If you ever had any doubts that the the Acura NSX was a kick-ass alternative to a European supercar, allow me to make its case: I recently got the chance to tour the plant where the mid-engine Honda is being produced, and after spending an entire day in the Marysville, Ohio amusement park, the facility is as impressive as the car it makes.
What was once a Honda supply and shipping warehouse has been transformed into a $70 million production plant. Virtually wall-free, this 200,00 square foot open floorplan is whisper quiet, decisively designed, and tastefully touched with dark red accent lines. It’s an LED-laden operating room, complete with dyno exhaust vents that pop out of the floor, paint pushing robotic arms, and reverse osmosis spray stations — because unsightly water marks are never a turn-on to potential supercar buyers.
But there’s way more to this facility than that. When chief engineer Clement D’Souza first opted to create the twin-turbocharged NSX instead of the Honda Jet, he had a plan in place and a team at the ready. Looking to create something commonly referred to as “man and machine synergy,” Honda’s Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) is a place like no other, especially since the NSX is now the only supercar made in America (discounting the Corvette Z06, or Ford’s upcoming GT). Prior to installing a twin turbocharged hybrid V6 engine that has been hand-assembled by one of eight master builders, PMC makes an aluminum frame that has been robotically creased and assembled with “flow-drill” screws and dips it in a series of chemical solutions in order to guarantee it’s absolutely spotless prior to paint.
After four days in paint, these lightweight shells are sealed with adhesive and head off to assembly, where they are meticulously hand-assembled with a unique, LED-lit vibrating torque wrench that syncs to a computer screen for visual confirmation. This guarantees that each nut and bolt gets tightened to the perfect tolerance, and that employees can see and feel when it has been reached or surpassed. Along with this wrench, there are a dozen patents pertaining to this car that are pending, and in a “production facility that reflects the car itself,” chances are there will be all kinds of awards in the not too distant future for this cutting edge assembly facility.
With the forthcoming launch of the NSX just around the bend, D’souza and his team refuse to be rushed during this final trial stage leading up to the big day, as every weld gets visually inspected, and each engine is carefully assembled over six hours instead of the typical two. While around 150 cars have already been made on this slow moving assembly line, all of them have been reserved for special events, testing, or crashing, and while it pains us to think about purposely destroying an NSX, breaking eggs in order to make an omelet is mandatory.
As an avid Honda head and longtime NSX enthusiast, I’ve created my own little list of fantastic facts that warrant mentioning. Remember, “precision crafted performance” has been resurrected as Acura’s calling card, and in the case of D’Souza and his magnificent manufacturing facility, all three words resonate beneath the ever ascending badge.
One of the more interesting aspects of taking this tour, which we were assured will one day be open to both potential buyers and members of the public, is how this synergy between man and machine has been achieved. Looking to pioneer new technologies for the future, PMC is at a point where it is ready for its April production start date, and even though cranking out 8-10 cars a day seems like small potatoes in comparison to the hundreds rolling off the Civic line, it’s way swifter than I expected.
Producing a single body every 10 hours, the plant’s robots carefully spin, weld, roll, and fasten the frame with insane precision before it goes off to that series of contaminant dispersing baths, before heading on to paint, assembly, and finally testing. But every now and then, a select few components get selected at random and are submitted to an internal audit that is so intense it would give cause for a TSA or IRS agent to pucker up in protest.
Sitting at the core of this extremely specialized manufacturing facility is a glass encased cube, and much like the human heart, is the lifeblood and aura of everything that Acura stands for as a sporty luxury brand. Commonly referred to as the quality control center, this unique take on assembly transparency takes random components like interior sections, body panels, and even entire aluminum frames, and puts them through a series of vigorous inspections.
Take the Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) seen here, which checks over 700 areas of the frame alone in order to make sure that Acura is creating the absolute best skeleton possible at all times. Checking tolerances that go all the way down to 30 microns (the average human hair is 90 microns), the perfectionists at PMC’s core are a small but dedicated team, and like the rest of the plant have a synergy in place with the machines around them that is on a whole new level.
By now, many of you have probably tapped into Acura’s NSX build simulator and custom created your own dream machine, and while most of us broke the bank at around $200,000, there are a few future moves I think we should all be looking forward to if we want to go even faster.
First of all, the person who got to test and review the NSX before anyone else was Realtime Racing’s very own Peter Cunningham, and knowing his prolonged history of winning races while behind the wheel of an Acura, we have it under good authority that the NSX will be his race car going forward. Secondly, after speaking with various core members of the PMC team, it has become apparent that the boys over at the Honda Performance Department (HPD) are lined up to play with the NSX in forthcoming years as well. So expect the supercar to become even more “super” as time goes on. Finally, the aftermarket tuning community has been frothing at the muzzle over the idea of making this machine more insane, and for as awesome as it may be in stock trim, we are quite curious to see what happens when the world’s best tuners get a hold of this Honda dream machine.