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Looking at buying a neglected NSX, looking for advice


New Member
15 January 2023
Someone I know got sick about 5 or 6 years ago and hasn't been able to drive since then. His 95 NSX has sitting been in his garage the whole time. I kinda wanna buy it off him but I dunno if it's a good idea at this point.

We talked about it but he's not sure what it's worth and neither am I. The battery's dead and even if it wasn't, he doesn't even want to try to start it because he's worried that the gas being in the lines for so many years might have done something bad, but I dunno if that's being paranoid or not, I don't know mechanical stuff. The tires are all flat, though I think they're the OEM ones with the run-flat rail in the middle, not sure if that'll have saved them from getting squished over the years.

Finding a mechanic who knows these cars and having him look over this to see what it'll take to bring it back to life is gonna cost a fair bit, so I thought I should ask people who might already have some ideas before I start spending money on a bad idea.

I wanna know, like, is he right that the engine might be screwed up because it had gas in it the whole time? He said the tires were relatively new when he stopped driving, but am I probably gonna have to replace them because it's been crushing the tread for most of the time? I forgot to check the odometer last time I looked but he did say it's got over 100k miles on it.

Like, basically, if it were you, would you make an offer, and if so, what is it probably worth right now, roughly? I see working cars like it on ebay for like 70k or more, but those are working cars. Anyway, it doesn't have any after-market upgrades though he did say he had the seats redone. He's a friend so we can be reasonable about pricing if we can just figure out what I'm gonna have to pay to make it work again.

The nice thing about an NSX is that generally a lot of the basic stuff can be done by any Honda mechanic IMO. Especially the basics like fuel, spark, air, etc.

Tires will need to be replaced just based on exposure most likely so plan on that, about 600-700 mounted for a good set .

Old gas would mainly be an issue in the fuel pump, fuel filter, and injectors, the engine should be fine if the concern was just having gas in the tank/lines. If it was non-ethanol gas then lines might be ok, but some of the rubber might be swollen and need replacing. Most likely plan on fuel filter, fuel pump, and injectors being removed and cleaned. Probably about 1-1.4k in parts/labor (parts 600 roughly https://www.acurapartsnow.com/search?search_str=fuel+pump)? You have to removed the tank to change the pump, seems like about a 4hr job with 2 people.

Value is dependent on a lot of different things and it can be a pretty wide range. Targa/coupe, exterior color and interior color, condition, etc. This is a great tool that is maintained by NSXPrime members and can help you assess the value of the car. If you can give us a bunch of those details we can help more. A VIN can also help to understand the car's history and it might be a known car as well.

For me personally that doesn't sound like to much to get the car back on the road, especially if you get it for a good deal. Also, there might be other NSXPrime members in the area willing to help if you want to let us know where you're at.

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Old gas would mainly be an issue in the fuel pump, fuel filter, and injectors, the engine should be fine if the concern was just having gas in the tank/lines. If it was non-ethanol gas then lines might be ok, but some of the rubber might be swollen and need replacing. Most likely plan on fuel filter, fuel pump, and injectors being removed and cleaned.
Thanks a lot for the detailed response! 🙂

Would it be safe to put fresh gas in it and try to start it? I mostly just wanna know if it's actually still gonna run, like nothing's seized up or anything. He didn't want to try to start it without having it looked at first, but I feel like that's being paranoid. Do you think it's reasonably(?) safe to try a quick turnover and then shut it off? Or should we check/replace the parts you mentioned first?

I promise not to hold you legally liable for your response! 😜 I just want a little more confidence so I can talk him into it. If it at least runs I'd feel 1000% better about the whole thing. I can deal with the details later.

Value is dependent on a lot of different things and it can be a pretty wide range. Targa/coupe, exterior color and interior color, condition, etc. This is a great tool that is maintained by NSXPrime members and can help you assess the value of the car. If you can give us a bunch of those details we can help more. A VIN can also help to understand the car's history and it might be a known car as well.
Ya this stuff I do know about. It's the mechanical stuff I don't know so I worry about getting it right. We tried putting the VIN into kelly blue book and carfax but they both puked it back up, maybe because it hasn't been registered for a certain number of years, not sure. He's got a big packet of papers/history dating back to the first owner though, which is cool. It's not a garage queen, it was a daily driver for lots of years.

