Travel: Taking A 3500 Mile Test Drive in an Acura NSX (1 of 4)

Taking A 3500 Mile Test Drive in an Acura NSX (1 of 4)

Avatar By Yoav Gilad
October 16, 2014
24 comments

Photography by Yoav Gilad

What had I just done? The money was sent and gone. Last time, my research had been far more thorough and my actions much less impulsive.

Perhaps I need to back up a bit. A couple of months ago I was preparing a feature wherein you, the Petrolisti, would get to choose my next daily driver. You see I’ve been daily-driving a beaten-to-hell Kia Sorento for about six years now. Finally, I’d had enough and while I’ve bought other cars in the interim, I didn’t want to use them as commuter vehicles.

So I came up with a set of parameters (price, drivetrain, usability) and narrowed the field to about twenty-five cars that I’d be happy to drive every day. Some were two-seaters, but most were 2+2s between twenty and forty years old. For example, the list included an Alfa Romeo GTV, BMW 635CSi, Ferrari 308, a first-generation Ford Mustang fastback, and the Acura NSX. I had the post written up and ready to go.

Like many of you, I browse Ebay, Craigslist, and a few forums rather frequently. And while I had been writing the article and preparing the online poll, ready to put my automotive fate in your trusted hands, I stumbled across an ad on NSXprime.com for the Acura pictured here. The ad read as follows:

I have owned this beautiful NSX for the past eleven years. During that time I have put approximately 4,000 miles on it, thus I am thinking it is time to pass her on to a new owner that will take her out of the garage once in a while.

This car is in wonderful shape, with glossy paint and a near perfect interior. All maintenance is current, tires are brand new, it needs nothing and it’s ready to go. I am an adult and have never beaten or abused this car, though my wife says I pamper it too much. I have always believed that Honda got the NSX right from the start and I have avoided making any modifications from stock. The exception to this is the wheels, which are from the 2003 model, and the addition of Zanardi style floor mats. The only known issue is the stock radio, which seems to be on its last leg. I would have replaced it with an after market unit if not for my desire to keep the car original. Besides, radios are usually a personal preference item that a new owner would like to choose for him or herself. As mentioned above, I scratched the rear bumper while backing out of the garage. It was very minor, but I thought I should mention it.

I was hooked before I read the end of the second paragraph, but the fact that the seller was seemingly so forthcoming and honest inspired confidence. He also included the maintenance history during his ownership. Additionally, the price was significantly cheaper than similar NSXs listed in Southern California. Oh, did I mention the car was about 2,400 miles away in Atlanta, Georgia? Well the fact that it was number sixty-five off the line in its second year of production didn’t hurt either. I emailed him immediately and after getting his number I called.

At this point I must confess a few things. First, prior to my purchase, I had been in an NSX once. Ever. And it was as a passenger for ten minutes during which I really hadn’t been impressed. I owned my first Honda S2000 at the time and felt that the sensation of speed in the NSX was much more muted. Essentially you had to be going fifty percent faster in the NSX to achieve the same feeling as in the S2000. And based on my frequent run-ins with the California Highway Patrol, Pasadena City Police, and Los Angeles County Deputies I thought it imprudent to drive something that needed to be driven even harder to feel fast.

Second, I thought I’d have some time to test drive a few cars after you guys voted for your favorite and that I could write a few test-drive horror stories (“the brakes didn’t even work!…”). Also, I wanted to document the process of researching and buying the car to help anyone looking who might not know how to go about buying a vintage car.

And finally, I’ve never really thought much of the NSX as an exotic. I remember that when Acura (or Honda, elsewhere) released the car, the automotive press gushed over the handling and chassis. But as an about-to-drive fourteen-or fifteen-year-old, all I saw was a car that lacked the drama and presence (and horsepower) of a real supercar. For instance, the Ferrari 348 had side-strakes and could be had in Rosso Corsa. And it had a V8!

The NSX had a friggin’ V6. Was that meant to be a joke? Hey, Honda, this isn’t an Accord! They could talk about F16-inspired design and chassis balance all day. It wasn’t European and it didn’t have as much power. Of course, I had never even driven yet and knew about as much regarding cars as I did about women (my philosophy for both at that time was the faster the better). So, due to my prejudices and immaturity the Acura NSX had always been an also-ran.

And yet in spite of my biases and brief experience I wired a significant amount of cash to a bank account across the US to a man I’d never met, after two ten-minute phone conversations and a couple of emails. Whimsical is one way to describe it, but I think idiotic is more appropriate.

Time to take the ride. Yessir, Mr. Thompson, I had definitely bought the ticket.

Assuming everything worked out, I was the proud new owner of a Sebring Silver 1992 Acura NSX. And while initially I thought about having the car shipped, as it was across the US from me, I decided to fly out and drive it back. Why not, right? Nothing like getting out on the road for a three-thousand-mile test-drive. The only question that remained was who would ride shotgun?

