" In 1991 the launch of Honda's NSX had a tectonic effect on the world of supercars. Japan's first pretender to the throne of track bred, street-legal speed was light and preternaturally responsive - but was also rigorously reliable and easy to "
Honda NSX: The Tao of Tech
In a project as big and complex as the development of a new supercar it’s hard to isolate the influence of an individual. As time passes the Honda NSX seems to be seen more Ayrton Senna’s supercar than Honda’s.
In truth, the NSX didn’t occupy much of Ayrton’s time and it’s unlikely that its engineers made it fifty per cent stiffer purely on his say-so after his first drive in a prototype between F1 pre-season tests at Suzuka in February ’89.
But he did drive it, and gave his opinion, and drove it again to assess the all-aluminium double-wishbone suspension settings once the design had been frozen.
It was the only road car he had any input into, and he ‘owned’ at least two examples, of which one, with his personal plate, remains in family ownership in Brazil.
And for Honda and Senna fans, that’s enough: the car is the embodiment of the relationship between the utterly un-Japanese Brazilian, and the essentially Japanese corporation with whose engines he won world championships, and which loved him for it.
And Honda’s engineers didn’t really need the help anyway.
Their 3.0-litre, quad-cam transverse V6 with variable valve timing making 270bhp at 7100rpm was hailed, from launch, as ‘one of the world’s finest engines’.
The NSX benchmarked the Ferrari 348 – not a particularly tough target – and ended up the benchmark for the brilliant F355, so it plainly caused Maranello to raise its game.
Younger readers might not remember the years when a Honda regularly, naturally featured in car magazine group-tests alongside Ferraris and Porsches, and beat them. But in its day, the NSX wasn’t just the competition; in many respects, it was the standard.
CLICK TO ENLARGE