Three decades later, Acura returns to the Chicago Auto Show to celebrate the milestone event by hosting a panel discussion about the NSX with two people whose careers were influenced by the Japanese supercar.
Those are Jon Ikeda, Vice President and General Manager of Acura, whose 28-year career at Acura began with the launch of the NSX, and Csaba Csere, former editor-in-chief of Car and Driver magazine, who was among the first journalists to drive both the original and the current NSX.
They will talk about the car’s origins, its impact on the automotive world, and the role the next-generation NSX plays in the renaissance of the Acura brand.
Additionally, to mark the NSX’s 30th anniversary, Acura has also released a throwback video featuring the 1991 NSX alongside a current 2019 NSX, as well as a massive photo gallery including never before seen images from the original NS-X Concept reveal.
A last-minute engine change proved to have far-reaching consequences
Interestingly, the prototype NS-X introduced at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show was shorter overall than the final production vehicle due to a shorter wheelbase and shorter front/rear overhangs. The transition from prototype to production was impacted by a late change to the engine specification.
Originally, the NS-X Concept featured a SOHC V6 shared with the Acura Legend. However, the production NSX switched to a bespoke 270-horsepower DOHC V6 with VTEC valvetrain. Changing the engine was harder than it sounds as the DOHC VTEC’s cylinder head was wider than the head of the SOHC engine. This caused engineers to extend the wheelbase and increase the front and rear overhangs to accommodate the engine.
Acura made the decision to change the engine after Honda Motor Company president Tadashi Kume unexpectedly decided to fire up the NS-X Concept’s engine during the Chicago show debut, with the noisy blast attracting media attention. Kume then asked the NSX engineering team why the car didn’t use the new VTEC technology that had been recently developed by Honda’s R&D team. When he learned that VTEC was only planned for a four-cylinder engine application, Kume pushed the team to develop a VTEC V6 engine.
A similar input was received from a group of automotive journalists that drove the prototype prior to the Chicago Auto Show debut. While they loved the car, the general consensus was that the NSX could use more power.
Thank Ayrton Senna for the legend the Acura NSX turned out to become
Perhaps the best-known story on the development of the NSX is about Ayrton Senna’s famous drive of the test car in 1989 at Honda’s Suzuka Circuit. The Formula 1 legend offered his valuable input and informed the engineers the rigidity of the car could be better. “I’m not sure I can really give you appropriate advice on a mass-production car, but I feel it’s a little fragile,” Senna told the team.
This prompted engineers to raise their targets for rigidity. Acura shipped the NSX to Germany and tested it on the punishing Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack. As it turns out, Ayrton was right. Testing on the “Green Hell” revealed that the flexing body was taking away the desired feel of an immediate and direct connection between the car and driver.
By the end of the Nürburgring tests and after eight months of improving the body design, engineers had increased the car’s rigidity by 50 percent. The rest, as they say, is history.