We love the NSX – not our first time singing its praises – but modified cars we’ve seen tend to leave us cold (and it doesn’t help that we absolutely hate the facelifted look of the 2002+ models). This particular example is one of those scant few exceptions— perhaps the nicest we’ve ever seen, and one of the rare non-European cars you’ll see on this site that we could easily see ourselves settling on with nary a regret (which is really saying something). It looks every bit the business in BBS LMs and sober, monochromatic hues, and proves – as is the case time and time again – that when it comes to “tuning,” less really is more.
So you want one? Here’s what that buffest of auto buff books had to say about a privately-owned 1991 example they tested a couple of years ago:
As a testament to just how far Honda pushed the envelope with its 1991 Acura NSX, compare it with the most sophisticated machinery of today. That first NSX’s 3.0-liter V-6 made 270 horsepower and revved gloriously to its 8000-rpm redline. Almost 18 years later, BMW’s direct-injection 3.0-liter (in the Euro-only 330i) makes 268 horsepower.
The NSX’s lightweight aluminum sheetmetal surrounds a fascinating 3000-pound wedge that still looks fresh today (if you don’t count the tiny 15- and 16-inch wheels). Combined with first-rate comfort and ergonomics, and a docile, aluminum-intensive unequal-length control-arm suspension, it’s easy to see how the NSX quickly won our hearts as well as a distinguished victory over a Porsche 911, a Corvette ZR-1, and a Ferrari 348ts in a 1990 comparison test.
Having purchased this Formula Red example new in December 1990, it’s safe to say Ken Sax (which he amusingly writes “keN SaX”) of Evanston, Illinois, is quite familiar with his 78,000-mile car as he’s exercised it to the tune of 13,000 on-track miles. The car has held up well, mostly needing replacement of such predictable items as worn brake pads (25 front sets, 16 rears thus far) and chewed-up tires, although his NSX suffered a rare catastrophic engine failure caused by a broken harmonic-balancer pulley that led to a jump of the timing belt. Sax replaced the engine with a $4500 used one, which was the cheapest fix.
We all were impressed at how solid and modern his NSX felt. Sure, there were a few squeaks and rattles, but it rides forgivingly, is quiet, and still feels structurally sound. Sax’s car does have some minor scuffs in the interior and noticeable wear on the seat bolsters, which is common.
The manual steering is just as alive as we remembered, its on-track poise is phenomenal, and the five-speed manual’s short, precise throws are still a benchmark. Sure, a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.2 seconds doesn’t qualify as blazing anymore, but the flexible engine absolutely wails above 6000 rpm. We nominate it as the best-sounding V-6 ever.
From 1991 until it was discontinued in 2005, the NSX’s price ballooned from $60,600 to $89,765, even though it evolved very little. A targa model was added for ’95; a 290-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 and a six-speed manual were new for ’97; and the NSX got a fixed-headlight face lift for 2002. The ’97-and-newer cars still fetch $40,000 to $50,000, while the ’91–94 models have held steady in the range of $25,000 to $35,000 for almost 10 years.
By exotic-car standards, NSX ownership is painless, but there are a number of known problem areas—a faulty transmission snap ring and fragile power-window regulators on ’91 and ’92 models, as well as a history of rapid tire wear. So do your homework first. Be especially wary of the service history, as many lower-mile examples haven’t kept up with recommended maintenance such as timing-belt replacement. Fortunately, http://www.nsxprime.com houses a strong and knowledgeable owners’ community and is bursting with information.
The NSX was truly an exotic turned everyday friendly. It’s no wonder owners of these inexpensive, high-mileage cars are so enthusiastic.
— Dave VanderWerp
Image via tcl