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Project NSX: The Exterior Evolution

May 01, 2023May 01, 2023

After almost five years of ownership and 17 project updates featuring a fairly significant amount of changes, from the outside Project NSX has remained basically identical to when I bought it in 2017.

Close observation would reveal the subtly extended front lip and trimmed rear bumper (to accomodate the new exhaust) as two exceptions, but you get my point.

Over the five years, I’ve slowly absorbed as much NSX content in books, magazines and online as humanly possible. Happy though I was with the standard car's aesthetics, I had built up a rather sizeable folder jammed with photos of race and road versions which I thought, one day, might inspire an exterior ‘evolution’ of sorts for Project NSX.

With the realities of ‘growing up’ (buying a house, getting engaged and having a baby) arriving in fast succession in 2022, it felt like it was now or never to bring the image in my head to life.

‘All this talk of ‘inspiration’ and ‘aesthetics’ – have you forgotten about performance?’ you ask. Well, yes, somewhat. Although I do believe that a theoretical functionality underlies some of these changes, no aerodynamicists have been harmed in the making of this Project NSX update. This is just as much about having fun as going fast.

Now that the armchair Adrian Neweys have lost interest and left, let's talk inspiration.

1995 was a special year in motorsport for Honda, and for Japan. It would see a Japanese driver stand on the top step of the outright podium for the first time when Yannick Dalmas, Masanori Sekiya and JJ Lehto piloted the Kokusai Kaihatsu Racing McLaren F1 to victory.

Meanwhile the All-Japan combination of Keiichi Tsuchiya, Akira Iida and Kunimitsu Takahashi in their Yokohama Advan-shod NSX took out the LMGT2 title (8th overall).

Photo credit: Andrei Diomidov

To celebrate the F1's outright victory, McLaren released five road cars based on the Le Mans winner, simply referred to as the F1 LM. This is my all-time number one road car.

The silver LM above sold for US$20m (pre-COVID!), so owning a mighty McLaren F1 LM might be slightly out of reach for me. But I can certainly borrow that period correct race-car-for-the-road concept from which it was born.

Since McLaren released a special edition to celebrate their ’95 Le Mans victory, I pondered what it might look like if Honda did the same.

My homage to the 1995 winners would, of course, need to be a period-correct set of five-spoke wheels, as worn by both the F1 and NSX.

The Honda's centre-locks were made by Speedline while McLaren turned to OZ Racing for their magnesium-alloy racing wheels, called Chrono.

Both of these centre-lock race wheels had multi-stud road car versions released but have been long-since discontinued. I had never seen the Speedlines available for 5×114.3 cars, being more commonly specced for Porsche or Ferrari stud patterns.

I knew the OZs should be available because I’d seen a few NSX wearing them back in the day. Pictured is another Yokohama Advan-sponsored car which ran in a Japanese domestic race series in the early 2000s. The original Gruppe M/K&N demo car was another that had stuck in my mind.

There were a few old listings for NSX sets (staggered sizing, 17-inch front and 18-inch rear being most common) but during the six-month period I was properly searching, none came up for sale.

It's hard to find the larger size of OZ Chrono, so when a pair of well-used 18s appeared on Yahoo! Auctions Japan, I decided it was time to take a different approach – buy the two 18s and a less rare set of four 17s which could be split to get my front wheels.

A few months later, they arrived via container. The set of four were in great condition; the 18s were worse than expected, but nothing too concerning – the original white paint would be gone soon regardless. The road wheels are aluminium instead of magnesium so are heavier but much easier to work with for a wheel repairer.

A shop local to me, Eastern Wheel Works, handled the restoration work and did a stellar job. We ended up choosing a silver from the Hyundai colour chart, which in the right light (as photographed here in afternoon sunlight) shows a slight bronze.

In addition to the restoration, I also had the hub bore sizes enlarged for the NSX, and a small lip machined off the inner hub to fit within the mounting face of the car's Biot rear aluminium brake hat.

A couple of reproduction OZ decals applied by yours truly, and it was job done.

Although the wheels are old school, the tyres are decidedly new school. I still consider the Yokohama Advan Neova AD08R a new tyre, but somehow 10 years have passed since its release and tyre tech has moved on quite a bit.

The new AD09 promises to be better in every way. Yokohama's tests showed better dry and wet performance, a more rigid sidewall (the manufacturer's highest casing rigidity ever) and greater wear resistance. Without a freezing winter here in Australia this category of blended road/track tyres fit the bill exactly for Project NSX, and it is nice getting a ton of track performance without completely compromising road manners.

So as well as delivering those incremental performance improvements that this project is all about, it's also a nice nod to the Advan-sponsored NSX race cars of the ’90s that have inspired much of the build.

