THE Japanese, under-achievers that they are, contributed nothing to the world of Impressionist Art, and they’d probably argue that it was more of a European thing. But then the same could have been said for making exotic, alarmingly quick supercars, until Honda let off the rocket that was the NSX in 1990.
It’s not just the fact that this low-slung, sexy, V6-powered Honda halo car was good for its time, either. Talk to anyone who’s driven one and they still get starry-eyed today over how fabulous it was to steer. This is because a Japanese company boldly chose, for the first time, to try and do what Ferrari was doing, but do it better, cheaper and with something called ‘reliability’ built in.
There were plenty of firsts for Honda, of course, like the cabforward F16 jet-inspired design, an all-aluminium monocoque, electric power steering and electronic throttle control.
What it did most brilliantly, however, was tap into Honda’s Formula One credibility, to give it the kind of cool that a supercar needs to compete in Rich World.
There was plenty of talk about Ayrton Senna’s involvement in the proving process; he reportedly asked them to stiffen the chassis after early tests, and was then given three NSXs to drive around and be photographed in after its launch.
Sadly, even Honda hasn’t followed its own groundbreaking lead since the NSX stopped production in 2005. But a new one is finally on the way and should be on sale here next year, powered by a twin-turbo V6 hybrid with a nine-speed twinclutch transmission. It might just change the supercar rules again.
Japan takes on the world, and gives it a damn good fright.
Why has it taken so long to replace such an indispensable brand icon?