Brent Waler has been in the car business since he was 16, when he got a job washing cars at a local dealership. The past 40 years have seen him climb the proverbial ladder, and he’s spent the last 30 years as a dealership sales manager. He’s been fortunate enough to drive many special cars and travel the world, no small feat for a man who got his start working with a washcloth.
But nothing Brent has experienced in his career could have prepared him for the job training waiting for him in East Liberty, Ohio; Brent is an Acura sales manager, and to be able to carry the 2017 Acura NSX, Acura managers have to fly to the mid-engine hybrid supercar’s birthplace in central Ohio to train with the Acura Performance team.
“Being an NSX dealer means passing the NSX requirements,” says Brent. “We’ve already purchased and set up special NSX repair and ordering equipment, and the final step was to have someone from both the sales side and the service side of things attend NSX performance driving school.”
And so it was that Brent, along with Director of Parts and Service Curtis Hancock, boarded a plane for Columbus and the 7.5-mile Transportation Research Center (TRC) test track.
When Brent arrived at his hotel, he was given his orders for the coming day: report to the Acura facility for training, but leave your cell phone at the hotel. Those who brought any device that could record sound or capture images would be sent home. Exhausted from flights, shuttle rides, and weather delays, Brent couldn’t help but grin to himself: while his co-workers in Oregon clocked in for the day tomorrow morning, he would be driving a car so important that it has its own security team.
A shuttle took Brent and the other Acura managers in attendance to the Acura facility, where the day’s events were outlined, and after ensuring that everyone had left their phones behind, the day everyone in the room had been waiting for began in earnest.
“The first thing they do is take you to the discovery booth,” Brent says, “to climb in the car, to sit in it, adjust the seats, turn it on, play with the settings, open the hood. You walk in and see that gorgeous car, and you get some of that initial awe out of the way before you hit the track.”
The Transportation Research Center is an independent automotive proving ground that lends its services to many of the vehicles produced in the Midwest. Acura and Honda have their own test track, and it was there that Brent got to put the NSX through its paces.
“They wanted us to really get acquainted with the car,” Brent said, “so they had us perform an exercise called ‘Go, Stop, Turn,’ which really covers the NSX’s most unique features. Launch control is incredible, when you hit the throttle there is absolutely no delay, it’s instant torque. The brakes are phenomenal, and the torque vectoring in the turns – it’s a sensational car.”
After taking a leisurely drive with an instructor, Brent saddled up for a timed lap with an Acura Performance racing instructor.
“I was in the driver seat, with a professional driver sitting next to me, and I took a lap around the course, where they had set up cones to help you visualize where to start your turn,” Brent says. “My first lap, I was terrible. My second lap, I really started to get in the groove. If I’d had a third chance around, I think I might have really gotten it. But after two laps, the pro driver and I switched places, and they told me, ‘here’s the part where you need to put on a helmet.’”
The NSX, which Brent had managed to get acquainted with, then proceeded to really start showing off. “It was awesome, but talking to Curtis, we could both tell the driver was holding back some for our comfort. He could have pushed the car significantly harder, and you could tell that even as you’re flying through the turns.”
His NSX training completed, Brent returned to the hotel and a rental car that felt positively forlorn in comparison to the work of art he had just become one of the first Oregonians to drive. Upon returning home to Ashland, he set to work making sure that his dealership got an NSX sooner rather than later.
So after driving the NSX and riding in it with a professional driver, what does Brent love the most about the vehicle he’s been waiting for since 2012? He could name any number of things, but his love affair with the 2017 NSX begins and ends with the engineering that kept us waiting for so long in the first place.
“Every vent, every piece of sheet metal has a specific purpose,” Brent says. “On most cars, most of the flashy bits are just for show. Nothing you see on the NSX, inside or out, is there for show. The panels take care of downforce, there are tiny vents that direct air to the brakes, it’s an unbelievable machine.”
He may have been born and raised in Oregon, but Brent Waler died and went to heaven in rural Ohio.