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Acura NSX Underwater for 16 Years Will Get a Second Chance at Life

The Acura was recovered in 2019 and has just 32,000 miles on the clock. It also supports its own small ecosystem.
LSX Salvage

A 1991 Acura NSX allegedly stolen and dumped in a North Carolina river roughly 16 years ago has found a new owner. The car, which was discovered by accident in 2019 as a part of a missing persons investigation, was owned by a towing company until it was recently purchased by a salvage yard. A post on social media alerted a diehard NSX fan to its presence, and it was purchased shortly after for $8,500. Its buyer, who operates a shop that specializes in NSXs, says he plans to restore it. Yes, he’s seen the pictures.

The car is in an appalling state. So much so that the salvage yard owner, who prefers not to be identified for privacy, isn’t sure about any potential restoration effort. That said, when he heard it may be crushed and was asked if he wanted it, he said, “Yeah, absolutely.” When I asked him what made him want to buy it, he said “I mean, it’s an NSX.” Enough said.

The car’s history can be nailed down with a reasonable level of certainty. Carfax data indicates it was reported stolen in late 2003. The junkyard owner and others indicate it was likely deposited in the Yadkin River around Linwood, North Carolina, around that time. In 2019, it was discovered more or less by mistake as a part of a missing persons investigation by Adventures with Purpose. Images from that recovery can be seen below.

Despite being full of dirt, plant matter, and who knows what else, the car’s buyer, who asked to be identified only as Jay, says restoration is still feasible. “We’re gonna try to either restore it or build a fun shop car we take to the track,” he told me. His shop, Helix Auto Works, has done many NSX builds and has “saved another salvage NSX before.” Jay says he personally owns three of the vehicles, which qualifies him as well as anything else to take on such a daunting task. That being said, the car is not his new NSX. He bought it for a friend. The friend has been looking for one of the cars for a long time, and since cheap examples are hard to get, he decided to go in on this one.

The NSX has just 32,000 miles on the odometer. It’s also still something of a mechanical mystery. The body panels look relatively intact, for instance, but the condition of the drivetrain is totally unknown. It will likely have to be replaced if it’s still there. Other items like the A-pillars appear to have been damaged during the car’s time at the towing company, as they weren’t bent when the original recovery photos were taken.

Jay doesn’t know very much about the car’s condition outside of the images you’re looking at. That’s because he hasn’t seen it in person. An associate is on their way to pick it up as of this article’s writing. Despite that, he’s hopeful about the car’s prospects. It is, after all, completely aluminum and rust-free. “I’ve got a lead on new A-pillars… the wiring is gonna go, I don’t know if the engine’s even there.”

“My hope is to do this really long , just music, and us like power-washing the years away,” he told me. In the end, though, it’s not up to him what happens to the car, but his friend/business partner, who until a few hours ago, was unfortunately NSX-less. “He’s the one member of our team that doesn’t have an NSX,” Jay told me. “I found it, I reached out to him, and he was like ‘Yes! let’s do it.'” Cheap NSXs are just that hard to come by.

Because Helix Auto Works plans to restore the car to working order at a minimum, Jay hopes to get some manner of support or sponsorship from Acura. “This is a flagship car for Honda and Acura… I really hope that they’re [interested] in helping us do that.” A spokesperson for Acura told The Drive: “It’s a shame to think this car was lost for over 20 years. We commend the new owner for taking on the restoration and hope to see this NSX back on the road one day.”

Even without official support from Acura, an engine, or any luck, Jay seems to like NSXs enough to be all-in on this car no matter what, though. “I just love them,” he told me. That means he’s seemingly willing to do everything possible to get an example like this back on the road. Even if that means breaking out a shovel.

Update: This story has been updated with a comment from Acura.

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