“While the original Acura NSX is a brilliant Supercar in any of its iterations, America never got the best version of it, the Type R. All 483 units came with Honda badges and are right-hand drive only. Unless you’re in Japan or lucky enough to see an imported example elsewhere, you’re not going to come across one of these ultra-rare, all time greats”.
“The NSX-R got the job done like no other sub-300bhp supercar on earth. Traction off the line was stunning, the rifle-bolt action of the six-speed ’box so fast and accurate you could dazzle yourself with your own hand speed. And what a sound: a howl so hard-edged it could chisel granite”. Evo Magazine, August 6, 2013
When Honda introduced the original NSX in 1989, it changed the sports car landscape forever. Always a pioneering company, Honda was the first Japanese team to compete and win in Formula 1 in the 1960s. By the late 1980s, their engines were dominating the sport and senior management felt the time was right to demonstrate their engineering prowess in the commercial space. The design brief was simple – to challenge the best that Porsche and Ferrari could offer with a revolutionary all-aluminum semi-monocoque unibody chassis sports car. The result was the NSX (New Sportscar eXperimental), a car which succeeded in outclassing its contemporaries, the Porsche 911 and Ferrari 348, on almost every metric while introducing levels of practicality and reliability never before seen in the class.
Although considered the finest mid-range supercar available at the time, the NSX was inevitably compromised by the need to strike a balance between performance and daily drivability. When Ayrton Senna, driving for Honda at the time, finished driving the prototype in 1989, he famously thought the car was “too fragile.” This verdict, along with the clamor from customers for a higher performance, hard core version to meet the challenge of Porsche’s rumoured light weight RS version of the 911, resulted in the development of a car now regarded by many to be the ultimate Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) special: the legendary NSX Type-R.
The challenge for Honda’s engineers, with Senna working with them now as a technical advisor, was to figure out how to fine tune an already near-perfect car to make it even more driver focussed. The solution embraced a single overriding principal: weight loss. Out went the sound deadening material, undercoating (39 lb), power steering, stereo system (13lb), spare wheel (14lb), air-conditioning (42 lb) and some of the electrical equipment (23lb, although electric windows were retained). A smaller battery was fitted and thinner glass used in the rear window. The leather-bound electric seats from the standard car were replaced with gorgeous lightweight carbon-kevlar buckets by Recaro (38lbs lighter than the standard items). These were upholstered in alcantara suede, which was also used for the dash and door panels. An exquisite titanium shift knob modeled on the lever found in the Mclaren F1 was fitted and the standard steering wheel was replaced with a three spoke non-airbag item from Momo. Overall weight savings amounted to 265lb over the standard car.
To reduce oversteer and add rigidity, aluminum body braces were added beneath the battery tray and in front of the radiator. The entire suspension set up was replaced with stiffer suspension bushings, a stiffer front sway bar, stiffer dampers by Showa and stiffer coil springs to give more rear end grip and reduce the spring bias of the original.
Externally, there is was very little to differentiate the Type R from the standard car. Wire mesh was used for the side intakes and to fill holes on each side of the bumper where the fog lights resided on the standard car. Lightweight forged alloy wheels were supplied by Enkei, reducing unsprung weight by a further 9lb, and the now famous red-backed Type R Honda badge was applied to the nose for the first time, along with an individually numbered plaque on the door sill.
The all-alloy 3 litre 90° DOHC VTEC V6 fitted in the Type R was blueprinted and given a balanced crankshaft. Peak output was officially unchanged with 270bhp at 7100rpm and 210lb ft of torque at 6500rpm due to an informal gentleman’s agreement between Japanese makers not to quote outputs over 276bhp. However, this was a ruse to avoid Honda having to re-apply for type approval and the true power output was allegedly closer to 290bhp.
The Type R’s final drive was shortened (4.235:1 instead of 4.06:1) for faster gear changes and better acceleration at the expense of a little top speed from 168 to 163 mph. The 0-62mph time also went down, from 5.5 to 5.0 seconds.
Production began in November 1992 and ended in 1995, with all 483 examples reserved for the Japanese market. There were a few factory fit options, including the restatement of the air conditioning, a Bose stereo, carbon fibre trim bits in the instrument fascia, central console and doors and wheel painted in White.
