Saying Sayonara: Project NSX’s Last Drive In Japan

Since I left Japan, I get the same question all the time: ‘What do you miss the most?’

If I’m feeling a bit philosophical after a few beers, I might say that seductive mix of old and new worlds. Or, depending on how hungry I am, the ramen. I’ve only told a few close friends the real answer, because it’s a bit embarrassing when everyone expects you to share a deep cultural appreciation in 15 words or less.

I miss the driving culture the most. The endless roads, race tracks, scenic lookouts and hidden history to discover. The flawless motorways where the fast lane is actually for fast drivers. The highway stops with more lunch options than a medium-sized town. The generous speed cameras and friendly police. The unplanned night meets at Tatsumi PA. If I ever had a free moment, I’d be behind the wheel of Project NSX going somewhere.

So of course, the best way to spend one of my final weekends before packing my life into a shipping container was to line up a drive with Skorj, a fellow car and photography nut.


We’ve met Skorj before on these pages, his Honda S800 coupe provided the perfect companion for the Spoon-tuned S660 through the streets of Tokyo.


Recently the S800 has been replaced by a Porsche. Skorj sneakily blames his wife for the ‘upgrade’ (the S800 was never the most comfortable), but the reality was it was a smart move for someone who does as many spirited kilometres as he does. S800 coupes are very collectible (read: valuable) now, and the 987.2 Cayman is nearing the bottom of its depreciation curve. Summed up, you get a lot more car for the money in the Cayman.


I’ve already introduced both the BMW E46 M3 and Porsche 996 GT3 as naturally-aspirated ‘rivals’ that Project NSX is targeting, and after a bit of maths it turned out that Skorj’s 987.2 Cayman S would usefully split the difference between the BMW and Porsche as a ‘Stage 2′ target.


While I was in an analytical mood, I decided to check in on progress towards Stage 1 with a few recent changes. The installation of Fujitsubo’s SuperEx exhaust manifold not only lifted power, but also dropped a decent 7.3kg (16lb) over the cast OEM units in conjunction with some sport catalysers from Science of Speed. Combined with a new air intake funnel and removal of the spare tyre (which never fit over the upsized brakes anyway) we’re at 56.6kg (124.7lb) saved – just 3.4kg (7.5lb) shy of Stage 1’s 60kg (132lb) weight loss target.

I’m still yet to get the car back on the dyno for a power check with the new headers, but we’re undoubtedly closing in fast on the Stage 1 goal of matching the power-to-weight of the E46 M3.


The Cayman is in many ways the closest competitor for an NSX in the used car market. The NSX was obviously designed to take on the 911s and Ferraris of the day (which it did well), but it wasn’t until 15 years after the NSX’s launch that Porsche offered a six-cylinder, mid-engined, two-seater with similar dimensions.


In real-world terms, an early non-S Cayman would be dusted by an NSX, but by 2009 the S had stretched to 3.4L and gained direct injection, making for a torquey 315hp punch. The car’s handling has also become the default industry benchmark for driver involvement, so it’s obviously not just a drag racer either.

ProjectNSX-blakejones-speedhunters-2 copy

Although this was my last proper drive of the NSX in Japan, the opportunity to see how the Cayman stacked up was too good to refuse. Skorj was also curious to see how a few of my recent modifications (suspension, headers and tyres) had changed the previously sedate Honda.


We’d be leaving behind the Tokyo metropolis for the countryside of Chiba, with our end goal being Sodegaura Circuit to catch some of the on-track action at the Tokyo Bayside Classic Cup. Chiba has a nice mix of long stretches of high-speed highway and tight, winding backroads – a pretty good match for our mid-engine duo.

Once in Chiba, I swapped the NSX’s simple Monel key for the Porsche’s chunky remote.


The Cayman’s cockpit was an easy place to get comfortable; in typical Porsche manner, everything related to actually driving the car is right where you want it to be. The iconic central tachometer reminds me of the Carrera GT I’d lusted over for years.

The only thing that I did find odd is the halfway point on the fuel indicator being marked 2/4 rather than 1/2. The factory seats and wheel are great, but compared to the NSX the dash is quite tall, leaving a much smaller windscreen through which to take in the road ahead.


Planting your right foot results in a surprisingly assertive shove in the back from almost any RPM, whereas the NSX requires a bit more patience from lower in the rev range. The Cayman’s engine is sweet sounding, but does lack that lovely top end howl which characterises the NSX’s V6.


The Cayman’s suspension could be accused of being overly simple with MacPherson struts both front and rear. It’s hard to criticise the end result too; at the sensible speeds we achieved the hydraulically-assisted steering was sweet and true, and the rear of the car eagerly followed wherever the front end was directed. Undoubtedly there’s room for improvement over stock with stiffer bushings and upgraded shocks, but the flat ride felt instantly ready for the track, whereas the NSX really required the coilover upgrade to neuter body roll.


