The History of the NSX

Old 08-27-2008, 11:15 AM
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The History of the NSX

The Acura NSX- A Brief History
Source: wikipedia

a 2002+ Acura NSX


The production NSX was designed by a team led by Chief Designer Ken Okuyama and Executive Chief Engineer Shigeru Uehara, who was also in charge of the S2000 project. Its first public appearances as the NS-X were at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1989, and at the Tokyo Motor Show in October 1989.[2]

Japanese Formula One driver Satoru Nakajima was involved with the NSX's development, performing many duties related to chassis tuning. Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna and American Bobby Rahal also participated in the car's development.[3] Senna was given a NSX by Honda, although details of this car and its fate are unclear.

Honda's breakthrough engineering in the NSX was a major contributor to the design of the McLaren F1 as mentioned in an interview with McLaren designer Gordon Murray. [4] "The moment I drove the NSX, all the benchmark cars--Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini--I had been using as references in the development of my car vanished from my mind. Of course the car we would create, the McLaren F1, needed to be faster than the NSX, but the NSX's ride quality and handling would become our new design target." The NSX was also the world's first all-aluminum and aluminum monocoque chassis production car, and was also marketed as the "Everyday Supercar" thanks in part to its ease of use, quality and reliability, traits that were unheard of in the supercar segment at the time.

Manufacture and release

Upon its release in 1990, the NSX was a design ahead of its time, at only 1170 mm (46.1 in) in height only 141.3 mm (6 in) taller than the legendary Ford GT40. The car showcased Honda's racing technology, exemplified by the NSX's ultra-rigid, ultra-light aluminium monocoque chassis, aluminium suspension, titanium connecting rods, forged pistons and high-revving capabilities the redline was at a lofty 8,000 rpm. Today it is still known by many as the most reliable exotic car with many examples exceeding 100,000 miles without any reliability issues. The car's strong chassis rigidity and cornering/handling capabilities were the results of Ayrton Senna's direct input with NSX's chief engineers while testing at the Honda owned Suzuka Circuit during its final development stages.[3] The NSX was initially assembled at the purpose-built Takanezawa R&D Plant in Tochigi from 1989 to early 2004, when it was moved to Suzuka Plant for the remainder of its production life. The cars were assembled by approximately 200 experienced, hand-picked staff from various Honda factories. Honda designed the NSX in search of the perfect balance between power and reliability and thus produced a powerful naturally aspirated engine suitable for the abuse of road racing.

One of the first magazine articles show the lightweight 3.0L 270 HP NSX producing a best 0-60 mp/h time of 5.03 seconds and 13.47 seconds for the quarter mile.[5]

Also on a Ferrari 348 to NSX comparison, a 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds was recorded for the 1991 NSX.[6] This Ferrari level performance made the NSX known as the "First Japanese Exotic Super car".

Wheels magazine Australia awarded the Honda NSX the 1991 Car of the Year award.
A Honda NSX engine bay.
A Honda NSX engine bay.

Despite the current age of the NSX, it still has a strong base of fans and supporters. Honda and many NSX enthusiasts describe the vehicle as a supercar based on its body type, drivetrain layout, low seating position, packaging, and especially car handling. Others disagree, claiming the NSX does not qualify for exotic car/supercar status because the car's power rating is not as high as modern supercars, although its rated 270 horsepower (200 kW) at debut in 1990 was only 30 horsepower (22 kW) shy of the 300 lb (136 kg) heavier Ferrari 348, the NSX's direct rival. Because of its lighter weight, the NSX was slightly faster than the 348 in straight-line acceleration. At one time, it featured the highest per-litre specific output of any road-going naturally aspirated V6 engine in the world, and even now it is exceptionally fast for the motor's relatively low power output versus comparable "supercars." Post-1997 3.2 L North American Acura examples are known to achieve a 13.3 second quarter-mile time [7] (1997-2005 model year NSX-T; the 149 lb (68 kg) lighter Zanardi Edition NSX is closer to 13.2 seconds [8]), while the Japanese NSX-R (2002+) is known to perform a 12.9 second quarter-mile time. This ability is a result of the high 8,000 rpm redline, flat power curve, short gear ratios, light weight and mid-engine layout, along with the light power increase.

On July 20, 2005, days after the announcement of the closure of current NSX production, Honda CEO Takeo Fukui announced that a new NSX was under development and would sport a Formula One-inspired V10 motor, with speculation that it might have the SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) system introduced on the Acura RL. In addition, he stated it would be ready within three to four years. The last US production model NSX was sold in the summer of 2006 in Spokane, Washington. It was originally supposed to be put in Honda's museum, but was not. Jay Leno also showed interest in the car, but backed down so it was shipped to Spokane and sold.

First Generation NSX-R (JDM)

Beginning in 1992 Honda produced a limited number of 483 NSX-Rs exclusively for the Japanese domestic market (JDM). Major changes include a blueprinted engine producing 280 bhp (209 kW) in stock form, a different final ratio for the gearbox, a more aggressive suspension and an extensive weight reduction to 1230 kg (2712 lb) from 1350 kg (2976 lb). The NSX-R was very track oriented as it lacked sound deadening, audio and air conditioning in an effort to reduce weight. However, these items were available for a hefty premium as optional items. Production ended in 1994.


