As much as everyone memes about Honda in the car community and rice this rice that, we seem to forget that they were behind one of Japan’s few machines that could be considered a supercar. The NSX feels extremely underrated, despite the numerous articles and news coverage pointing to this car taking the likes of Ferrari back to school on how to make a real quality performance machine.
I had already built the modern 2017 successor NSX a while back (and decked it out with some Racing Miku for good measure), so I wasn’t really planning on building the first generation car so soon. Alas, this ended up being a bit of an impulse buy after I found it dusty and forgotten in a hobby shop in San Francisco, and given that it was priced lower than anything online, I thought why not.
I originally planned to get the Fujimi NSX-R, which was the 2002 facelift version of the car with the fixed xenon headlamps. Looking back on it compared to this Tamiya Type R, I’m glad I didn’t go with that original option. Upon further review it looks like the Fujimi kit was severely lacking in detail and didn’t even feature a full motor.
I actually didn’t even know the NSX had a Type R skew, though I suppose Honda did it for nearly every performance car they put out. As was typical with their Type R editions, the main name of the game here was weight loss – this NSX-R was nearly 300 pounds lighter than the standard model.
A big selling point for me on this kit was the inclusion of photo-etched parts in the kit. I’ve never actually worked with them before, so I thought it would be a good chance to experience the stuff before I start buying aftermarket PE parts.
A pleasant surprise – masking stickers for the front and rear windshields. They’re so exclusive to the NSX-R that the front windshield sticker features a little print of the actual car.
Just from the runner parts it looks like the motor will be fairly detailed.
It looks like the rear windshield has hinges up top – and you know what that means – an opening and visible engine compartment. You played yourselves, Tamiya – your older NSX is already better than your newest and latest model.
This runner had me particularly excited when I opened it up – on the lower right it looks to be the pop-up headlight housings, and they’re connected to each other by a rod in the middle. You know what this implies?!
Other goodies that come exclusively with this Type R are racing seats by Recaro and what looks to be a special steering wheel. I’m actually really surprised two dash options are given, since I’m pretty sure the Type R was a JDM-only car, so it’s weird for Tamiya to include a LHD option.
The NSX has an extremely unique body style, thanks in no small part to its mid-ship design. The A-pillars here are scarily thin; about half as wide as a toothpick.
Despite being a Type R, we don’t get any fancy aero bits or big wangs that come from factory. Instead only the stock spoiler is included, which basically just forms a bridge at the NSX’s tail.
This wasn’t aggro enough for me, so I went about modifying it a bit. I wanted to keep it as a bit of a larger stock wing, rather than a big GT Wing.
The idea was just to cut off and remake larger pedestal pieces, which raises the spoiler’s overall height. Scratch built pla plate was used for this, with putty to fill in the new seams.
I dig it. Not too ostentatious, but enough of a difference to be noticed, I think.
Did I mention this was a mid-engine’d car yet? No? Well the giant hole in the chassis between the rear wheels should tip you off.
Skinniest seats I’ve ever seen. I actually think a standard aftermarket bucket seat wouldn’t fit in the NSX’s tub now, given how small these are.
I know the Type R focused on being the spartan version of the NSX, which means very limited creature comforts like air conditioning and heavy sound systems, but I still found this bit humorous. To cover up what is presumably the radio controls, Tamiya doesn’t go out of their way to give you a newly molded dash that deletes the radio – they just include an extra little plate of plastic that you’re supposed to cover it up with.
This is the equivalent of a manufacturer trying to inject street cred into their car by equipping it with a sound system and then taping it all off so the buyer can’t use it when they buy the car because “racecars don’t need speakers.”
For clarity, I’m not saying Honda did this on their actual Type R – on the real car the radio unit is of course entirely removed and replaced with a blank carbon plate – but Tamiya knows no shame in just making us cover it up.
I was actually also really surprised to see that two rear view mirrors are included, presumably for left hand drive and right hand drive. All other models I’ve built with variable driver sides have had only one mirror – because why should rear view mirrors be limited by driver orientation? Maybe the passenger gets one too in the NSX, so they can both laugh at the cars they’re leaving in their rearview.
