THERE ARE MOMENTS when you don't have to ask why you do a job. They are epiphanies, sometimes represented by events, such as the honor graduation of a once-difficult student. What teacher wouldn't be pleased?
Other moments are marked by the appearance of a thing, a new car for instance -- a work of stunning beauty and remarkable engineering excellence, like Honda's 1991 Acura NSX sports car.
My moment with the NSX lasted nearly a week. I will never forget it. It was one of the best weeks of my working life.
If you love cars, as I do, you will see in them manifestations of the human spirit. You will dismiss bad and mediocre cars as disappointing efforts, and wonder why the people who developed them failed to carry their ideas, or care in execution, several steps farther.
The NSX is one you will marvel over. You will circle its body repeatedly, touching and looking, feeling and seeing its splendid lines. You will sit in its cockpit with awe, paying close attention to the arrangement of everything around you; and you will smile at those thoughtful touches, like the way Acura's engineers slanted the NSX's shifter knob toward your right hand for ease of use.
You will smile again when the car takes the highway. Heck, in the mid-engine NSX two-seater, you will grin as wide as Texas. And when the ride's done, you will exercise consideration in parking the car, taking care to put it out of harm's way.
And on reflection, you will smile yet again, thinking that you are awfully lucky to have a chance to sample something as good as the NSX -- and get paid for it.
Background: Honda's people began working on the NSX in 1984. Their mission was to produce an exotic two-seater that exceeded everything good, and excluded everything bad, in cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and Corvette. Simply put, Honda wanted to produce a high-performance, "livable" sports car, one that didn't require a technician in residence and that could be driven every day of the week in city and highway traffic. Honda succeeded.
The aluminum-bodied, rear-drive NSX is available with the tested five-speed manual transmission and the substantially more expensive and perfectly unnecessary four-speed automatic gearbox.
The trunk? "Livable" in this case means enough luggage space for an overnight stay, not a lifetime commitment.
Complaints: The NSX's rear window is actually two windows -- a vertical piece that helps to isolate the passenger cabin from the engine compartment and a slanted glass canopy that actually covers the engine. This works fine during day driving, but causes some rear-window glare in nighttime traffic.
Praise: This is simply the best sports car on the market at any price. It is relatively light: 3,010 pounds. It's very tight. It's loaded with technology, including an electronically controlled valve timing and lift system designed to yield maximum engine performance at the lowest fuel-consumption levels at all speeds. It also has anti-lock brakes, traction control, four-wheel independent aluminum wishbone double suspension and a driver's-side air bag.
Head-turning quotient: An act of rolling seduction. The NSX stopped traffic, turned heads and created impromptu "car-talk" clinics everywhere it went.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Super aces. The NSX zooms better than a Ferrari without any of the headaches or other aches. The car is equipped with an aluminum block, three-liter, double overhead cam, 24-valve V-6, rated 270 horsepower at 8,000 rpm.
Sound system: Acura/Bose AM/FM stereo radio and cassette. Super.
Mileage: A respectable 22 to the gallon (18.5-gallon tank, estimated 400-mile range on usable volume), combined city-highway and, umm, private drag strips.
Price: $60,000 for the tested five-speed manual version and $64,000 for the optional four-speed automatic. Estimated dealer's invoice is $53,400 on the manual and $56,960 on the automatic.
Purse-strings note: Of the 5,000 NSX models that Honda is producing for 1991 sales, 3,000 will be sold in the United States. If you can find a dealer selling one for $60,000 or $64,000, kindly send me that dealer's name and address along with proof of purchase price. Such a deal is worth a story.
Warren Brown covers the automotive industry for The Washington Post. The 1991 Acura NSX.