It’s been a good 30 years since a rear-midship sports prototype transformed Honda from a manufacturer of safe, dependable hatchbacks into a world-beater that could take on Ferrari at its own game – and win. Yes, we’re talking about the NSX, which made its debut at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show.

In what would be remembered as a landmark show for Japanese performance enthusiasts, Honda showcased a pre-production version, then named the NS-X and wearing the badge of the then-nascent Acura luxury brand, at the Windy City. To celebrate the occasion, Acura released a video depicting the 1991 original alongside the latest NSX, incorporating previously unseen imagery from the concept’s unveiling.

The NSX’s back story is well known. It was benchmarked against Maranello’s best at the time, and was designed to offer unrivalled performance whilst retaining the comfort and usability that Honda was known for. It featured the world’s first all-aluminium monocoque and was developed with the input of a certain Ayrton Senna – the Brazilian’s remarks about a lack of rigidity resulted in the finished product being 50% stiffer.

But Acura also revealed a few lesser-known facts about the car, including the fact that the sports car programme originated from Honda’s desire to improve the packaging of its front-wheel drive vehicles. This 1984 project even resulted in a mid-engined prototype based on the first-generation Honda City – yes, that little tyke of a car with round headlights, not the Jazz-based sedan – before the whole thing was shelved.

It was also revealed that the VTEC system inside the NSX’s 270 hp 3.0 litre naturally-aspirated V6 was a last-minute addition, thanks to an inquiry by Honda’s then-president Tadashi Kume. The variable valve timing and lift system was originally designed for four-cylinder applications, and the redevelopment of the six-pot unit made it wider, requiring a longer wheelbase compared to the Chicago concept.

The latest NSX is a whole different beast – a four-wheel drive performance hybrid that combines a 500 hp 3.5 litre twin-turbocharged V6, a mid-mounted electric motor, two more motors at the front and a nine-speed dual clutch transmission, altogether producing 573 hp. There’s also mixed-material body utilising aluminium, steel and carbon fibre in its construction, along with magnetorheological dampers. A tech fest, indeed.

You can read our retrospective look at the original Honda NSX here.


GALLERY: 1989 Acura NS-X concept