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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Where the NSX succeeded, these 3 mid-engine Japanese moonshots failed | Hagerty Media

The original Honda (and for Americans, Acura) NSX was a triumph of design, engineering, and performance. The aluminum-intensive monocoque, expert tuning, and precise build quality came together in a package that not only challenged the Italian exotic competition, but proved light-years more reliable and livable than those established players.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/3-japanese-moonshots-failed-nsx/
21 REPLIES 21
JohninNC
Advanced Driver

I really like that Yamaha! Widen the cockpit a bit to make it a 2 seater and it would be a pretty sweet setup.
Mike_E_V
Detailer

The article mentions a tandem-seat setup but I agree with you. A minimum side-by-side 2 seat model would have been stunning.
427sc
Intermediate Driver

I agree! That thing looks like it would be a down-force generating monster!
The faster you drove it, the faster you could corner...
Too bad
427sc
Intermediate Driver

I just thought of something else...
Wouldn't it be fun to build that car today; small and light weight, and put another Yamaha inspired engine in the rear, that being the old Ford SHO V6 motor/drivetrain?
Or, how about a newer 2.7L V6 Twin Turbo Ecoboost like I have in my Fusion Sport (325 HP, 380 ft-lbs) or even the current SHO's 3.5L V6 Twin Turbo Ecoboost (365 HP, 350ft-lbs)?
Try and limit the weight to @ 2000#, it would be a BLAST on the track!
Quincydubois
Intermediate Driver

Back when the Japanese were making Subaru 360s our American Motors unveiled a mid-engine AMX/2 concept. Too bad. Lack of funds killed it.
GreatAukSi
Pit Crew

So what's the scoop on the Yamaha? In the front view, the scoop looks like a surfacing manatee mounted on the right side of the car. The rear view doesn't show it at all; instead there's a sort of center scoop over the roof.
RJB
New Driver

I noticed that also. My first reaction was "What is THAT ???."
Maybe an optical illusion?
61Rampy
Advanced Driver

I noticed that too. If you look very closely in the front 3/4 view, the scoop is over the roof, similar to the latest McLaren. When I first looked, I thought the scoop came up out of the right side of the canopy! As RJB says in his reply to you, it IS an optical illusion!
Mike_E_V
Detailer

One can certainly see the resemblance of the 1st Nissan MID-4 front architecture to the 240SX series from the 90's. Nissan capitalized on the investment in its supercar. Many Nissan features of the MID-4 snuck into other production models. Of the three, the Yamaha unit is the head turner. I do recall when the NSX first came out. The Acura store was across the street from the BMW store in the auto park where I resided in SoCal. A red NSX pulled into the service drive of the BMW service area as it had just come off the transport. The owner of the BMW facility was out there when I arrived and we both discussed the car as it was impressive.in looks and build quality. All went well until the driver started the car. The sound of the V6 failed to impress those of us used to throaty V8 engines of the day. The BMW dealer looked at me and shook his head indicating a "no". That will have to be overcome he said. A supercar has to sound like a supercar. Apparently we ultimately both would be incorrect.
JSievers
Advanced Driver

The Isuzu looks like a more production ready version of the Oldsmobile Aerotech speed record car.
Lightning1
Detailer

The Japanese have been an engineering force to contend with for years. However, they understand the business side is selling 10 million units of transportation instead of 100 supercars. Just like in the USA, the supercar draws them in and they leave with a Civic.
Gary_Bechtold
Instructor

The Nissan MID4-II looks like the love child of a 240SX and a 1st generation NSX. Interesting but not that much. However the Yamaha and the Isuzu would have been amazing to see and hear. 10,000 rpm V12? Lotus V8? Oh that sounds wonderful! Too bad they never happened in production guise. At least Yamaha helped give us the Lexus LFA V10 it's sound among other engines it helped Toyota with.

Punk
Detailer

Well I am not sure the NSX was actually a success in financial terms, unless one is to calculate the halo effect that, possibly, brought customers into the showrooms to buy the sedans. When the NSX came back in 2017, it was selling at a rate of something like 125 per year, and journalists considered it too expensive at around $150k. They complained the interior was built with parts off the shelf from Honda sedans costing about $20k. It supposedly compared unfavorably to the mentioned Nissan GT-R. All things considered, the NSX was a production version of a show car, essentially, that as show cars always do, lost money, but maybe impressed the public to buy the more pedestrian cars.
Darold
Hagerty Employee

There are videos around of the Yamahas driving on track and the sound is just *cheffs kiss*

chrlsful
Instructor

And I like the MID4-II as it still looks like a car (the earlier is too much like'n RX or the ol Z).
MATTMERICA
Instructor