I don't care though, it's a really pretty car that I've always liked and if I can have it (working), then I want it. XD

EDIT: Forgot to say, yes, they put ethanol in our gas here.
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I think you should do an oil/filter change first, throw in some fresh gas, check the air filter, and turn it over. Battery will probably need a charge as well, if not a new one. Battery is in the front behind the spare wheel.

Edit: I've done a lot of work on Hondas over the last 20 years, but I'm also on my first NSX. I'd wait for some more experienced members to chime in as well just to cover your bases.

Edit2: The site normally hosts this but the link is down as we've recently upgraded to a new site backbone. Here is the service manual to use as reference: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1W2KCu4V5aAbA4Y32AYX0ACUJPwEVybUD/view?usp=share_link
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Not being able to start the car and drive it would be a big red flag for me. There are too many factors that are difficult to evaluate if the car cannot be driven. Compared to the market values for a running car in the NSX market analysis I personally would be inclined to discount the price by $15,000 - $20,000. However, since I already have an NSX I am no longer desperate to purchase an NSX. Most knowledgeable sellers will be motivated to get the car working because that improves the sell ability and the price. As a purchaser, you might choose to take the operational risk if the price discount is sufficient. Only you can really assess that risk.

Five years of inactivity is not a disaster, particularly since the car has been in a garage the whole time. If you live in a climate that stays warm year around that is +++ since the engine will not have been exposed to freeze / thaw which can result in condensation forming inside the engine with the formation of rust. Check for mouse damage. Mice chewing up the wiring under the dash could be a disaster that could 'chew through' the $15,000 price discount really quickly.

He didn't want to try to start it without having it looked at first, but I feel like that's being paranoid.

Maybe yes, maybe no. Try persuading the owner to have the following carried out as part of having it looked at:
- try filling the tires to see if they hold air. They may be adequate to allow you to take the car for a basic drive to listen for bad noises and check the brakes
- You talk about putting fresh gas in it. If that means draining out all the old gas and adding new gas then that is the correct plan.
- An oil change and filter would also be a good idea prior to starting.
- Remove the sparkplugs and squirt a small amount of 10W30 oil into the cylinders for cylinder wall lubrication and then use a wrench to turn the engine over by hand from the crankshaft front bolt (CW only). With plugs out the engine should turn over fairly smoothly - listen for unusual noises. Put new spark plugs back in at the correct torque.
- If the car has sat for 5-6 years the battery will be history. It may not accept any charge and if it does it will not hold that charge. Plan for a new battery.
- Install the battery. Check for correct illumination of all the warning lights in the dash on key on. Listen to make sure that the fuel pump goes through its 2 second prime cycle with key on. Do not start the car yet.
- disable the ignition or on an NA1 I think you should be able to easily disconnect the fuel injector resistors to disable the engine. Now, use the starter to crank over the engine and again listen for unusual noises.
- if everything checks out then you can reconnect the ignition or the fuel injection resistors and attempt an actual start.
- when you attempt the start, watch the dash to make sure that the warning lights go out and the oil pressure gauge rises to around the mid point (actual pressure will vary with temperature).
- listen for bad noises
- check the electrics to make sure brakes and signal lights work and then take for a test drive.

Consider making an offer conditional on the car passing the inspection with the owner absorbing the cost for the above work. The owner can adjust the price up to cover the work if he wants the work done by a 'professional'.

The other option is that you put in an offer on an as is basis. You may be lucky and getting the car running turns out to be a non issue.
As for the 5 year old fuel, since you indicated it does contain ethanol I would want to drain all the old fuel out.
Fortunately, there IS a threaded drain plug on the lower Right (passenger) side of the fuel tank, which is right up against the firewall.
Getting the rear safely up on jackstands will help this process a lot (y)

Not being able to start the car and drive it would be a big red flag for me.
Oh ya of course. It's just a matter of whether we start it in his garage or have it taken to a mechanic for a once-over first, which will mean extra outlay before making the decision.

