The Original NSX Wasn't Supposed to Get a VTEC Engine

The prototype wasn't designed to fit an engine with Honda's then-new tech. But the president of the company made it happen.

image
Honda

One of best things about the original NSX is its dual-overhead cam 3.0-liter VTEC-equipped V-6 engine. It's light, responsive, and revs to 8000 RPM. But did you know the NSX wasn't originally supposed to get a VTEC engine? Here's what happened.

Acura is celebrating the NSX's 30th anniversary this week, and it released detailing the car's development history. One popular story recounts the then-president of Honda Motor Company, Tadashi Kume, starting the NSX's engine on the show floor:

Prior to the press conference,[Kume] unexpectedly decided to fire up the prototype's engine, a sound that could be heard in an adjacent room, where a competing automaker was holding its own press preview.

What most people don't know is what happened afterwards, which would change the NSX's history forever.

While the noisy blast attracted media attention, Kume turned to the NSX engineering team and asked why the NS-X Concept didn't use the new VTEC technology that had been recently developed at R&D. When told that it was only planned for a four-cylinder engine application, Kume pushed the team for a VTEC V-6 design.
The engineering team received similar input from a group of top enthusiast automotive journalists attending a "super long lead" driving event at Honda's Tochigi R&D Center, prior to the prototype's Chicago Auto Show debut. These included top testers from Car and Driver, Motor Trend and Road & Track. The reactions were generally very positive; however, there was also a feeling that the NSX could use more power.

Because the VTEC engine was wider than the motor originally meant to fit in the car, the entire wheelbase had to be lengthened to accommodate it. The front and rear overhangs were also made longer to keep the proportions right.

Who knows what the NSX would've been like without a VTEC-equipped engine? Still fun to drive, probably. But That VTEC sound is a big reason why the car is truly great. We're glad it got the powertrain it deserved.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Vintage