Seeing your own car on the road is always a fun experience, and it was a great chance to check out just how low and aggressive the NSX is compared to regular traffic. Skorj seemed to enjoy the drive but had no regrets about his Cayman purchase, so everyone was happy. Although, he did tell me he’d be shopping for some new exhaust bits afterwards, to ‘fix’ the somewhat lacking engine note.

Sodegaura Classics

Before long we rolled into the paddock parking area at Sodegaura Raceway (soon to host the Speedhunters Live x RADwood event) and parked up.

It didn’t take long to find some cool cars – this is Japan after all! Milling around an event like this, classic camera in hand, is probably the best way to spend a fresh winter’s morning.


The Mazda Familia GT-R is an oft forgotten homologation special with turbocharged power sent to all four wheels – a competitor for the Pulsar GTi-R.


This Peugeot 205 GTi was bringing the ’80s vibes with a painfully cool Dimma wide-body kit.

An extremely faithful Jaguar XJ13 replica, which sounded glorious thanks to a carburettor-fed V12, perhaps pinched from an E-Type?


As fate would have it, a friend was at the event and mentioned that he’d spotted an abandoned NSX in his neighbourhood, and he had an inkling it might even be an NSX-R.

Now wouldn’t that be something… One last mission, 27?

On The Hunt For Haisha

With some rough directions to guide us, we started on our way towards the mystery NSX. Knowing the area well Skorj led, but before long he’d indicated to pull over then quickly done a U-turn. “Lost already?” I yelled at him as he doubled back past me.


No, not lost, just a better eye for decaying kyusha than me. He’d spotted this parked across from a row of houses and rightfully decided we should take a better look.

The Skyline coupe had all the important period zokusha parts – bolt-on over fenders over deeply dished wheels, front chin spoiler, and even some aftermarket headlights.


The weather had really got to this one – there wasn’t an inch of glossiness anywhere on the red paintwork, and rust was taking hold around every window frame. Still, with the value of Hakosukas only continuing to climb, surely the owner must see value in salvaging what’s left? We decided to make a move before our presence started to bother anyone in the nearby houses.


The directions we’d been given turned out to be spot on, and before we knew it the nondescript shed standing next to an abandoned three-story building stood in front of us, just as described. Approaching the entry to the shed, it was clear we’d found our mark.

I barely noticed the Mercedes-Benz, for next to it sat the aforementioned NSX. It was red – the NSX-R did come in red, but it was a very rare colour – could it be?

I have to admit I did let my imagination run away a little bit at this point. Thoughts of dragging the car out into the sunlight and gradually restoring it with the blessing of the old owner’s family… Oh, hang on, there’s an automatic shifter in there. And a rather sizeable impact to the front end.

It never hurts to dream a little.


The rest of the shed was filled with varied delights, like this Subaru 360.

A complete Datsun 2000 Roadster in desperate need of some TLC…


And even a nice Volkswagen Karmann Ghia cabriolet in prime position to watch the cars, and years, go by.


It was just about time for lunch and we’d managed to fit in a spirited drive, race track visit and even some haisha hunting. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.


Like all good things, the drive came to an end and thus did my time with Project NSX in Japan.

As the registration seal was torn off and voided I couldn’t help feel a bit melancholy – what a time we’d had together in this amazing country over the past 18 months – but it was time to go home. Alas, there was one last stop to make before heading to the export dock…

Blake Jones
Instagram: blaketjones

The SH Garage on Speedhunters

A Look Back: Project NSX In Japan


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No. I'm not cyring. You're crying. Stop looking at me. I've got a Speedhunters article in my eye.


They're happy tears!




Nicely written. Thank you, I just rode along your emotions. :)


Blake - Tell me you took the NSX back home with you!? lol it wasn't quite clear in the story :)


Of course, I couldn't leave her there! She's sitting about five metres from me right now.


Haha, yaaas - Excelleeeent!!!


The crash damage on the nsx looks pretty cryptic. As if it was involved in a front-end collision and the driver flew out of the windshield. Geez.


I think it must have been a collision with one of those collapsible 'safety' road signs/light poles. It crumpled the front then fell forward into the windscreen.


That poor NSX with front end damage :( I hope someone is passionate enough about the NSX to possibly fix it, because it hurts seeing it so beat up.

And i might have missed it in the article, but where is Project NSX headed now?


Yeah, it was sad to see. The front end damage is certainly repairable, but it's an expensive and tricky process to weld a new front piece on and get the chassis straight again.

Project NSX and I now reside in Melbourne, Australia!


On the crashed Red NSX, any idea what those wheels are? They look amazing, but a little different with the polished lip to others I have seen.


Now that you're back, it would be a good time for SpeedHunters to show some love to Mighty Car Mods and Home Built by Jeff's cars :)


Always sad to see an awesome car go. Been thought it myself a couple of years ago - still with I never sold my S14a.

Can't believe that hako though! How can it be left like that?? If it were possible, I want to hop on a plane and come get it!


Thankfully this was just a goodbye to Japan - I didn't sell the car, I brought it back to Aus with me.

