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Honda NSX

Senna’s Sports Car Published: 6th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Post - 98 3.2 manual
  • Worst model: They’re all good
  • Budget buy: Early 3.0 auto import
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 4425 mm x 1810 mm
  • Spares situation: Dealers and from USA
  • DIY ease?: Not for the faint hearted
  • Club support: Good
  • Appreciating asset?: Yes owing to rarity and desirability
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Good if carefully vetted
Striking lines of the NSX have aged well and it still cuts a dash – most are fooled into thinking it’s a Ferrari! Striking lines of the NSX have aged well and it still cuts a dash – most are fooled into thinking it’s a Ferrari!
Interior is well equipped although doesn’t feel that special. Look for water damage on T bar models and duff windows Interior is well equipped although doesn’t feel that special. Look for water damage on T bar models and duff windows
Interior is well equipped although doesn’t feel that special. Look for water damage on T bar models and duff windows Interior is well equipped although doesn’t feel that special. Look for water damage on T bar models and duff windows
A lovely looker - panel gaps and paint should be perfect on a good car. There’s a lot of custom gear around A lovely looker - panel gaps and paint should be perfect on a good car. There’s a lot of custom gear around
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Developed by Grand Prix legend the late Ayrton Senna, the brilliant Honda NSX looks and goes like a Ferrari yet is as easy to run as an Escort LX!

Pros & Cons

Practical supercar
Very little
£10,000 – 55,000

On the one hand Honda was known for high–revving motorbikes of all sizes, on the other, somewhat surprisingly, rather boring yet highly reliable cars for grey-tops living in God’s waiting room. Admittedly there are some high performance cars in Honda’s genes; the little 360s, 600s and 800s with twin-overhead camshaft, quadruple carburettor engines and more recently the ‘R’ versions of the Accord, Integra, and Civic. Honda only made its fi rst product, a motor assisted bicycle, the A-Type as recently as 1947 but in the next 40 years became very powerful with huge research and development resources. From the day it was launched the Honda NSX, with its all aluminium construction,  Grand Prix heritage and Ayrton Senna input was destined to be a true classic very quickly. The fact that it was made in very small numbers and for a relatively short period makes it even more desirable.

History

Senna thought original was too racy!

The father of Honda Motor Company, Soichiro was born in 1906 and during a happy childhood inherited a manual dexterity and curiosity about machines from his blacksmith father Gihei. Soichiro left elementary school in April 1922 and joined Art Shokai, an automobile servicing company. He worked hard and impressed his boss who gave him more authority and Soichiro not only learned engineering but also customer relations and business methods. All this would equip him well for the future. He worked for Art Shokai for many years and even raced its cars but it was in 1946 that he fi nally set up his own company making power assisted bicycles which were launched to the public in 1947. Over the next few years the cycles became motorbikes and it wasn’t until 1960 that Honda fi rst produced a four wheel vehicle, a small truck. The engine from this was used in the fi rst car in 1962, the 360 a small opentop sports car which developed over the next 4 years through the S600 into the S800, first shown at the 1966 Earls Court Show. This sold well until 1970 when Honda developed the CVCC engine which helped provide its World-wide success. The NSX is a limited edition all-aluminium (even the seat runners!) supercar with a normallyaspirated V6 engine located behind the driver. It was really developed to raise awareness of Honda’s prestige brand, Acura in the USA although Acura’s original advertising claimed that In the mid-eighties Soichiro Honda decided that his engineers needed some action at the track and the NSX was created right next to Honda’s proving ground over several years. They set out to develop an exotic, radical yet stunningly practical sports car.

It is common knowledge that Ayrton Senna had a major input to the development of the NSX but it is less well known that (according to Honda’s press offi ce) Honda actually lengthened the wheelbase as Senna felt it was too ‘twitchy’ – acceptable for racing drivers but a little dangerous for the average wealthy American. The car was fi rst shown in 1989 although launched in the UK in January1991. Early cars had 271bhp naturally-aspirated 3 litre V6 allaluminium engines with either a five-speed manual box or four-speed automatic. Various small upgrades were made until July 1995 when a ‘Targa’ version was added. February1998 saw a signifi cant ‘facelift’ and the manual version engine was increased to 3.2 and 277 bhp with a sixth ratio added. The four-speed F – matic version’s power was reduced to 253 bhp. Finally, in 2002 the ‘pop–up’ headlamps gave way to faired-in units and 17” alloy wheels were fi tted. At that time £10,000 was knocked off the price which must have seriously annoyed current owners. There was a limited edition hardcore, strippedout version the NSX-R which was launched in 1992 but unfortunately not imported into the UK despite being right hand drive.

