F1 Icon Ayrton Senna’s Acura NSX Is up for Grabs, and We Just Drove It.

On May 1, 1994, the world of motorsport lost one of its most talented and seemingly talismanic figures tragically early when the Brazilian three-time Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna was killed in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix. It was racing’s Kennedy moment. Anyone who was a fan of Formula 1 at the time will remember where they were when they heard of his death.

The scale and passion of his following was evidenced by the state funeral he was given in his home city of Sao Paolo, which was attended by up to two million mourners. And that passion isn’t fading, as numerous events around the world paid tribute to Senna on the 30th anniversary of his passing last week, and a scripted, six-part series telling the story of his career will debut later this year on Netflix.

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The 1991 Acura NSX once owned by Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna.
This 1991 Acura NSX, formerly owned by three-time Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna, is now on the market.

Yet if a serious car collector wanted something to commemorate Senna in their garage, what are the options? He won his three World Championships with Honda-McLaren, but very few of the team’s cars from that era have made it into private hands. One that did—Senna’s Monaco Grand Prix–winning MP4/8A from 1993—was sold by Bonhams in 2018 for $4.5 million. The buyer was former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who’d shrewdly spotted its rarity and likely future value: you’d pay a lot more for that car now.

But how about one of his road cars? Senna enjoyed a hugely successful six-year relationship with Honda, which was the engine supplier for his F1 cars, and he had three of its seminal NSX supercars—sold stateside as the Acura NSX—as his personal transports. A black example, kept in Brazil, has remained in his family’s ownership, but the other two—one red and one black—were used by Senna in Portugal, his European home, and both are now owned by British enthusiast Robert McFagan.

Ayrton Senna shown washing his 1991 Acura NSX once owned by Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna.
Ayrton Senna shown washing the car he drove a total of about 3,000 miles.

McFagan is now offering the red car for £500,000 (approximately $628,000), having paid £100,000 (about $125,500) for it in 2013. Senna helped Honda with the development of the NSX, and it repaid the favor by loaning him the first example to be registered in Portugal. He kept it for nearly three years, put around 3,000 miles on the odometer, and was photographed washing it, arriving at Grands Prix in it, and even doing burnouts in it.

And now it’s my turn to drive it. There’s something eerie, intimate, and affecting about sharing the same space as your hero: feet on the same pedals, hands on the same wheel, backside clamped into the same seat, and looking out at the same panoramic view over that low nose. Despite being 33 years old, this particular vehicle has now done just over 39,000 miles in the hands of owners aware of its significance, so it looks and drives very close to how it would when Senna first took delivery in 1991. Of course, there’s a little age-appropriate patina to the deep leather bolsters of the driver’s seat: you wonder how much of that Senna contributed.

The interior of a 1991 Acura NSX once owned by Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna.
The well-maintained interior presents age-appropriate patina.

The asking price may be around five times the value of the best standard NSX—but it’s a bargain compared to a Senna F1 car, and infinitely more usable. You don’t need a helmet, race suit, and a track to drive it. Another important difference is that, unlike a race car, you’re not constantly reminded that you’re not getting anywhere near its limits. Instead, you experience Senna’s NSX in the same way he did—off-duty and on the road—and perhaps will feel a little closer to him as a result.

This car’s valuation is helped by the fact, not only was it owned by Senna, but that the NSX in general was a benchmark and turning point in the history of the supercar, and values of standard examples are fast appreciating as savvy enthusiasts seek to add this modern classic to their collections. Honda’s first supercar was a homerun, combining a howling V-6 motor, a wrist-snap manual gearbox, and a low, wedge profile with flattering handling, a supple ride, and an almost Honda Civic–like ease of driving. It was a direct inspiration for the McLaren F1, and my drive quickly told me that all those qualities are still there in Senna’s car. Only its brakes, fine in isolation but weak by comparison with a modern supercar, give its age away.

Automotive journalist Ben Oliver stands beside a 1991 Acura NSX that once belonged to Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna.
Automotive journalist Ben Oliver about to take the driver’s seat of a car that once belonged to one of his heroes.

This NSX remains absolutely exhilarating to drive, and its famous user-friendliness even allows you to momentarily forget the historical significance of what you’re piloting and just focus on the inherent qualities that drew Senna to the NSX in the first place. You might buy this car to remember the legendary racer by, but you’ll want to drive it for its own sake.

Click here for more photos of the 1991 Acura NSX once owned by Ayrton Senna.

The 1991 Acura NSX once owned by Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna.
The 1991 Acura NSX once owned by Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna.

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