Living with an NSX – Part 2

The latest update from Carlton following his purchase of a Honda NSX (read about that here).

To see the details and pictures of the journey, have a look at the record on Patina.

I’m a worrier, so the first job on my newly purchased Honda NSX was a full service and inspection by Kenrick Motors, my local garage. Not only are they old school engineers rather than the fitters you tend to find in most garages these days, they’re Caterham service agents too, so know their way around more specialist machinery. And, if that wasn’t reason enough to use them, they are car enthusiasts of the first order with a number of low-mileage modern classics in their personal collection. In short, if they told me I’d bought a good ‘un, then I could sleep a bit more easily. If they didn’t, then at least I’d know just how big an idiot I’d made of myself – and how expensive it was going to be.

I dropped the NSX off with them and sat at home waiting for the phone call that would tell me how bad things were. I figured a lunchtime call would mean they’d completed the service in short order without coming across anything worrisome.

It didn’t come. This could only mean they were slowly working their way through it with a fine-tooth comb, stopping only to add another item to the already extraordinarily long list of problems they’d already encountered. By lunchtime on day two I was a wreck and by teatime I was climbing the walls, mentally rehearsing the conversation I would have to have with my wife. No matter how I phrased it, words like ‘dog’, ‘sorry’, and ‘bankrupt’ kept surfacing.

Then the phone rang. It was ready for collection. I walked into town and was met by the owners, father and son, both sporting non-committal expressions as they stood at the workshop entrance. North Walians can be hard to read at the best of times (which is why I don’t play poker with ‘em) but these two were inscrutable even by their countryman’s unusually high standards.

“It’s a nice car. No real issues at all.” With that, I started to breath again and allowed myself to believe that things might turn out OK after all. Pre-purchase, I’d been daft enough to imagine that I’d be able to blow £30k with a Bond-like nonchalance, trusting to fate and thirty years’ of hard-earned car buying experience. This was, with hindsight, a ridiculous expectation. But the Gods were smiling on me and let me get away – again! – with spending far too much money on a car I didn’t need.

They told me that the air-conditioning needed recharging (which I knew about), the valve clearances needed checking (ditto), and the timing belt could do with changing (on the basis of time elapsed rather than distance covered since it was last done). That was it. No nasty surprises at all. I almost hugged them. I drove it home feeling more confident in being able to spend some of my budget on the cosmetic, fun stuff.

Which meant getting the alloy wheels refurbished and shod with some decent rubber. I’ve used The Wheel Restorer before to refurbish the wheels on my old Mitsubishi Evo 1, discovering that Roger, the owner, is exactly the sort of obsessive you want working on a car that represents your life’s savings.

I left the NSX with him for just over a week, receiving regular email updates on the progress he was making. He did encounter a few problems along the way but the end result is amazing, way better than the factory ever managed. He also fitted the Yokohama Advan Neova tyres for me, even painting the stick-on wheel weights to make them a bit less obvious. To say I was pleased was an understatement and the work was well worth the £500 bill. Roger claimed he’d added £2k to the value of the car, and he’s probably right.

Next up was the air-conditioning CCU, which needed removing and posting to a chap I’d come across on NSX Club Britain (NSXCB is a hugely valuable source of information, inspiration, advice, and cheap secondhand parts, along with its US equivalent, NSX Prime) to be repaired.

The failure of the CCU is a common NSX fault and just about every car has been, or will be, affected. The symptoms are a heating/air-con fan that can only be run on the fastest setting, as it is essentially bypassing the CCU entirely and being fed with the full 12 volts. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It isn’t; mine was, in terms of the number of repairs and new components needed, the worst he’d ever seen. The final bill for £312 seemed like fine value to me given how long he’d spent repairing it and the fact that buying a new one simply isn’t an option any more, no matter how deep your pockets. And my pockets were, by then, very shallow indeed.

I then spent a couple of days playing with the interior. Headroom is tight if you are tall, something I had resigned myself to having to live with. After all, no car, not even an NSX, is perfect. Then I discovered that you can buy a slimmer cushion for the seat base, giving you an extra two inches. I found a secondhand, leather-clad example on NSXCB for £125. Fitting it was a simple matter of removing the driver’s seat (four bolts), unclipping the old cushion, and then sliding in the new one before bolting the seat back into the car. The result isn’t quite as comfortable as the factory seat but it looks O.E and does give the promised extra headroom. And I’ve got plenty of padding these days anyway…

The centre console had been butchered in order to fit a simply hideous Clarion flip-front DVD player. This was a sacrilegious thing to do given the current state of the market for original cars, but it must have made sense when the O.E Bose head unit went pop, as they are wont to do. So I pulled both out and re-fitted the air-conditioning controls into a mint secondhand centre console that I picked up for £125 via eBay in Hong Kong. I then had the air conditioning gas recharged, which seems to have done the trick (for now, anyway; there’s no guarantee that it won’t continue to leak over the coming weeks and months…).

I still had two gaping holes in the dashboard, though. Some say that new Bose head units are available from Honda but that’s just not true. This leaves you with three options: buying a fully refurbished unit that has been rebuilt to O.E. spec; trying to snag a decent secondhand one; or letting a guy in America weave some magic on a secondhand one. I’m going for the latter option for reasons that will soon become apparent.

In the meantime, I’ve splashed out almost £500 on three replacement speakers from the ‘States. They cost so much because they’ve got individual amplifiers built into them, all of which have blown up and melted in my car just like the air-con CCU. The NSX isn’t an especially complex car for the most part but little things like this have a way of adding significant sums to the restoration costs. Still, it’s all about the originality and given that the speaker/amp units are a talking point among owners (potential and actual), I figured that it was money worth spending.

Speaking of which, you might remember that my car had been fitted with coilover suspension as the previous owner didn’t want to have to pay NSX money for a replacement damper, opting to lay out £800 for a full suspension kit instead. This bothered me. It bothered me a lot, probably way more than it should have done. So I found a full set of used O.E. springs and dampers on NSXCB and had Kenrick Motors fit them, bringing the car back to how it was when it left the factory in 1991. The difference in ride and handling was huge, even on the two-mile journey home.

My next stop was to Centre Gravity to have the geometry set up properly. The guys there have a reputation for being diligent and meticulous and probably mildly OCD. And, as I’ve said, I like obsessives working on my cars.

In further news, the garage the NSX is living has sprung a leak. So I’m now on the lookout for a Carcoon, or equivalent, as it seems silly to risk long-term damage to the paintwork by letting a winter’s-worth of rain drip on it over the next few months. I’m also hoping that I’ll be able to fit the newly rebuilt Bose head unit soon, after which I’ll be able to tell you all about it. Oh, and to finally drive it properly before the snow and ice and salt set in.

Until then I’ve got a set of almost-new coilovers for sale, if you’re interested?

For pictures of the journey, have a look at my car’s record on Patina

Carlton Boyce

@motoringjourno