The modern 2017 NSX comes with larger rear wheels than fronts, but I was genuinely surprised to see that the story is the same with the first generation car. These are actually really nice wheels for a stock car – probably because they were specially produced by Enkei for the Type R.
Nice as they are though, it’s not JDM or tuner enough if we didn’t run aftermarket wheels. These Gram Lights are a little too close in design to the Work Kiwami’s I’ll be running on my upcoming Subaru, but they were a good size and better than other options, so I went with it.
Masking the rear and front windshields.
The Motolov Liquid Chrome markers are proving to be extremely useful, since apparently a lot of engine and exhaust components call for chrome.
Getting the 3.0 litre V6 and subframe together. It must be a weird experience changing the oil on a mid-ship car.
It’s a rear-drive car, but the motor is still mounted transversely because mid-engine.
Inserted. That semi-gloss black section right before the rear wheels and under the subframe brace is the fuel tank – so refined was the NSX’s engineering that it was apparently placed there deliberately behind the cabin so the car’s weight balance wouldn’t change as fuel was used.
These seats are supposed to be Recaros, but apparently I can’t apply Recaro decals properly to save my life. I went through two sets, one of which was a spare I pulled from my VeilSide Fortune’s decal sheet – and I broke both.
So I settled on making them Bride’s instead. Looks about right?
I have a very childish reason for picking red for this car. We always hear about how the NSX was the car that taught Ferrari how to make supercars again – and it’s not uncommon for the NSX itself to be mistaken for a Ferrari. So, I went off that stereotype and decided to paint it red – like a Ferrari.
I always really liked how these cars had black tops from factory – apparently some owners didn’t, and commonly paint their tops to match the body color.
Interior decal’d and flat coated.
I didn’t really know what to paint the back of the seats, but I suppose it didn’t matter much at the end of the day since they won’t be very visible once they’re in the cabin. I opted for gunmetal because why not.
Just a nice tub. The blanking plate for the radio still gets me. Tamiya even included a little carbon pattern water slide decal to cover it up, though it still sinks a bit where the radio control knobs were.
Motor basicallty finished, and yes it does say VTEC on the top cover, bro. Instead of attempting to micro paint the letters in, I decided to just re-purpose one of the H decals originally meant for the hubcaps on the wheels for the engine cover, and left it at that.
The modified spoiler is black because red cars with black roofs and black wings are just cool.
They’re even cooler with concave thin-spoke wheels. Of course, we can never just have easy compatibility with Aoshima wheels and Tamiya models.
The usual wheel hub cutting had to be done, but at this point I’ve done it so often that it’s second nature.
Better, but that fitment’s still just a tad too aggressive for my taste. I’m all about some poke, but it needs to be subtle.
I’m really liking how the finish is shaping up on this kit; I’ve never gotten any gloss this smooth before without polish. The secret? Build up the color coats and finish it off with a thick, wet coat. The disadvantage, however, was that the thick paint ended up eating away a bit at the paint below, meaning I had little areas around certain edges that were showing the plastic underneath again.
Thankfully these were just edges, and proved to be a quick fix via some paint decanting and brush work.
It happened again. The same issue weird hazing issue occurred on the rear windshield after I peeled the masking tape off, exactly as it happened on the R34 Skyline’s rear window. Thankfully it’s less pronounced than it was on the Skyline, as it only occupies a corner of the piece’s bend. I still don’t understand how or why this happens, though I’m fairly certain it’s caused by the masking seals. It seems like adhesive residue, but no matter what kind of solution or thinner I use to attempt to clean it off, it doesn’t work.
I wanted to keep the rear windshield completely clear since there’s actually a nice motor beneath it to be seen, but with this hazing happening I really had no choice but to mitigate it as much as I could with some clear smoke tint. I kept it as light as possible, and while it didn’t completely hide the imperfections in the plastic, it helped a lot. You’ll only notice the haze at certain angles where the light catches it now.
Excited for the pop up headlamps. Housing insides were painted chrome.
This was the photo-etched piece I was most looking forward to in the set. Honestly most of the photo-etched parts were kind of lame – they were mostly just metal grille meshes for the vents, which I could’ve made with regular mesh. But this engine bay cover screen was actually really cool – nothing on my part could make regular mesh look quite this nice.
