Big things with little cars

Once Upon a Time in Kagoshima | Tomica 2002 Honda NSX-R | Studio Diecast

The year was 2003. A prospective buyer finally took delivery of one Honda NSX-R and drove it home, proud that he now owns one of the best sports cars money can buy. He loved the car so much that he never let it be sold upon his death, instead kept in a warehouse somewhere in Kagoshima, and time forgot about it.

Fourteen years later, that same man found the same NSX, and drove it out of the garage that once imprisoned it with—bound by the shackles of history and neglect—into freedom. Now, its story will be told through the well-aged die-cast car that hid in its glovebox.

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For LaLD Car Week, I present to you all the 2002 Honda NSX-R as rendered by Tomica.

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PROLOGUE

Melodrama aside, this particular NSX really did stay hidden from the last time I played with it (maybe 2006) to around July 2017, where my mum and I saw it clink underneath the kitchen while cleaning out the floodwaters that have leaked in my house. It was wild, to say the least, mostly because I’ve paid no mind to the thing anymore, even as I found this community about four years ago. Last I remember it, the house ate it, like all the other cars I had that I’ve since lost. But that’s a story for another day.

For now, the story will be entirely about the NSX shown here. Unlike Inspection Room, which is a full review of the model, Studio Diecast focuses on backstories and what some cars mean to me beyond any real objective value, so (1) you’re not seeing any final verdict and (2) they may come in groups of completely disparate cars, as opposed to variations of one casting or versus comparisons.

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Onward!

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AT FIRST SIGHT

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I’ve always thought I had some sort of collector’s sixth sense: once I see a car in store that I adore, I take it and run to the cashier. That instinct was probably developed in my nascent youth, around when I was five or six years old, and found Tomica’s Honda NSX-R in its stall. Box No. 81 grabbed my attention immediately, and was the first thing my parents piled in to the counter.

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You and I could then imagine young Wheelerguy cracking open the box (they didn’t have a plastic outer foil back then) and finding a fun, brilliant little car underneath. He would marvel at its substantial weight, sturdy, crash-resistant robustness, springy suspension (a fun play feature because he can dribble it like a basketball) and sparkling Championship White paint. The wheels were no issue to him, too—if anything, he’d love these more than the standard Type 1 wheels on his other Tomica. And the looks...he’d never seen the real thing, but this looked so real to him he probably thought his dad shrunk the car.

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And the plaything is complete. The box acted as the garage, the house its streets, and me as its pilot. Nothing can beat this car, I dreamed. It was the fastest machine I had, and it always won the races on every play-date. My friends were impressed—Tomica were about Php80 dearer than Hot Wheels and Matchbox, and was unmatched in terms of quality. I didn’t have much in gadgetry or fancy clothes or even other toys, but this car was my pride and joy.

Then one day, it was gone.

RAPTURE AND REDISCOVERY

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No, really, it was simply gone. I must have misplaced it somewhere while running errands, and by the time I got back, the toy simply wasn’t there anymore. My searches were desperate and futile. Mum doesn’t know where it is. Neither did dad, or my brother, or either of my aunts. My NSX had vanished, almost seemingly without a trace.

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Soon, time also worked to make my memory of this NSX vanish. And it did. Mostly. It certainly made me forget about the real car for a long, long time, and a hundred other cars kept me company. From the Lamborghini Murcielago (above) to the Nissan GT-R and a handful more cars, underneath, toy cars from different brands raced in my imagination—and careless hands—for most of my childhood and teen life. But there did come times when I wondered where the NSX went. Who might find it. If they even know what they have and realize that it is quite valuable. Because that value only dawned on me just a year ago.

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This made my chance find a total surprise. Nothing else should glint in that dark a place, and yet, as I used the dustpan to scoop out the object, I found myself staring at the poor thing. How long has that been there? What horrors has it endured? Why is it in my hand? A quick, soapy rinse answered none of those questions. But it did assure me of one thing: Tomica’s NSX held fast.

LIFE LEASED AGAIN

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As expected, the NSX showed its problems with age. The old girl gnashed on upshifts and groaned on downshifts, understeered worse than most lorries, its ECU may have been giving him too rich a fuel mix, and two conrods snapped. More breakdowns finally forced me to help repair—and eventually tune—my NSX with the help of MugenHaus in Frankfurt, initially as a sleeper. I’ve since rekindled my infatuation of its understated, near-ageless lines and didn’t want to mess with the body, patina and all.

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Improvements to the engine netted 515hp and 485 lb-ft of torque, all put down through a new Getrag 6-speed sequential gearbox, NC1-sourced driveshaft and Advan APEX rubber, 10mm wider than stock and dampened with a bespoke Ohlins system. MugenHaus also managed to add in a movable rear wing, which acted as air brakes, complementing the Endless calipers and vented discs fitted behind black Super Advan SA3-R wheels. As it stands, I might wind up putting a GT widebody kit at somepoint, but for now, fitting the Akrapovic exhausts are the top priority.

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More cars in my collection have been through more hardship, really. This NSX was lucky to have resided in a fairly safe place, untouched by anyone until today. Finding this again, it made me re-evaluate every model I have in a new context; to see them not from a “now” perspective, but from a “future” perspective. How important are these cars, really? Have I appreciated these gifts to me? Why would it take me losing these for me to realize just how much they mean to me? What do these cars even mean to me? Toys? Wish-fulfillment? Aids to a fantasy? Do I collect to show off, or do I collect because the model speaks volumes about a facet of my own personality and character?

This NSX is as much a confrontation just as much as it is a celebration. Unfortunately, I still feel ill-equipped to answer the questions.

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EPILOGUE

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So ends my feature for the second day of LaLD Car Week. This is, again, another unscheduled rewrite after a disastrous repaint job on my Aston Martin DBS V12, rendering it unfit for a feature. Fortunately I had this car and thought: oh, this could work, and I did. Thank you for clicking in and reading on!

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