The Kansai Service NSX & Future Of JDM Tuning

There was a lot to check out at HKS Premium Day on Sunday (full event wrap coming soon), but one car I spent a lot of time looking at and thinking about was Kansai Service’s new Honda NSX demo machine.

It’s cool that our beloved JDM tuners are even attempting to enhance the new crop of domestic supercars – GT-R Nismo and Lexus LC included – but I can’t help but feel that the modifying landscape is changing in the process.

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I mean, wasn’t the whole point of embarking on a fun tuning mission with a Japanese sports car because the base vehicle was affordable in the first place?

I’ve just spent a little time virtually configuring a new NSX on the Japanese Honda website, and once you start piling on the options it’s rather easy to end up with a car that costs the yen equivalent of a quarter of a million US dollars. Mine came to $257,000. Even if you don’t add any options, it’s a rather big initial investment for a tuner to jump on board and get stuck into developing parts and performance upgrades.

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So you come to a split. Look at it one way and it’s obvious that Japan’s auto manufacturers are hungry for a slice of the high-end supercar market. That’s fine, but is there a place for Japanese tuners to make a difference here? We don’t even know how or if the driveline of the NSX and LC can even be tuned.

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I’m guessing that cars like the NSX will serve more as image builders. Tuners will make them look prettier with aero parts and carbon accents, and by doing so attention will be drawn to the services and upgrades they perform on more attainable machines.

I could be totally wrong though; in a couple of years we could be seeing stripped-out new NSXs with bigger turbo kits hitting time attack events… Now that would be awesome.

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For now we get to see the more aesthetic side of things, which is perfectly fine. Kansai Service has started by dressing up the NSX with Advan Racing GTs in this Premium Version 21-inch spec.

The resulting look is far more track focussed; it’s really amazing what a set of wheels and a ride height drop can do.

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A look through the transparent engine cover revealed some non-standard red piping, so it seems like Mukai-san and his team are indeed starting to play around with the twin-turbo V6 that sits midship in the chassis. There will be challenges I’m sure, mostly with the hybrid component of the driveline and the modern engine management.

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But I really hope they get there as I want to continue seeing Japanese cars built for performance.

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It’s hard not to be sceptical in the beginning, but the hurdles for tuners just seem to get higher and harder to climb over. What do you guys think?

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino
dino@speedhunters.com

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52 comments

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1

I understand what you mean but I think cars/bikes/etc have and probably always will get tuned. The definition of what tuning is may change?

Author2
Dino Dalle Carbonare

It has already I would say.

3

Definitely

4

totally get it and understand but on the flip side what was the initial price of say nsx or supra at launch and what is the equivalent of that today. guessing here somewhere like 70k in the 90s was nuts.

Author5
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Inflation is always there but in Japan at least I don't think it's more than doubled prices. 25% up or something like that. We are talking over 100% jump with the NSX. That's nuts. I guess that's what manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini have done too. Maybe the JDM makers are look at that trend when figuring our prices. And also there is way more tech in a modern car so I can understand prices must go up. But this seems obscene

6

i agree it is crazy why can't they just follow ford lol. Ford is the new 90s manufacturer.

7

I like the new NSX now, and all it took was a set of Advan Racing GTs.

Is there any car that wheel can't make look good?

Author8
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Very good point! GTs look good on everything and they look good on cars that other wheels just don't work. Like the HKS/Liberty Walk LC that was at TAS and Premium Day, that thing looked tough as on 21-inch GTs

9

They should stop rebooting the cars with the same name, imho. They are totally trying to get a piece of the supercar pie. Wasn't the original nsx supposed to be the poor man's supercar? Only god knows what the price of this alleged new Supra will be. $200k+?

Author10
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Very good point, this new NSX just doesn't follow on from where the original car left off. They should have called it something else and then made a lightweight, stripped out & minimalistic car called an NSX. They obviously know how to do it, look at the S660. We just need that same DNA in a new S2000 & "real" new NSX!

