By on December 14, 2008

Next time you’re driving, look around. Provided you’re one of TTAC’s North American readers, chances are you’ll see at least one third-gen Accord humming along happily– despite its tatty cosmetic condition. The late ’80’s Accords showcased perhaps the finest demonstration of Japanese manufacturing capability; Honda crafted a sedan rivaling the legendary Toyota Hilux’s affinity for destruction-resistance.

Honda still had not solidified its reliability reputation in North America. Honda was still a foreign word in many parts of the US. The Japanese transplant knew they had to set a new standard if they were to continue their remarkable market growth. They equipped the Accord with features not normally seen in cars in its price range: cruise control (even on the most basic DX model), a/c, power everything and a pretty decent stereo (complete with blinking lights). Honda also decided to throw out the previous American-influenced style for something really cool. Clock those flip-up headlights, the tiny Hoffmeister-kink, the low cowl and bolstered seats. Honda banished the be-chromed squared off goodness of 1981 for a shuttle craft from Battlestar Galactica.

[Non-Dodge] Viper comparisons don’t end there. No car with only a 90bhp, carbureted four-cylinder should be as much fun to toss through the turns as a late 80’s Accord. Fully-independent double-wishbones, available four-wheel disc brakes, manual transmissions on every trim level and optional fuel-injection (with 110bhp on tap, rising to 120bhp in 1988). The Accord extended the brand’s growing rep for cars that handled well. At the limit, the Accord will plow into understeer. As grip greatly exceeds power, a little throttle lift will tuck the diminutive sedan back onto its grin-inducing line as you snick the five-speed into a lower gear. Even the automatic leaned towards hooliganism as it tended to hold gears longer and downshift with less prodding than most.

The Accord broke ground not only dynamically, but culturally. The sedan found an audience outside of its traditional demographics. It was embraced by college students, ski bums, LA commuters, families, yuppies, hippies and a certain Ms Vera Carp from Tuna, Texas who wanted to make a statement and have fun on her way to the hairdresser. Twenty years later, the third-generation Accord is Honda.

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59 Comments on “Capsule Review: 1986-1989 Honda Accord...”


  • avatar
    TwinSix

    Amen! My 1987 LX (my first car bought new) was the best car I’ve ever owned. If I’d spent $500 on age-related repairs at 120k miles instead of trading it in on a $26k GM POS, I’d probably still be driving it today. Switching to a Camaro was like trading a surgical scalpel for a meataxe.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ Mike Solowiow

    A carb? In 1986? Really? In 1984 Toyota were using the 2S series engines with EFI in most markets.

    Lots of those Accords still kicking around down here in Australia too.

  • avatar
    twonius

    I had the model after this in high school. All i can say is 225k miles with only a distributor cap replacement, filters, and fuel.

    Amazing considering the dukes-of-hazard level of abuse that car sustained.

    Eventually it did get hit hard enough while my dad was driving to put it down for the count. Otherwise I’m sure we’d still have it today

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    The basic powertrain was indeed very good. EFI was excellent. But the carbureted four-cylinder engine came straight from the seventh circle of hell.

    Every one of the ‘classic’ Accords that I see coming through the auctions has that damned carbureted engine in it. I bought one for peanuts last March and finally sold it six months later for just about as many peanuts I put into it.

    Thirty days later the fellow called me back and wanted to get his money back. He couldn’t keep the thing running or get it to pass emissions. Of course, he told an entirely different story than his so-called mechanic. Sigh. I hate dealing with phonies.

    Anyhow, I do have another friend whose kept his EFI Accord for about 21 years and 400,000 miles. He has consistently got right around the high-20’s combined. The Accord sedan isn’t nearly as nice to drive as the Taurus/Sable from that era. But overall I would still say it’s a great car…. as long as it has fuel injection.

  • avatar
    bumpy

    This car, along with the 1992 Camry, are what ultimately doomed the domestics. I see 3 or 4 of them around today, even though I live in the boonies and the nearest Honda dealer was and is about an hour and a half away.

    Do we get a capsule review of the gen1 MR2 behind it?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Doomed the domestics? The Taurus became the best selling car in the country in 1992, and held onto it until 1996.

      The Taurus forced Toyota and Honda to step up with larger cars and V-6 power.

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    No one remembers what legendary pricks Honda dealers were during this model’s era.

    Warehousing buyers, MSRP ++ pricing, allocation scandals, etc.

    Buying one of these new was a real test of nerves, my sister bought a new 88 Coupe LXi, after walking out of 3 Honda stores in less than a week.

  • avatar
    karkidd

    With regard to the Fusion–I really wish Ford would bring over the Mondeo.

    I mean maybe make some of the features accessories and cut back on the engine and whatnot to lower the starting MSRP but I love the look of that vehicle.

    The new Accord is massive, I can’t believe that is the evolution of this line. When the coupe looked like the Prelude in 2000 I thought that was a good format that they could improve upon and now they’ve made this thing into a beast of a vehicle. I do like the exterior of the new coupe though, the lines are much better on that compared to the sedan.

  • avatar

    Billy Bobb 2 : No one remembers what legendary pricks Honda dealers were during this model’s era.

