It’s time for another I Am The Speedhunter submission, and this time around Trevor Yale Ryan takes us on a tour of a tastefully modified NSX from Northern California that’s equally at home on the track as it is on the street.
The first version of this car rolled onto the showroom floors the same year I was born. Long before my interest in cars really took off I remember the excitement I’d feel when spotting one cruise through my neighborhood. I also remember my disappointment when the car wasn’t in the popular racing games; even in the digital gaming world it seemed unreachable. The NSX was one of the first vehicles that ever really caught my attention: there has always been something truly special about this Honda.
Even into the 2000s, the mighty mid-engined NSX sat at the top of the Honda family. My friend Tony Pham, like so many others, always had his eyes on one. His car knowledge accelerated when he began building and racing Civics and Integras on the track ages ago; he’s been a long-time member of the Honda family. But a few years back Tony made up his mind that he would acquire the coveted top of the line model before the market made them unattainable in the States.
He sold his prized K20-swapped 2000 Civic hatch and started to save (and save, and save). After a long search, he found the one that would become his own: a single owner 1996 NSX-T. The previous owner was a Hollywood screenwriter who originally purchased the car new after his first successful movie.
A true enthusiast, the screenwriter was very attached to the car. But some investment opportunities arose that encouraged him to pass it on to another worthy owner, along with a minor issue.
While the exterior was extremely well-maintained the engine was not as lucky – the other motivator for the Huntington Beach owner to part with the Honda. The original engine was blown and the car was not running when Tony found it.
Typically it would be a hard sell, but the owner had everything required to get the car back on the road in superior form. Tony took the leap of faith.
Like so many others, though, the stock power output and styling never quite satisfied him completely; Tony began to build the car the way he had dreamed of doing as a kid. With a supercharged engine replacing the defunct original unit, Tony enjoyed track days here and there along with countless mountain runs and cruises with friends. After a couple years of ownership, he bit the bullet and the car underwent a major overhaul last winter. Finally, Tony’s vision was nearing completion.
We picked up the NSX from Carzwerk on a dark and stormy day, freshly detailed and protected by a Kamikaze Enrei Glass coat. Right before dark, the sun just started to peek out behind thick and angry clouds; the original shoot location was cancelled due to flooding and we were beginning to run out of daylight.
Somewhat worried that we would get dumped on by the uncharacteristically wet California weather, we set out with the NSX. We were not disappointed. I was taking in the details of the car as the sun went down and simply didn’t know where to start. Diving into the drivetrain, we can immediately see the results of Tony’s hard work and dedication.
An NA2 3.2L NSX engine with forced induction from a 2.3L Comptech supercharger safely delivers 9psi of boost through a Laminova air-to-water intercooler.
Coupled with the rest of the upgrades and an AEM Infinity 6 engine management system with X Series sensors, the setup makes 417 horsepower to the rear wheels. Good for plenty of grins in a car that weighs in around 1,400 kilograms.
A rare RFY Yamamoto carbon intake accompanies a Comptech lower intake duct which feeds the motor the air it needs through a Hitachi drive-by-wire throttle body. RC Engineering 550cc injectors deliver fuel to the engine, all controlled through the AEM unit. The spent fuel is then pushed out of the engine into Comptech headers, a Taitec GTLW exhaust, and Pride test pipes.
Let’s just say when I was trying to get a photo of the exhaust during warm-up, I almost fell over when Tony gave it the gas. It’s not too loud when cruising, but the quick-revving V6 is truly explosive when you need it to be. It’s also worth mentioning that Tony finally got his custom black and gold CA plates that read ‘COM TAM’ or ‘Broken Rice,’ a traditional Vietnamese dish. Sadly, they were held up in the DMV when we went out to shoot.
Even before the extra work Tony put into the car, the original owner, who shall remain unnamed, felt similarly. After completion of the original build, the screenwriter whimsically wrote the following about the car: “And the noise! Dear God, the infernal sound of it. Tectonic… like the plates of the planet growling beneath the oceans; keening, like harpies in orgiastic choral abandonment. My monster: 413rwhp, 317 torque… kitten-like to 3000rpm, Godzilla-like past 4000, Death Star-like beyond 5000. More would be insanity. Lamborghinis pull onto sidewalks, Porsches hide in the bushes.”
With the upgraded engine pushing power through a short JDM gearset, the car is extremely quick on the street as well as the track. Fresh off the alignment rack at Trackspec Autosports, a later trip to an OnGrid track day at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Northern California with another NSX completed the shoot.
