Sitting in a first-generation Honda NSX on Sunday, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t ever properly driven an ‘old’ performance car hard.
Now, I know the original NSX isn’t all that old (indeed, this example was from 2005), but it was still designed before I was born, and my motoring journalist life has clearly been a sheltered one. What’s that thing in the centre console? A cassette player, you say?
The Goodwood Festival of Speed allowed me to right that wrong. And, clearly, as I slip on the rose-tinted spectacles, I have been missing out.
It still looks great, the NSX, doesn’t it? The crowd seemed to like it, the ‘old’ NSX getting as many admiring glances as the new one parked next to it.
Inside, visibility out puts many modern cars to shame, even if the cabin feels a little cramped. They certainly don’t make carpets with that pile like they used to, and who said all those electronics in cars will be tricky to look after in the future? Everything on the NSX worked perfectly and felt robust.
And so to the hill. The ‘don’t stack it’ box was ticked, which is the main thing about any run. But a few impressions, if I may.
The loveliest thing of all about the NSX is the weighting of everything: lovely clutch pedal, lovely feel to the steering, lovely gearshift. Just lovely.
And the noise; my ears are still ringing from the screaming when you rev it. The performance is more sports car than supercar but, still, Honda’s performance car engines are excellent and packed with drama. I couldn’t help wondering just how the Civic Type R in which I’d driven down to Goodwood would perform with the NSX’s V6 under its bonnet…
If I went back to Roman times by driving the NSX, I was back in the Jurassic period later the same day when my old-car quest turned up a set of keys for an Alfa Romeo 1750 GTAm racer.
Fresh from the new Alfa museum in Arese, this near 50-year-old 2.0-litre touring car provided about as pure a driving experience as you could wish for. My only instruction was to try to keep the revs between 2500 and 5000rpm. Armed with that info, hanging around in the various assembly areas proved to be almost as much fun as the run itself, as revving the engine to keep it warm creates quite the aural commotion and makes you the star of many a camera phone video from passers-by.
As for the run, the GTAm was also returned in one piece, my mind being focused by the fact that there were no seatbelts and the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up after a little wobble at the first corner.
What surprised me most was just how easy it was to drive. The clutch wasn’t heavy, the gearshift was slick and the steering was as precise and accurate as a German penalty shootout. It sounded just as good out on the hill as it did in the assembly area. And just look at it.
It was some day and some trip back in time, and it was all topped off with a listen to the wireless by the fire in my pipe and slippers. Or, erm, a look at the Goodwood highlights on Sky Sports HD on my smart TV. Welcome back, 2016.