The obvious answer was actually not my then-new bride, as she’s never driven a manual transmission longer than a few minutes in a parking lot. Two of my friends were actually the front-runners, but she expressed some interest. Frankly, I was thrilled! Of course she might ruin the clutch, but even if she did, it can be fixed, can’t it? The flight was booked.

We touched down in Atlanta a few weeks later, following a non-stop red-eye from Los Angeles. It was a humid and bright Wednesday morning and I had slept maybe two hours while aloft, following a full day of work. In the time that passed between the wire transfer and that morning, I had learned that the seller was a real gentleman. Not only did he agree to hold on to the car for about six weeks, but he also offered to pick us up at the airport, which was literally across the city from his home, during rush hour.

As gracious as his offer was, we had to turn him down because Petrolicious friend, noted Ferrari historian, and Atlanta resident himself, Mr. David Seibert, had also volunteered a lift as well as a breakfast detour. I am a sucker for waffles.

But for some reason I had yogurt, fruit, and muesli. Clearly, my lack of sleep was taking a toll. David, Marcia (my wife), and I chatted in the car, crawling through traffic, as he wove stories from the early days at the Scuderia mixed with his own racing history and experiences with Ferraris.

“I shouldn’t even be alive though,” David said nonchalantly, and I expected him to blame a concrete wall or ill-timed pass. He continued, “I had a double lung transplant.” His last sentence hung in the air for an instant, before I answered.

“Me too.”

It’s not something that I share very frequently or freely. I mentioned it in an interview earlier this week on Cars Yeah when asked what my greatest challenge has been. Everyone faces some hardship in his or her life and my health has always been mine. You either deal with it, and keep pushing, or you die. Still, I’ve always felt myself an outsider and my health just one more difference.

The chances of meeting someone like me in this regard are amazing. The only other lung-transplant recipients I’ve ever met have all been seated in doctors’ waiting rooms, along with me. Our new bond discovered, David and I talked like old friends, and indeed, I now count him as more than a business associate. He gets it. I get it. And I look forward to repaying his kindness next time he’s in Los Angeles.

We crested a green, shady hill and there was the NSX. It was parked in a driveway, leading to stately brick house. David slowed the SUV and almost before we were completely stopped I was out, beaming, just absorbing the slippery, gorgeous shape. David and my wife followed, less hurriedly. The owner came out and greeted us.

Following the usual pleasantries, he showed me around the car. The battery had died just the day before because a plunger that detects when you’re pressing the brake pedal had broken causing the brake lights to remain lit. Thus the seller had to scramble to replace the battery and the little plunger. But he changed the oil and filled the tank up, so we’d be ready to hit the road when we finally arrived.

That moment was upon us. After he handed over the keys and presented us with a couple of NSX related gifts (a dealership book from when the car was new and a Lucite laser-etched sculpture) we threw our bags in the trunk and climbed in. We thanked David again and he took off.

I gently shut the door. I was in my NSX. I had never even driven one and now I owned it and was going to put nearly as many miles on the clock (in five days) as the previous owner had over eleven years! The leather groaned and squeaked as I adjusted the seat and my position. I looked out over the low dash at the wheel arches then fine-tuned the mirrors. Rear-ward visibility was impressive.

Then I slipped the key into the ignition and turned it to the ‘on’ position causing the instruments and warning lights to flash to life. Twisting a little further to ‘ignition’ and the engine barked to life settling into a very smooth Honda-esque idle. There was certainly no mistaking it for a Ferrari V8. Clutch in, first gear, and we’re off.

Continue reading part two of the Acura NSX test-drive story

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Dave Stewart
Dave Stewart

Yoav,
I’m glad it went to a good home. I was behind you by a couple hours the day this NSX went up for sale. I had already had my wife convinced and a one way ticket from Denver to Atlanta priced when the seller e-mailed me back that he had just made a deal on the car. I was bummed for a week afterwards since I was certain this car was “the one”. Hope you enjoy it for a long time!

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

Hi Yoav, Here is my NSX anecdote: I have a friend who purchased one of the first NSXs. He was professionally racing mid-engined sports racing cars at the time, and the NSX was a timely suit for a daily driver. As the story goes, despite going through tires like nobody’s business, the car never missed a beat and was taken to the dealer for routine maintenance. Apparently, it was noted that he had logged way, way, way more miles on his NSX than anyone else had recorded. One day, a Porsche pulls alongside him, the driver gesturing with his hand.… Read more »

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

The weird thing is… some fifteen years later, the same thing happened to a different friend, only with a Ferrari 308. Up in smoke on the side of the freeway.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

Wow. I commented before actually reading your article. (I’ve been so busy lately, it’s been enough just to find the time to post.) That bond you share with Mr. Siebert is just amazing. Unbelievable.