Wheel choice is extremely subjective, but I’m stoked with the end result. Visually, I’d love to go a little lower to nail that endurance racer stance, but I’m at the limits of ride height with rubbing and just clearing the speed bumps, potholes and other detritus which litter my local roadways.

I’ve done about 250kms on the AD09s, and so far I’m impressed. The front end feel is incredibly crisp and there is an abundance of dry grip for spirited driving. As a sign of my old age, what I’ve raved to people most about is the road noise, these are significantly quieter than the previously-fitted Dunlop Direzza Z3s on all surfaces, and add that extra little bit of drivability, which I wasn't expecting but am very glad about.

In 2002, when the 2nd generation NSX-R was released, one of the few external panels that was visually different to the standard car was the hood. The vented carbon fibre item for the NSX-R has been replicated countlessly since, but of course many modified and race NSXs had their own version for the obvious cooling and less obvious downforce benefits.

I chose Racing Factory Yamamoto's (RFY) version of that OEM NA2 NSX-R hood which has been designed to accomodate the earlier pop-up headlights of my car. RFY is a one man shop based in Kobe who also supplied the exhaust, front lip and a few small engine components used on my car.

The efficiency of the nose-mounted radiator should improve somewhat with the large opening directly aft for hot spent air to evacuate through. In combination with the slightly larger aluminium radiator fitted last year, I expect that the slow overheating on high-ambient temperature track sessions should be sufficiently managed.

Perhaps more importantly, a vented hood will allow me to seal the underside of the front end with a flat panel now that the post-radiator air can flow up and out instead of down. This will give the NSX a mostly flat floor from the front lip to the rear firewall, which should significantly smooth airflow under the car and contribute to aero stability and perhaps a slight increase in downforce.

My budget couldn't stretch to cover the 4x price premium for a trick ‘dry’ carbon hood, but this ‘wet’ carbon piece saves 2kg (4.4lb) over the already light standard aluminium panel and is significantly stiffer than a fibreglass equivalent. We decided to leave a strip of carbon exposed beneath the final paint for a bit of visual flair.

Paint was entrusted to Nakama/DT Panels. Unlike most paint shops, they don't shy away from taking on tricky single panel paint match work, which has endeared them to local modifiers and tuners for obvious reasons – for example those looking to get their Z-tune or NSX-R style bonnets matched to factory paint.

First thing was checking the fitment to make sure there were no major issues with the shape and mounting of the panel. There's some pretty crap aftermarket panels out there and it would have been pretty devastating after forking out for the part and shipping to find out it would have massive uneven gaps.

Thankfully the RFY panel was "good" according to Kenny, the shop's hands-on owner. Not perfect, but with some adjustments to the mounts, it received his important nod of approval.

There was also the job of transferring over the windscreen washer nozzles and related hardware and ensuring even panel gaps all around.

The key straight lines between the fender and hood were very good, which made Kenny happy. There is a slight height difference to the headlight panels which he pointed out (and now I can't unsee) but this was deemed to be a fair compromise for a panel like this.

The vent section on the RFY hood was very deep, to the point where, when closed, it fouled on some standard components mounted to the rear of the radiator support. We decided to trim about 20mm from the lower edge to rectify the issue.

This being a mid-range carbon hood means there are some concessions to cost, and the carbon weave has sections like this seam where the pattern is visually less than perfect.

After a bit of discussion with Kenny and some masking tape mock ups, I decided to use the inner seam where the lower centre section meets the raised outer section as the transition point. This way we could expose some of the nice carbon while hiding the unsightly seam on the upper edge.

The Nakama guys knew they had their work cut out to match the standard pearl paint, which appears to slightly change colour in different light. They have recently invested in a high-tech colour-matching system, which works something like a spectrograph to provide a starting point for mixing up a paint match.

The final colour-matched paint is then decided after a few variants are mixed up and sprayed onto some test panels, then compared to the original paint in different lights inside and outside of the shop.

Currently, peering through the mesh reveals the ABS unit, battery and other ancillaries housed in the frunk. I have a ‘duct’ panel from an American manufacturer that will better direct air up through the vent, but it is not directly compatible with the deeper hood vent style which RFY has designed, so will require some significant trimming. That's a job for another day.

For the rear wing, I also looked to the GT2 cars as a starting point.

Marga Hills is one of the few small Japanese brands that is well known inside the Honda world but is completely anonymous outside. They were one of the original shops to develop components for the NSX back in the ’90s and ’00s, and many of their parts are close replicas of those one-off Honda Motorsport parts fitted to the Le Mans-bound vehicles.

I’d actually bought the wing second hand off Yahoo! Auctions when I was still living in Japan, but it had been sitting in the closet waiting for the right time. It didn't feel right mounting it to a much more stock car back in Japan, but I think I can get away with it now.

The wing is a simple single plane hollow aerofoil (with an integrated gurney flap) which is extremely light and rigid, as a wing should be. There are four points of adjustment on the front mount for the wing angle to dial in the balance.

