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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

History of the NSX: From Hot Wheels 1990 Acura NSX to the new 2013 NSX concept




Hot Wheels made quite an impression finally creating a clean stock version of the very first Acura or Honda NSX in the form of the red 1990 version for 2015.  This is not the first NSX for Hot Wheels as they have also produced a race car version and two concept cars, with one of them becoming the 2016 NSX.  Before 2005 the sole areas to find an NSX in 1:64 was from two brands: Tomica or Motormax.


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In 1989 Honda showed off a concept car at the Chicago Auto Show called the NS-X, for New Sportscar eXperiment.  The concept transformed into the production car in 1990 as an all-aluminum unit-body construction with a mid-mounted DOHC 3.0L V6 with VTEC variable valve timing that produced 270 hp and 210 Ib-ft. of torque through a 5-speed manual, F-16 fighter jet exterior and cockpit, and reliability with an affordable price tag that would put the best from Germany or Italy on notice about the quality of their products.





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The Hot Wheels version looks good in red, but wait a second!  You say it has larger rear tires, flared fenders, and a taller rear spoiler, this is not 100% stock at all!  True, but that's just a minor flaw in an otherwise fantastic casting.  The front has the perfect execution of the hood lines, pop-up headlights, and bumper with signal lights and lower scoops.  The sides have the side air intake scoops with the flared fenders giving some character to the otherwise flat sides.  The rear has black on the upper portion of the spoiler, detailed taillight bar with the ACURA logo in the center, a large rear diffuser, and check out those separate gray exhaust tips!  The roof dome is all black so all of it, including the pillars, are part of the window piece, though I find it odd that the hood has washer nozzles and yet there is no wiper blades!



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The base underneath shows off the suspension details at the front and the lower part of the engine and transmission at the rear.  What you can't see under the deep tint of the windows is the detailed interior.  The seats are stock but add 5-point racing harness, the dashboard is laid-back with the central radio and HVAC controls, shifter in the console, and the steering wheel.  Behind that is the detailed engine bay which shows the intake and a few hoses that show the tightly-wedged V6 motor.





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Now compare that to the 2008 example,  This version in white has a lower section of the body that is part of the base, fenders that flare fully instead of slightly like the 1990 version, metal roof, plastic rear spoiler, louvered front hood, 10-spoke wheels, revised front and rear bumpers, and dual exhaust at the rear that are part of the chrome base.  The interior is much easier to see with a right-hand drive layout (the 1990 version is left-hand drive) and clearer dash layout, but lacks the shifter and the passenger seat is removed for racing gear while the driver gets a racing seat.  The engine area has a large intake scoop and supercharger that covers most of the engine, but you can get a glimpse of the valve covers below.  It's nice, so what's wrong?  It's not perfectly stock as you can see; too much racing gimmicks and graphics for a street car, the engine is not perfectly stock, and the fact that it is badged as an Acura when the right-hand drive layout should badged this as a Honda.





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Earlier options start with the Tomica version that was introduced in the 1990's but the version you see here was part of the RC2 The Fast and The Furious set in 2003.  The metal body has nice and crisp details that are perfectly stock, and adds NSX plates and clear taillight bar, the roof is metal and the wheels look really cool in blacked-out wide racing format.  Things then go off a cliff when you look at the interior without a dashboard and a cheesy yellow-painted steering wheel, to the engine cover that lacks any detailing at all!  Nor does the base have much to show, and the roof sits a tad bit too high.





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The other is from Motormax.  This version tries to mirror the 2001 facelift with exposed headlights but truth is this is still based on the previous NSX pre-facelift.  Just like the Tomica the Motormax features the proper stock look with a metal roof, but adds exterior mirrors and the proper roof height.  Silver for the headlights, black for the front grille and side scoops, and a touch of red on the taillights.  It looks great, though the 5-spokes are generic and my example has a squatting problem at the rear.  The base shows off impressive details from the suspension to the drivetrain to even the floor pan layout.  The interior also shows off excellent detailing right down to the 4-spoke steering wheel, but ironically it lacks the detailed door panels that other Motormax 1:64 castings offer.  Once again like the Tomica the engine bay area shows diddly squat!






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The future of the NSX

After production ended in 2005 Honda was looking for a way to revive the NSX into the next generation.  Seeing how good the original version was it was no surprise that Honda had a hard time coming up with a successor.  The first, and Hot Wheels first NSX casting, was the HSC concept in 2005.  The silver car had the same mid-engine layout but with a more sweepier B-pillar and more vents in the engine cover.  The headlights are exposed and feature futuristic projector beam layout (and part of the windows in this Hot Wheels version), the lower grille is larger, split into two nostrils, and has a pointed beak.  The sides have smaller exterior mirrors and a lower position of the side scoops, while the rear takes a drastic different direction:  The rear spoiler is replaced by a pop-up unit, the taillights are now several bubbles, and the lower bumper follows the front with the dual exhausts at the central beak.  The engine was a 3.5L DOHC i-VTEC V6 that produced 300 hp through a 6-speed automated manual; engine details were there but barely visible in this Hot Wheels version.  The interior is right-hand drive with a dashboard layout that curved more toward the driver.  The doors on the concept open up like a half-butterfly wing.  After much debate the project was cancelled due to corporate funding at the time.


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After years of debate, heated exchange between the Honda and Acura and who should get the NSX (similar to the S2000 fiasco), and a brief almost production plan to make a mid-front engine design, the final production design appeared as a concept in 2012 and in production form in 2015.  The new NSX goes back to the mid-engine setup with styling that follows the new Acura image from the front beak to the crystal headlights.  Hot Wheels did a good job on this one with the detailed headlights, beak grille, and side scoops at the front; the smooth bodylines of the sides; and the red taillights at the rear that connect at the top to pay hallmark to the original 1990 taillights, while the lower bumper has more scoops and hides the dual exhausts.  The roof is all black (though the center part is still metal on this Hot Wheels version) and does a nice job with the sharp polygon cut-outs at the end of the rear windows.


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Things get pretty lame from there as the base does not show much in detail, the modern FTE wheels are not a favorite for everyone but ironically look great on this car, and the rear engine area has no details at all!  The interior has a more neutral-balanced dashboard with a central touch screen and a rising center console to the dashboard.  Power is from the 3.5L DOHC i-VTEC V6 that joins an electric motor at the rear and two more at the front to produce 550 hp through a 9-speed automated manual, perfectly arriving at a time when high-end supercars like the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder employ hybrid electric tricks.  Red and silver are the original showcar colors for this 2013 release, but the new 2015 release in a racier deco really brings out the best of this casting.

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So, with the new Hot Wheels 1990 Acura NSX it may not look perfectly stock, but at least it has more details than before, especially when you consider the history of just some of the 1:64 NSX's offered in the past that lacked in some area's of details.  It may be another few years before we see another classic NSX in 1:64 scale with hopefully perfect stock details but until then this Hot Wheels 1990 version will do just fine.

The (Hot) Rodding Twenties: Hot Wheels Great Gatspeed alongside a '31 Duesenberg and a '35 Packard



We've seen the most typical Hot Rods in America at the beginning of the 20th century usually based on Ford Model T's and A's, and if they were not Ford's the usual basic format, no matter what vehicle it's based on, remains the same for the early hot rods.  This latest design example from Hot Wheels takes a different course: hot rod a higher-end luxury car.  The end result is called Great Gatspeed (similar in rhyme to the movie "The Great Gatsby"), and to show the modifications I also brought in the '31 Duesenberg and '35 Packard.




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Great Gatspeed has that cool hot rod look with a long wheelbase and long length, fenderless body that is low to the ground with a raked rear stance.  Starting off in black and red with Mac Tools on the doors is another great starting point as it really brings out the best of this casting.  The front has the repositioned headlights at the lower part of the bumper just ahead of the grille with smaller driving lamps and all connected by an arched bar.  The engine is an I-8 as what the Hot Wheels package says, but the carb count is seven and the exhaust header count is six; nevertheless the flow of the parts look great, though i'm not sure where the stylish air filter cover on the right-side fits in with this equation.




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The chopped roof features a convertible top that is folded down at the rear, with mounting points around the frame of the roof.  The body has four doors, the rear ones are smaller, that open backwards, while out back the taillight-less rear has just enough room to support a large gas tank.  All four wheels in 5-spokes that look great sit on a base that has leaf springs on all four (and visible on the outside) with the oil pan details in the center.  Inside there's ample room for six people while the driver gets the steering wheel and central gauges in the dash.  Oh, and check out the detail of the front track arms as well.



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While the Great Gatspeed does not have a vehicle it's based on, it probably gets inspiration from the two classic cars shown here.  The final model in the Duesenberg line before World War II put the end to the company was the Model J in 1928.  The classic car featured a split front and rear cockpit which also includes separate windshields, though both fit under one top as show on this red Hot Wheels example.  The front has a large chrome grille (part of the metal base) that feature headlights, driving lamps, and a lower bumper.  Per the usual for Hot Wheels cars of this era the fenders are part of the plastic interior piece as recreating the curves of the external fenders in the metal was a rather difficult task (not to mention the thinness of the fenders would be too fragile to support), so yeah the color is off but the detail is there.  Each side also occupies a spare tire just ahead of the metal exhaust header and intake manifold.  The read body has a silver stripe, while the 5-spoke wheels don't look too bad on this car.  The rear has a trunk that looks more like a last-minute add-on than being a part of the vehicle.



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All of these Hot Wheels classics of the early 20th century have metal bases with some slight suspension details.  The interior has bench seats and a steering wheel.  That's it!  Being bought by Cord the new J series was ready to go after competitors that include the Hispano-Suiza, Rolls-Royce, and Mercedes-Benz.  The Inline-8 featured dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and capable of reaching 119 mph.  Three and four speed manuals were offered, along with a supercharger and various coach-built body styles.  The Duesenberg company collapsed alongside the Cord owner in 1937.




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The other side is the 1935 Packard, which had a much longer life span as a company than the Duesenberg.  This Hot Wheels casting has always arrived in any color as long as it was black, at least until the 2009 Larry's Garage version.  The metal cab is larger and more wagon-like with dual spare tires with hubs that are part of the metal base (not to mention the black fenders look better alongside the black paint), the fenders are more rounded and integrated, and the front grille has fine vertical fins and headlight and horn units to the sides of the grille.  The back end has a separate trunk add-on and taillights on the fenders with a plate holder on the left one.  The interior has three bench seats with the back of the second row facing the front, all accessed by four doors with the rear doors opening rearward.  As usual the metal base shows off a few suspension details.  The powertrain is a V-12 engine, called the Twin-Six, to produce 160 hp. through a 3-speed manual.  Packard was one of the premier companies that started making custom-built automobiles for the rich back in the early 20th century.  By the 1930's it managed to survive the Great Recession under a single line and the addition of a low-priced model in 1935, though it did tarnish the exclusivity of the higher-end models.  Packard would be the only high-end independent U.S. automaker to survive the Recession and continue production well after World War II.

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While lacking the classical finesse of the Packard and Duesenberg, the custom Great Gatspeed still looks great and puts a strong foothold as a unique model in a group of similar me-too hot rods.