The other option is that you put in an offer on an as is basis. You may be lucky and getting the car running turns out to be a non issue.
That's sorta what I'm thinking. Like, I just wanna make an educated guess, and starting it would make the guess a lot easier. Obviously there's gonna be other stuff that needs to be done, but we can negotiate the price based on that. He's still not well and I can't really expect him to do too much with it himself, or else it wouldn't be sitting there like that in the first place. We both just want to see her back on the road again. 🙂

Anyway, I think I have enough info to go on now. Thank you, and also Superhatch and sca037, for the tips on what to do first and the reassurances. I'll probably get someone to come help with the mechanical stuff since I'm not exactly a grease monkey, but I can probably buy them off with some beer and pleasant conversation. 😉

Thanks again!
Sorry I am late to the party but I agree with the above advice. Modern gasoline is remarkably stable, but even so, it's a good idea to drain the tank and fill with fresh gas (91 minimum). I would also change the oil and filter. The biggest danger is dry bearings or corroded/stuck rings. Honestly, that's not a huge issue on the NSX historically, even for cars that have sat for a decade or more. But I agree you should hand crank the engine with a wrench several times to make sure the bearings are not sticking. It should spin smoothly. If it does, I would do several 10 second blasts of cranking with the starter (disconnect the speak plugs and fuel injectors- we can show you how). During those cranking blasts, watch the dash oil pressure gauge- it should start to move up slightly. You want to make sure there is oil pressure so that there is oil on the bearings when you start the engine.

If you do the above, I bet the car will fire right up. There are MANY other things that happen when a NSX is left to sit for years, but if you confirm a good engine, we can help you work through them. None of them would be deal killers in my opinion, but they will require attention.

As for valuation, it's all over the place. Just ballpark, a "good" running mostly original NSX is going for $60,000 to $80,000 these days, depending on factors like miles, color, maintenance, mods, etc. A car with lots of deferred maintenance is going to be in the 40s or 50s. Based on your description, I'd probably try to do a deal in the 40s if the engine runs. As noted above, the car will need a lot of deferred maintenance (TB/WP, tires, brakes, coolant, hoses, etc.) that, if you're not a DIY kind of guy, is going to be at least $10,000.
Likely you have no idea what you are getting yourself into so if it was me, I would walk away (with my bank account intact). Want to go broke? Then buy this car.

You didn't say what your total overall budget for the car was - and I am talking about purchase price then every bit of service, maintenance and rebuild / replace that this car will need. Are you aware there are 23 coolant hoses on an NSX? It's shit like this that will send you to the poor house. We can also talk about timing belts, water pumps, old ABS / TCS systems, failing electronics and NLA parts. Contrary to what other people say the NSX is a complex car with early generation systems.

Nothing wrong with a 1995 NSX with 100k on the clock if it has been properly serviced its entire life (my 1994 has 154,xxx on the clock). These are wonderful cars if properly maintained. Can your example be that? Likely yes but not without a significant amount of work put into it.

You don't sound like you have a mechanical background so everything you will need to have done (possible exception of an oil change) would likely need to be performed by a shop thoroughly familiar with the NSX. My guess is the average age of most "Honda" mechanics is around the age of this car. Some have probably never seen an NSX before. My point is, while the NSX was designed, engineered and manufactured by Honda it doesn't mean any Acura / Honda dealership has the skills and / or the specialty tools to work on it. Most NA1 NSX certified techs left the Acura dealerships years ago. Finding an indy shop with serious NSX experience will be key to putting and keeping this car on the road.

It's your money, but I would wait, save more and buy a fully sorted example from a true NSX enthusiast.
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While I generally agree with the above posts, I think your best bet is to get it assessed by a mechanic to find out what it really needs, and what condition it's in.

The car could be completely fine and just need minimal effort, or it could be 10k as noted above. I'm lucky enough to be able to do my own work but I know a local NSX owner that takes his car to a non-specalized import garage which is know as a place that does good, affordable work, and he's gotten all his major service done there, including timing belt, for many years with no issues.

It's got a lot of fancy parts, but it's a 30 year old Honda. IMO it's not hard to work on.

My car was in a similar condition as yours. It sat for a long time before the previous owner bought it from a family friend. Needed an injector wire repair (mice), battery, tires, and he owned it for 2y without doing any other maintenance. I bought it at 170k for a pretty low price considering the market and did timing belt, suspension (used, bought on prime), coolant hoses, window regulator repair, and new tires pretty much right after I got it and it should hit 200k this year with no issues.