11

In 2002 the NSX's MSRP was $92,000, or adjusted for inflation $128,000. At the same time, a Corvette Z06 was $50k, while 911 Carreras and Viper GTS's rang in at $75k.

The NSX was never a poor man's supercar. It was a Honda vanity project to prove they could build a better mid-engine supercar than Ferrari at the time when Ferrari was building the 328GTB.

Low bar, and they managed it, but they never outsold the V8 Ferraris and when Ferrari made the jump from the 328GTB to the 348 to ultimately the 355, the NSX was left looking a little foolish and a little outdated.

https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/acura-nsx-first-drive-review

12

The sticker price in 1992 is $65,000 and it was considered an affordable, no compromise everyman's supercar. You can watch the original Top Gear review, and they say that the car was competing on the level of Ferrari, at a different price point. The point being, you got Ferrari handling, and Japanese reliability at a Honda price.

Author13
Dino Dalle Carbonare

The NSX came out in 1990. Not 12 years after that (albeit it was still on sale)

14

And its inflation-adjusted 1990 MSRP is about $112,000. Today's is still more expensive, but Justin's point still stands - it was never a cheap car, so it's not really the best example of a car where the base vehicle was "affordable".

15

But he's comparing the NSX to the early 2000's Corvette and Viper. Those 2 cars were NEVER the sports car the NSX was.

Compare the price to the high end exotics the NSX battled and let me know the value comparison.

16

That is the point :) it was cheap at 100k when it took half a million to beat it.

17

So HKS Kansai is like official tune shop of HKS or it's like some tuning shop that is working close with them?

I remember HKS Kansai Evo in Tokyo Extreme Racer Drift.

Author18
Dino Dalle Carbonare

It's not HKS Kansai Service any more. They dropped the HKS name years back. They still very much use HKS products but like to play around with other brands too

19

Thanks so much Dino! I'm always curious about Japanese tuning scene, especially to the older tuners and aftermarket brand.

What makes me wonder is what happened to most old race car in Japan though, I rarely seen old famous drift machine like HKS Silvia, Apexi RX7, Team Orange STI and so on.

20
JBfromSiliconValley

Im gonna say it w/ every NSX build: the chrome on the front fascia needs to be blacked out or replaced. Glad tuners are approaching the new NSX.

Author21
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Agreed.

22

The golden era for tuners has long gone when the manufacturers started looking for eco engines and cost reduction. You will get a new engine with a "weaker" block and already supercharged almost near to its max power. Long before you would get a heavy bulletproof block and NA where you can add 5x power on stock/non-modified engine interior.
But i have faith that tuning will never end since we all have different tastes to satisfy in any possible way.

Author23
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Bring over-engineering back!

24

The Barra 4L is current gen low cost available over-engineering. A stock, unopened long block will get 600+ hp with boost.

25

Well, could be stated like this but from my point of view: "Bring durability back kick ultimate profit seekers out".
Even i totally hate the new F1 but the power delivered from the 1.6L is a proof of over-engineering. The economic/sales team will hold the guys back while in 90's they just "unleashed" them.
The last old school was BMW precisely M, now we lost them too. But we have good signs for the revival of the Japanese gods.

26

This car does nothing for me. Re-using the NSX name is trying to turn the first gen NSX's five minutes of fame into six. This car adds very little - if anything - to the original.

In the end, it's a very, very expensive ... Honda.

27

Totally agree.

I think Toyota managed it better with the 86/GT-86/FR-S. A great candidate for the tuner and cult-classic ready. Just enough to get tuners excited with unlimited possibilities as the platform is basic, accessible and tuner-friendly.

The NSX now is dare I say - more highly strung - thanks to the high-tech stuff. To tune from here is going to mean big bucks and big targets. As I observe in the Kansai demo car, its just aesthetics for now. I hope they find their niche. Maybe when the NSX ages on, maybe..

I feel the same might be coming soon with Toyota's next Supra. I do hope it is made in the same way that tuners can play around with it and stir up the scene with more great builds.

