A rolling showcase you can drive every day (for a price).
– Farmington Hills, Michigan
I earned my driver's license around the same time that the original Fast and Furious movie debuted. That flick convinced me that my first car had to be some modified, turbocharged, ten-second car with a huge wing, wild paint, and Jordana Brewster in the passenger seat. Instead, I spent my teenage years in a rusty 1998 Pontiac Sunfire. My dream of aftermarket bliss would go unfulfilled for 15 years, until I fell into the driver's seat of a customized 1991 Acura NSX late last week.
Audio company Clarion designed this year-one NSX as the second vehicle in its Clarion Builds program – the first, a 1974 BMW 2002, is a rolling showcase featuring the company's top-of-the-line audio components and some impressive performance work. The company's goal with its second Builds car is similar to the 2002, but the challenge is steeper. Because the NSX is such a rare, lusted-after modern classic, a good one is remarkably difficult to buy for a reasonable price, so Clarion bought a daily-driven NSX with 229,000 miles on the clock, sight unseen.
That story is key to understanding how impressive the Clarion Builds NSX is. It doesn't feel like a 25-year-old car or even 229,000-mile one. It's just good. Tight. Fast. Hilarious. New. The Fast and Furious spirit is in this Acura – it's a Japanese car with a lot of mods, big ol' wheels, an oversized spoiler, and a look-at-me exhaust note (no Jordana Brewster, sadly) – but it's still easy to drive and friendly. Clarion could have built a monster, but instead, it just made a daily driven NSX better. This is one beautifully balanced creation.
- Like any good performance car, this Acura's heart is its engine. The original, 3.0-liter, 270-horsepower V6 with VTEC (yo!) had done nearly enough miles to get the moon, so Clarion worked with its build partner, Huntington Beach, CA-based NSX experts AutoWave, to source a 3.2-liter V6 from a 2004 NSX. The new engine then received a Comptech supercharger and custom AEM intake and exhaust, bringing output up to 344 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque – that's perfect for the NSX. These days 247 lb-ft doesn't sound like much, but the Acura gets off the line with plenty of punch. And because the throttle is so easy to modulate, the NSX lets its driver precisely dial in the right amount of pedal – despite the wet weather, I never saw the traction-control light flicker. Clarion hasn't released performance figures, but this feels like a mid-four-second-to-60 car.
- But it's the ears that benefit most from the performance changes. The supercharger note sounds alien and not just because I don't normally think of an NSX being supercharged. It's a deep howl, not a shriek – more tenor than soprano. The AEM exhaust amplifies the VTEC-assisted V6 racket – you'll get noticed – but it's also smooth and refined, even at freeway speeds. There's zero droning, and the phrase “ricey” never entered my mind while behind the wheel.
- The NSX ruined modern cars for me. Yes, this is a positive. Everything is so mechanical. Crank the ignition, select a gear with the leather-wrapped shifter, modulate the pedals, or turn the steering wheel and you're going to feel actual mechanical components working. The simplest things are more satisfying in the NSX than any modern car. Feedback through the chassis, steering, and pedals is constant and glorious.
- I have to salute Clarion's work on the audio system. The cabin features a two-screen setup – like modern Acuras – with the company's Surround Eye Camera System shown on the upper display. This always-on system puts bulky cameras under each mirror, but it's a fair tradeoff for peace of mind in tight driving situations. The lower screen is a navigation-equipped, seven-inch touchscreen, which pumps noise through Clarion's Full Digital System speakers. The pairing sounds remarkable, and will play nice with everything from satellite radio, to Bluetooth streaming, to USB connectivity, to normal AM/FM.
- The roads around Farmington Hills, like most of southeastern Michigan, are flat and boring, so I can't talk about how the suspension really feels in the bends. But Michigan's deplorable pavement has me worried about the NSX’s wheel/tire package. The 18-inch front tires are shod with 35-series tires, and the 19s are paired with 30-series rubber. Yes, you could drive this Acura everyday – just make sure to budget for wheel/tire replacement before long.
- The biggest downer? There's only one Clarion Builds NSX. But you will have a chance to buy it. Like its BMW 2002, Clarion will eventually auction this Acura off. The company wouldn't speculate on a price, but the 2002 sold earlier this year at Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach for $125,000. Considering a low-miles NSX goes for anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000, I’d bet this heavily modded example will go for far more than $125K. The silver lining? Proceeds from the Acura's sale will go to charity, as was the case with the money made on the 2002.
- Brian O'Conner's Toyota Supra
- An unmodified NSX
- Jordana Brewster
|CLARION BUILDS 1991 ACURA NSX|
|ENGINE||Supercharged 3.2L V6|
|OUTPUT||344 Horsepower / 247 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 Seconds (est.)|
|AS-TESTED PRICE||$160,000 (est.)|
Photos: Brandon Turkus / Motor1.com & Larry Chen / Clarion