© 2020 kertong © 2020 kertong

1996 Acura NSX

Car #17 was… not so good. This is the car that broke me, the 1996 Acura NSX, and it was the last NSX I ever had. Will most likely stay that way – despite being an incredible car. Hear me out.

It had a strong start. It started when I traded my prior 911 C4S with Mike Levin, the owner of this NSX – I was missing my old ’91 NSX, he wanted a sporty AWD car to take to Tahoe; and our mutual friend (Jim Russell, a legendary NSX mechanic and guru) connected us. Mike was a retired Lockheed Martin Rocket Scientist / Fellow. Once I learned this fact, I had an “ah-ha!” moment and realized I had seen his car outside of Jim Russell’s shop I had taken my silver 1991 NSX to many years ago. I recall admiring it, wishing my silver one was as ‘nice’ and problem free.

Well, funny thing is that it became mine in late 2016. It started off strong – compared to my 1991, it had drive-by-wire (no cable to snap!) and a removable roof (body was not quite as stiff and creaked a bit). Dual airbags too, which was a bonus. I decided that my 91 was a maintenance headache; but with this one being 5 years younger and slightly more modern, perhaps I’d have better luck.

4 months later I’m hearing a chugging sound coming from the engine. I take it in to service, and they tell me someone had installed a spark plug incorrectly, stripping and mangling the threads inside the cylinder head. Simple enough, you can remove the spark plug, then re-create the threads with something like helicoil.

Not so fast! It turns out due to the mid-engine placement and the affected plug behing on the front side, they could not fit the thread-repair tool inside. The entire engine had to be dropped for this $20 fix. It ended up costing me a smidge over $10,000.

I drove it a bit longer but it had a series of small issues – I needed to get a new harmonic balancer, new taillight lenses, had to swap the installed headers back to stock manifolds; the stereo was messed with so I undid and rewired all of it myself.

As I was selling this car, the driver’s side window stopped working. The 50 cent fuse required to fix this was an esoteric one and was no longer produced by Honda, so that took a week to junkyard-surf and ship out.

You know how you know if a car was a mistake? You’re relieved when it’s gone. I wish I was able to experience the ownership of the idea of the NSX I had in my head – but both times (not including a 3rd NSX I half owned after this which further cemented this), the NSX in reality is just a whole lot of worry and upkeep.

I know a lot of friends who currently have NSX’es, somehow problem free, and enjoy the hell out of it. But for me, for all 3 NSX’es, allow me to borrow a famous maritime quote:

“The two best days of owning an NSX, is the day you buy it, and the day you sell it.”