Author28
Dino Dalle Carbonare

I really should borrow one and properly drive it. See if there is remotely any DNA from the original car.

29

Yes, please do Dino. I think you'll be more than surprised and pleased. It's easy to be tepid on this car (or any new version of a car that comes with loads new tech) but after having driven the new NSX (I've driven the original plenty, btw) I can say there's enough in common with how it feels - and they replicated the sound when VTEC kicks in yo plenty well, only better. The new car is extremely impressive, and loads of fun. It silenced a lot of my potential complaints upon driving it.

30

Wow no stance, tucking or misfitting tires?!
Now THIS is more like it!!!!

Author31
Dino Dalle Carbonare

It's all performance at this event. Well, almost

32

"We don’t even know how or if the driveline of the NSX and LC can even be tuned."

Tough one isn't it. But then remember when the R35 came out and Nissan had said it couldn't be modified (and that even aftermarket wheels would be a pain due to tyre sensors) and compare that to where we are today....

Author33
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yes that's very true and I'm sure (hope!) there will be a lot of things they will be able to do on the engine side of things. But you can't help but worry, cars aren't as over-engineered as they were back in the day

34

Remember when the R35 came out and Nissan said nobody would be able to extract anything else out of it?! It normally starts with aesthetic mods regardless of model and then the more serious upgrades start to filter through. I guess it just comes down to whether or not the kind of people that can afford these cars will be into modified cars, creating a market place for turbos etc... I suspect the answer will be yes. Imagine a full on HKS time attack NSX....

Author35
Dino Dalle Carbonare

In 2007 when the R35 GT-R came out it sold in Japan for under ¥8million. The NSX has a base price of ¥23 mil. It's 3 times the damn price! (The R35 has gone up in price BTW, base sells for over ¥10 mil now). In 2007-2008 and after an R35 owner could argue it would be worth having a play with some tuning or at least try. In 2018 an NSX owner would have a tough time justifying a potential blown engine. Sure there are people our there that probably will....

36

The loophole is getting a USED R35 in Japan.
Relatively low mileage, unmodified ones are priced between $40-50k USD.
One of the best values out there nowadays.

Much cheaper than new...and less than most good R34s.

37

The future of JDM tuning? *hits vape* It's all about bags man. It's all about having hella functionality while you get super sick n low to collect mad followers on snapgram.

Author38
Dino Dalle Carbonare

People don't vape in Japan. They take hits from iQuos

39

The future of tuning seems to be less and less attainable by anyone of lower or middle class. Even our favourite cars of the 70's, 80's and 90's are becoming unrealistic projects via inflation of their values and rarity. Sad times in the land of the Japanese auto enthusiast.

40

I think inflating prices aren’t the real danger of tuning. At any point in time there have been cars that became a hype and got more expensive as a result.

The real danger of tuning lies in the vision of self-driving cars combined with a rental model that some dream of. There’s the _real_ end of tuning.

41

Don't hold your breath.

There's no thorough and concrete legislation/regulation for autonomous cars in the United States. Nothing established for safety, financial liability, etc, etc, etc. Nothing major OEMs sell can circumvent this process. Note that everything currently on the market (I.E.: Tesla's "autopilot") is "driver assist" not autonomy.

Don't forget, the United States is one of (if not THE) most litigious countries on EARTH. Major manufacturers aren't as inclined to jump on the lawsuit bandwagon as the self-driving hype would suggest. It's really just a pissing match to see who can stir up the most publicity. There's precedent for all of this.

At one time, the rotary engine was widely believed to be the way of the future. Every manufacturer essentially failed at selling production cars that utilized them...except Mazda. Mercedes-Benz and General Motors arguably had greater capability, but lacked the commitment and engineering capability (ouch, that hurts, but it's true).

Natural gas propulsion was another big one...along with fiberglass or plastic bodies (ala GM's Saturn marque)...truth be told, this isn't even the first time autonomy has been promised.

You have to realize, the auto industry is about making MONEY...not better cars. Self-driving cars are ultimately a money-losing proposition. It's only a matter of time until the OEMs drop the idea in favor of something else.

