The original NSX looked damned cool at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show

The second-generation Acura NSX may be a modern marvel of technology, but it hasn’t made any headlines in recent months. Thankfully, the original NSX showed up at the Chicago Auto Show to celebrate 30 years since its official introduction.

The 1990 Acura NSX Had a Chicago Debut - Exactly 30 Years Ago

Under extensive development since 1984, the NSX made its official debut in prototype form at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. The press conference at the Drake Hotel took place on February 9, so Acura nailed this celebration almost perfectly, just two days before its 30th anniversary.

However, the production model arrived in dealerships a bit later.

While the prototype was making its debut in Chicago, famed F1 driver Airton Senna was testing the NSX in Japan and advised Honda to increase rigidity.

As a result, the Japanese firm raised its targets for the supercar and went to the Nurburgring for intensive testing. The production model was finalized after eight months and went on sale in 1990, hitting U.S. dealerships for the 1991 model year.

The Original NSX Was Aimed at Ferrari and Porsche

The 1990 Acura NSX Showed up to the Chicago Auto Show to Celebrate its 30th Anniversary Next to the 2019 Acura NSX
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Honda had big plans for the NSX, as it wanted the sports car to compete against the Ferrari 328 (later the 348) and the Porsche 911 (or even the 959). But while it wanted to deliver similar performance, it also aimed for better reliability and a lower price.

While the NSX name isn't necessarily more popular than the 911 or 959, you definitely don't hear much talk about the Ferrari 348 nowadays.

The NSX, on the other hand, is one of the industry’s most iconic names.

The Unexpected Name

The 1990 Acura NSX Showed up to the Chicago Auto Show to Celebrate its 30th Anniversary Next to the 2019 Acura NSX
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Speaking of names, the NSX wasn’t supposed to be called the NSX. Honda initially went with the NS-X name because it was short for "New," "Sportscar," and "unknown world," as named by the development team. "Unknown" was replaced with "X," the mathematical symbol for a variable or an unknown value.

The NS-X name was kept for the prototype, but Honda planned to choose a different name for the production model.

However, the prototype received so much attention at the Chicago Auto Show that Acura had no choice but to make use of great momentum it had on his hands. So it decided to drop the hyphen from NS-X and settle for the "NSX" badge.

The Original Acura NSX Was Powered by a V-6

The 1990 Acura NSX Showed up to the Chicago Auto Show to Celebrate its 30th Anniversary Next to the 2019 Acura NSX
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Although it was imagined as a V-6-powered supercar from day one, Honda made a late change under the hood, dropping the prototype’s SOHC V-6, shared with the Acura Legend sedan, to a bespoke DOHC V-6 with VTEC valvetrain.

Word had it Honda attracted a lot of attention when the company president Tadashi Kume decided to fire up the prototype’s engine prior to the press conference. The noise could be heard from other room at the show and attracted huge attention from the media. However, Kume eventually asked the engineering team why the NS-X prototype didn’t use the VTEC technology that Honda had recently developed. When told that VTEC technology was only available for four-cylinder units, Kume asked the team to develop a V-6 version too.

The end result was a 3.0-liter V-6 that generated 270 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque, notable performance numbers for the era.

Honda eventually revised the engine into a 3.2-liter unit and increased power to 290 horsepower and 224 pound-feet in 1997.

The 2016 to 2019 Acura NSX

Acura Marks 30 Years Since The NSX Prototype Debuted At The Chicago Auto Show
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Production of the original NSX ended in late 2005, after 15 years on the market, and it took Honda another 11 years to create a successor. Although it sports the same mid-ship layout, the second-generation Acura NSX is completely different under the skin, where it combined a turbocharged, 3.5-liter V-6 engine with three electric motors.

The modern NSX is also more powerful now, generating a whopping 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque.

Although some argue that the second-gen NSX isn’t as spectacular as the original car, it carries the legacy forward with respectable performance figures and a noteworthy exterior design.

Further reading

Acura Marks 30 Years Since The NSX Prototype Debuted At The Chicago Auto Show
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Acura Marks 30 Years Since The NSX Prototype Debuted At The Chicago Auto Show

The Acura NSX Just Got a Lot Better for 2019
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Read our full review on the 2019 Acura NSX.

2016 Acura NSX High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Acura NSX.

1990 - 2005 Honda NSX
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Read our full review on the 1990-2005 Honda NSX

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