Acura Owner Story: Mario Cano’s 2017 NSX

Mario Cano's 2017 Curva Red NSX

Q&A with three-time NSX owner Mario Cano, whose current NC1 NSX reads +45,000 miles.

I understand you are the owner of a 2017 Acura NSX. Very few people are lucky enough to own one of the world’s most innovative supercars.  Did you have a first gen NSX prior?  

Yes, I’ve owned two First Gen NSX’s. My first NSX was a 1995 Formula Red/Tan Automatic. Being that I live in sunny Southern California, I wanted a removable roof, and 1995 was the year that the T-Top was introduced. The second reason for going with at least a 1995 model year, was that I wanted a red/tan NSX, but I did not like the two-tone look of the black top and the red body color found in the first four years of production. Unfortunately, for me to be able to afford these two preferences, I had to settle for an automatic NSX. So, in September 2006, I purchased my first NSX, located in Bakersfield, CA only about 120 miles away from my home.  

My 1995 NSX, not-with-standing the ribbing I received for owing an automatic, was everything I was looking for in a sports car, including beauty, performance and reliability. Unfortunately, after only a couple years of ownership, the 2008 recession descended upon the US, and I was forced to sell my NSX due to being out of a job and to comply with an agreement that I had with my wife.

I acquired my second NSX, a 1997 Spa Yellow Pearl/Black beauty, not too long after I was finally able to find a job. This time I was looking for at least a 1997 (NA2) NSX in that I wanted the added power of the 3.2 Liter engine and the accompanying 6-speed transmission. One day, I came across a 1997 Spa Yellow Pearl/Ebony NSX with relatively low miles and only 15 miles from where I lived. I carefully inspected the car inside and out and found nothing unusual for a 1997 NSX with 110,000 miles.  Then, I drove the car, and it ran well. The car also came with a considerably amount of maintenance records from when new and continuing through its third owner. Although, I was not actively looking to buy another NSX, I could not pass up such a good deal. So, I told the shop owner that I wanted to buy the car and that I would return in about an hour with a bank check. When I arrived back at the shop, the shop owner asked me what was so special about this car? I asked the shop owner, what did he mean? He went on the explain, that after I left to go to my bank, he was contacted by seven other interested buys, two of which offered him $5,000 and $7,000 more than the asking price. I explained to him that the NSX was an iconic sports car and that the car was underpriced. Evidently, the family of the deceased owner and the shop owner himself did not know the value of a 1997 NSX. I’m grateful that the shop owner honored our verbal purchase agreement and that he did not sell the car to one of the interested buyers that offer more money! The only negative of the purchase was that I did not have time to consult my wife, so I was in the doghouse for a while. However, eventually my wife was happy for me since she knew how much I missed my 1995 NSX. I still own my 1997 NSX and it is now highly modified since I track that NSX frequently.

Did your parents or other family members drive Acuras? If not, how did you get introduced to the brand initially?  

Nobody in my family ever owned an Acura, or any foreign made car for that matter. As for me, I never owned an American made car. My previous cars included a 1964 MGB, a 1979 Mazda RX7, and a 1986 Audi 2000. My current cars at the time included my 1992 Honda Prelude and my wife’s 2004 Acura MDX.  

My interest in the Acura brand and specifically the NSX started while driving on the freeway to Ventura in 1992, shortly after purchasing my new Prelude, when I was passed by a sleek silver sports car that I had not seen before. When I caught up with the car, I saw that it was an Acura. So, when I got home, I looked up the Acura models and saw their ads for the NSX. I really liked and wanted an NSX, but the $61,000 MSRP quickly put a damper on my purchasing one. After that day, I totally forgot about the NSX until 2005 when I was looking to buy a convertible sports car, since I really enjoyed my convertible MGB. That is when I came across an ad for a preowned NSX. I remembered how much I liked the looks of the NSX, but I also recalled the high price tag. However, to my surprise, the cost of preowned early model year NSX was within my price range! So, that’s when I began my quest for an NSX, and the rest is history.

Do you have a daily driver aside from your 2017 NSX?

When I purchased my 2017, I still owned my 1997 NSX, but I also owned an Alfa Rome Spider Veloce and a 2009 Audi S6, which was my daily driver. 

Did you have to order your car in a specific configuration or was it available in inventory just the way that you wanted it?  

