Collecting the Honda NSX

With svelte looks, superb handling and legendary reliability, this supercar has a growing fanbase, says Simon de Burton

A 1991 NSX, sold for £42,560 at Historics at Brooklands
A 1991 NSX, sold for £42,560 at Historics at Brooklands | Image: Peter Seabrook/Historics at Brooklands

For supercar fans with a superior attitude towards bonnet badges, now might be a good time to stop reading. But for the more open-minded, here’s a high-performance coupé with looks inspired by the cockpit canopy of an F-16 fighter jet, a chassis and suspension developed in collaboration with the late Ayrton Senna and a virtually bulletproof engine: the Honda NSX (New Sportscar eXperimental). Just two years ago, good examples were readily available for £25,000, but a booming modern classics market, combined with interest in the new high-tech, hybrid-powered NSX, has sent values of the classic model soaring; cars in mint condition can now sell for £50,000 upwards.

The interior of a Honda NSX Type R, $192,000 from JDM Expo
The interior of a Honda NSX Type R, $192,000 from JDM Expo

The original NSX was unveiled in 1989 as a serious alternative to cars such as the Ferrari 348 and the Porsche 911. More than 18,000 were sold worldwide during a 15-year production run, even though many potential buyers struggled to understand how the words “Honda” and “supercar” could go hand in hand. But those who took the plunge quickly appreciated this machine’s svelte looks, superb handling, top speed of close to 180mph in unrestricted form and legendary Honda reliability. The NSX was easy to drive, too, as capable of pottering about town as it was cruising up a motorway or screaming around a racetrack.

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It was these traits that made Vodafone account director Paul Finch fall in love with the model as soon as it went on sale 27 years ago, when he was working at one of the few UK Honda dealers nominated to sell them. “The NSX proved to people who were used to putting up with the quirks and foibles of Lamborghinis and Ferraris that a practical supercar could be a reality,” he says. “The one I eventually bought, in 2004, is magnum grey with a lift-out roof panel – one of only two in the UK with this configuration; it cost £28,000 but is now valued in the high 50s.” Finch’s example is the NSX-T, which arrived in 1995, but there is not a huge variation in models. Early cars had three-litre engines with either five-speed manual gearboxes or four-speed automatics, and in 1997 the brakes were upgraded and manual cars given 3.2-litre engines and six gears. The most significant change came in 2002, when the original’s pop-up headlamps were replaced with fixed units.

A 1995 Type R, sold last year at Plans Performance
A 1995 Type R, sold last year at Plans Performance

Japanese buyers were also offered the lightweight, track-orientated NSX Type R. Between 1992 and 1996, Honda made 483 of this model with a three-litre engine, and, from 2002 to 2005, 140 with fixed headlamps and 3.2-litre engines. Rare, raw and sought-after – only four or five are thought to have made it to the UK – the best of these now change hands for £200,000-plus. In August last year, Graham Horgan, founder of the UK’s leading NSX specialist, Plans Performance, listed a 1995 Type R in pearl yellow; it sold within a week.

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“NSX values have lagged behind those of comparable Ferraris and Porsches, but they have started to rise – and I think they still have some way to go,” says Horgan, a dedicated NSX driver and racer who began maintaining and selling them in 2006. “They are a dream to drive. We recently sold a 1991 model [£28,000] with 178,000 miles on the clock, and it runs perfectly. If properly looked after, these cars don’t go wrong – and most parts can be sourced off the shelf.” Horgan’s current examples range from £39,000 to £75,000, with later cars being rarer and more desirable.

Examples also occasionally cross the block – Silverstone Auctions has proved a good source, selling a 1992 model for £53,438 in 2015 and a 2001 3.2-litre V6-engine version – thought to have been one of only eight delivered to the UK that year – for £69,750 last February. Historics at Brooklands has also registered keen interest; in August, a 1991 model sold for £42,560 against a £27,000-£35,000 estimate. Although the NSX was produced for a relatively long time, UK-specification examples are relatively rare – just 480 cars were sent here, around half of which, remarkably, were sold in 1991. But despite larger numbers being available on home turf in Japan, the NSX is also finding a collector fanbase there; leading Japanese sports car specialist JDM Expo, for example, has a standard 1991 model for $29,500 and a Type R for $192,000. In the UK, meanwhile, Torque GT specialises in Japanese imports, including the NSX.

Another highlight for fans is a rare batch known as “the last 12”. “These 2005 cars could be ordered in the UK in colour and trim combinations not usually available,” says Paul Sturges, managing director of a Kent-based firm specialising in lightning protection for buildings and an NSX enthusiast awaiting delivery of a 2016 £140,000 hybrid model. But Sturges has no intention of parting with the 2005 “last 12” he found through NSX Club Britain. “I bought it in 2007 for around £47,000, but now I wouldn’t sell it for less than six figures.” Plans Performance recently sold a “last 12” model in pearlescent white for £95,000. “Mine is finished in black with a red leather interior,” says Sturges. “I’ve driven it all over Europe and covered more than 25,000 miles. Now that values are rising, I should really drive it less. With an NSX, though, that’s easier said than done.”

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