Good on you, and do enjoy the ride. Looking forward to the next installments!

Mike McKinnon
Mike McKinnon

I keep telling my wife that once the girls are either grown or otherwise on their own, I’ll have an NSX. I’ve never so much as sat inside one, much less driven one, but for whatever reason that car compels me. I’d happily settle for an S2000, but given this fateful day won’t arrive for another 16 years, maybe the vintage gas-engine car market will be a smorgasbord of machinery that no one knows how to maintain any longer. Or maybe it’ll be Rush’s red Barchetta… Although, after the experience of the Alfa GTV6, my wife might just veto any… Read more »

Adam
Adam

Mike,
I also have two small girls, but that doesn’t stop me having a few toys. Just sold my S2000 in fact. Very reliable car, you can get a real decent example for $10-12k. Don’t use the kids card, you’re still a kid too! You may only have have one “toy”, but it’s a good one. I only sold my S2000 for an Elise, follow my lead!

Jeremy DeConcini
Jeremy DeConcini

Good call on skipping the shipping, the road trip will be worth the memories no matter how it goes!

JB21
JB21

Nice!! It’s really one of the best thing you can do with a new (to you) car, to come up with a good excuse to drive for an extended period of time from the get-go. And being able to do that with a person you love, it’s a pure adventure, man. And while I’d do that in any car, something a bit special like NSX will surely enhance the sense of adventure.

Yasir
Yasir

You absolute tiger. Well done. For me this is in the top 5 coolest cars ever. Really looking forward to part 2.

Paul Harvey
Paul Harvey

The first full service on my NSX was at 24,000 miles and cost £280
I swapped it for a Ferrari 550 Maranello and the 24,000 service was £3,800
If you offered me either one of those cars back as a present to keep for life, I’d take the NSX every time.
They tell me that nobody, ever, has burst a Honda VTEC engine.
And I can guess exactly how much your wife loved that first drive – even your Granny would have loved it!

Mike Senger
Mike Senger

Too funny… I, just in July of this year, picked up a 1998 Kaiser Silver from a nice fellow in Aliso Viejo, CA. Also flew out, and drove it back to Charlotte, NC.

I read this thinking to myself… Dang, there really ARE other people out there who will go to the same extremes to get these cars. Personally, I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. Car is immensely clean, and was well maintained.

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman

how much are these early nsx’ selling for ?

Albert C Ocampo

Yes! I can’t wait for the next installments.

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle

I was never a huge fan of the Japanese brands but i always had a lot respect for Honda. They were a small company that can still take on the big boys on occasion. From the Honda sports cars of the early 1960’s to entering F1 and challenging the Europeans to this lovely NSX.

TJ Martin
TJ Martin

BWTM – Meant to also add ; Whenever I see an NSX on the road .. the 1st thought that hits me is .. change out the wheels and tires to a more contemporary size and style and it’d look like it just came off the assembly line . The 2nd being … why in the ___ didn’t I buy one of these instead of the last of the ‘ F ‘ words back in the day ? The 3rd .. to paraphrase Gordon Murray .. is that like the McLaren F1 … there’s still aspects of the NSX that… Read more »

TJ Martin
TJ Martin

One of the two absolute best of the 90’s . As well as one of the two last genuine revolutions of the automobile . The other being the McLaren F1 . The only thing coming even close to those two when it comes to genuine ‘ game changers ‘ is the BMW i8. Everything else being nothing more than over techno’d dinosaurs in pretentious party dresses . Hang on to this one if you can Yoav . I’m not a betting man .. but I’m guessing you may be sitting in a future gold mine . And bring on 2-4

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Looks great Yoav, great colour combination for an NSX. Always fancied a silver one myself. Trouble is the NSX has always been very rare in the UK and most of the ones advertised are automatics 🙁

Mads Gravers Nielsen
Mads Gravers Nielsen

oh:o…as I was saying: Great article:)

Mads Gravers Nielsen
Mads Gravers Nielsen

Interior shots…? Otherwise: Nice article!

Kevin Fitzpatrick
Kevin Fitzpatrick

Great story, I can’t wait for the second part. You are living the dream. Two car-relating goals of mine are to buy an NSX, and fly out somewhere to buy a car and drive it back. You got two birds with one stone!

Eduardo
Eduardo

Excellent (first part of) story!
This car is one of my all time favorites, along with Lotus Esprit and Ferrari F40.
Even if it is a 90’s car it still looks very contemporary.
It doesn´t look like a bad ass but it screams that it will flow in the wind and devour the curves on a road.
Congratulations for your acquisition! Hope you enjoy it ver much!