Driving

Sports cars have a moved a long way since the late-eighties yet even now the driving experience of this car is as good as any supercar currently available. The Ayrton Senna ‘touch’ is unmistakeable and despite just six cylinders, only 3.2-litres and no turbo, it goes like a rocket. It feels like a racing car rather than one for the road yet it is extremely smooth and quiet with an amazingly compliant ride. While the enthusiasts go for the manual, the four-speed automatic is very impressive and will change speeds quicker and more smoothly than any enthusiast with a manual box. The manual version has been road tested at 172 mph with 0-60 mph in 4.8 and 0-100 in just 10.9 seconds. The only problem as a daily driver is the lack of storage space in the cabin – there is not even a place for a map although the boot is perfectly adequate for two.

Prices

NSX prices start at around £10,000 for cars privately advertised in the likes of Autotrader, Top Marques or Exchange and Mart but it is likely that many, if not all of the cheaper cars are imports. There may nothing wrong with an import if it is a long-term purchase but imports are always more diffi cult to sell. Glass’s Guide still lists early NSXs at £20,400 for a 1999 Coupé manual with 80,000 miles on the clock up to £30,725 for a 2002 example with 61,000 miles. Honda dealers still have a few NSXs in their stocks but these tend to be the latest 05 models at prices up to £55,000.

What To Look For

  • The NSX is carefully engineered and beautifully hand-built. Despite being such a specialist car it still conforms to Honda’s very high levels of reliability. Provided you buy a car with a full dealer service history and continue to have the car serviced by a specialist dealer, you will fi nd that little will go wrong.
  • The beautifully built engine is durable but it is absolutely essential for cam belt to be changed at least every 72,000 miles as the engines are expensive to rebuild. When changing timing belts all belts should be replaced as well as the water pump.
  • Both automatic and manual gear boxes trouble free Clutches on manual cars might only last 30,000 miles and cost £1,750 to replace.
  • To achieve perfect handling rear suspension set up with tow-in which wears tyres rapidly lasting around 6000 miles. Tyres by supercar standards not so expensive at £150 –175.
  • There are benefi ts of the aluminium bodywork but panels are fragile and expensive to replace. The bodies are hand-built so you should check panel gaps are perfect as anything less than a perfect fi t could suggest the car has been in an accident!
  • Very low stance reduces ground clearance and also oil cooler is very vulnerable positioned behind the air intake. An after market grille can be fi tted behind the air intake. Also rear suspension can sustain damage.
  • This is a highly sophisticated car and the electronic systems do not respond well to long spells of storage particularly in high humidity garages. A dehumidifi er is a good idea.
  • Some say that the interior is not up to the exterior styling but the materials are high-quality and it is well put together.
  • The leather seats do respond well to frequent applications of hide food to keep them supple.
  • Electric windows are one of the few weak points as the mechanisms are prone to breaking. Repair requires complete door strip-down which is time consuming and costly.
  • The stereo system has three amplifi ers any of which can burn out and as they are hand built, big bills can result.
  • Some NSX owners do seem to like to modify their car so establish that everything is standard and watch out particularly for cars which have been lowered as underside damage often results.
  • Lots of upgrades available particularly from the USA where the car is sold under Honda’s prestige Acura banner.
  • Just 400 NSXs have been sold in the UK against thousands of the Acura version in the USA.

Three Of A Kind

Porsche 911
Porsche 911
In many ways the nearest rival to the NSX as it is similarly bullet-proof and practical as everyday driver. However, modern Porsches bring out the worst in some other road users whereas NSX only causes admiration and curiosity. Because of greater rarity NSX might appreciate better.
Ferrari F 355
Ferrari F 355
Similar performance and handling but not really a practical everyday car. It will cost much more to run than the NSX as it will go wrong more often and is actually more complex and will therefore cost more to repair with much higher parts and labour costs. More aggressive Ferrari image preferred by some but NSX much more discreet.
Jaguar XKR
Jaguar XKR
Fast becoming a classic and like the NSX can be coupé or open car but unlike NSX does not have the option of a manual gearbox. However, considerably more power than the NSX although owing to weight no quicker. Handling not in the same class as NSX but even more practical.

Verdict

The Honda NSX is known as the ‘sensible supercar’ - Ferrari performance and driving experience with much lower running costs and near Civic convenience. It is vital that any car purchased has a full Honda service history and if possible one of the excellent Honda warranties in which case the car will be a joy to own. It is interesting that NSX owners tend to hold on to their cars whereas Ferraris change hands at regular intervals. The NSX will create big interest wherever it goes without giving any negative image that can sometimes go with certain second-hand supercars.



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