It could get pricey, or you could put 2-3k into it and drive it for another 100k without ever thinking about maintenance again. Get a local shop to check it out and then make the decision.
All really good advice here. I will admit I am sympathetic to seeing a neglected NSX brought back to life, but Mark's point is well taken. You need to go into something like this with eyes open. The main most expensive components of the car are the powertrain and the extruded aluminum frame. Most "cheap NSX" disaster stories revolve around a post-purchase failed engine, transmission or discovery of catastrophic frame damage. Any of these involves potentially discontinued parts and tens of thousands of dollars to remedy. Thus, If you can confirm a healthy running engine and straight frame, then you generally will be ahead of the game.

At a minimum, this car will require an engine-out TB/WP service that also replaces all of the rubber on the top of the engine and the crank pulley. Budget $3,000-$5,000 for that and it needs to be a mechanic who knows what they are doing. After that, you will need:
  • Full brake overhaul (new seals/pistons)
  • New shocks
  • All 23 coolant hoses
  • Window regulators and guide rails cleaned/greased (they need to come out)
  • Capacitors replaced in CCU and gauge cluster
  • Bose speaker amp rebuild
  • ABS rebuild or replace with MY2000+ unit
  • Driveshaft overhaul (including re-pack needle bearings)
  • Fuel injector clean/balance + new fuel filter
  • Intake manifold/throttle body overhaul
  • HVAC rebuild
  • Clutch master/slave (likely)
  • Brake master (likely)
That's just the mechanical stuff. Then there is all the cosmetic. Replacing old leather trim, paint correction, replacing worn interior plastic, etc.

What's interesting is that the above list is pretty much a "must" for any 91-01 NSX at this point in the car's life. Also interesting is that this list does not appear in the car's official maintenance chart. So, most of the cars that sell for big dollars on BaT also need this stuff. Once a car becomes a "classic", it is foolish and unsophisticated (to me anyway) to rely on the simplified list in the owner's manual to gauge a car's health/value. When you see a NSX at auction that says "all maintenance up to date," at this point in the NSX's life, that means very little to me. For a 2017 GT-R, or a 2015 M3, for example, it's much more meaningful because those cars are still relatively new. On a 30-year old NSX, it's the floor, not the ceiling.

Thus, if this car runs healthy and the body is straight, I say go for it. Waiting for the "right" car at a higher price just doesn't mean as much anymore, for the above reasons. You're still going to spend 10-20 grand fixing that list regardless of which NSX you buy at this point. They're all ageing out.
For what it is worth (and to tag on to Paul's post above), take the list below to your mechanic (when you find a good one you can trust) and ask him to give you an estimate for parts and labor. Considering the age of the car and the fact it has been sitting for 5 to 6 years this will likely be what you will need to get the mechanical side of the car fully sorted. This doesn't take into account any of the electronics, which will be a crap shoot. Radio, speakers and HVAC modules will eventually experience leaky capacitors and will stop functioning. There are some great individuals who can fix these items but worry about them after you get the mechanicals sorted.

Engine / Miscellaneous:
Intake cleaned and VVIS screws tightened and re-staked
Updated LMAs (SOS)
Valve adjustment
New Timing belt (get OEM if at all possible)
New Timing belt tensioner
New AC belt bearing
New AC and alternator belt
New Alternator
New Battery
New Cam and Crank seals
New Engine main seal (transmission side of crank)
New billet cam plugs
New Crank Pulley (OEM)
New VTEC solenoid gaskets (OEM)
All new coolant hoses (OEM - you don't need silicone)
New water pump
New thermostat (OEM)
New coolant expansion tank (OEM)
New injectors (Beck/Arnley)
All new injector seals (OEM)
New spark plugs (NGK Iridium)
New coil packs
New fuel pump
New fuel strainer (OEM)
New fuel filter
New O2 sensors
New main relay (OEM)
New air filter
New oil pan gasket (maybe)
Fresh oil change

Transmission / Driveline:
New clutch / pressure plate / mid-plate / flywheel/ throw out bearing (OEM)
New clutch master and slave cylinders
New clutch hydraulic hose
New input and output shaft seals.
New Acura white cap transmission fluid change.
New front and rear wheel bearings

Suspension / Brakes:
New dampers (front and rear)
New polyurethane top hat bushings
New steering rack bushing kit (SOS)
New sway bar end links
New inner and outer tie rods
All brake calipers fully rebuilt
New rubber brake lines
New rotors and brake pads
Full brake fluid flush including the ABS module
Professional alignment

Once all this is done you should have years of reliable driving.
That list is insane. :D

Those are all on my list, don't get me wrong. But those aren't all -needs- to get the car running, possibly for years, without doing all that work.

