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Honda NSX: Buying guide and review (1990-2005)

Honda NSX side Honda NSX front Honda NSX rear Honda NSX interior
Japan’s riposte to Ferrari was born into the era when McLaren (powered by Honda) dominated F1 and Ferrari, very much pre-Schumacher, was second best. And the NSX, Honda’s first supercar, wiped the floor with Ferrari’s 348 dynamically. It was the world’s first aluminium monocoque production car, honed by Ayrton Senna himself.
Honda did the smart thing and played to its strengths, combining a sensational, high-revving 3.0-litre V6 with a super-stiff and lightweight aluminium body, and ensuring it was reliable and easy to drive. The fact that, at the time, Ferrari was suffering with unreliability issues only helped the cause: Honda had the opportunity to repeat what it had done in F1 and beat the Italians at their own game. 
The NSX had its own purpose-built production facility in Tochigi, Japan. The idea was to separate the supercar from its other cars, maintaining sterile manufacturing conditions to ensure perfect build quality. McLaren even let Senna loose in the NSX at a Suzuka test session in 1989. He drove the development mule and suggested that, among other things, the car’s body didn’t feel rigid enough. 
With this in mind, Honda worked hard on reinforcing the NSX’s already strong aluminium shell and, in doing so, unlocked the key to better body control, ride quality and refinement. 
When launched, the NSX proved supercars needn’t be the impractical, unreliable monsters of old. The same is true today – only now the bidding starts at very ordinary money. 
Which one to buy?
The NSX was never a big seller, especially in the UK, but there is a healthy supply of 3.0-litre cars around. Imports are not uncommon, but generally don’t drastically differ in price. It remained in production for 15 years, and by 2005 the Japanese supercar was struggling to keep up with the competition. 
Early cars, which are the most common and easiest to find, came with a 3.0-litre V6 engine producing 276bhp. An automatic version was offered, and proved surprisingly popular in Japan, although power was reduced to 242bhp. 
Although no convertible NSX was offered, from 1995 a removable targa top roof panel was fitted to the NSX-T. Two hardcore models were built, the original NSX-R in 1992, and the later Type R in 2003. Both are incredibly rare and difficult to find, with only a very small number known to be in the UK. 
Later examples, especially the facelift cars, are quite thin on the ground and are the best resolved. Although the official power output remained unchanged, it’s thought that these examples were producing well in excess of 320bhp.
Common problems
• Although it is extremely reliable, the NSX does have a few areas that need to be carefully checked. 
• Certain 1990-1992 models had a weakness in the transmission countershaft bearing, with a ring that could snap, leading to eventual catastrophic gearbox failure. It’s worth checking the transmission’s VIN number with a specialist to see if it will be affected, but warning signs include a howling noise on acceleration, or jumping out of gear.
• Coolant reservoirs are notoriously leaky, but surprisingly cheap to replace. Be sure that none of the 23 coolant hoses is cracked, brittle or hard, that there’s no hardened coolant near their ends. Also look for non-original hose clips. You have to ask why they weren’t changed properly and who carried out the work?
• While it may seem obvious, it’s absolutely vital to check the oil. It should be changed at 9000-mile intervals or every year, and if it’s not clean you should question the car’s maintenance schedule.
• Servicing isn’t expensive in supercar terms, but it must be done every year. 
• The timing belt must be replaced every 90,000 miles or 72 months, so it’s something you probably only have to worry about once, although you should take that into account if you’re buying one that needs doing. It’s a good idea to do the water pump at the same time, which bumps the price up to about £1000. 
• If the car has any engine or transmission leaks, it’s definitely cause for concern, and often points to neglect. Common points of leakage are the valve cover gaskets and VTEC solenoids. 
• Because of the high percentage of aluminium used in the NSX, accident damage can be difficult to repair, so you should be careful to check the panel gaps and paint. It’s difficult to get a good finish when painting sheet aluminium, so it’s worth inspecting – although a respray isn’t always a bad thing. 
• Buying an NSX and discovering that it’s been crashed is not a nice experience. Aluminium bodyshells are much harder to straighten out than steel ones, and they almost never seem right afterwards.
• The suspension is virtually all made from aluminium, and you should treat any knocks or misalignment suspiciously. The most amazing thing about the NSX is the handling. Clunks and rattles totally defeat the car’s purpose. Question anything that doesn’t track straight or isn’t properly aligned and make sure it’s sorted before you hand any money over.
• The electrical systems are well designed, but age-related problems can crop up. Sit in the car and check that the heater fan blows at each variable speed, and the digital display works. It’s quite common for NSX climate control to only blow on the fastest speed, and it isn’t cheap to fix.
Model history
1990: Honda NSX Coupe launched, featuring a 3.0-litre V6 producing 276bhp. 
1992: Lightweight track-biased NSX-R released in Japan.
1993: Rear alignment changed to improve tyre wear; interior slightly redesigned. 
1994: Wheels changed from five-spoke to a seven-spoke design, with wider tyres.
1995: Targa-top NSX-T arrives, while all the Coupe models now have a body-coloured roof, as opposed to the black roof of earlier cars. E-PAS steering fitted as standard. 
1997: Big mechanical upgrade, with engine capacity increased to 3179cc (same claimed power, though nearer 300bhp in reality), coupled to a new six-speed manual gearbox. Bodyshell revised with increased-strength aluminium. Luxurious Type-S and more stripped-out Type-S Zero models offered in Japan.
2002: All NSX models receive a mid-life refresh, with new exposed HID headlamps in place of the distinctive pop-up units, as well as a huge number of minor mechanical improvements under the skin. New, even harder Type-R launched with the introduction of the facelift, which like the original was only offered in Japan. 
2005: After more than 15 years, Honda ends NSX production. 
Performance and specs
2002 Honda NSX 
Engine 3179cc V6, DOHC, 24-valve
Power 276bhp @ 7300rpm
Torque 220lb ft @ 5300rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Top speed 168mph
0-60mph 5.5sec
Dimensions and weight
Wheelbase 2530mm
Length 4404mm
Width 1811mm
Height 1171mm
Kerb weight 1365kg
Summary and prices
Early high-mileage (over 100,000) cars can be found from less than £20,000, but healthier examples start around the £30,000 mark. An immaculate 1990-97 3.0-litre NSX with low mileage and a perfect service record is potentially worth upwards of £35,000 – but it would have to be special. Automatics are slightly less powerful, and aren’t quite as sought after, generally costing £2000-3000 less than a manual equivalent. 
Post-1997 3.2 cars are considerably harder to find and command a premium, generally costing upwards of £40,000. The 2002 model-year facelifted cars are yet more difficult to source, with fewer than 74 sold in Europe between 2001 and 2005. Prepare to spend in excess of £55,000 – if you can find one. 
Buying an NSX now might prove to be a good move. Later cars have already increased in value and, as earlier cars have now stabilised, the best examples will inevitably become more valuable as they become rarer. 
Honda NSX side Honda NSX front Honda NSX rear Honda NSX interior
Last updated: 15th Jul 2016
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  • 1991 Honda NSX