The lower section that integrates with the boot lid is fibreglass. Nakama, the same shop that did the bonnet, painted this underwing section for me.

I had the Eastern Wheel Works team paint the aluminium uprights in the same shade when they did the wheels, which provides a nice visual consistency.

I expect to gain a handy increase in downforce at the rear of the car at high speeds, and will play around with adjustments at the next track day to see where the sweet spot is. I don't have any plans to try to quantify it with load cells or CFD as the scientific method would demand. All that analysis wouldn't be period-correct anyway, right?

The reality of using aftermarket and second hand parts means quality of the final product is inevitably compromised in some way or other compared to brand new OEM. Overall though, I’m very satisfied with what the craftsmen at Nakama and Eastern Wheel Works were able to achieve with the various parts I brought them.

I never fell out of love with the car, but it had moved down my list of priorities during some big life changes. It happens to us all, and that's completely fine. I believe it's not realistic nor necessary to be 100% inspired about everything you do every single day (despite what the hustle influencers might have you believe).

Finally getting the bonnet, wing and wheels on the car have really reignited the spark. There's no better excuse than good weather and grippy new tyres, so the car has been getting driven more in the last four weeks than in the four months prior.

There is a long-running project in the works which has resulted in the intake manifold and injection being disassembled and spread across my living room floor a few times in that last four months, which is of course not very conducive to actually driving the thing. But that mini-project is almost finished and I’m excited to finally bring the concept to reality.

Let me know what you think of the changes in the comments below. In the meantime, here's to more good times behind the wheel – see you on the road.

Blake JonesInstagram: [email protected]

The SH Garage on Speedhunters

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Another great update, I love the evolution of this build, it's not a crazy "youtube clickbait look at me and all the money I throw at it" but a well thought out progression of mods. Will you bring it to World Time Attack in Sydney later this year?

Thanks mate - WTAC is on the bucket list so fingers crossed I can make it up this year or next.

Great attention to the finest detail. Being one of the premier established classics, it deserves it. An awesome example to be enjoyed!

Cheers Miguel, means a lot coming from you!

I have been actually wondering for months now when is the next update coming or if there is even going to be one. I'm no Honda fan but just like the build and the approach to it, parts chosen etc. etc. (following from the beginning).This new round of modifications is awesome and well executed by all involved.Great stuff!!!

Thanks Mahesh, project updates always take longer than I expect!

Are you going to shave that antenna?

I've got an S2000 'stubby' antenna I've been thinking of fitting, shaving (with welding and paint) does seem like an extreme option.

I think there is a kind of rubber plug (seen it somewhere on a YT project car) but can't tell if it's universal

Nice updates and i understand your intention. I love this project, but i'm not a fan of the new wing. Keep it up. Your Car, your Style

Cheers Olli!

As an NSX owner I would suggest you change the side skirts too. The Marga Hills ones are fairly aggressive but a second gen one would look perfect. Just my two cents but awesome car man!

Thanks mate. Some NA2 OEM-style skirts were on the cards, I'm just a bit hesitant about drilling or otherwise adhering things to the door panels. Agreed that visually, some sort of skirt would balance things.

Yeah I have an NA1 and went the full hog and bolted on the Marga Hills ones but I think the OEM NA2 ones will require almost no modification and will look great on the car. Good luck and can't wait to read more updates!

I'm 39 y/o. I've been around car magazines, forums, FB pages and IG profiles, since I was 7.I've never felt so compelled to a project car, like I've felt with this one, since the beginning. Your thought process around every mod, and your way of going throught each of them is just heart warming. I've been a Honda guy since I was 7, so the NSX is clearly one of many dream cars of mine. This one, is by far, my favourite. Thank you so much for sharing every single little detail. The next update can't come fast enough.

Ronin, I've always appreciated your support and kind comments along this journey. Sometimes it's so much easier to not photograph or chronicle every small detail while I'm working through the project, so thanks for reminding me why I should!

Doing a practical race car for the road type build like this (though maybe on sth smaller and cheaper) is my dream! But until then, I will live it through your updates.

I really love following your build updates on this NSX. I finished the article and was surprised to see though you didn't list the wheel and tyre weight differences there. You have been so methodical about weight savings on this project so far. Did you get any weight savings there? Remebering unsprung weight counts as more than other areas.

I'll need to update the overall tracking of weights in the next article. These Chronos are not super light, at least 1.5kg heavier than the Prodrives per corner.

Since you got an extra pair of 17" why not continue searching for another set of 18" and get another full set. Could be useful for track days or maybe, an option not that much direct, sell it for another NSX owner trying to find something like this.

The other 17's are unfortunately too narrow for the NSX, so they will need to be sold or perhaps turned into a nice hose reel!