I was not really in the market for a Gen 2 NSX when they first arrived in the US in late 2016. However, when I saw the Gen 2 NSX in person for the first time at NSXPO 2015 in Palm Springs, I fell in love with the car. It looked so much better in person than in the photos I have seen in the various car magazines. And, the performance statistics were impressive. However, the price of the Gen 2 NSX was way above what I thought I could afford at the time. So, again I forgot about the Gen 2 NSX. It was not until after my wife contracted Alzheimer’s and she was a few months away from succumbing to the disease in late 2018, that I decided that my life, like my wife’s, could be cut short at any time. So, I decided to dip into my retirement fund, and I began looking for a red NC1. I could not afford to purchase a new NSX, so I concentrated on finding a used one. However, this time, after only a short time period, I found a 2017 Curva Red/Ebony NSX with only 900 miles on the odometer, for sale in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since the car only had a few options, the MSRP was much less than the more common fully loaded, $200,000 plus MSRP, NSX’s that the dealerships first brought into their showrooms. However, I did have some concern in that the car was being offered for $28,000 less than the MSRP. Fortunately, one of my stepsons lived in Charlotte, so I had him check out the car out for me, just to make sure that there was nothing obviously wrong with the car. After my stepson called and told me the car was basically brand new and drove spectacularly, I called the owner and told him that I wanted to purchase the car, and on September 4th, 2018 I flew to Charlotte and the next day I drove my NC1 home.

What upgrades or modifications have you done to your NSX?

I tend to modify my NSX’s, particularly since I like to compete in time trials.  So, not too long after I drove my 2017 NSX home from Charlotte, I began the modifications process. By the end of my first year of ownership my NSX sported several performance, convenience and aesthetic modifications.  

In the area of performance modifications, I started with the SOS downpipes since the OEM exhaust system was way too quiet for a super car. I then added the SOS Wheel Spacers, the SOS Black ceramic coated Sport Valved Exhaust, an ATC carbon fiber GT wing with a carbon fiber Gurney Flap, an ATC carbon fiber front splitter and the JB4 Tuner Box, with the use 98 octane fuel, boosted HP at the crank from 573 HP to over 700 HP.  

Convenience modifications included the installation of the SOS extended lift Engine/Trunk Hatch Struts that gives more height clearance to access the engine compartment and trunk, the iLIFT system at all four corners that lifts the car 3 inches to help prevent undercarriage scraping and an Escort Radar.   

Aesthetic modifications included the application of a clear bra up front and ceramic coating throughout including the wheels, and the installation of SOS Wheel Spacers. I also began blacking out all chrome and polished aluminum exterior components and trim, including the OEM interwoven wheels, Acura badges and exhaust trim, to a satin black color via powder coating. The door handles are wrapped in statin black. The windows and portions of the taillight and head light assemblies are darkened by tinting film. The edges of the rear diffuser fins and the leading edge of the front splitter are highlighted by the application of red pinstriping. The finished look is stunning!

How has your NSX led you to become better connected with the Acura enthusiast community?

From the very beginning of ownership, I was very much involved in the Southern California NSX community. I also immediately became an active member of the NSX Club of America. I’m an avid sports car enthusiast, as a result, I have participated in just about every SoCal monthly NSX meet, group drive and social event since owning an NSX. I started the NSX Late Summer Potluck BBQ, the NSX Holiday Party, and initiated NSX group participation in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach before the Grand prix was canceled. I also resurrected the NSX Spring Potluck BBQ at my home, and for the past three years I have also organized the participation of several NSX owners to drive their cars in my hometown’s 4th of July Parade, which has become a crown favorite. Lastly, I’m currently, the Southwest Region Representative of the NSXCA.

How many states has your NSX visited, and how many NSXPOs?  Will you be at Portland this year?

I have attended five NSXPO’s (2010 in Las Vegas, 2015 in Palm Spring, 2016 in Orlando, 2018 in San Francisco and 2019 in Washington DC). I have driven to all of them, the first three in my 1995 and 1997 NSX’s and the most recent two in my 2017 NSX. I was close to arriving in Wisconsin for the 2017 NSXPO, when I had turnaround and return home due to my wife’s worsening Alzheimer’s condition. For the Washington DC NSXPO, me another Curva Red Gen 2 NSX owner, Craig Ryan, left two weeks prior to the start of NSXPO to travel from Los Angeles along the northern portion of the country ending up in Main, then working our way down the Eastern Seaboard to the start of NSXPO at Summit Point Racetrack in West Virginia.  During that trip and the trip back, I traversed through 29 states and the District of Columbia. In other travels, I have added Nevada to the states I have traversed in my NC1 while attending WestFest in Las Vegas. I will definitely be going to NSXPO in Portland later this year. 

In all of your NSX’s 45,000+ miles, how many of those miles are “yours” (did you buy it new)?  What have your maintenance needs been like so far?

In the 18 months of ownership of my NC1 NSX, I have driven 44,100 of the total 45,000 plus miles on my odometer. My car only had 900 miles on the odometer when I bought her. The miles I have driven includes three coast-to-coast road trips and 18 track days. I have not had any significant repairs during my ownership other than the voluntary recall repairs, including the gas tank work. I only have the window wind noise problem yet to have remedied. However, I’m on my third set of brake pads, fourth set of tires, second windshield and I have had several services and oil changes.

