Honda’s luxury arm has finally brought back its iconic supercar, in a 570HP hybrid incarnation, and it’s determined to live up to the hype. The 1990 NSX was Honda’s hugely successful way of proving it could build a no-compromise supercar, and developed a cult-like following. Honda killed the car in 2005, but announced in 2011 that it was coming back—as a hybrid.
At the new 200,000 square-foot facility in Marysville, Ohio, tolerances are mil-spec. Humans and their robot buds will eventually crank out eight samples of the twin-turbo V6, hybridized sports car per shift. That’s the time it takes the plant down the road to build 900 Accords. They’ll go slowly, Acura says, because supercars demand exacting attention, even if they never experience the demands of a racetrack.
Aluminum parts for the NSX’s rigid internal frame are stamped, extruded, or hydro-formed off-site and delivered to the factory for welding. The six nodes holding the frame elements together, however, are manufactured via a new process called ablation casting, developed by Acura for the NSX.
Sand molds are filled with molten aluminum then rapidly cooled by water jets, which also wash away the sand. The nodes are hollow to save weight, and Acura tweaks their chemical properties during the casting process, making them stronger than conventional forged aluminum elements, which tend to be brittle, and able to deform predictably during a crash. This crash-worthiness allows engineers to create shorter front and rear overhangs, further reducing the car’s mass.
NSX assembly gets goings at the welding stations, where the space frame comes together. The frame supports the engine, transmission, and suspension and functions as the vehicle’s crash structure. (Body panels are added last.) Eight welding robots do all the work (an industry-first) for precise and repeatable bonds. A series of 360-degree rotisseries rotate the components to make robot access easier and faster.
Throughout the manufacturing process, technicians inspect the work to ensure it’s precisely executed. This is for performance reasons—for instance, weld placement and quality can affect chassis rigidity—and to ensure that components added down the line will be easily integrated. Here, inside the all-glass inspection room, a scanner measures the complete frame prior to painting.
Once assembled, the frame marches through a series of dipping tanks to add a corrosion-resistant, zirconium-based primer, as well other treatments to prep the metal for painting. Using zirconium instead of the industry-standard zinc-phosphate eliminates 90 percent of the process’s waste byproduct.
Sealant is applied to the car’s seams on rotisseries, to ease access for technicians. It’s then inspected using precision-aimed colored lights: Each color reflects the type of sealant required, where it should go, and how much should be applied.
The chassis and body panels are painted by both human technicians and robots in a glass-shrouded facility in the center of the Ohio facility. (Traditionally, cars are painted off-site.) Each piece receives up to 11 coats of primer and paint, followed by a good polishing.