I love your car. I have a stock 94 same color. I'd like to have a stock set of wheels copper dipped. If you're going to sell the stock wheels, I'd be interested.

Always great to read about Project NSX's updates, though that exhaust still messes with my mind. Hahaha!


Love the update and always enjoy seeing the consistent evolution of the car. I know you mentioned there is a slight change in focus, but for a long time you've been meticulous on the weight changes of the updates. You mentioned the hood savings, but what were the changes in your wheel/tires and the wing swap? Even if they're in the wrong direction it'd be nice to see the progress. Keep it up!

I'll add a summary to the next update

Awesome touches to the car! Everything is coming along so well. What location is the spot with the EK? Marysville?

Reefton Spur!

Love the car and the new parts. It all feels proper, and brought together with forethought. My only "gripe", if I had one at all, would be the rear. That is, either some sort of diffuser to cover more of the exhaust and let the single tip really shine (a more finished approach vs the open area) or, perhaps somewhat larger dual tips, so the eye isn't as focused on the big space there. But that is really a nitpick, and even as is, the whole package looks outstanding

I agree, diffuser is definitely in the pipeline. I've not seen anything which fits the bill so I'm expecting to need to make something custom when I have the time.

Do you wear loafers when you drive it?

Don't forget the McLaren member's only jacket and shades.

A very sensibly prepared car. The only thing I don't like is the central exhaust. Congratulations on a beautiful car.

IRL, this mod story is the most common reality for most in the sweet spot for modding their cars (that time when you're done with schooling, have held a career/job steady or did well with investments/ventures, but still young enough to care about the details and overall ethos/pathos a build might maybe possibly inspire an onlooker to even know the difference). YouTube just proves every video that the least knowledgeable and least passionate, have and will always have had, the loudest voices with the most ostentatious ideas. "Fools rush in..."The joy in being concerned with the choices we make on our cars is a subtle one that seems stupid and silly saying out loud - of course, not to a like-minded blog site, but to our outsider important relationships. It's important that as an enthusiast, your relationships at least understand you, so that one doesn't take over or worse kill the other. Simping also applies to cars and obsessions, too, so balancing one's own happy place should feel like both are growing and evolving rather than replacing or "losing". Plenty of car ppl get lost in the hype and kill their relationships while plenty also lose their enthusiasm and passion to relationships that may not even pan out positively anyways.A build like this means more to most than any crazy YouTube build or most rare/expensive lifestyle item.

It's all about balance in life, right? Thanks for the thoughtful observations, mate.

WOOOwww ! Very nice. Green cars ~ gold detal...Looks Lotus and TVR cars.

Project NSX is one of my favorite project builds here on speedhunters, and the LeMans treatment is absolutely perfect. Looks great, and the exhaust seems to only look better with time

Much obliged, Mr. Gravy.

Always awesome to follow the NSX build.


I love reading about the detailed thought process behind builds like this - seeing the meaning and purpose behind every selection to have a greater understanding and appreciation for the project as a whole. It's looking good!

Time will tell if you know yourself and the car scene enough for the concept behind your choices and writing about them to confirm or brake your credibility. We will see.

You lost me at "Time..."

Man this look completely transformed the car and I love those OZs wow it goes so well with the NSX probably even better than the TE37sCrazy to see how far this car has come man I really want one hopefully I can still afford one by the time I have the money to buy one

Perfect taste. Pretty sure the silver F1 is not an LM though, it's a standard road car upgraded later by MSO with the high downforce kit, GTR arches and an LM spec engine. Obviously amazing still.

Now I know that, I'm going to make the owner a lowball offer! hahaha.

The NSX is my dream car since the first time I saw it in a Sport Auto Magazine, back in the summer of 1989. I prefer the car 100% original or, alternatively, with period correct modifications. Automatic NSX´s are the exception to this rule. Automatics are one of the (bad) few concessions Honda made because of the US market. Understandable because they need to sell some cars in the US and an auto was, at the time, mandatory. Having said that I must admit your wheels are well thought (type and colour are perfect, even the size is not bad) and the (emotional) connection to the Mclaren F1 fits properly. The same can be said for the Team Kunimitsu NSX rear wing, as an homage to the most significant NSX in racing history, the number #84 1995 GT2 winner. Well done.

Much appreciated!

Another brilliant update - more like this please SH. Really enjoying Project NSX as the perfect antidote to the current wave of 'how much is it worth' hype around cars from this period. Great to see a project growing into the owners vision and being enjoyed properly over a longer period of time.

Killer job on the car! I normally don't like the big wing addition, but yours works. That hood looks great also.

What is the Hyundai paint color if you don't mind my asking?

The code was HYR2N(F).

The lines and curves on the front end are intense. I could stare all day.

Literally your life is my dream

Blake Jones The SH Garage on Speedhunters