In all your cross-country travels over the years, is there a specific destination or roadside attraction that has been your favorite?  

Having traverse the country three times in my 2017 NSX and two times in my 1997 NSX, I have seen many beautiful parts of the country. I would say that some of the most memorable sites and places of interest include seeing the changing of the leaves along the eastern seaboard, the rugged coastline of Main, the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg, the challenging 318 curves in 11 miles of the Tail of the Dragon – twice (once in my 2017 NSX and once in mt 1997 NSX) the spectacular views of the Grand Canyon, North and South Rims, and the beautiful shoreline along Highway 1 between Morrow Bay and Monterey, CA. 

Has the NSX helped you to become a better “performance” driver?  What track events have you competed in and how did the car do? 

My first track event was in my 1995 NSX at Spring Mountain during the 2010 NSXPO in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although I had prepared myself and my NSX well for the HPDE, I was totally lost during the first day, and I asked myself, what had I gotten myself into! However, on the second day, and with the help of some great instructors, one of which was Billy Johnson, my skills improved and my confidence grew to a point where I was really enjoying myself and I even began to pass a few cars in my auto NSX! However, halfway through the second track day, I blew my trans and could not continue.   

Although I had a great time, I did not participate in track event again until five years later when I began competing in time trials hosted by the Alfa Rome Club of Southern California (AROSC). That is when the track bug bit me hard, and now I’m in my 6th year of competing in the AROSC Time Trials. During that time, I have learned to drive my 1997 NSX and now my 2017 NSX well. And, once I learned how to not spin out in my 1997 NSX, I won the championship four years in a row in three different car classes as my HP and performance modifications moved me up in class. I thought I had won a fifth championship in a row last year in my 2017 NSX, but I suspiciously came in second place when I was penalized for taking first place in my 2009 Audi S6 (a much slower car) during one AROSC track weekends? However, in the first AROSC track event of 2020 at Willow Springs International Raceway, I took first place in my car class on both the Saturday and Sunday sessions, and I had the fastest lap time of day during the Saturday session.  

During my tracking years, I have driven on 12 racetracks, mostly in California, but also Sebring in Florida, Summit Point in West Virginia, and Spring Mountain in Nevada. I was really looking forward to driving Road America during NSXPO 2017, but I never made it when I had to turnaround and drive home due to my wife’s illness.   

Aside from an unexpected encounter at a diner in southern Utah from an inquisitive mom (haha) what have been some of the other fun reactions from onlookers during your travels?

You can’t be shy when driving an NSX. The car attracts a lot of attention, even in stock form. However, the most memorable moment when driving my 1997 NSX, was when I was forced to return home before reaching the NSXPO in Wisconsin. I had stopped for gas in a small town in the middle of nowhere, when the gas station attendant came running out of the office practically screaming “Oh my God, its an NSX, my all-time favorite sports car!” He was even more thrilled when I took around the block in my NSX. The most memorable moments in my 2017 NSX have been many, but the best ones for me were when I allow people, particularly kids (probably well over two hundred in all) sit in my car. And, for those kids that could reach the bake pedal, I really got a big thrill out of seeing the smiles on their face when I let them start the engine. However, the most memorable occurrence was when the mother of two boys and her boy’s close friend, that were getting in and out of my car at Gettysburg, told me that even though she had spent many days, and at a significant cost, driving from Texas to show her kids and her kid’s friend the various historical places of the colonies and the Civil War, the only thing that her kids and their friend will remember and talk about when they get home, is my 2017 Red NSX!

What are your mileage goals?  Do you think you’ll be the first to hit 100,000 in an NC1?  

I own three cars in addition to my 2017 NSX, my previously mentioned 1997 NSX and my 2009 Audi S6. My fourth car is a 1988 Alfa Rome Spider Veloce. I did not intend for my 2017 NSX to be my daily drive, for that would be my Audi S6; however, all of my three other cars had blown motors at one time or another while I have owned my 2017 NSX. So, I was forced to drive my 2017 NSX as my daily driver since day one. This, coupled with my three cross country road trips, have resulted in my car having, I believe, the second greatest number miles on the odometer of any other Gen 2 NSX in the US. Although, I have driven the 45,000 plus miles in only 18 months, I’m not really sure if I’ll surpass the NC1 with the greats miles driven or be the first to reach 100,000 miles, now that all my cars other than my Audi S6 are up and running. However, I would venture to guess that I will be in the top five to reach that milestone! 

[Source: Tyson Hugie]

3 comments on “Acura Owner Story: Mario Cano’s 2017 NSX

  1. Tim Shinn

    Great interview Mario. I remember meeting for the first time after you destroyed your transmission at Spring Mountain and after talking, knowing you were hooked on tracking the car. See you in Portland in 2021.

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