Like many petrolheads, Dave Pratte of Speed Academy grew up dreaming of the Honda NSX. Its sleek lines, perfect proportions, V6 bellow, and edgy reputation tantalized his teenage self. It also had some lore that would make any young racers eager to own one. Ayrton Senna supposedly helped improve the car’s handling, after criticizing the prototype versions for not having enough rigidity. We’ve all seen that famous footage of him flogging a Type R in loafers.
Pratte’s been fortunate enough to test a handful of awe-inspiring cars around Toronto Motorsports Park, his home track, yet few have made him quite as ecstatic as this one. The NA1 NSX was already quite light from the factory. But the owner, Tyler, decided to lighten the trim figure with some carbon pieces for some weight reduction — and a little glitz.
That lightweight frame doesn’t need much power to get moving along nicely. But, that didn’t stop Tyler from upgrading the C30A with an aftermarket exhaust. The baritone bellow of the V6 is one of the best sounds in the automotive kingdom — and a large part of what makes this car such a treat to drive.
The rest of the upgrades are no-nonsense bits to improve cornering, braking, and traction. By focusing on the right features, and having the good fortune of driving at a track without long straights, this lightly-tuned NSX sets a ridiculously quick time for a near-stock car approaching 30-years old.
Focus on the Footwork
The footwork is where Tyler focused most of his attention. KW Clubsport coilovers, lightweight Enkei RPF1 wheels, and NSX Type R sway bars all contribute to a forgiving balance. The NSX has a reputation for snap-oversteer at the limit, but this example is as reassuring and confidence-inspiring as they come. As Pratte puts it, “this car has no bad habits, man!”
Though the list of modifications is short, this NSX looks undeniably track-oriented. Talk to old Honda enthusiasts, and they’ll mention that the NSX didn’t need much. There are one or two issues, though. Aside from a slightly snappy setup from the factory, the first-generation ABS on these cars were less than stellar, so Tyler wisely added the ABS unit from a contemporary Type R car. Apparently, this modification alone dropped two seconds off its time at TMP!
With supportive Sparco Evo seats and Takata harnesses, Pratte is kept snug while exercising the limits of this lightweight. From the start of his laps, we can see — and hear, from his strained breathing — just how much grip this machine makes. Even with narrow 215-section Falken Azenis at the front, the car turns instantaneously, and with minimal steering effort. Better yet, this tire width edges the NSX towards a friendly and familiar understeer. It’s friendly, but the car still rotates slightly under the brakes (8:04) when needed. “It’s all so controllable — it’s just an utter joy to drive,” he exclaims.
That playful, balanced chassis is the reason why Pratte begins smiling ear-to-ear from the second lap onwards. Going off his cheers, heavy breathing, regular declarations of love, and that ever-present grin, his feelings for the car are clear. It’s also approachable; that amenable chassis helps Pratte click off a series of consistent laps that eventually got him down into the 1:20 range.
Only a second off their fully built, track-dedicated S2000, this NSX proves just how capable it can be with several basic track-day modifications. Considering these cars are, as Pratte puts it, “stock versus stock, these are basically as fast as an S2000,” that’s staggering performance. Put Pratte in for a little longer, and he might’ve been able to chop another second.
He’s tested a time attack 350Z, a Corvette Z06, and supercharged FR-S at this track, but none have made him beam quite like this car. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but that maxim does not apply to racing greats like this.