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The NSX, A Sportscar Made With True Passion

A Little History – The NSX And Its F1 Roots

According to the official history, by the end of the ’80s, Honda’s executives wanted to capitalize on the considerable success achieved by the brand in the F1. However, the NSX’s history began ten years before, when Honda commissioned Pininfarina to create a two-seater prototype to represent the brand’s commitment to perfection and performance. The outcome was the HP-X, a fully functional prototype unveiled at the 1984 Turin Motorshow.

In 1978, Honda returned to Formula One, but the brand effectively returned to the tracks in March 1983 as engine suppliers of the Williams and the private Spirit-Honda teams’ racing cars. The engine was a V6 twin-charged 1.5 liter called RA163E.

Honda’s first victory as an engine constructor arrived at the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix, powering a Williams F1 car driven by Keke Rosberg. During the 1985 season, Williams won the last three races of the season with cars powered by Honda and driven by Nigel Mansell and Keke Rosberg. F1 fans and team owners started to view Honda as a manufacturer of reliable and powerful engines.

Between 1986 and 1991, Honda engines were the engines to beat in Formula One. Honda powered six cars that won the constructor’s championship; Williams in 1986 and 1987 and McLaren from 1988 to 1991. Honda engines also powered five cars that won the drivers’ championship five times in a row; Nelson Piquet in 1987, Ayrton Senna in 1988, 1989, and 1991, and Alain Prost in 1989. Honda also provided Lotus and Tyrrel with engines.
In 1992, unfortunately, Honda retired from the F1 once again due to that year’s automotive crisis and other factors.

Honda spent many resources designing and building its F1 engines. In those times, automakers who participated in F1 still took most of the technology and learnings of racing to their production cars. This was the case with the NSX, a supercar with lots of F1 heritage.

A Sportscar Ahead Of Its Time

Honda’s racing success in different racing categories gave the brand a sales boost, and it was time to release something spectacular, a sportscar that might never have existed if it wasn’t for Honda’s great racing campaign. Or maybe, considering the great reception the HP-X concept had almost a decade ago, perhaps a washed-up version of the NSX might have been launched, but we will never know.

Going back to the HP-X (Honda Pininfarina Xperimental), like most prototypes, it was very futuristic and pretty unpractical, and it didn’t look like an NSX at all. The vehicle was stunning, and its body was made of advanced composite materials. The windshield extended over a transparent panoramic roof.

Everything was conceived with aerodynamics in mind; the problem was that, for the sake of aerodynamics, the car was pretty impractical for everyday use. For example, the two-seater had no doors! And to access the car, you had to open the roof and hop in.
The eccentric prototype had air brakes and plenty of advanced electronics for 1984.

In the same year, Honda asked Pininfarina to start working on a commercial sportscar using many of the weight-saving, aerodynamical principles, and innovations used in the HP-X. The project was named NSX, standing for “New Sports eXperience”. In 1985 Honda’s chief engineer Shigeru Uehara was appointed project leader. The legend says that Uehara was obsessed with the engine’s placement, looking for the best place to mount it to achieve the best possible handling. After testing about 20 different spots, he finally decided to mount the powerful 3.0-liter V6 engine transversally, practically on top of the rear axle.

Many specialized journalists say that the NSX was born as an attempt by Honda to beat the Porsche 911, and others referred to it as “the Japanese Ferrari”; the truth is that despite being in the same segment as the 911 and the Ferrari 348, the main goal of Honda’s engineers was to develop something new and extraordinary.

Soon, in another chapter, we will continue to explore the NSX and NSX-R history and tell how Honda reached the perfectly balanced and light two-seater sportscar that became the dream of many car enthusiasts. We will also see how weight reduction and cutting-edge materials were used to achieve an almost perfect power-to-weight ratio and how the F1 had a crucial role in the making of this extremely light, mid-engine RWD two-seater.

We will also see why Honda used a V6 engine, the role of Acura, some important marketing decisions, the NSX-R, the restyling, and the 3.2 V6 engine, among other fascinating and relevant information about this magnificent supercar.

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