Old Glories: Honda NSX History

The ‘antiferrari’: that’s how he was baptized in his time.

Honda NSX history: It appeared in 1990 but had been in the making for more than half a decade. That was the level of perfectionism of the Japanese back then. Honda executives had been caught between their eyebrows and competing with the Porsche 911 and Ferrari 328 GTB. And boy did they. With a jewel that left the world stunned when it was released and today has become one of those legendary and eternal old glories: Honda NSX, the ‘antiferrari,’ as it was known. A sports car whose first generation accumulated in 15 years a history full of curiosities and unconditional fans.

It is famous, for example, that the bodywork was based on work done with Pininfarina in 1984. But it is less well known that the cabin design, positioned far forward, bubble-shaped, and surrounded by glass, was inspired by the cockpit of the American F-16 fighter. 

The idea was that, like this one, it would give the pilot almost 360-degree visibility. Much more came from Formula 1 and other competitions that Honda was involved in those years.

Because the Honda NSX was a revolutionary car in many ways. The first, because it was the first mass-produced with an aluminum body. Something that made it very expensive, although it saved 200 kg of weight. But the suspension was also made of this same material. And according to Gordon Murray, creator of the McLaren F1, it was “impressive.” It is not for less since Ayrton Senna himself contributed to fine-tune it.

The engine was a 3.0-liter V6 DOCH VTEC with variable valve timing, 24 valves, and programmed multipoint injection, which delivered 270 hp and 283 Nm of torque at 5,400 rpm. With its five-speed manual transmission, its top speed was 270 km / h, and it accelerated from 0 to 100 km / h in 5.9 seconds. However, the incredible thing about this engine was the technology it displayed for the time: an eight-bit microprocessor to electronically control the throttle, the crankshaft, the temperature of the coolant, and the intake air. Also, an ignition system with a coil for each spark plug, like the one worn by the McLaren Formula 1 at the time. Or a sensor behind the camshaft for ignition, controlling that the spark was homogeneous and stable up to 8,000 revolutions.

All these innovations made it a car for true specialists. It is known that Gordon Murray took it as an inspiration for the McLaren F1, which he was developing at the time. “Although I thought I would have put a bigger engine on it because the chassis allowed it.

It is true that from the moment I drove the ‘little’ NSX, all the Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini that I had taken as references so far were they erased me from my mind, “he wrote years later in an article in which he acknowledged having ‘stolen’ various things from the Japanese for his masterpiece.

So far ahead was it for its time that it spent 15 years (until 2005) in production without really weighing it down? Only one restyling was needed, in 2001, basically to replace the eighties retractable headlights with light groups more in keeping with the moment. Then it was 10 years in the dry dock until the brand finally decided to give it another try, this time as a hybrid sports car. But that is another story that continues and picks up the baton of this grand old glory: Honda NSX history.

Credit: RCC Auto

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