How does the car feel twenty years later? By all accounts, still incredible. One of the few criticisms of the standard car was that it lacked steering feel. The Type-R’s non-assisted rack more addressed that and in combination with the more rigid chassis, connects the car to the road like no other. The Type-R’s driving experience is a feast for the senses, the steering bristling with feel and feedback, the motor and drivetrain working in perfect harmony, zero slack in the throttle, the sound of the V6 ringing in your ears as it spins to 8000rpm. The car turns in beautifully but requires some muscle to keep it locked in line, tugging away on the bumps through the bends but always delivering pure, analogue, unfiltered joy.
Top Gear USA/Drivetribe’s Jethro Bovington sums it up best: “The quicker you drive this thing, the more you throw at it, the more it wants to reward that commitment….. it’s hard to recall steering that resolves information about the road surface more organically than that of the NSX-R. The confidence it gives is astonishing. Much like the car itself”.
The Senna Factor
In February 1989, right around the same time the demonstration car was dropping jaws with its svelte, mid-engined looks, a gaggle of Honda engineers were waiting with polite expectation to hear a positive verdict on one of the company’s most ambitious projects ever. The engineers were confident that they wouldn’t fail to impress the newly-minted Formula 1 champion driving their creation. The team had just completed an entire month at the Suzuka Circuit and considered their all-aluminum machine to be as forged and honed as a katana.
They were about to be disappointed. I’m not sure I can really give you appropriate advice on a mass-production car,” Ayrton Senna said, trying to temper his criticism with kindness, “but I feel it’s a little fragile.” With the first press drives scheduled for that summer, the Honda team was shocked. They’d just been told their car was good, but not good enough.
Senna was in Japan testing his Honda-powered McLaren in February 1989, so his test of the NSX was almost a spur-of-the-moment event. Later, as the Honda R&D department regrouped at one of the first dedicated Japanese testing facilities at the Nürburgring, he would be invited back to help fine-tune the suspension. Honda engineers managed to increase the chassis stiffness of the NSX by 50 percent after Senna’s comments, and his further input helped create an even more balanced machine.
Senna’s perfectionism would turn out to be one more gift the Brazilian left the motoring world. Another, if you’re so lucky as to own one of these machines, is to open the garage and take your NSX for a drive, always remembering how the touch of a master made a good car great.
Autobiography of Chassis No. 44
Speedart Motorsports, in its constant pursuit of sourcing the rarest sports cars the world over, is proud to announce the long anticipated NSX Type R, Chassis No. 44 as part of its significant offerings portfolio.
This Series NA1, Type R was handcrafted in Honda’s Takanezawa plant located in the Tochigi Perfecture and rolled off the assembly line in December 1992.
The bespoke motorcar was first ordered in the rather rare (most cars were painted in Championship White), R-77 Formula Red enamel, accompanied by the proprietary lightweight Enkei wheels, finished in the distinctive Neutron White Pearl coating. The Spartan interior was fitted with Recaro Carbon-Kevlar race buckets and upholstered with high-grip Red fabric while the rest of the ‘Business Office’ was specified in a standard Type R fashion of black Alcantara with deviated Red stitching. Further details like the 350mm MOMO wheel wrapped in leather, Type S·Zero billet Titanium shift knob and even the uniquely textured dash and steering cowl composite material differentiate this GT Special from the civilian version. At the time of ordering the original custodian opted for Air Conditioning comfort while a delete plate was installed in lieu of the optional Bose Sound System.
The proud owner of chassis No. 44 took delivery in January 1993 and the automobile was registered for road use on February 5 of the same year. The car remained in his ownership until the year 2000.
Upon the new millennium the NSX-R was sold to an Australian entity but according to our provenance search, the car is believed to have stayed in Japan for the next sixteen years and it was never exported as initially was intended.
Sean Tham Jee Yeung, a prominent collector and true enthusiast of the marque purchased the car in April 2016 and made immediate arrangements to export the Type R from Japan to Malaysia. The automobile was issued registration number WGS 993 in the state of Selangor located on the west coast of the Malaysian peninsula.
