Terminal Velocity: The only (legal) way to experience top speed of your car

Wanna race? New Brunswick airport event is just about the only way to legally experience the top speed of a street car. Jeff Melnychuk tells us what that was like in his modified 1991 Acura NSX


Miramichi, New Brunswick — It’s 10,000 feet of four-lane highway with no speed limit. The first half you go like hell, the second half you stop like hell. It’s really that simple, with emphasis on the first part.

It’s a place where enthusiasts can find out what it’s like to drive their cars at top speed, four wide with other enthusiasts, without fear of going to jail forever. I’ve done a radar-proven 297 km/h, and it’s the only place in the area this can be done legally.

Once at the airport, the drivers attend a short meeting regarding the format and the rules. They are led out to the end of the 10,000-foot runway by the airport authority.


The first rule of Fight Club

So, you’re a car enthusiast who lives in the Maritimes and you’ve never heard of this gathering.

That’s because the participants — many of whom are invited — don’t talk about it, other than to ask about the date. (This year it was Saturday, Sept. 5.) It’s like the Fight Club of auto events, and the first rule of Fight Club is that you ‘do not talk about Fight Club’.

I don’t discuss it much for a couple of reasons.

The first is that the runway at Miramichi airport is available for just two hours, from 1-3 p.m., which means to get in a few runs, the field is limited to about 40 cars.

As an informal event, the drivers arrive and just line up and run. During the two hours, drivers will often pick people they want to run against and set up matches.


The second reason is that the event is put on by a Dodge Viper club. Vipers get preference, then exotics such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis. There’s a food chain. If too many people find out about the event, my poor old turbocharged 1991 Acura NSX risks missing the show.

What’s the first rule of Fight Club, again? Yep, shut yer trap, unless you want to be bumped.


The day is about a week long

Some cars — newer ones — can literally be driven from the garage onto the airstrip without any prep.

It’s a bit different for a highly modified 30-year-old Acura. Most of the car needs to be checked over, including sending off computer logs to a tuner friend of mine in Michigan who watches for warning signs for the oil and fuel pressures through the rev range, as well air-fuel ratios and other important data points.

Meanwhile, I attend to tire pressure, an oil change and general going-over to make sure nothing flies off at speed.

This whole process takes about a week, often working late into the night, after regular work ends. The goal is to drive 150 kilometres to Miramichi from Moncton, make three or four passes at the airport, and drive back to Moncton, without anything going wrong. This doesn’t always happen.


Uncharted Territory – What happens to the NSX after it reaches 268 km/h?

When the Acura NSX debuted in the fall of 1990, the top speed was advertised as 268 km/h. With a 270-horsepower V-6, it’s a slow climb to terminal velocity. On 5,000 feet of runway, it might get to 235 km/h.

This NSX has been modified to more than 800 horsepower and can easily go beyond the 268 natural terminal velocity in 5,000 feet.

The problem with that? Well, what happens to the NSX’s lift characteristics beyond 268 km/h is anyone’s guess.

Will it turn into a big wing and fly into the air? This is an airport after all.


Indeed there have been racing NSXs that can exceed that speed, but they have spoilers and splitters and ducts and such. My car, although heavily modified under the hood, is stock-bodied and, as far as I know, designed to go only 268.

What happens after that?

The first year I tried this event, I consciously limited the speed to about 270. The steering was light and the hood was lifting. The second year, I replaced the factory aluminum hood with a ducted hood. It has a big hole in the middle to relieve underhood air pressure to reduce drag and lift.

At 270, the car felt reasonably planted, so I put the hammer down and ran just under 300.

The 2019 event was disappointing as the car would shut off during full power. I never got a full run in. Therefore 2020 needed to be a year of redemption. The preparation paid off with four solid runs in the 280 km/h range despite babying the transmission through the first three gears to prevent breakage.


Next Year?

Running at full throttle for 25 seconds to reach terminal velocity in 5,000 feet definitely floods all the senses, but there is wear and tear and new issues can crop up on a highly-tuned vehicle with nearly triple the horsepower of the original.

One must not tempt fate.

It could be time to retire the NSX from the airstrip and simply enjoy it for the fine driving machine it is. But I also said that after last year’s event, until I was stuck in traffic, puttering along at 10 km/h.

The Miramichi airport event, above all, provides the freedom to experience what these cars are intended to do. We are indeed fortunate.


Most modern sports cars with automatic transmissions will leave a manual-transmission car such as the NSX in the dust at the starting line, which creates a deficit that sometimes can’t quite be overcome within 5,000 feet. That was the case against this Ferrari 458 Italia in the video below:

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One Response

  1. I would be interested in trying something like this . Google search turns up past events . I don’t see any schedule for upcoming ( preferably south east )
    I don’t have anything crazy fast
    Decent running 2013 challenger ,
    But I would love to stretch it out a bit,
    and my age has tempered my ideas of just flogging it on regular roadway

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