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The First Generation Honda NSX

Supercars of the 1990's

1989-1990- Fresh Prince of Bel-Air comes on screen, a legend is born. The Honda NSX (Acura NSX in the U.S. Market).

The powerhouse, the first-generation Honda NSX! What a vehicle to dream about. NSX stands for N-New, S-Sportscar, X- eXperminetal. The first-generation NSX had a decent manufacturing lifespan that started in 1989 and ended in 2005 for the 1st gen model. It was designed by a veteran car design team lead by a powerhouse duo, Chief Designer Masahito Nakano and his Executive Chief Engineer Shigeru Uehara and their team.

The NSX holds the reigns of becoming the first-ever, mass-produced, all-aluminum body vehicle in the world. The flow of the lines and overall design is what makes it very desirable, even in today’s fast-paced, technologically driven vehicle designs. It was designed after Uehara studied the F-16 fighting falcon, annotating the spectacular 360-degree view that was achieved from within the cockpit of the fighter jet. The paint of the NSX had a dedicated 23 step process, that included a chromate coating specifically for the sole protection of the aluminum body.

The interior ergonomics of the NSX are definitely era-appropriate. With classic easily readable gauges for when you’re traveling at the stock top speed of 167.8 mph listening to your favorite adrenaline-producing tracks. Just like the outer body of the NSX, the interior was also inspired by the monstrous F-16 fighter. The wide dash that swoops down towards the waist provides a sense of control as you shift through gears effortlessly. The seats are nothing short of excellent design. They are both soft, functional, and electronically controlled for your perfect posture. The seats provide enough cushion to alleviate any potential back pain you may encounter compared to other seats that are on the thinner end of the comfortability spectrum.

Now, the goodies of the NSX. The SECRET SAUCE that makes this beauty purr like it got a hold of a “yuuge” bag of catnip. The engine, let’s get the details straight. For the most part, every few years, the Honda NSX was upgraded via performance enhancements. Let’s dig into each year.

The 1990 NSX paved the industry when it comes to performance. At that time, It was the first production vehicle that utilized titanium connecting rods in the engine. With its mid-engine design, the NSX offered two powertrain options. The first was an all-aluminum, lightweight 3.0 liter, 24-valve, DOHC, 90 Degree six-cylinder (V6) engine with a standard (manual) 5 speed, close-ratio transmission able to produce 270 Buffhorses (shout out to Donut!) and 210 lb-ft of torque! Talk about speed racer!

Photo Credit topspeed.com

The second option that NSX provided right off the production line is the 3.0 liter, 24-valve, six-cylinder (V6) with a sequential SportShift automatic transmission that generated not as buff, 252 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque (284.7218Nm).

Photo Credit: topspeed.com

Of course, due to the constant need for more power, Honda already performance-upgraded the already powerful engine to produce 280 Brake Horse Power (BHP) and subsequently put a nice -R behind the name. Hence the NSX-R, which was was offered for a limited time starting in 1992. Additionally, the NSX-R featured tuned suspension, a custom steering wheel manufactured by MOMO Performace Racing that was founded by gentleman racer Gianpiero Moretti, not to be confused with the dreaded MOMO meme. One of the most critical aspects of the 1992 model of the Honda NSX-R was the substantial weight reduction of approximately 264 lb (119 kg for all of our rest of the world friends) weighing in at 2711 lbs (5976 kg) compared to the original weight of 2976 lbs (6561 kg)

1995- Golden Eye makes you feel like a double agent. The NSX makes you feel like a superstar.

Traveling to the future, in 1995 the NSX was unveiled with a Targa Top!, coined the NSX-T. Feeling the wind blow through your hair would come at the cost of adding 100 lbs (45.3 kg). In 1995, the only version available in the Continental United States was the NSX-T and not the beloved coup version. The NSX-T did come with a hefty price tag at that time of $94,900! In 2019 money, that’s a whopping $159,767.64, you’d need deep pockets for this one.

The NSX-T is a six-cylinder (V6), Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) 3.0 liter beast of a machine capable of producing 270 Horse Power at a whopping 7100 RPM and a torque of 210 lbs-ft (284.72Nm) of torque at 5,300 RPM capable of 0 to 60 MPH (96.5km) in 5.7 seconds. Although the Targa top reduced rigidity of the NSX, it allowed for a new breath of cult-like following.

The interior of the NSX-T also received significant upgrades featuring Recaro Seats! Even today, Recaro is considered top of the line seat. Additionally, the NSX-T was manufactured with a chrome shift know, silver-plated radio and cd panels, power driver and passenger windows, rear power window for engine viewing pleasure and a leather dashboard. Classy is an understatement at this point.

1997- The year of the Titanic Movie and Tiger Woods crowning as the youngest golfer to win the Masters in the history of golf.

Even though we watched the Titanic sink on the big screen, and celebrated a historic golf win before scandals and tabloids went mainstream, the 1997 NSX received the first engine upgrade beyond basic performance modifications. The beloved 3.0-liter engine was upgraded to 3.2 liter! Resulting in an increase of horsepower from 270 hp to 290 hp. Subsequently, this increased peak torque output from 210 lbs-ft (284.72Nm) to 224lbs-ft (303.70Nm). With the addition of a 6-speed standard (manual) transmission, the NSX was capable of 0-60MPH (96.5km) in a staggering 5 seconds.

Additionally, the NSX received upgrades such as pins for the crankshaft, piston pins, stronger gaskets, lighter aluminum body, 16 inches (40.64cm) front and rear brake rotors, Better aerodynamics by utilization of lower skirts, improved electronic steering, F-Matic shift control improvements, heat, and UV blocking glass, HID Headlights and a navigation system and custom-ordered BBS aluminum wheels. For the manual transmission version, the NSX received stainless steel exhaust manifold, Dual-Mass Flywheel, and a stronger suspension.

1999 NSX – The Alex Zanardi Edition

One of the rare NSX’s out there as only 50 were made exclusively for the U.S. Domestic Market. With formula red paint, lighter chassis weighing in at and a champion name behind it, this version today would cost you a pretty penny, estimated at 6 figures. The car was available only in New Formula Red to reflect the color of the Champ Car Zanardi drove for Chip Ganassi Racing. There is an excellent blog about a rescue of the #34 out of 50, check it out on Hagerty here.

2002 – Honda NSX Type -R, The last of the generation.

Since the inception of the vehicle and technological evolvement of the powertrain and drivetrain, the NSX’s last generation of the beloved 90’s sportscar was coming to a close. Closing out this chapter in the life of the First-Gen NSX, Honda released a new “Type-R” NSX, the company challenged engineers to make the NSX more aerodynamic, and increase high-speed cornering, turn-ins, breaking and the vehicles handling mechanism by introducing “aerodynamically-induced stability.” This, coupled with numerous other improvements, resulted in a bond-like, man-to-car synchronization. The feeling of control increased high-speed cornering confidence, and vehicle controllability.

Although the adoption of the 3.2-liter engine, a combination of a 6-speed manual transmission with wide tires in a stock form allowed for a higher hp output speed and control, mandated environmental and safety measures increased the weight of the vehicle and decreased performance potential, pushing enthusiasts away.

At the end of 2005, North American production models were discontinued, paving the way for historic preservation of these classic vehicles rarely seen on the road today. It takes a rough and tough individual to own the first generation of the NSX, as it takes a significant amount of time, money, sweat and of course, tears to ensure that the heritage never dies.

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