What we find so astonishing about the NSX is how ahead of the times Honda was in designing the exterior of the top-model Acura. The look of the NSX is just as relevant today as it was back in 1991-a "Can you believe it?" 15 years ago. If the NSX never existed and a 1991 model rolled out onto the concept car showrooms of today it would be just as attractive as its contemporary competitors. The exotic show-car looks and crisp, race car angles give off an aggressive appearance and an unquestionably fast air about it. What other 15-year-old cars can boast the same? I challenge you to name another 1991 car whose appearance doesn't date itself and can pass for being built in 2006.
Given this soft spot in my heart for the NSX (and a warm spot waiting in my garage if there are any givers out there), we ventured to Las Vegas, Nevada to check out the legendary Factor X Racing NSXes. We've heard much ado about Factor X and its high-horsepower NSXes online so it piqued our interest enough to set up a meeting, or I should more accurately say an ogling session. With how busy the Factor X crew is and how apparently not publicity-driven they are we missed them a couple of times but we finally met up at the SEMA 2005 show.
We had a chance to talk with Mike Angel, a Factor X bigwig. He explained that Factor X Racing specializes in Acura NSX tuning and performance upgrades. Due to the limited production run of the NSX, however, there is not a wide body of literature on modifying NSXes. As such, Factor X built their knowledge and experience from testing products on their own personal vehicles. Aside from this 1993 Sebring silver NSX, Factor X also owns a not-yet-complete 1991 Comptech widebody NSX and a 500-plus rwhp 1993 black NSX. Previously they have owned an additional 1991 and a 1992 model.
In general, Factor X felt the biggest problem of this project build was the exclusivity of the NSX and as a result parts are very expensive or needed to be custom made. In addition, "when we first started doing our R&D on the NSX not much was known about the motor, transmission, etc. Trial and error played a big role in the development," according to Mr. Angel.
The origins of this project vehicle began when it was purchased for $26,000 in California. Factor X was "ecstatic with its balance, braking, [and] build quality. The only gripe we had was its lack of power." The words "NSX" and "lack of power" usually don't belong in the same sentence. While the exterior styling of the NSX exudes an appearance of being as fast as a Ferrari, we must remember that this vehicle is in fact 13 years old. While it was fast by 1993 standards, today it needs a little bolt-on help to keep up with the big boys. Yes, it has reached its Viagra-aided years in the "oomph" department. The speed-addicted guys at Factor X actually said of their stock 1993 model "in today's performance world it is downright embarrassing." So began their "quest to make the NSX on par with newer exotics pushing out much more power.
Like most tuners, Factor X started out with the basic upgrades and charted their performance. The crew first installed an ARC intake, Comptech headers and ARC exhaust. This setup yielded gains in the area of 30 rwhp. Due to the NSX's excessively tall second gear Factor X opted to use the NSX-R short gears and ring and pinion. The next step was pulling out the big horsepower guns by plugging in a Comptech Supercharger system. Factor X says, "After some custom tuning we were extremely happy with the results." The result being 368 rwhp. With the dyno rollers still spinning they decided, "like all speed junkies we thirsted for more. The next progression was to add a 60 shot of nitrous." While this was satisfying in the short run, the excitement quickly wore off. "After a few months we began to tire of refilling the bottle every other day. So we decided to look at other options.
Civic or Integra owners are virtually limitless in the performance parts department. However, it is another story for NSX owners. "During that time there were not many options available for the type of power we were looking to make.
Out of suffering comes ingenuity. It was from this situation and Factor X's desire for power that led to the development of its own turbo system for the NSX. Dubbed the FX500, they designed "a single-turbo system that produced in excess of 550 rwhp and 420 lb-ft." From 368 to 550-plus rwhp? Whew, happy ending, let's all go home now. Unfortunately, in the world of mechanics the tenet holds true that for every action there is a reaction.
Something that many first-time turbo-kit buyers have experienced the hard way is finding out the stock motor cannot support such a huge power upgrade. Not wanting to blow up even a single engine, Factor X knew they needed to rebuild the engine to withstand the power of the FX500 kit. Action, reaction. Once they were in the middle of the engine build, however, they realized they had "opened up a whole new can of worms." Reaction to the reaction.
To tackle the task they purchased three additional C30 motors (no easy feat and damn expensive, too) and began building them for boost. Mike Angel built the six-cylinder engine and machining was completed by Combination Motorsports of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Displacement was bumped from 3.0 liters to 3.2 liters by boring the cylinders out from 91mm to 93mm. Darton iron ductile sleeves house the Wiseco slugs. The NSX engine has a balanced crankshaft and Wiseco pistons and rings. The pistons are set at a boost-friendly compression ratio of 9.8:1. Connecting to the balanced and micro-polished crankshaft are Cunningham forged rods. Providing lubrication is an ARC oil pan and oil is cooled by a Setrab with Flex-a-lite Slimline fan.
Portflow of Carson, Calif., installed the valves, Ferrea double springs and Ferrea retainers after completing a mild port job. Expelling all fumes are Comptech headers and Magnaflow exhaust.
Factor X built the transmission and assembled a custom Clutchmasters clutch. Ensuring the NSX transfers all the power to the ground, Factor X designed and fabricated a set of heavy-duty CV joints to drive the rear wheels. For the chassis itself, NSX Type-R chassis braces and a Carbing Rear strut bar were used.
The next task at hand was to find a suitable engine management system for their turbo kit. A man by the name of Jon Kuroyama was there to save the day and helped adapt the HKS FCON V-Pro to the NSX system. They also relied upon the expertise of famous builder Tod Kaneko, who is just a phone call away in California.
In order for a vehicle with this much power to handle effectively, Factor X set up a Tein RA front and rear suspension system. Also added to the front end are a Comptech anti-sway bar and tie-rods. Rear stiffness is enhanced with an Alex Zanardi Edition anti-sway bar.
Braking is provided by RB 11.7-inch slotted rotors and 1997 NSX calipers paired with Project Mu pads. Goodridge stainless-steel brake lines with Motul fluid pumping through them gets the stopping message to where it needs to be.
Further aiding in the track performance of this NSX are the Volk Racing CE28N wheels which run 17x8 inches in the front and a fat 18x10.5 inches in the rear. This NSX didn't reach the 10-second barrier on the quarter-mile by using inferior tires. It runs Falken FK-451s sized 225/40-17 in the front and 295/35-18 BFGoodrich Drag Radials at the rear.
After initially going with their custom single-turbo setup, Factor X progressed to their current twin-turbo format. The goal for the development of the twin-turbo kit "was to produce in excess of 600 rwhp with smooth power delivery." The NSX is intended "to be a dedicated road course vehicle.
But of course, since Mike [Angel] was involved a small shot of nitrous was installed for those days it goes to the quarter-mile track." On nitrous the power output jumped to a staggering 813 rwhp. Could this be the most powerful street driven NSX in the U.S.? It is a big country so the truth remains a mystery.
Factor X Racing is very satisfied with the results of their 1993 NSX build and has even greater plans for their 1991 Comptech widebody NSX. You can see them represent at The Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and many local NHRA events. So far they have run a best of 10.68 at 138 mph.
Finally, a bit of reflection from the guys at Factor X: "The road has been a very long one and many times we questioned ourselves on what the hell we were doing. We are sure glad we followed our heart instead of our head."