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Honda NSX buying checkpoints

276bhp, 168mph Japanese supercar for £15-30K? With early examples available for hot hatch money, is owning the first genuinely usable supercar a painless experience?

Honda NSX buying guide

As ever, history is all. Some Honda dealers used to have NSX-centre status, but recent work is more likely to have been done by a specialist. Most NSXs will have been well looked after, but expert knowledge is vital to their wellbeing.

One other word of warning. The NSX might be as dependable as a Civic, but its running costs are more like a Ferrari’s because parts can be very expensive. Graham Horgan of NSX specialist Plans Motorsport says that while the basic servicing is not dear, there’s usually something else to be done and owners should expect to spend £1000 a year on maintenance. The US is a source of cheaper parts, though: ‘Typically they’ll cost the same in dollars as pounds,’ he says.

Engine

Hondas are well known for oil-tight engines, so view leaks with suspicion. There should be a hardening of engine note and a surge of power as the revs rise; if not, then something is amiss with either the VTEC variable valve-timing and lift system or the VVIS variable-geometry intake plumbing.

It is highly recommended that the camshaft pulley is replaced when the cambelt is changed (every five years or 60,000 miles). Failures of the camshaft pulley can cause either poor running if the belt just slips a notch or two, or, far worse, valve damage if it breaks or fails completely.

Transmission

Nothing much to worry about apart from listening for untoward whines from bearings, including the input shaft bearing which might grumble in neutral with the clutch engaged. The gearchange should be light and positive. Early five-speed gearboxes numbered between J4A4-1003542 to J4A4-1005978 might have a faulty countershaft bearing snap ring which could cause major gearbox failure. If possible, check it has been replaced. That said, if the car has now covered a big mileage the chances are it’s OK.

Suspension, wheels, etc

The suspension’s balljoints, bushes and bearings do wear, especially if the NSX has been driven hard on track. This hurts if it’s a front lower balljoint, because you have to buy the whole upright at around £1000. The other parts are pricey, too. Plans Motorsport can convert an NSX’s suspension to NSX-R specification, involving springs (stiffer front, softer rear), dampers, anti-roll bars and rear lower wishbones. One effect is to reduce the pendulous oversteer to which a standard NSX ultimately succumbs. Check the tyres for wear – the rears don’t last long.

Body

It’s aluminium, and any repairs must have been done by someone familiar with working the metal and making sure the paint bonds to it properly. Check inside the nose and tail for repairs, overspray, non-original seam sealer and other evidence of impact. Corrosion is not a problem, but panel gaps should be perfect. Make sure all the locks, catches and the pop-up headlights (if applicable) work, remembering that the cost of replacing even insignificant items can be very high if they are NSX-unique.

Interior

The cabin’s furnishings are very durable but check everything works and be worried if any warning lights don’t extinguish when they should. The Bose stereo is unique to the NSX, so if you’re looking at a car with aftermarket sounds and you want to reinstate its originality, be prepared to spend an easy £1000 here.

Specification - 3.2-litre version

Engine V6, 3179cc, dohc per bank, 24v
Max power 276bhp @ 7300rpm
Max torque 224lb ft @ 5300rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual (auto
    optional), rear-wheel drive
Tyres 215/45 ZR16 fr, 245/40 ZR17 rr
Weight (kerb) 1410kg
Power-to-weight 196bhp/ton
0-60mph 5.5sec (claimed)
Top speed 168mph (claimed)
Price when new £52,000 (1991 coupe) 
– £63,100 (2005 targa)

Parts Prices - Supplied by Plans Motorsport, Dunsfold, Surrey. Tyre prices from Black Circles.
All prices include VAT at 17.5 per cent


Tyres £103.61 each front, £138.96 each rear (Bridgestone RE040/RE050, fitted)
Brake pads (front set) £138.00
Brake discs (front pair) £258.75
Clutch, complete £345.00
Oil filter £9.20
Air filter £23.00
Spark plugs, set of six, NGK £55.20

Servicing - Prices supplied by Plans Motorsport

Major service inc cambelt £590.00
Minor service £172.00

What to pay

NSXs are rare so you may have to wait a while to find the right one for you. The NSX Club of Britain estimates a current UK population of about 250 cars, of which maybe 50 are post-2002 facelift versions which command the highest prices – typically around £30,000. An early car might cost as little as half that, but age and mileage make future heavy expenditure more likely. Occasionally you see NSXs for under five figures, typically cars that have been heavily damaged and repaired. Tread very carefully here.


*All prices correct as of May 2010

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