If the New York Times motto is “all the news that’s fit to print”, then the automotive blogosphere has dined out on the notion of “all the conjecture, baseless rumors and unverified whisperings that’s fit to re-purpose” since Al Gore invented the internet.
Rumors of a new Acura NSX have been one of the staples of online automotive “news”, with the first rumblings shortly after the NSX was euthanized in 2005. Normally I refrain from commenting on these sorts of matters, since they tend to lead to hypertension, foul language and apoplectic tirades, but I have a personal interest in this one.
My father worked for Honda for most of my childhood, and the Kreindler household was graced with two NSX’s. One of my earliest memories is of my mother leading me across the lawn on a sunny evening. There was a lineup of people outside my house, and beyond them, a Formula Red NSX with my father in the driver’s seat. Nobody had ever seen anything like it, and certainly not in my driveway, which constantly had some kind of Accord Wagon for my father and a white Civic sedan for my mother. A year later, my “birthday present” was a Berlina Black NSX, a company car that my father managed to finagle from head office. In true Jerry Kreindler fashion, he took me for numerous blasts around Toronto, with his Arthea Franklin tapes on the stereo, something that today’s youth would not define as “swag”, but makes perfect sense if you’ve met the man.
I was convinced that the NSX was the best car in the world as a child, and some of my grade school friends teased me when I opted for it every time when playing with die-cast cars. Why not choose the Lamborghini Diablo or Ferrari 355? I was convinced that Honda, as a company, was infallible, and the period from 1988-1996 was truly their golden age. My grandmother purchased a 2000 Civic LX sedan, at the end of the car’s life cycle, and the introduction of the McPherson strut Civic seemed to spark the company’s slow decline into mediocrity.
When my father left Honda, I was as devastated as any other child would be if their parents told them they were getting a divorce. Honda was my everything. On weekends, my father would take me to Honda Canada’s head office, where I’d get yet another brochure (according to my parents, I learned to read at age 3 thanks to my obsession with collecting car brochures) and as a working man, I can’t imagine how excrutiating it must be to have to go into the office on a Saturday morning for any reason.
Honda is both ruthlessly practical and convinced that whatever they are doing is the only correct way of doing things, a combination that can lead to brilliance or despair depending on who’s in charge. Not making another NSX is probably the right thing to do – Toyota can eat the losses of the LFA by using it as a rolling R&D lab for carbon fiber technology, but Honda would be bleeding like a teenager at a Dashboard Confessional concert if they had to carry the burden of developing a highly advanced supercar for nearly a decade.
But in the best Japanese fashion, they can’t bear to lose face now that the LFA and Nissan GT-R are on the market. The first NSX was designed to annihilate the Ferrari 348 and Porsche 911, and while it had none of the prestige, it proved to be a serious motivating force behind the development of the Ferrari 355, subsequent P-Cars and even the McLaren F1. I can’t help but think that Honda would miss their mark with a new version of the NSX, based on the utter adequacy (and nothing more) of their current lineup. I haven’t driven the NSX for the same reason – some things exist better in your mind, and with 270 horsepower and 20 years of wear and tear, I can’t help but feel that I’d walk away disappointed.
Before I was jaded, I attended journalism school, and in September, 2009, I got a chance to drive the S2000, the last journalist in Canada to do so before Honda retired their press loaner. The day I was due to pick it up was the first day of senior year. I was due to meet with my internship co-ordinator, who would help me find a work placement that would determine a large part of my grade, but instead I made the easy choice to skip it and go get the S2000, painted New Formula Red. Driving it back to campus through the sweeping curves of the Don Valley Parkway was one of those rare moments of unadultered joy, and as I exited the Bayview Avenue ramp into a brief underpass, the VTEC system engaged at 6000rpm and the sound blared through the tunnel as I up-shifted into 4th.
No Honda product since has made me spontaneously erupt in gleeful laughter like I did at that moment, but maybe in a few years, I’ll get an invite to Honda’s Tochigi test track to drive the next NSX, just like my father did in 1992 when he took an NSX around the high-speed test course while touring the facility. Or, maybe there will be no new NSX, and I’ll have the funds to buy a Berlina Black 1992 example. For all I preach about avoiding the pitfall of romanticizing the automobile, the NSX will always have a peculiar claim on my heart, even if the world is a much more dangerous, polluted and volatile place than it was when I was 4 years old, barely able to see over the door panel and oblivious to the beauty of aluminum space frames or titanium connecting rods.