We should declare 2015 the year of the supercar. It almost seems that nary a month goes by without a car maker pulling the cover of a brand-new, ultra-flashy, mega-horsepower design.
Two of the most recent examples pulled in to the New York Auto Show, which kicked off at the Javits Center in Manhattan last week. Both have history. However, they couldn’t be more different — although they have one critical quality in common.
The Ford GT was the undisputed hit of the Detroit Auto Show back in January. This glorious, stonking, 600-horsepower beast astonished in Motown. “We kept it pretty secret” was the grinning, satisfied refrain we heard while making our media rounds. Ford brought a GT, in dashing silver, to New York and let everyone just stand and gawk. It’s dazzling in photos. But in the flesh, it fills a spot in you brain that’s reserved for special stuff, cherished playthings from childhood and fantasies that you sketch on your notebook cover when you were 15 and bored but full of dreams.
Then there’s the history. Back in 1966, the GT’s ancestors finished 1-2-3 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, settling a spat between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari and settling it good (Enzo had at the last minute rebuffed Henry II’s desire to buy the storied Italian automaker — so Henry II took out his disappointment on the track).
The GT that Ford unveiled in Detroit is — there’s consensus about this in the automotive world — destined to restore Ford to glory at Le Mans in 2016, just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the epic win in ’66.
Meanwhile, about a hundred yards away from the GT on the show floor in New York, Acura’s new NSX supercar turned lazily on a rotating platform. It was a deep red, almost a sanguine tone. What it lacked in GT-style ferocity it more than made up for with an animé-inflected sense of daring purpose.
Like the GT, what makes it go is a turbocharged V-6. But unlike the GT, the engine has been hybridised through the addition of three electric motors. Bottom line: 550 total horsepower. Woof.
The NSX also comes with history — but history of a decidedly different flavour. The original NSX was forged out of Acura parent Honda’s Formula One experience. The late, legendary F1 champion Ayrton Senna contributed to the car’s development. The NSX doesn’t quite match the GT’s racing legacy, although it also competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It performed admirably in the 1990s, but never won in its divisions.
Of course, you could argue that the Le Mans of the ’60s and the Le Mans of the ’90s wasn’t the same race, and you’d be right — the comparison is sort of unfair.
The vibe from each machine is unique. The GT is effectively a race car whose currently incarnation has been adapted to more-or-less street-legalness. The message is, “Just wait until you see this thing on the track.”
The NSX, on the other hand, evolved a cult following over its production run — it’s Larry Ellison’s favourite supercar, for instance — but it occupies a space between sports cars and supercars. It’s ostensibly a supercar, with its mid-engine design and exotic bodywork. But it’s not necessarily in the same conversation as supercars from the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. It is, after all, an Acura.
There are other weirdnesses that attach to both the GT and the NSX. The GT will be build in Canada, by a company that has worked on Ford’s racing program and can handle the demands of the GT’s carbon-fibre construction.
The NSX, meanwhile, will be built in … Ohio.
Yes, it’s a supercar. From Ohio. Really. From Ohio.
(The previous generation of the NSX was built in Japan.)
This all just goes to show you that as we enter what I’m now calling “Peak Supercar,” our definitions for this most intense of automotive genres are changing. Heck, the whole idea of a mere supercar is becoming antiquated, as “hypercars” and even “mega-cars” up the ante on power and performance.
So in the year of the supercar, two qualified new examples eyed each other across the NY Auto Show floor. One is a pre-emptively domesticated race car. The other is could very well be the finest Honda ever built by human hands on planet Earth. Or at any rate in Ohio.
They’re also symbols of their era — a time when supercars still prowled our roadways, before we all start riding around in one of these: