Sacrilege or sanctification? I’m sure purists will have an opinion. Carving out an iconic and priceless automotive demigod like the NSX will always leave the room divided. It’s the same kind of thing as stuffing a Honda engine into a Ferrari – glorious to some but downright blasphemous to others.
What am I thinking? Well, this latest offering from the mind of Kazuki Ohashi to Madlane looks really cool, but i feel a little piece of what makes the NSX great may were sacrificed.
To understand exactly what makes this late ’90s Honda so special, all you need to know is that the NSX was fine-tuned by brilliant F1 driver Ayrton Senna. In 1989, while Senna was testing his new Honda-powered McLaren F1 at Suzuka, Honda was just testing the near-completed NSX prototype.
Senna jumped in, dressed in jeans and loafers, and took a drive. His comments that day and during subsequent testing at the Nürburgring gave Honda engineers valuable feedback. They ended up refining the NSX’s chassis stiffness by 50% and made many other suspension and handling tweaks based on Senna’s recommendations.
So for a car that has been revered for decades as a masterpiece of driver engagement and handling, that made the Ferrari 328 look like something out of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbook, what did falling on airbags do?
The NSX has always been designed as an extremely useful and practical everyday sports car. That meant he never had any problems navigating a multi-storey car park on ramps or speed bumps. But, in stock, the NSX looks a little gaping around the arches, something 99.9% of owners would rectify by dropping their car on coilovers. Of course, this modification alone could then make the NSX impractical for everyday driving. Do you see the irony now?
What the guys at Madlane have done is create a balance between the two worlds. With the push of a button, this NSX can be transformed into a curb-hopping urban champion. Another squeeze and he’ll deflate on his packs into a low-slung highway sprinter.
To install the air suspension, the all-aluminum chassis was modified. I bet Honda’s NSX design engineers will be thrilled with it.
Kazuki-san assured me that endless hours of road testing allowed him to tune the air suspension to such an extent that the average customer couldn’t tell the difference. He says it reduces body roll in corners and stops rear end sagging when accelerating.
The NSX will forever remain one of the greatest cars of its time, beautiful in every way and ahead of its time. With input from Ayrton Senna pushing himself, those around him and the cars he drove to the limit, I wonder if he might actually like the fact that this bagged NSX was also pushed at the limits of the position.
I’ll let you decide for yourself, but if you’re feeling a little hot under your skin, take a deep breath and look through the photos at how cool the Madlane NSX is.