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Car Tales: Acura NSX, Ayrton Senna's Supercar Legacy

‘The great Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna died, aged 34, on May 1 1994, after a crash during the San Marino Grand Prix. Such was his legend that the government of Brazil declared three days of national mourning.
1996 Acura NSX-T for sale
‘But Senna’s myth already was living on, at a glamorous level, in the Acura NSX, a 2-seater, mid-engine sports supercar manufactured by Honda in Japan from 1990 to 2005. Ayrton Senna had been intimately involved in this first supercar developed by the Japanese car company, called in to help Honda with the handling and dynamics of the new vehicle. And let us not forget what leaps forward Honda already had taken: when their cars had first appeared in the 1960s westerners would sneer at them, joking that they were powered by elastic bands.

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‘Honda/Acura was aggressive in setting a benchmark for the NSX’s performance: their plan was to make the Ferrari 348 outdated, the 348 that had replaced the 328 in 1989 and remained in production until 1995, the final V8 model developed under the direction of Enzo Ferrari before his death, posthumously commissioned to production.
1996 Acura NSX-T 5-Speed rear view
‘And we can verify the veracity of Acura’s ambition, as we recently had one at Beverly Hills Car Club (Just Sold!), a 1996 Acura NSX-T 5-Speed featured with 78,607 miles on the odometer, moody factory color code #NH-547 Berlina Black with a black interior. 5-speed manual transmission, 3.0-liter engine.
‘Few mainstream manufacturers have succeeded in their first attempt to create a supercar, one that almost immediately attained legendary status. But then few supercars have been graced with tuning input from a Formula One giant.
‘Which brings us back to the iconic Senna. For few things in motor-car development can match the legendary symbiosis between the NSX and the three times Formula One World Drivers Championship winner. In the 1980s Honda provided the McLaren Formula One team with its sophisticated turbo engines. Specifically, the RA 168E power plant was found in the legendary MP4/4 racer, which powered Senna to the first of his 3 F1 World Drivers’ Championship. Famously Ayrton Senna helped the final revisions on chassis, suspension and handling to get the balance of the NSX just right.
‘Six years before the Acura supercar’s launch in 1990, research and development had begun. An initial effort had had a Honda City cut in half, the engine jammed behind the driver’s head, and the drive-shaft linked to the rear wheels.
1996 Acura NSX-T side view
‘At least the concept of maintaining the mid-engine was retained for this ‘Japanese Ferrari’, aimed at competing with the Italian company’s apparent omnipotence. Accordingly the Italian design studio Pininfarina was brought in to provide a total vision. In charge of the design was Ken Okuyama, who had done a similar job for the Enzo Ferrari, and later the one-off Ferrari P4/5 and Ferrari 599 GTB. He also designed a number of Shinkansen bullet trains. For his ‘Japanese Ferrari’, Okuyama based his styling on a previous design study conducted by Pininfarina.
1996 Acura NSX-T interior
‘Not only did the Acura have a visionary look – the cockpit was inspired by that of an F-16 fighter jet – but the supercar was constructed with exotic materials: the car had an all-aluminum structural skin and engine; the engine was the first of its kind with titanium connecting rods and forged pistons. The frame and suspension were alloy as well, hence the car being relatively lightweight.
‘And the engine was a 3.0-liter V-6, with not only the titanium connecting rods but also dual overhead cams driven by what is now known as VTEC – extremely commonplace now, but not when the Acura was developed. This was the first time VTEC had been used for a high-performance application. It was also the first Honda engine with more than four cylinders to use VTEC.
1996 Acura NSX-T engine
‘But why was it called an NSX? Well, Honda were getting a bit metaphysical: the ‘X’ refers to the unknown variable in mathematics. So NSX means New Sports Experimental.
‘The Acura NSX gives very good vibes. It is an incredible piece of beautifully sculpted engineering, with stunning looks and incredible performance. It is a car with impeccable good character that quickly became beloved.
When it debuted Motor Trend magazine bravely described it as ‘the best sports car ever built‘.
-Alex Manos, Owner
Acura NSX Buyer Alex Manos

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