What you should really be bracing for is the collapse of the remaining two, independent US OEM manufacturers.
They are (much like in 2008) woefully unprepared for market shifts and disruptions. Not to mention they haven't fully paid back the last 36 BILLION dollars they were bailed out with ten years ago.

They will ultimately fail or be acquired. It's just a matter of time.
Again, there's precedent.
Practically all (formerly independent) British automakers are now owned by foreign entities.

42

Alfred, I really hope you're right.

Author43
Dino Dalle Carbonare

S660?

44

Not available in North American market unfortunately.

45

Haven't seen any signs of the rumoured S1000 either, at least not in the US. But I suspect that in a market where both the MX-5?Roadster and Toyobaru are already pretty "niche" cars, there's not a large enough crowd clamouring for an S1000 to make the exercise worthwhile.

46

They'll ALL be tuned.

It seems like yesterday when people were insistent that the B18C5 (Type R engine) was maxed out and impossible to improve upon. Later, it was claimed the the F20 (S2000 engine) couldn't be modified without losing power. It's obvious now that those claims were inaccurate, but it wasn't back in the day.

As for the pricing and exclusivity...everyone might as well get used to it or buy that Toyobaru FR86-724ish or whatever it's called.
Otherwise, wait until retired and dead engineers rise from their walkers or grave to create compelling cars that are antithetical to what's being offered now.

The market has spoken: charge exorbitant amounts of money to an elite few who can afford it. The high price justifies vehicle development costs in a risk-averse, corporate ruled landscape.
Enter $257,000 USD NSX.

47

To be honest although as mentioned the Hurdles become harder to overcome, i think the quastion is mainly if the tuners are ready to adapt.
A new generation which is far more "Techie" might not see this as much harder as other tasks.
(Sorry for bad english, still hope the point is clear)

48

I think the discussion about vehicles becoming harder/impossible to tune has been around since at least the horseless carriage started to replace the horse drawn carts (which begs the question, how do you tune a horse?). Fuel injection was long considered to be a black art and the end of tuning - these days anybody with a soldering iron can build their own ECU...

Speaking as an IT guy - any system can be gotten into with enough effort. The bigger concern is that the manufacturers (have to) put up bigger and bigger barriers for people to get into the various ECUs, which is likely to be coupled with code that detects unauthorised modifications. OEM can often tell already when the ECUs has had a tune loaded onto it, but things are going to get fun when that can be detected by your local emissions test station.

49

In my opinion OEM ECU/electrical systems are getting needlessly complicated, and the Japanese ones in particular are deliberately closed-off. Fortunately, aftermarket ECUs and even PMUs (Power Management Units/CANBUS systems) have come a long way. Given the ever-increasing price of sports cars, I bet it will become cost-effective to replace the entire electrical system with an aftermarket one, sell the OEM parts, and just take your chances tuning the significantly-more-open aftermarket stuff.

But Japan seems REALLY behind in the quality/price/availability of aftermarket open-platform wiring/ECU solutions. All the best stuff in this niche is coming from the US or Europe.

Note: I'm in the process of trying to wire up my JDM Supra and doing a custom harness on a 90's sports car is like working with something from the Dark Ages to me. Stage 2 of my car will involve dropping ~$4,000 on an AEM CD-7 Digital Dash + ECUMaster EMU Black and PMU-16. That's more than the ~$3,300 my FSR Streetfighter turbo kit will cost, but it will save me a ton of time and frustration.

50

The future is bright. If these kind of guys can "mess" with VR38 ECU back then, I'm sure they'll "mess" with this too!

51

I know it probably won't happen but i sure would like to see what they can do with the Kia Stinger GT

52

As far I am concerned I'd like to see the new NSX tuned in the old-fashioned way.Stripped out interior,got rid off all the high tech-modern-hybrid systems,forged engine internals and agressive track-focused stance.No interference between driver and car.
Ohh and headlight and taillight conversion would be acceptable too.

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