Time to screw with the wheel fitment some more. Because cutting the wheel hubs didn’t quite bring the wheels in as much as I wanted, I now needed to tackle the brake rotors and calipers to get the tires properly fitted under the fenders.
I tried cutting the hubs off the stock rotors with my heat knife, but just ended up melting the entire assembly into a gooey mess, so it was time to resort to some spare rotors I had lying around. I’m pretty sure these are still from my original R32 GT-R, but they’re blank rotors with hubs that I could cut down, so they fit the bill.
Rotors sliced down considerably to make them thinner, and then fitted to the NSX’s axle’s.
Stock NSX rotor and caliper on the left, aftermarket unit on the right.
And to go the extra mile, I took some of the leftover Brembo decals from the VeilSide Fortune for use on the NSX’s new big brake kit. Unfortunately some of it rubbed off while I was making adjustments to the final fitment, but most of it is still there and can be seen through the thin-spoke wheels.
Headlights tentatively assembled.
The system to insert them into the body and have them articulate up and down is simple – the two housings are connected by a pole in the middle, which is then held in by a half-pipe glued into the underside of the hood. Moving one headlight up should move the other with it.
But this process wasn’t quite so simple. For whatever reason it took nearly two hours of fiddling with the housings to get it to line up perfectly and open and close without chipping paint and refusing to come up. There are grooves in the plastic under the hood to guide you in mounting the half-pipe assembly, but for whatever reason it took a while to actually get it all to work.
By the time I had successfully inserted the lights, there was a barbaric amount of paint chipping around that area, so of course I had to go back and touch it up with decanted spray. I know most modelers would’ve just said screw the pop up function and kept the housings glued in the closed position, but I need pop up headlights in my life dammit.
Rear windshield taped to hold it in place while we turn the body over to get the front windshield and side windows in.
Because it was so effective last time with the Fortune, I decided to reuse the same technique of using hot glue as a fast-dry non-fogging adhesive for the window assembly. A few dabs along the bottom edges were enough to keep it in.
Photo-etched grille pieces inserted. Of course, they came as metal but were painted black. They actually look crisper than the regular mesh I use, but I was kind of bummed that these were most of the PE parts included; some metal rotors or pedals would’ve been nice.
The NSX’s unique taillight bar is one piece, painted clear red on the inside.
And of course with a chrome backing to make the clear parts pop.
Finally, I decided to try for badging the nose with my last remaining Acura decal – leftover from the second generation NSX kit. Part of why I wanted to go this route was because the Honda badges included in this kit are of the Type R red backing variety – which means on a red car body they’d kind of get lost.
Another part is just because I think these metal transfer badges look cooler than regular ‘ol water slides, and I built the car as the LHD model after all, so it’s the North American Acura rather than the JDM Honda. Ironically there’s a Honda Type R badge on the steering wheel already, but I didn’t mind much. I also only had one of these Acura badges left, so only the front is getting it; the back will remain blank.
The last issue to contend with – annoyingly, the body fit over the chassis was very poor. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the chassis floor wasn’t fitting all the way under the body, no matter how much I took it apart and attempted to adjust things to make them fit. I thought for a while that it was the thick hot glue beads around the windows that were preventing the inside doors from riding up all the way, but even after I peeled those beads off and reglued the window assembly from the roof, it still wouldn’t go in all the way, with some chassis peek underneath near the sideskirts as seen here.
My ultimate solution was to just sandwich the car as much as I could and apply hot glue into the inner fenders, between the back of the inside fenders and the inside of the body shell. This actually proved to mostly work; there’s still a sliver of chassis visible under the sideskirts, but for the most part it’s all clamped together.
Hands down my favorite kit I’ve built so far. I’ve actually developed a newfound appreciation for this car – after spending a lot of time researching its history and features during this build I think it’s at the top of the attainable dream car list.
It’s definitely my cleanest and most complete build so far – I actually think I’ve finally achieved the ideal gloss finish I’ve been looking for.
This red finish has nearly zero orange peel – and most ironic of all, it required no sanding, polish, or wax. This was achieved with just thick and layered coats of gloss. That probably goes against all conventions of car model building, but if I can make that technique work from now on I’ll be golden.