Other upgrades to the drivetrain include an ATI super damper, Science of Speed oil pan baffle, Radium Engineering catch can, and other little details like the Feel’s oil cap. The more closely you look, the more goodies you find.
Looking at the dynamic areas of the car, the suspension has been completely reworked as well. Lowering the car are KW V3 coilovers with Swift Springs and some Stanceparts air cups to help over speed bumps; because why not have the best of both worlds?
A Viair tank and compressor handle the air cups with Dali Racing front and rear sway bars to help keep the car flat through the twisty bits. LoveFab upper and lower front chassis braces help stiffen things up along with a three-point custom rear custom rear targa brace. Handling and stance are further improved with Cedar Ridge Fabrication non-compliance toe links in the rear.
The car sits on RAYS Volk Racing CE28 wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenzas; Tony fit 17×9.5-inch wheels with 235/40 tires up front and 18×9.5-inch 265/35s out back. They nestle in nicely with some help from a subtle but extensive kit up front that we’ll get into shortly.
Stopping the forward motion, the Honda is set up with a Brembo GT1 big brake kit front and rear with slotted two-piece floating rotors. With all the extra power, it’s nice to know a sufficient and reliable setup is there to slow you down, especially on track.
Moving on to the inside of the car we have even more high-end upgrades. NSX-R gauges keep the driver informed about how the machine is running, along with a Zublin Engineering Smartshift setup connected to NSX-R shift lights.
Other NSX-R goodies include the shifter boot, topped off with a Mugen 5-speed shift knob. A Momo Tuner is coupled with a Works Bell Rapix GTC flip hub and completed by a billet A.S. Motorsports Honda Horn. Downforce Carbon Alcantara NSX-R seats finished with custom red stitching and NSX-R buckets keep you in place at speed while Science of Speed rails keep the seats where they belong. A Science of Speed short hub and Zanardi shifter stalk help finish the driver feel along with Autovation pedals.
Luxuries include front and rear cameras as well as a Pioneer AVIC 8000NEX. But that wasn’t quite enough, so it’s topped off with a JDM navigation pod and a 7-inch IPS screen with custom digital gauges for the sole passenger and driver to enjoy. Zanardi floor mats keep you cozy and make for easier cleaning of the car. A JDM/Euro center console switch plate has been fitted with a variety of custom switches and the red stitching is consistent through the custom dash, tying the tidy interior together.
Finally, the exterior. Subtle yet aggressive, the Advance JP front half bumper starts the car perfectly.
Cantrell Concepts fenders, totaling 60mm wider than the factory setup, help house all the rubber neatly beneath them. A beautiful and rare Gruppe M hood adorns the NSX giving it an even more exotic feel and a Morimoto HID kit complete with flush S2000 side markers finish up the front end.
OEM Honda NSX side skirts, door caps, and rear valance from the 2002+ version can be found around the edges of the car while custom carbon fiber mirrors hitch rides on both sides. A Pride carbon rear engine vent and carbon side vents continue the theme back towards the Downforce NSX-R wing and DF-R diffuser.
JDM NSX tail lights with an ARCLight JGTC LED kit further elevate the dreamy video game retro feel of the car. Back up front, an ARClight LED kit is used for the turn signals.
JDM emblems and a GREYMRKT winker cover set, along with countless other small touches finish the car off with functional aesthetics.
All in all, it’s a very complete build. Tony has looked into every single area of the car and made improvements. Of course, there are many differing opinions when it comes to building a car.
Plenty of fundamental philosophies exist in contradiction to each other: form versus function, grip builds or drift builds, canyon carvers and hard-parked show queens. This NSX strikes the perfect balance. It hasn’t deviated from the factory intentions but instead enhanced them.
You can easily make it across the parking lot to pick up some eggs, you can take it to the track, you can take it to a car show filled with hard-parked princesses. It’s an exotic all-rounder that would make anyone happy.
Again, stealing words from the screenwriter who purchased the car new in 1996: “Even the terminally jaded valets at the Peninsula Hotel have run out from behind the parked array of Zondas, Royces, and Bentleys to walk around the beast and give thumbs up. An orbital ring of excitable moons, smiling as widely as me.”
Regardless of your fundamental philosophy behind how or why you build a car, isn’t the end goal simply to bring a smile to your face? This Honda does just that.
Trevor Yale Ryan