Yes, it needs saving! Although I think if you tried to move it, the thing might fall apart completely.


Oh good - looking at the recent price rises in the UK - NSX's have doubled in value over the last few years.

Still worth trying though.... If it falls apart, bits can be salvaged and replacements can be fabricated.


Abandoning Skylines, NSXs, 360s and other timeless classics to their own fate like that is quite simply criminal. Anyway, Speedhunter's project bike when?


Working on it!


The NSX and Cayman are equivalent in terms of performance and layout, but let's be honest.

The NSX is a halo car and the Cayman is the Porsche for people who can't swing a proper 911.


"Cayman? What's wrong, couldn't afford a 911?"
"Carrera? What's wrong, couldn't afford a GT3 or Turbo?"
"911? What's wrong, couldn't afford a 918?"

The saying "the Cayman is for people who can't afford a 911" seems to be for people who've never driven either. Talk to people who have driven or owned both, and they'll tell you the Cayman is an incredible car regardless of price. Put 911 power in a Cayman - which is easy, thanks to the aftermarket, or thanks to Porsche themselves with the GT4 - and what happens? You get the 2007 Nurburgring 24h, with a Cayman finishing third in class and fourth overall in the middle of a group of 997 GT3 RSRs (behind two and ahead of a handful of others). Seems to me that the Cayman and Boxster are only slower cars because Porsche makes it so, to keep the 911 at the top; they definitely have the chassis to support the performance.


I really appreciated the insight into NSX vs Cayman, by the way. I support the car because I mean to pick one up in the next few years for this very reason. The NSX is my dream car but prices have gone nuts; in the States at least, I don't know about Japan and Australia. And besides, Honda's discontinued enough parts, which has also affected maintenance cost. I've been seeing the Cayman as a wonderful substitute that shouldn't leave me feeling like I 'settled for a lesser car.'


I can see where you're coming from... but is a 911 then just a Porsche for people who can't swing a 918? I've always had a soft spot for the non-911 Porsches (928, 944, 916), they do get a lot of flak because of the 911, but are pretty great cars in their own right. The Cayman is the same - and arguably better on a tight winding road than a 911!


There's a reason Porsche went to mid engine for the 991 911 RSR. Having been guilty in the past of snobbing off a boxster or cayman as a poor mans Porsche, it really is something you have to drive to have a worthy opinion... Id take the Cayman over the 911, with the cost factor just sweetening the deal.


It has been quite of a journey. But I can't wait for what's to come! I also hope is not the end of the project NSX.
will you be doing more things to it in Aus?


Thanks Rick! Yep, the project continues in Aus, and now that I have a garage I can do lots of smaller jobs without going to a shop. Got some exciting stuff in the pipeline, so hope to have some Australian updates for everyone soon.


What a fantastic last drive. Can't get over that Skyline just sitting there either. It never ceases to amaze me what you can stumble upon in Japan, cars or otherwise. Anyway, I have to say, that shot of your NSX in front of the Yodobashi Camera neon is one of the best pictures I've ever seen, period. So bloody cool.

Cars, always giving us the adventures and memories of a lifetime. Safe travels!

Mahesh Sukhram ZA

Thanks for all the articles, looking forward to the next chapter/mods in AUS.


Feeling nostalgic (currently vaca in Tokyo) I don't miss living here. I miss the mountain side I drove every weekend In fussa and the car culture. The city was ok, to crowded for sure.

michael silcock

do you have any more pictures of the blue nsx checked your post on the NSX gathering but i was wondering if you had any more?


Hi Michael - unfortunately if there were no photos of it in that story, I wouldn't have any others.


loved your trip down memory lane in the final chapter. and that poor hako!


Thanks Matt! Yeah, and it's not the first abandoned Hako I've seen either. A tragedy!

I'll have the tuna

That was a proper send off


What are you going to do with it once you get home?


The Project continues! There's a few performance projects underway at the moment.


Thank you for so many awesome articles! I definitely enjoyed the updates on this SH projectcar the most. Not solely because of the car, but more so because of the incrdible backdrop and backstories that Japan always seem to deliver, your lovely photography that I really enjoy, especially since you also appreciate some delicate analog shots and your enjoyable writing.
Looking forward to your aussie based conten but I won't lie, I think I'm going to miss your articles from japan just as much as you probably miss the country itself!
In this sense: arigatou


Holy crap....never realised that you're an Aussie & from Melbourne. I live in Melbourne! hope to see this car in the local scene. You're practically sitting on a goldmine, the value of NSX in Oz is becoming crazy.

I'm planning to import an NSX from Japan sometime in the future before it gets more expensive. Any tips on car exporter in Japan I can contact to find one in good condition?


Hi Wik, yep prices are crazy in Aus but getting more expensive in the homeland too. I can't recommend a broker to buy the car, but got a good price and easy communication using Dolphin Shipping to ship the car.


Can't wait to see it down under!


Hope to catch you at Speedhunters Live next month!


Just brilliant. What an adventure. I miss my blk/ blk 91