1991 Acura NSX: Looking For Used Car "Tells"
December 20, 2011
I've bought a lot of used cars from private parties over the years. Sold almost as many, too. It's a process that involves a detailed look at the car, a sizing up of the seller and an understanding that you will never know everything that the car in question has been through. The latter is especially true if the seller is not the original owner, which is almost always the case whan a car is 20 years old like our 1991 Acura NSX.
Take this engine bay brace, for example. The correct orientation is clearly marked on both ends, and yet it is bolted in backwards with the "FR" arrows pointing toward the back of the car. This is not a part that's typically removed unless the engine has had serious work or has been removed entirely.
This being a Honda engine with less than 50k miles on the clock (officially, anyway), we can probably rule out a prior engine overhaul. On the other hand this "supercar" could have been driven as such, and some previous ham-fisted owner with weak manual skills could have zinged the engine. It does idle a bit funny, but that could be anything. Our test results say it runs strong.
Of course this brace could have been removed to somehow facilitate a clutch replacement. The mileage is a little low for that, so it would have been fairly recent. Trouble is, the accumulated dirt and a matching rub mark from the engine cover prop rod looks old, indicating it has been this way for quite some time.
Early removal of this brace could be a sign of low-mileage accident damage and repair. If so, there's no reworked metal evident in this area and the nearby bodywork looks straight. Car drives great, too. Seems unlikely that would be the reason. There is that trunk leak, though.
Maybe it was something benign like an alternator or throttle body replacement. Or, unlikely as it seems, maybe some worker at the plant simply put it in backwards when the car was built.
We'll never know for sure, but I'll see if I can find any more "tells" when I put it up on our Rotary lift for a suspension walkaround eartly next year.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 49,732 miles