In 1995 the NSX-T with a targa top roof was released in Japan as a special order option. In North America, the NSX-T replaced the standard coupe entirely as the only trim available, with the notable exceptions of the Zanardi Edition NSX in 1999 and a handful of special ordered post-1997/pre-2002 3.2 liter coupes. The removable roof reduced the chassis rigidity of the NSX and added about 100 pounds (45 kg) of structural reinforcements. In addition to this major change, the suspensions have also been softened to improve ride, comfort, and tire wear, at the expense of ultimate handling. The suspension redesign was also intended to reduce the sudden-oversteer problems that plagued most mid-engined vehicles. All roofs were now body-colored instead of black, although in Japan the two-tone black roof/body color was still available as an optional feature. Finally available in the manual transmission version NSX was electric power steering, previously found in the automatic version exclusively.

1997 Performance-Enhancing Changes (Worldwide)

1997 brought the biggest changes to the performance of the current generation NSX for the Japanese domestic versions and abroad. For 1997 engine displacement increased from 3.0 L to 3.2 L. This new 3.2 L C32B engine gave it slightly more rated power: from 270 hp (201 kW) to 292 hp (218 kW) while torque increased from 210 lbft (285 Nm) to 224 lbft (304 Nm) (manual transmission only). The 4-speed automatic model still used the 3.0 litre engine and power output. Another big change was the adoption of the 6-speed manual transmission. The combination of slightly-increased power and torque, 6-speed manual gearbox, and optimized gear ratio produced improved straight-line acceleration. The new NSX rang up better numbers than the power and torque improvements may suggest over previous model NSXs. 0-60 mph time dropped from 5.4 seconds to as low as 5.0 seconds for the NSX-S Zero. Other notable changes include a brake rotor size increase from 12 inches (305 mm) to 13 inches (330 mm) which necessitated larger wheels and tires, a new aluminium alloy to further reduce weight and increase rigidity, and a transponder in the key.

NSX-S, S-Zero (JDM)

Along with the engine enlargement in 1997, Japan exclusively received the NSX type S (NSX-S) and NSX type S Zero (NSX-S-Zero), weighing in at 1320 kg (2910 lb) and 1280 kg (2822 lb) respectively. Both had a stiffer suspension than the normal NSX.

Unlike the standard Type S, the S-Zero does not offer Air Conditioning, navigation, and stereo system as an option. The suspension is stiffer than the standard Type S by using the NA1 Type R (1992 to 1995) suspension. The Best Motoring did a sub 12.4x second 1/4 mile, which is quite a remarkable achievement when compared to cars such as the Ferrari F355 and Porsche 996 Turbo. Changes were also made to the interior's manual transmission boot shifter, replacing the original material from leather to mesh to save approx .28 grams.

Alex Zanardi Edition NSX

Produced exclusively for the United States, the Alex Zanardi Edition NSX was introduced in 1999 to commemorate Alex Zanardi's two back-to-back CART Champ Car championship wins for Honda / Acura in 1997 and 1998. Only fifty-one examples were built, and they were available only in New Formula Red to reflect the colour of the Champ Car Zanardi drove for Chip Ganassi Racing.

The Zanardi Edition was similar to the Japanese market NSX Type S. Visible differences between the Zanardi Edition and the Type S were the Zanardi's left-hand drive, black leather and suede seats with red stitching, airbag-equipped Acura steering wheel, and a brushed-aluminium plaque with an engraved Acura logo, Zanardi's signature, and a serial number on the rear bulkhead.

Zanardi Number 0 was a press car that also appeared in auto shows across the country. In a handling test in Road and Track's June 1999 issue, this Zanardi NSX placed second against the Dodge Viper GTS-R, Lotus Esprit, Porsche 911 Carrera 4, Ferrari F355 Spyder, and Chevrolet Corvette C5 Coupe. The car was also featured in Car and Driver's July 1999 issue before being sold to a private individual.

Zanardi Number 1 belongs to Zanardi himself and was not given a North American VIN. The car is rumored to have been modified by Honda with hand-activated throttle, braking, and shifting mechanisms to accommodate Zanardi's paraplegia resulting from his Lausitzring crash in 2001.

Zanardi numbers 2 through 50 were sold to the general public through dealers.

"Facelifted" NSX (Worldwide)

The biggest exterior changes for the NSX came in 2002 when it received a facelift with fixed headlights and various other cosmetic refinements such as xenon HID headlamps (see above photo). The fixed roof NSX was dropped for the 2002 model year. The suspension was revised and the NSX received larger wheels and tires. In addition, the NSX was available in a number of exterior colors with either a matching or black interior to provide a number of possible color combinations.

Second Generation NSX-R (JDM)

A second iteration of the Type-R dubbed NSX-R was released in 2002, again exclusively in Japan. The NSX-R has a more aggressive rear spoiler and hood vent, along with various refinements to reduce weight to 1270 kg (2800 lb). The rear spoiler was said to be the largest one-piece carbon-fibre spoiler in production cars. Under the body, panels and air fences in the front along with a small rear diffuser serve to produce balanced "negative lift" or downforce. The subtle changes along with its renowned handling have kept NSX-R competitive on the track even against considerably higher-powered cars.

A more agile, more responsive, and quicker limited edition NSX called the NSX-R GT was later released. This model was limited to a production run of five cars. This NSX was created to help Honda comply with the Super GT production-based race car homologation requirements. It is easily identifiable by the non-functional snorkel attached to the roof of the car (the snorkel is fully functional in the Super GT race cars), lower and widened body, and more aggressive aerodynamic components.

Second Generation NSX-S (JDM)

The second iteration NSX-S, sold exclusively in Japan, continues with the face-lifted NSX keeping the weight at 1320 kg (2910 lb).
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