The road-car NSX gives race-bred performance. But has this cult supercar character enough to be a compelling classic?
Prodigious. That’s the level of ability of this supercar from Honda. You can trickle it around town forever, and it’ll never overheat or let you down. It’ll always start from cold, warm or hot. And the auto gearbox makes it completely useable, to the extent you’d lend it to your mum. And there’s the top problem for this nigh-perfect coupé. You’d lend it to your mum because, like any Honda, anyone could drive it.
But surely the character of a supercar should be that it requires some degree of skill to pilot? The notion of a supercar is that it makes greater requirements of that pilot, so they can fully appreciate – and then exploit – the performance advantage driving a supercar affords. Yet the NSX is the consummate sheep in wolf’s clothing.Styling is toned down, anyone can drive one, but only the truly committed will get close to appreciating the car’s serious virtue, so well does it hide it.
No matter. At 20-odd years old, this Japanese coupé can still cut it on the road, as a cognoscenti choice and now, as a serious classic alternative: and prices are still accessable.
Power (bhp@rpm) 255bhp@6800rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 135lb/ft@3500rpm
Top speed 158mph
Gearbox 4-speed automatic
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
There’s little to check in the way of bodywork nasties on an NSX – it’s aluminium – save for the usual probems facing high powered supercars. The car should not be an accident-repaired example but a cherished, never been off the road one. Paying for an HPI check on something at 20 years old is an unusual thing to advise, but it’s peace of mind for a prospective buyer.
Also, check the door hinges for wear, especially on the driver’s door. Plus gas struts can weaken where they hold the lids up front and rear. A close examination of the forward facing sections of the panelwork may reveal stone chips – some owners have clear polymer self-adhesive film fitted to ‘protect the paint’ but it also works well to disguise higher mileage. Tell-tale dirt marks where it may have existed (rear arches, around lower front-end) should be microscopically examined. Windscreens can delaminate, and replacing one is an expensive task. Examine the bumpers for repaired scrapes.
The engine is a stunning gem. It is all alloy construction, yet has a bulletproof mien that allows owners to leave the cars for over a year, jump in them and take them on 200-mile journeys with no complaints. Coolant needs to be good quality and changed to maker’s spec, to avoid long-term particulate build-up in the alloy waterways. Also, check the car has a full service history with experienced Honda main-agents. There are few specialists around for these, and unusually, the maker’s garages seem to actually care and work diligently on these cars even as they age.
The tyres are known to wear fast, with barely 10,000 miles achieved between (expensive) re-rubbering at each corner. Then you’re facing the usual items that might cause problems on a 160mph car – brake discs and pads can need replacement, radiators begin to age and electrical connections can start to cause intermittent problems. Ensure your potential purchase has every item working before parting with any cash. Standard-fit in-car-entertainment was of good quality, but many cars are now fitted with aftermarket CD players, sometimes of dubious merit and quality. Try and refit the factory equipment to keep the car’s value higher.
The NSX is rare – only 6000 per year were built. Buy one, and you’ll have a car that makes you feel truly special, but one that in these straightened financial times doesn’t make you look like you’re flaunting excess cash. As a mid-engined ownership proposition it is cheaper to run than Porsche or Ferrari contemporaries, and comes closer to making sense as a sole classic/everyday purchase than possibly any other 20-year old-car. It’s classless, can fit in at a track day or classic show. Plus you can fit loads of luggage in it. And that can’t be a bad thing.