Acura Advanced Sports Car Concept (NSX Concept)
Worldwide sales topped 18,000 by the first-gen NSX's end in 2005. After numerous specialized variants like the '92 NSX-R, '95 NSX-T, and '97 NSX Type S, the NSX came to an end. As with movie sequels, the second generation NSX has not done nearly as well as its predecessor, and has only sold roughly 2000 units so far.
While the present-day NSX is packed with corner-perfecting technology and holds onto its heritage more than most, the NSX of the past is a masterpiece. With revolutionary construction, input from Ayrton Senna, and designers that weren't afraid to get risky, the original NSX was a true motoring machine.