You must think (if you do not know already), what is common between the first generation Acura NSX and F1 racing driver Ayrton Senna.
Well first, its the legacy. Acura NSX was one of the first ‘affordable supercar’. It was the year, 1984, when Honda decided to built this ‘affordable supercar’ code named ‘ HP-X’ (Honda Pininfarina eXperimental). Later, it evolved to NSX (New Supercar eXperimental), as the enthusiasts know it now!
I would dare not try to describe who Ayrton Senna was! It is beyond the understandable mystique to me. To put it simply, whenever the hint of his yellow helmet was noticed by a F1 driver in the rear view mirror during a race, especially during rain, he was allowed to overtake! That is a glimpse into the kind of racing maestro he was!
The Formula 1 season of 1987 was a high noon in Senna’s career. This season brought him in deep relations with Honda. In 1988, He joined the McLaren team, which was using the Honda V6 engine at that point of time. His understanding of how Honda engines perform and how can they be tuned to his tune became better!
In February 1989, Honda engineers were testing the NSX at Japan’s Suzuka circuit, as a part of the car’s final development stages when they were lucky enough to have Senna testing his F1 car on the same circuit. They wanted his opinion about this car, which for them should be a game changer in the supercar market.
Owing to his subtly gracious, pleasant and in-different nature, he did a lap of the circuit to provide a feedback. “I’m not sure I can really give you appropriate advice on a mass-production car, but I feel it’s a little fragile.”
Little did the Honda team know that they will have to work eight more months on the car to make it ‘Senna Proof’!
The Honda engineers were baffled as the chassis was already as rigid as contemporary Porsche and Ferrari models. It was not really surprising for them to trust Senna on pointing out this sensitive flaw! As a result, engineers increased the chassis rigidity as high as about 50% from its original form before Senna had a lap!
Honda wanted it to meet or exceed the performance of the Ferrari 328, while keeping it reliable enough to be a affordable supercar. So, the 2.0L V6 of the HP-X was discarded and the NSX was formed, restored with a 3.0L VTEC V6 engine made entirely from aluminum, making 274 HP and 210 lb·ft (280 Nm).
The aerodynamics of the body (interior and exterior) were designed by Chief Designer Ken Okuyama and Executive Chief Engineer Shigeru Uehara, imitating the 360-degree visibility experienced inside an F-16 fighter jet cockpit.
Honda’s involvement in F1 made them trinkle the motorsport technology in their products which led to the NSX being the first production car to feature an all-aluminum monocoque body. This saved nearly 200 kg in weight over the steel equivalent.
The first gen NSX is still regarded as one of the most balanced super cars in terms of handling and speed.
The new Gen of NSX (which comes in about 25 years after the first gen) is being dubbed as a highly electronic masterpiece, but it lacks the human touch and feel ! Maybe they don’t have Senna this time around to make it a legend again!