Words and Photos by: Andrew Smith
The 90’s were a beautiful time for Japanese sports cars. The “gentleman agreement” that no Japanese brand car would have over 276hp, yet nobody cared about following. Manufacturers that wanted to make performance cars with what seemed to be true passion compared to today’s modern options. Supras, Skylines, RX7s, and 3000GTs were becoming a new hotbed of young car enthusiast’s preferred dream cars. While many kids still had posters of American classics and Italian exotics on their walls, it was impossible to imagine the kind of following these 90’s imports would have on a future generation of car enthusiasts.
Supras, Skylines and RX7s tend to be the most well known/revered of the 90’s Japanese imports across much of the millennial generation for their prevalence in Hollywood blockbusters and their immense power potential. But hidden in that group of sports cars from the 90’s may be the best complete car ever produced in Japan, the Honda NSX. While other Japanese sports cars were just that, sports cars, Honda wanted to create something truly special. Their goal was to build an everyday supercar. Something that could compete with the likes of their Italian counterparts, but was affordable with Honda reliability. Honda decided that they werent going to compete on power alone, they were going to engineer a complete car. In NSX-R versions of the car, this went as far as developing and installing a thinner shift boot as it saved a few grams of weight.They were obsessed with power to weight ratio. That kind of incredibly detailed thought went into the design and creation of the NSX, and it shows.
While not being a highly common car, even compared to other high end 90’s Japanese sports cars, I have seen a number of them throughout the years. No matter where they are or what situation they are in, they certainly capture your attention. My friends always joke about it. Back in 1992 you could walk onto a car lot and buy a Foxbody mustang or a NSX. Obviously not the same level of car, but just look at the incredible “futuristic” look of the NSX compared to almost everything at the time. Even looking at one of these today you wouldn’t think that the design is 27 years old. Honda really did a great job with the design, giving it a true supercar look and feel without most of the typical downsides of supercars of the era. I had always wanted to get up close and personal with one, and the chance finally arrived when Joel purchased this example just a few years ago.
Im not quite sure why, but it seems like too many of the younger car enthusiasts move from one chassis to another extremely quickly. Gone seem to be the days of slowly and meticulously planning, saving and building their visions. Maybe this is the desire to always be in the limelight, a byproduct of internet age where fame can be gained and gone again within the click of a mouse. Maybe it is the rapid technological evolution where we need the latest and greatest smartphone every year. Or maybe it is the lack of being able to focus our attention on one thing long enough to complete a task. They say we as a society have changed more in the last 20 years than we have in the previous 80. Whatever the reason may be, Joel is the complete opposite.
I met Joel a number of years ago when I snapped a photo of his Honda Del Sol at a local car show. He had a map of the state of Wisconsin painted on the underside of the hood that I thought was incredibly unique. We got to talking through social media and ran into each other a few more times at events around the area. I soon learned that he was a true Honda enthusiast, running a local Honda Facebook page that kept the local community engaged. His car had impeccable paint and bodywork done, do to his work at his parents autobody shop. You could just hear his passion for paint and bodywork while talking with him. While I knew that he loved Hondas, I was not aware that his true dreams were to eventually move up into a NSX. After a couple of years, Joel announced that he picked up an NSX. I didnt hear about the car until late in the season and didnt get a chance to see it that very first year. That next summer I saw the car only once. Although we both wanted to get together for an opportunity to shoot the car, schedules didn’t work out and we never got a chance to meet up. Fast forward over the winter and Joel was making big plans for the exterior of the car. We decided that we were going to wait until he had finished the paint and bodywork before we would shoot the car. This year our goal was to shoot, and as time was running out, we managed to get together late in the season.
Unlike the carousel of cars that many in the import scene seem to go through every year, Joel has been the opposite. While almost all automotive purchases are huge expenditures and can rarely be seen as an investment, this was one that Joel was able to justify. The time was right and Joel made the leap. To see someone who knew exactly what they wanted and spent the time to achieve is a breath of fresh air. Joel started with a mostly stock 95 NA1 NSX-T. Being a paint and body guy, the exterior of the car was a big focal point of the future plans. Marga Hills pieces span around the car including a front bumper, side skirts, rear spats and a rear diffuser. The front fenders have had the side markers deleted to give the front a bit more of a smooth look. A set of Euro Boutique carbon fiber mud guards are stealthy along the bottom while a Seibon carbon fiber NSXR hood is color matched to the body. As I was shooting, I almost missed the carbon hidden on the hood underneath the cleverly designed paint scheme. A huge thanks goes out to Forest Home Carstar for the use of the equipment in painting and prepping the body.
