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Prospective NSX Owner Seeking Advice

29 November 2020
Hi all. Thanks in advance for reading this post and responding to my questions. I am counting on your collective wisdom to help me through the purchase process. I have wanted an NSX for quite a while and now that the kids are out of college I'm thinking now is the time. I have my eye on a 91 NSX manual transmission with 50,000 miles. I have spoken to the seller and I plan to see the car next weekend.

The transmission serial number is J4A4-1000321 which as I understand it is not in the range of snap ring failures. The car is being presented as a one owner garage-kept NSX in pristine condition and the photos show what appears to be an NSX in excellent condition. Still, there are a few issues with the car as follows:

  • AC recently stopped working. Owner thinks that it needs refrigerant.
  • Timing belt has not been replaced
  • Factory radio does not work
  • Brake indicator light flickers on/off. Owner thinks it is caused by condensation in brake lights
  • Needs new tires

The owner is asking $60,000. I am reluctant to spend that much because of what I think are very large and immediate maintenance bills. Also, there are probably other issues as the car has sat for a while. I understand that it is a 30 year old car and it will come with a few issues but I am a little nervous spending this amount of money on my first sports car. Are the above issues just normal and part of the price of entry or should I seek to get a lower price based on the cost to correct these issues? Thanks again for your advice.
Have you read through this thread?


The latest edition of the analysis will give you a handle on the current price range for a 1991 with that mileage. Figure out what the going range is for a vehicle with that mileage and then adjust the offer price for the deficiencies.

The AC and brake indicator could be little problems or they could be much bigger problems. If the seller thinks these problems are minor I would be inclined to ask the seller if he is prepared to get them repaired to make the vehicle whole. That is when you will really find out whether the seller knows it is a little or big problem. The radio is a bigger problem. If you want to retain the OEM look then that is likely going to be an expensive repair (> $1000). If you are OK with an aftermarket unit then the cost drops to whatever appeals to you. Factor that into the offer.

Ask for the maintenance records. If no maintenance records are present then in addition to the timing belt if it hasn't had fluids flushed or any other work you are in for a fair hit of deferred maintenance (water pump, filters, plugs, lost motion assemblies, coolant hoses, other drive belts and misc bits). If you can't do the work yourself you are potentially looking at up to $5000 (at an Acura dealer) for a complete inspection and refresh. You can't subtract all of that from the offer price; but, it is reasonable to factor some of it in to the price. Worn tires- that is just life and compared to the other stuff a minor cost.
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I moved this thread to the New Owners forum, since this is where prospective owners can ask questions.

To the OP, [MENTION=26435]Old Guy[/MENTION] has given you good advice. Just from what you have described, the price seems a little high for what's wrong with the car. No TB/WP service in 29 years is concerning. Caveat emptor!
Agree with [MENTION=18194]Honcho[/MENTION] and [MENTION=26435]Old Guy[/MENTION].

For all the maintenance, I would go after dropping the selling price vice having the seller address it and then sell you the car. If for no other reason, the work will be done at a shop under your name for warranty purposes and "call back" purposes if something wasn't done right. Unless the car/shop is local, it doesn't do you any good once you own the car that will be sold "as is" (probably) if the shop that "fixed" it is 4 states away...

Here are some things to consider:

