This is going to make me sound very ancient indeed but I can remember the launch of the Honda NSX, not quite as if it were yesterday but pretty damn clearly all the same. Which is a tad worrying given that the NSX is 20 years old this month.
It was at the Nurburgring and all sorts of weird and wonderful people were present, including the legendary car scribe LJK Setright, who the Honda brass treated like some kind of deity. Whatever LJK asked for, he got. He was that well regarded, not just by Honda but seemingly by the entire Japanese car industry at the time.
The car itself was pretty special considering it was 1989, when the Ferrari 348 was what Marenello regarded as a cutting edge mid-engined rival. It was so easy to drive yet at the same time seemed impossibly exotic, and its high revving V6 engine and largely aluminium construction gave it a character all of its own.
It was quick, too, and quite why the powers that be at What Car?, for whom I was working at the time, thought it sensible to send a 21-year-old on the car’s international launch I will never know. I had my first and, to this day, only ever spin on the Nurburgring in it, but this had nothing to do with the NSX’s handling, which was about 500 miles better than any other mid-engined supercar of the era. It was merely a case of youthful exuberance getting the better of someone who shouldn’t really have been there in the first place.
As the years rolled by the NSX was tweaked and preened, and evolved into a slightly faster, slightly better version of its original, magnificent self. But essentially the formula remained unchanged, and it was never actually replaced by a brand new model as such, even though the engine went up in size on a few occasions.
And then at the end of last year the “all-new” NSX was officially canned by Honda, at the same time as the company pulled out of Formula One. The two decisions went hand in hand, unsurprisingly.
Which was a pity because, although it may not have been the fastest or most beautiful mid-engined supercar in the world, the NSX was always one of the more intriguing to drive. Maybe one day it will return, and if it does I hope Honda provides it with the cutting edge power-train that it never quite got; maybe a 2.0-litre V8 that revs to 16,000rpm mated to a zero-shift transmission with 10 forward gears, or something like that.
It would be a fitting way to celebrate a very good car, after all, one that has deserved its place among the greats for at least 19 of the last 20 years.