Mr. Yeung maintained the NSX to great standards but due to the previous extended period of hibernation, he decided to entrust Jacky NG of JC Racing SDN – a well known Mugen specialist in the city of Bandar Sunway, with a mechanical overhaul. On October 2016 a comprehensive service was performed by Mr. Ng and his team, at a substantial cost and while the car had accumulated a little shy of forty-eight thousand kilometres. An additional AC service was carried out on March of the following year and the system was converted to the more efficient R134A refrigerant. Although we are not sure at what point during his ownership, Mr. Yeung decided to re-spray the car in Championship White NH-0, which color was retained until he decided to sell the car on the summer of 2018.
Subsequently Graham Horgan purchased the NSX-R from Sean Yeung and imported the motorcar in UK. Mr. Horgan is the owner of Plans Performance in Alfold, Surrey located on the West Sussex border and a highly regarded authority in the NSX community. His shop has traded a significant number of JDM motorcars and performed numerous restorations as well as providing racing and performance services throughout the years. Although the Type R did not present its original Formula Red paint at the time of its acquisition, Graham determined this as an honest specimen, free of any incidents and still fitted with its matching numbers VTEC motor and gear box. According to Mr. Horgan the 49,500 kms registered at the time, appeared to be genuine and they did coincide with the known history of the motorcar.
Graham offered his latest find to an American collector and dear friend of Speedart Motorsports the opportunity to purchase the NSX Type R. After a short deliberation a deal was struck with the assurance that the car would be delivered in a fully restored condition, faithful to the manufacturer’s original Kardex.
Plans Performance agreed to carry this tedious project with the promise that the work would be executed to the highest standards and without regard to cost. On October 2018 the frame-off restoration commenced and the automobile was fully disassembled in order to get ready for the forensic examination of all components and the cataloguing of the hardware.
According to the aforementioned expectations and in order to adhere to authenticity the NSX would be reborn in its original Formula Red paint, factory code R-77. No compromises were to be taken and all necessary parts would be Honda OEM and Type R specific without any exceptions.
The body shell, panels, components, suspension, ancillaries and wheels were media blasted prior to priming and painting or powder coating respectively. Steel parts, fasteners and hardware were zinc or cadmium plated. Hundreds of parts along new SHOWA R Type, spring and damper assemblies were sourced in Japan and replaced as necessary.
The blueprinted VTEC power plant, No. 1040129 as well as the gear box were serviced to perfection and all the manufacturer’s tolerances were bench tested and verified.
The breathtaking interior was equally re-trimmed and the end result attests to some highly skilled British craftsmanship – after all, only a labor of love and of that caliber would dictate replacement of the correct felt liner inside the glove box compartment.
The scope of this restoration was not to create another Fast and Furious iteration of this fabled motorcar but rather a high fidelity example reflecting all the original glory of quite possibly the most significant automotive era in the land of the rising sun.
The attention to detail is evident even in the last minutia. Nothing left to be desired, including every label, refurbished tools, books and the distinctive Monel master key. Here is a fun fact for the enthusiast of the Type R genre, the unique bronze color key, part 35113-SL0-A11 was not, as it is often said, made of titanium. Honda instead used Monel, an expensive and highly corrosion-resistant alloy of nickel and copper that’s often used in marine engineering. Non-magnetic and able to maintain its shape at searingly high temperatures, it has been used in the anchor cables of minesweepers, on experimental rocket-powered aircraft, for military dog tags and, most impressively, for the strings of Sting’s Fender Telecaster. Monel is so robust that cutting a key blank is said to be a highly risky undertaking that could easily damage the machine.
The entire undertaking was documented and a photo album along an itemized invoice depicts in explicit detail this long but rewarding project.
After almost a full year of restoring Chassis No. 44 and upon its completion arrangements were made for its transatlantic journey. The motorcar was loaded to vessel Philadelphia Express at the London Gateway Port and arrived in Port Everglades, Miami in February 24, 2020.
The NSX was safely transported to Speedart Motorsports and has been on prominent display in our showroom ever since.
The sale of the motorcar is accompanied by all equipment as supplied by the manufacturer, including books/manuals, spare keys, complete tool set, original sales brochure, restoration album, invoices and service documentation.
We invite all serious inquiries and encourage anyone interested in the Type R to witness up-close and personal this indistinguishable from new, JDM legend.