I actually think part of why this finish came out so well is because of the nature of the color – it’s a solid, bright gloss red, which seemed to gloss over much better than other pigments like orange or metallic colors. I have no real science of colors to back this up – it’s just what I’ve observed from the kits I’ve built so far.
Something I do know for certain is that getting a consistent solid color (no special properties like flakes or lightness) is much easier than attempting to do the same with a metallic or mica color though – getting a consistent shade with the latter usually requires much more finesse than just laying the paint down until it stops getting any darker.
As I mentioned earlier, I started out with this kit with the intention of making it red as a sort of ironic jab at Ferrari and other European supercars, but by the time I was done I have to admit it looks suspiciously similar – to my own current full-scale car.
It wasn’t intentional, I swear – but it comes as little surprise. If I currently own a bright red coupe with a black top, black wing, and gunmetal thin-spoke wheels, it’s expected that I would inherently build one of my models similarly. No doubt that’s a large part of the reason why I like this kit so much; I just think this formula looks really good.
The final product isn’t without its flaws though, as much as I want to gush about the bodywork. I had some serious trouble getting the wheels all to align evenly, and at the end of the day I didn’t quite succeed.
I tried to lower the suspension by adjusting the wheels on their hub mounts, and attempted to get as close to zero camber as possible. While I think I succeeded at that mission with the rears, the fronts unfortunately are running maybe between -3 or -4 degrees. Not an insignificant amount. To add insult to that injury, those numbers aren’t the same between each wheel – the fronts are cambered out unevenly. The driver side wheel has just about a degree more tilt. Clearly I should never become an alignment technician.
Thankfully it’s only really noticeable when the wheels are pointed straight and you’re viewing the car from top-down, and even then you’ll be too distracted by that shiny Acura badge to notice.
Another very jarring issue – the custom spoiler I made from scratch is actually uneven. It’s very, very easy to see just from this photo – but again! It’s only apparent when viewing the back of the car head-on, so I guess the moral of this car is to never view it straight-on ever.
Oh how adorable.
Opening these things up is still a very scary task – chipping the paint again is a real concern.
Thankfully with all my fiddling to get them to work, they come up reliably every time – though of course I have to use an exacto knife to bring them up.
The NSX isn’t quite as well known for its pop up lights as well as cars like the NA Miata are. The irony comes when Tamiya decided to engineer the system into the NSX but left the Miata with fixed closed housings.
Headlights go up.
Headlights go down.
Moving on to the all-important heart of the car. For all my talk of wanting to keep the motor visible through the rear windshield, in the end it’s ironically barely there, thanks to the tint and metal engine screen.
Thank you so much for keeping the bay accessible, Tamiya. Why you guys decided to omit this function in the newer NSX still baffles me.
The cover screen is thankfully still removable, since it just clips in on two tiny pegs and will stay where it is unless turned upside down, allowing the engine bay to come into full display whenever you please.
I was seriously debating adding more detail to this bay with the use of wires and extra detail parts, but in the end decided against the extra trouble.
I’ll normally prop bays open with a cut toothpick, but before now I’ve always painted them black to make them more subtle as a toothpick. This time I just got lazy.
The detail for the interior is actually very visible – the cabin lets a lot of light in, especially with those paper-thin A-pillars.
Unfortunately this detail is still hard to capture on camera, thanks to the lighting glare on the windows.
One of the most attractive and detailed undercarriages I’ve built so far. The contrast between the regular silver and the chrome is actually more apparent than I thought – I’m certainly glad that extra effort wasn’t wasted.
I have a bad feeling it’s going to be very difficult to top this build in terms of cleanliness and paint finish. I like to think I’ve now perfected the art of achieving a smooth gloss finish, but realistically the work here was probably more fluke than fine science.
This kit’s base model is actually quite dated – the Type R is just a re-release of the original Tamiya NSX kit that came out way back in 1992, this time with the R goodies like Enkei wheels, Recaro seats, and photo etched parts.
Despite that age though, I honestly enjoyed it much more than Tamiya’s latest 2017 NSX – maybe just because I’m more of a sucker for features like accessible engine bays and pop-up headlights than I am appreciative of a complex and nuanced construction, which seems to be the name of the game nowadays.