They say you should never meet your heroes. For the most part that's true, I've never been more disappointed than after my first drive in a DeLorean DMC-12, childhood dreams of time travel completely squashed. When I was eleven I picked out the colors for a friend's dad's new NSX — red with a black top — and even though I've never driven one, it's been on top of my supercar wish list ever since. So when the guys from 0-60 Magazine called and said they wanted to fly me out to Infineon to drive not just any NSX, but the Spoon Honda NSX-R GT, a tuned version of the rarest NSX ever made, I didn't hesitate.
Based on the second generation, 2002 NSX-R, the GT was created specifically to comply with homologation regulations for Japanese Super GT racing. Those regulations stated any car that wanted to compete in the series had to be based on a production car with at least five examples. So Honda made five NSX-R GTs. Honda never stated what, if any, changes they made to GT underneath its wild new bodywork.
We do know what enhancements Spoon made to one of those five cars. Starting with the NSX-R GT's functional carbon fiber aero aids, flat undertray, non-functional snorkel (there for homologation purposes only), complete absence of sound deadening, single pane rear glass (the only thing separating you from the engine) and carbon/Kevlar Recaros, the Japanese tuner added its own upgraded suspension and brakes as well as a giant turbocharger and remapped ECU to boost the 24-valve 3.2-liter V6's from 290 to 420 HP.
This isn't just the car I've always lusted after. It's the single rarest example of that model and not a plain version of that either, but one that's had the bejesus tuned out of it.
Infineon is an intimidating place to drive any car, in place of run off, concrete walls are installed right next to most of the track, restricting not only your options should something go wrong, but, in a car as low as the NSX, your vision too. What parts of the track are unencumbered by concrete feature huge elevation changes. It's my first time here and I'm having trouble remember which corners go right and which ones left. The track is especially intimidating given the complete absence of driver aids in this priceless one-of-a-kind car. Sure, there's ABS, but there isn't traction control stability control, magnetic suspension or drive-by-wire anything.
Dating from 1990, the NSX hails from a completely different era of car design, one that put emphasis on the fundamental rightness of a low curb weight, lower center-of-gravity, an engine mounted amidships and the kind of subtle control that's only available in the absence of electronic assistance. The GT's bodykit also adds down force, lots of it.
Turn six at Infineon is an impossibly fast, downhill, off camber, near 180-degree hairpin. Its exit is bordered by a three-foot high, six-inch thick piece of poured concrete. Taking it fast takes commitment and more than a little faith. Gripping the tiny Momo wheel with white knuckles, it takes all my strength to turn the NSX onto a tighter line. The downforce that kicks in at close to three-figure speeds combined with the huge amount of caster means the steering gets heavier as you go faster, lots heavier. But that's just a side effect to the reason for those two changes; with them, the NSX-R GT will make it around any corner, at seemingly any speed, with an absolute absence of drama. As long as you keep your right foot planted, just like the 911 before they made it a luxury car, the mantra for any NSX-R GT driver needs to be "Never Lift."
Oh, and there will be NSX-R GT drivers too. Even though this specific model will remain very special, starting next year Spoon will sell you a brand new one that looks and goes just like this for only $150,000. And yes, it will be road-legal and available in left hand drive. Neither will they be mere replicas, but built using a supply of left over NSX-R chassis Honda has squirreled away somewhere in Japan.
That money won't buy you a luxury car. While the original equipment carbon/Kevlar Recaros are supportive and comfortable, the air-conditioning cold and the tape player functional, the interior is cramped and difficult to access in a way expensive cars simply aren't any more. It's loud in here too; only a single pain of glass separates you from the grumbling tuned engine and its big, popping exhaust. Don't think of it as Spartan, think of it as purposeful. Decades old design has its benefits; the view out is unencumbered by hood, fenders or power bulges, while the A-pillars are thin, enhancing your vision. The view out of the NSX is unrivalled and uncompromised, allowing you to concentrate on doing nothing but going fast.
And it does go fast too. Weighing just 2,795 Lbs (the 480 HP Nissan GT-R weighs over a thousand pounds more), that 420 HP can propel it to 60 in less than four seconds and on to a top speed somewhere in excess of 186 MPH.
They say never meet your heroes because they won't live up to your expectations. But, this NSX-R GT doesn't just feel as good as I expected, but better than I could ever have hoped. Unlike other classic super cars, the passing of time has been kind to the NSX. It suffers from neither high weight nor over complication of modern super cars, but adapts their up-to-date running gear, brakes and tires to give itself modern performance. Classic involvement with modern speed? That's a fantasy we're glad came true.
To read more, including a comparison against the 2009 BMW M3, pick up a copy of 0-60 Magazine issue 6, it hits stands nationwide today.
Photography credit: Robert Kerian
Thanks to: Edmun at Spoon Sports