Obviously we have a difference of opinion about what's needed to get this car running. I'm gonna bow out and just say again to take it to a good import shop for a review of the basics.
If you look at the Engine / Miscellaneous list, 80% of what is on there would be done during a TB / WP service. Since it sat you would want to service the fuel system. That leaves a small amount of other engine work that could wait until you got the car running.

Transmission / Driveline - I'd at least replace the rubber hoses (possibly rotted) and the master and slave cylinders as they could possibly be pitted or rusted from sitting. Otherwise once you start driving the car they will most likely leak. At 100k it might need a clutch depending upon how badly the PO abused it. That could wait until you got the car running and evaluate going forward.

Suspension / Brakes - Unless there is paperwork showing recent brake work, I'd replace the rubber brake hoses (possibly rotted from time), rebuild the calipers (if you can't stop what's the use?), replace the sway bar end links (rubber will be worn) and bleed the brakes and ABS (this would be a must for me after sitting for 5 or 6 years). Test the brake fluid. I can almost guarantee you it will have moisture in it.

So in reality it is not a "wish" list but a must-do-if-you-want-to-drive the car list. 90% of this list is what you REALLY need to do to properly recondition this car for full-time driving given its recent history.

Don't blow out as I can appreciate where you are coming from, however I would rather have the potential buyer understand what is, in all likelihood, required to refurbish the mechanicals verses a "change the oil and air up the tires and you're good to go" scenario.
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I'd at least replace the rubber hoses (possibly rotted) and the master and slave cylinders as they could possibly be pitted or rusted from sitting.
This is the number 1 killer of parts from sitting right here! Brake fluid has water in it, which pits and rusts out the cylinders. The rubber seals also rot. So, when you step on the brake pedal, it starts leaking.
I'm not quite as negative...5-6 years isn't a long time. I've pulled cars out of fields and garages and got them to run again without too much issue.

Everything on the car is highly suspect and should not be trusted...the list is above.

If you cannot or will not work on this car yourself and do not have a big budget: pass. This car is not for you. This is not an opportunity it will be a miserable costly experience and will probably impact your relationship.

If you DO work on cars yourself and the idea of a clutch change or DOHC timing belt change doesn't concern you: this is an EXCELLENT car for you. This car easy to work on in comparison to anything made in the last 15 years.

I WOULD be concerned about the injectors: they will be gummed up. There is a good chance of ruining your engine due to cylinder wash because it can't ignite the fuel.

Step 1: drain fuel and get injectors cleaned.
Step 2: if oil level ok, warm it up and change it out.
Step 3: I'd drive it around nicely and see what it does
Step 4: be prepared for a parade of constant repairs and maintenance...see above list
Step 5: the car will be more reliable as time and maintenance goes on. Figure on TWO years of weekend projects before I'd be comfortable taking anyone with me and/or going past the supermarket or hardware store.

If the price is right, the car has no real collision history, and the interior is good: I personally would just send a tow truck. But I am well versed in cars, have a full shop, and burning up a pile of money for good intentions wouldn't phase me. If the drivetrain was junk, I'd just drop in an EV conversion because I'm itching for such a project. However, I doubt any of this is the case for you...
Agreed, if you don't mind getting your hands dirty and are mechanically inclined, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I myself bought a car sitting for over 5 years in bad shape with broken windows and rat infested interior, I was lucky the engine and transmission were still good, but also I wasn't afraid to tackle the work if it needed a new engine/k swap or a new transmission. I am still in the process of rebuilding it taking my time and accumulating parts as I find them available. Have some fun with it, what's the worst that can happen, you can still sell the car easily if you find it is too much for you. It is a honda and these things are reliable and awesome cars. You will probably not find another chance like this again.
I still beat myself for not buying that fd rx-7 without engine and tranny many years ago, for 3k locally because I hesitated.