1) The A/C unit is R-12. That can be expensive and sometimes hard to get. Conversion to R-134a can be done, but first you need to find out where the old A/C refrigerant "went". I would have a PPI done and have them put an A/C gauge manifold on the system and check pressures. The issue could also be the A/C compressor clutch is not engaging...either way, budget for that repair. The other reason the A/C many not be working is the Climate Control Unit may need to be repaired. See the discussion below about capacitors (I thought of this cause and added after I wrote the rest)
2) Timing belt never being replaced is a HUGE red flag to me. What other maintenance has been blown off? I would suspect the spark plugs have never been changed, the fuel filter has never been changed, the coolant probably hasn't been flushed and, the valve lash has probably never been checked, the brake fluid probably hasn't been flushed, and CERTAINLY, those hoses are 29-30 years old. That is a 90K+60K service plus coolant hoses...that will run you - if a shop does it - probably $5000-$6000 (my best guess, haven't run the parts costs and depends on the labor rate...if you go to an Acura dealer that still has a certified technician, expect to pay $150-$200/your in labor...and you bill could suddenly be a few thousand higher than my "spitball" estimate
3) The radio. First you need to figure out if it is the head unit or the speaker amps or just a fuse. I would first check all the fuses. If the head unit doesn't work, and you want to stay OEM, that is a $3000+ part from Acura. A repair - if you can find a shop (Willman's used to repair the factory head units, but now they do a modification and put new guts into the old radio to give you BT and other "modern" features) - will set you back hundreds. Used head units occasionally pop up on the market, but that is a crap shoot. Aftermarket head units are cheap, but the center console modification is where the cost starts to escalate. If the head unit works but the problem is a popping/static sound from the speakers, that is the Bose amplifiers on the speakers (NSX uses individual amplifiers at the speakers not an amplifier in the head unit). Brian Kiehnau at NSX E-repair (see link here: http://www.nsxprime.com/forum/showt...to-new-NSX-Owners-(and-maybe-some-not-so-new)) can fix these fairly cheap (few hundred dollars for all 3 amps)
4) If the warning that is lighting up is the "BRAKE LAMP" warning in the little car shaped indicator panel at the bottom center of the instrument cluster, then that can be an indication of the instrument cluster needing to be repaired (again, another job for Brian Kiehnau) as this is one of the first signs of capacitors leaking on the circuit board (more below on this) and if left unaddressed, could result in significant damage up to and including the instrument cluster catching fire.
5) Tires can be a challenge for the 91-93 OEM "Fat Five" wheels. There are limited options out there for the 15/16 (205/50-15 and 225/50-16 tires) setup. Tire Rack will show you a total of 10 tire sets..3 are track only. The other 7 are summer tires. A set of the summer tires will run you between $400-$625 depending on the brand/tires. The track/autocross only tires will run you $800-$1000 a set.

Capacitors. This is a function of the capacitor technology of the late 80s/early 90s. The are now starting to break down and leak. The leakage damages the printed circuit boards (PCBs). This isn't unique to the NSX or Honda/Acuras...this is a function of technology, so I'm sure the Supras, RX-7s, etc, of the same era are probably going to see, if they aren't already, similar issues. The capacitors are located in most of the electronic components - but the Climate Control Unit, the stereo head unit, the instrument cluster, the SRS unit are where the majority of issues are being seen. Brian fixes all but the stereo head unit right now. I can't speak for the ECU, TCS, or ALB boxes. But this phenomenon is something to keep in mind as the repairs - based on the TB/WP red flag - may be coming due.

Without seeing the car, but seeing the reading the issues with the car, I wouldn't be willing to spend more than $45-$50K knowing the amount of work that will be involved in sorting out these issues. A/C can become a big money pit. Catching up the maintenance (TB/WP definitely...I would be pretty nervous driving the car until that got sorted out), fixing the stereo and sorting out the other small issues (plus knowing you need to buy new tires right away) could leave you staring down the barrel of $10K in costs...and at the end of the day, sales price history (this is right where the historical "asking" price is for 50K miles - $60K) shows 50K NSXs are selling for $55K...minus $5K-$10K in repairs needed...
Thank so much for all the advice. The knowledge on this site is simply amazing. [MENTION=5544]VANSXTC[/MENTION] very insightful analysis. It looks like I will not be purchasing this car. I spoke to the seller and outlined the concerns that were raised here and he was unwilling to lower the price.
Great advice here. If you're willing to find a better turn-key "driver" don't be afraid at high mileage. Most are likely better maintained than this example. This seller is likely riding the collector car wave...he is the original owner after all... Though, it's a shame he didn't at least do the TW/PW. That's rather negligent IMO.
Probably a sage decision (you gotta know when to fold them!). One suggestion, leave your name and a contact number with the seller telling him you are interested if he decides that he is prepared to negotiate on the price. If the seller can't sell at his asking price he may be prepared to adjust it.
thanks for sharing this,
as another prospective NSX buyer, it's pretty useful.

Please keep us posted if you buy it ;)