    The Honda NSX was produced between 1990 and 2005 and is equipped with a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive layout powered by an all-aluminium V6 featuring Honda's Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) system. In 1984, Honda commissioned the Italian car designer Pininfarina to design the HPX (Honda Pininfarina Xperimental), which had a mid-mounted 2.0 litre, V6 configuration. Following Honda's decision to pursue the project, the management informed the engineers that the new car would have to be as good as anything coming from both Italy and Germany. The HPX concept car evolved into the NSX (New Sportscar eXperimental). The original performance target for the NSX was the Ferrari 328; subsequently revised to the 348 as the design neared completion. The bodywork design had been specifically researched after studying the 360° visibility inside an F-16 fighter jet. The car's strong chassis rigidity and handling capabilities were the results of Ayrton Senna's input with NSX's chief engineers while testing the prototype car at Honda's Suzuka Circuit during the development stages. Today, the NSX is still considered by owners of the marque as one of the most reliable exotic ca

    • Year: 2016
    For sale
    Historics at Brooklands
  • Honda NSX (1992).


    The Honda NSX was the first production car to feature an all-aluminium semi monocoque body, with revolutionary extruded aluminium frame and suspension components. Honda succeeded to save nearly 220 kg in weight compared to an all-steel version. Other firsts were the fitting of an electronic throttle control and the VTEC variable valve timing system. Honda aimed the car at the Ferrari 328 and 348, but included reliability and a lower price. Development of the car took many years, and included lots of input from Ayrton Senna and Satoru Nakajima. Senna was mainly involved in the suspension tuning and handling, and it must be said that the NSX is an easy to handle sportscar with incredible performance. It is also very user-friendly with easy access and offers ample interior and boot space. The 3,0 Litre VTEC offers 270 bhp, with a rev limiter which only cuts in at 8000 rpm. This car has proper F1 technology from the nineties, and was very advanced at the time. This lovely example was delivered new in Italy, and comes with good service history. It's still in its first paint, and in the only colour combination available at launch of red with black leather seats. The car is just completel

    • Year: 1992
    • Mileage: 40585 mi
    For sale
  • Honda NSX


    Mayfair 020 7125 1400 | Maldon 01621 879579 Ordered in August 1990 by ‘The Patrick Collection’ of Birmingham, six months prior to the official launch of the NSX. Finished in Sebring Silver and Black Hide and carpets . Right-hand drive with a 4 speed automatic transmission. Genuine 5658 miles from new and only two previous owners. Comprehensive history file includes all previous MOT’s together with the original purchase invoice and dealer correspondence and press information pack with period road tests. Original book pack and tools all complete. Two sets of keys. Fully serviced by JD Classics in December 2014 with two new catalytic converters and four new Bridgestone tyres. Minimal use since and correctly stored. A unique example with low mileage in superb original condition. Price includes registration number. Please contact us for more details.

    • Year: 1990
    For sale
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