Around the back is one of the highlights of the car. Joel had mentioned how hard he worked to get the specific rear spoiler seen on the car. After finding out that the spoiler was no longer available, he did some additional research and was able to locate a single piece remaining. From his knowledge, this is most likely the only NSX in the states with that spoiler. Underneath the car lies a NSXR undertray, while the paint is a fresh coat of Acura Championship White made so popular by the type R’s throughout the Honda world. Joel is grateful for his friend Marc Perez at The NSX Shop over in Japan who helped him source many of the pieces on the car. Rounding out the exterior is a set of staggered 17/18 Volk CE28’s wrapped in Sumitomo tires. A huge thank you goes out to Sickander Giovoni from High Performance Tuning and Fabrication for the work mounting the tires and the alignment.
With my relative lack of knowledge on the NSX platform and their standard visual cues, I find the bodywork almost subtle (besides the rear spoiler) unless comparing side by side with a stock example. It doesn’t look overdone or as if it was trying to hard. Everything flows well together, and it gives this 90’s supercar just that little bit of modern day widebody, kitted culture that helps bring it inline with current trends in the scene. A few small decals provided by Joe Veight of Sweetridze Decals are subtly located around the car, finishing off the exterior.
The interior is much more simple than the exterior. Remember that NSX-R shift boot that Honda designed to save a few grams? Joel has installed one of those along with a NSX-R shift knob and a Sparco steering wheel to complete the interior. A simple yet elegant carbon fiber accent kit rounds out the otherwise factory designed perfect interior.
The engine is currently in the beginning stages of the build. Without going into too much detail on future power adders, the tried and true Honda combo of a set of DC headers and catback along with a Downforce air duct intake round out the first stage of engine modifications. After the exterior bodywork was completed, suspension and brakes were the next on the dockett.
The suspension setup is a KW Club sport system with custom rate swift springs. Stance parts air cups are installed on all 4 corners with a custom V air tank and pump set up for the OEM installed air suspension. Carbon 6 titanium ball joints and tie rods are installed along with NSX-R sway bars. The electric power steering system was custom rebuilt brass gears and bushings instead of the stock plastic pieces to put the final touches on the magnificent steering feel. Braking is handled courtesy of Powerstop drilled and slotted rotors with ceramic pads and Goodrich lines. The stock calipers have been rebuilt to bring them back to new car performance, and then Joel went to work on them visually. He ground them down to remove the casting marks and then repainted them to complete the rebuilding process.
The car is only just beginning. As is always the case, Joel is limited with time to get the next stages done. While he hoped to have more done by this point, a shoulder injury limited him to only his non strong arm (he is a righty) for a majority of the past year. His good buddy Syviengchan Kay was gracious enough to stay out until 2:30am multiple nights helping to get the car together. As is the case with all projects, it is those best friends who put their time aside that always seem to get the project over the hump. As I was writing this article and chatting with Joel, he divulged to me the next stages of the build. As expected, no stone will be left un-turned and the entire car will match the subtly, yet incredibly detailed exterior.
Being able to write this article and photograph this car for Joel brought real pleasure to me. While we all have enthusiasm for the culture and these big hunks of metal and glass that we all fall in love with, just listening to Joel talk about the car instantly reminds you of the purity of the obsession. There is no questioning his motives. There is no desire for social media fame or admirers. No need to do the next big thing or set the scene on fire. There is just a deep rooted passion for a car that has long since been a childhood dream. Many people are over the moon excited when I approach them about being featured on Midwest Automotive, but there was just something about the excitement in Joel’s voice that struck me. He is proud of his work, and just wants to share with people his creation. I think it will be a long time before I find someone as excited as Joel to be featured on here, and for that I can’t thank him enough. I will be taking some inspiration from you sir as I begin my childhood dream build on my own vehicle.
1995 Acura NSX-T
Custom rear spoiler
Siebon NSX-R hood
Custom side marker delete front fenders
Marga hills front bumper
Marga hills side skirts
Marga hills rear spats
Marga hills rear diffuser
Euro boutique carbon fiber mud guards
Acura Championship White paint
Staggered 17/18 Volk CE-28 wheels wrapped in Sumitomo tires.
Powerstop drilled and slotted rotors
Goodrich brake lines
Rebuilt and refinished OEM calipers
KW Club Sport coilovers with custom swift springs
Stance parts air cups on all 4 corners
Custom V air tank and pump set up
Carbon 6 titanium ball joints and tie rods
NSX-R sway bars
Custom rebuilt electric power steering with brass gears and bushings
NSX-R shift boot and shift knob
Sparco steering wheel and carbon fiber accents kit.
D.C. Headers and catback exhaust
Downforce air intake duct