So, that MID4-II didn't get the green light, that is too bad. What else is too bad is what history has shown us:
With the exception of the skyline, Nissan has zero to show for it sports cars. For a brand that literally invented the 4DSC and had a loyal, almost cult following between the early maximas and the 240s, they owned the 80s and 90s, and what do they have now? Where did it all go so wrong? It is a tragedy.
Now Acura/Honda - where are they? Yes, the NSX was everything they said in the article and more when it came out, and I remember the first time I saw one in the flesh, it was the same as when you recognize the ferrari from the poster on your wall is on the road next to you. Where are the honda/acura sports cars now? How did they go from the nsx to the "sport" accord? How did they kill off the Legend, the Vigor, and the awesome Integra? They had some decent Preludes in there too, but again, what happened? You mean the crappy RLX is all we get now?!? And the new NSX isn't even as good as the one decades ago....In the cancel culture and race to erase ICE that is being force fed to the world, and the rapid evaporation of the CAR vs the suv/sav etc, history has proven again and again - if you build a sports car, people will BUY it. If you build a really good one, and it is mid engine, the sky is the limit. Look at the new vette - it only took what, 58 years to figure that one out?
okfoz
Intermediate Driver

For me, the only car which had potential would be the Nissan versionss. The Yamaha, and Isuzu both look more like concept cars than they do production cars. The Nissan cars look like they could be real street cars.
The Tell tale, The windshield on the Yamaha and Isuzu have too much rake angle for what could be feasibly be installed in a production vehicle, at a reasonable price. Working in optics the steeper the angle (More rake) of the piece of glass, acrylic or whatever you want to look through, the more distortions you get, AND if you have a perfect windshield with low distortions you then get double images, which are a nightmare on their own. Therefore to have the steep angle which they show there would be a lot of thrown away windshields in order to meet the specifications at the time.
I am not saying that they are not viable for today, or even then, but for the time they would have been very expensive. Sure they look great, but
TonyT
Instructor

"Choice" is a word not spoken in the world of Nissan. The MID4II would have complimented the lineup, and could have accompanied the Infiniti sedan as a two-door personal luxury coupe (and throw that V8 in there too.) The fact that it would handle on a par with other grand tourers could have seen it become a Maserati fighter at the least. People buy cars that tickle their fancy in the league where this car would have been marketed, and the initial production costs might have been recouped in the first two years of production. What a shame that the efforts of the engineers were never offered to drivers that would have loved them.
4wheel2wheel
Pit Crew

I was employed at Arrel Nissan in Hillside, New Jersey from 1984 to 1990 as a line technician and this auto group also sold Subaru and Isuzu cars lines as well. I was delighted when Isuzu chose to end car production in favor of trucks because, frankly speaking, Isuzu cars were absolute garbage. The Impulse and I Mark models in particular had the worst build quality I ever saw. They were plagued with issues of driveablity, poor performance, squeaks, rattles, warped brake rotors, doors that would not close properly just to name a few. The Impulse Turbo despite having a Lotus tuned suspension ( it's only item in the plus column) faired no better beyond being quicker than the non turbo cars. As a mechanic I found them difficult and annoying to work on.
Nissan and Subaru products however are much more intelligently designed.
Speaking of mid engined roadsters, in the 90s, Plymouth built a mid engined concept called the Pronto Spyder. It was designed to compete with Mazda's MX-5 Miata and sell between $ 16,000 and $18,000. The car was powered by a supercharged 2,.4- liter DOHC four cylinder making 225 horsepower. The suspension was all ACR Neon and the body was formed from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the same polymer that is used in the production of plastic drinking bottles. Talk about a power to weight ratio.
Only one car was built and it was a real head turner. If Plymouth had built Pronto Spyder I would have bought one for sure.
ChevyDave
Intermediate Driver

Not entirely apples-to-apples including the OX99-11 as it was always intended as a limited-availability halo project, not a pedestrian production vehicle like the others featured here.
Remember, this was at a time when Ferrari and McLaren sought to give their customers the closest thing possible to the Formula One experience for the street with the F50 and F1, while boutique cars like the XJ220, EB110, and Cizeta Moroder V16 tempted the wallets of wealthy patrons. That "F1 Design Brief" is the reason for the OX99's cockpit layout, as it was for Murray's center-seat solution for the F1.
While the OX99-11 represented the most pure example of the "F1 for the Street" ethos among its contemporaries, it unfortunately gestated during a world economic downturn and featured specs that couldn't quite match its competitors nor support its exotic looks and design brief.
Such an unfortunate outcome IMO because it was obviously the most radical and ambitious project of its era, incorporating design and engineering elements that were many years ahead of its time for use in road cars.
dreamingeagle
Detailer

none of them have the pizazz;