THE DEBATE on what is Japan’s greatest ever sports car could take some time. Datsun 240Z? Toyota 2000GT? Nissan GT-R? Rather than demolishing your daily productivity with what could be a long and tedious back-and-forth, allow me to weigh in with a captain’s call. The Honda NSX. Or more specifically, the Honda NSX Type R and NSX-R models.
Japanese domestic market specials, the Type R and NSX-R are both on the BH Auctions block in Tokyo. Both are white, both are super-low mileage and both require your immediate attention. While we’re fairly sure you won’t be able to offer a two-fer deal for the pair of them, choosing between them could be tricky. Let’s take a look at each of them and you’ll see why these things are so special.
NSX Type R (92R)
While we’re here, can we be frank about the original NSX? Forget all the Ayrton Senna guff. At the limit of grip, it could be an evil thing. The base car had a fundamental mismatch between an overly stiff rear end, a soft front and a sharp ramp-up in VTEC-assisted power. While it had excellent front end bite, it always had eye-widening oversteer characteristics. And when it went, it really went, not helped by glacially slow electrically-assisted steering (3.24 turns lock-to-lock) and a weight distribution of 40 percent front and 60 percent rear, pretty much identical to a contemporary 964-generation Porsche 911 Carrera.
So Honda decided to build a better NSX off the excellent bones of the original. The Type R made its debut in November 1992 as the flagship of the first-gen NA1 Honda NSX range. Sometimes referred to by Honda anoraks as the 92R, the Type R was a revelation. Power came courtesy of a blueprinted version of the C30A 3.0-litre VTEC V6, which Honda stubbornly quoted at the gentleman’s agreement figure of 280PS. Nobody believed them, and the 1230kg Type R blazed to 100km/h in 5.0 seconds. It was something very special.
Japan kept it to themselves, with all 483 units being sold into its domestic market. The 120kg weight saving came courtesy of extensive use of aluminium. Bumpers, door beams, and decklid were all aluminium, while lightweight forged Enkei wheels reduced unsprung mass. The Type R also received Recaro seats, a Momo steering wheel, a titanium shift knob and junked a lot of the original car’s sound deadening material. Weight distribution improved a couple of points and reversing the original car’s damper, bushing and spring rates from front to rear tamed the wild rear end. It became an utterly magical driver’s car and a dynamic template for any owners looking to improve the handling balance of their base NSX models.
This particular car is a 1995 model, chassis no. NA1-1300280, and has its body painted Grand Prix White (NH565) with red seats. Best of all, the odometer reads a mere 860km so expect to see something in the region of AUD$330,000 to $395,000 when the auctioneer’s gavel falls on the 8th of June. Or given that it is in Japan, a distant electronic bonging sound.
Should your pockets be even deeper still, why not aim for the very acme of Honda’s naturally-aspirated output and raise your e-paddle for this stunning NSX-R, or 02R in Honda-speak. Launched in May 2002, some seven years after the 92R finished production, the NSX-R got the C32B 3.2-litre V6. Again, the peak power figure looked unchanged against the standard NSX, but torque crept up by a handful of Newton metres. Again, the VTEC powerplant was balanced and featured lightened internals, the six-speed manual featured a lower final drive ratio and body rigidity was improved.
While the facelifted styling was never quite as elegant as the 92R’s clean pop-up lamp front end, there were massive advances in aerodynamics realised with the 02R, Honda claiming it to be the only car in its class that generated functional downforce. Some 70kg was taken out of the base grade NSX courtesy of much the same weight reduction processes as the 92R.
With just 560km on the clock, this is one of only 27 built in 2005 and one of 140 in total. Some measure of this car’s desirability is the fact that some collectors are tipping it to beat the 1973 Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 that’s also up for sale at the BH auction. The pre-sale estimate of AUD$635,000 might well prove conservative.