    I do, and I was 9 years old when my Dad wanted a 1988 Accord LX. Those guys were prime candidates for the “Hybrid Smug” bit that South Park created. They pushed the product like it was gold plated…and while Accords were good (maybe great) they weren’t exactly “all that”.

    Dad eventually bought a loaded ’88 Cougar XR-7 for the same or less money, less salesman drama, and we still have it too. Turns more heads in the valet lot than any ’88 Accord will too. No regrets from my side, but respect is still given to Honda’s product…and only the product.

  • avatar

    Karkidd

    Why are you suprised that the Accord is massive (and BTW that the Civic is massive?)

    Americans are BIG PEOPLE. We are not Japanese people who average 5’5…

    Every single import car to America is larger in some way than the equivalent in the country it is made. Americans are OBESE!.

    Producing larger cars is Honda’s way of attempting to quell the sterotype of their cars being little econoboxes no one wants to buy.

  • avatar
    Eric_Stepans

    @Billy Bob and Sajeev:

    There are two main reasons Honda dealers were such….um….Johnsons in the late-80s/early-90s:

    1) The voluntary restraint agreement that limited imports of Japanese cars (and were proportional to each company’s Japanese market share).

    The VRA meant that far fewer Hondas, Nissans and Toyotas were being sold in the United States than the market could bear.

    2) Because of fact 1), relatively low salaries, and lax executive oversight, several of the sales/distribution managers at American Honda were ‘doing a Blagojevich’ and shaking down their dealers for kickbacks.

    http://www.amazon.com/Arrogance-Accords-Inside-Story-Scandal/dp/0965776611/

    So, many Honda customers had to pay this hidden ‘cost of doing business’, and those that wouldn’t were shown the door.

  • avatar
    VerbalKint

    My dad has an 89 DX. 115,000 miles. Except for the ($$) A/C compressor at ~100,00, he’s only needed routine wear & tear stuff fixed.

    Auto trans is good. Carb’d engine has never been a problem though it is a bit down on power now. (Still gets 30 mpg @ 75-80 mph!)

    Fitted w/ stock 13′ wheels… try & find replacements now. Gonna have to get 14″ to replace ’em. Fortunately Tire Rack has some good steel wheels & tire combos for pretty cheap.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    Honda is the fifth-largest automaker in the country. “Nobody wants to buy!”

    Can we please stop talking for two minutes about bloated 2008 Accords and whining about greedy dealers? I am sure that somewhere in that metal, the late 1980s Accord holds the meaning of life.

  • avatar
    eh_political

    The 86 and 90 Accord; the 88 and 92 Camry and the Stanza/Altima must have made the Detroit Three shit their collective pants. These vehicles were so overwhelmingly competent, they beguiled buyers for life (sorry Volvo). The SUV represents Detroit’s temporary reprive, a marketing escape hatch which ultimately blew up in their faces.

    If one thinks back to the era, the Explorer was Ford’s ultra profitable response to the Accord. However successful the Taurus may have been, that success was far more about style, size and consumer ignorance than product superiority.

    Sadly, there was a failure to address the gap–let’s make that a chasm–in the family car segment. The second gen Taurus, when it eventually arrived, was proof positive of that. It’s difficult to make a case for any of the Detroit makers in terms of sustained commitment to the family sedan segment. Colossal failures were routine, and moderate successes were allowed to wither on the vine.

    Crazy.

  • avatar
    dejalma

    Flashpoint: Apples and oranges. The capsule review is about a car 20 years old, not something a year or so.

    Eric_Stepans: My fathers 86 Accord, my 87 Accord and my sisters 88 Accord came from Ohio. So true about the dealers being dicks.

    I loved that car. Lost it in a head on collision with a cop on the way to work who “Thought” he could make it into the police station parking lot, because his 2 buddies did. Totaled my car and his VW Golf. He went to the hospital for a little bit.

    The car went for 232K before the shaved gorilla wearing the uniform hit me. I figure it had another 50K on it at least.

    A coworker kept a 89 alive until last year. Wasn’t pretty at the end. He was having problems getting parts for it. He had the carb engine. After 20+ years the vacuum hoses were a nightmare.

  • avatar
    karkidd

    I’m talking about how we keep expanding the exterior of these vehicles and minutely expand the interior.

    I realize everyone wants 5-star this and that but it’s getting ridiculous. The Ford Explorer in the mid-90’s had an okay amount of interior space, same as the Honda Accord. The last Explorer I rode in (probably a 2002 model) was wider, heavier, and more cramped. The newest Accord looks like it has the same problem.

    They need to utilize the interior space better in my opinion.

  • avatar
    wardenr

    Mr. Solowiow:

    There’s simply not enough space here to express my knowledge, experience, and fanaticism about the 3rd-Generation Accord.

    When it appeared in 1986, I was a poverty-stricken college student, without two nickels to rub together. I lusted after it more than Cindy Crawford. And I swore that I’d someday have one.

    When I lost my 1983 Civic Hatchback (to an idiot who pulled out in front of me), I purchased a 1986 Accord Hatchback LX-i w/5-speed tranny in July 1993. Some 15+ years later, I still have this magnificent machine, with only 215K, two-owner miles, in near-mint condition. And NO, it’s NOT for sale!!!

    Having personally replaced/rebuilt everything (mechanically) from end to end, I have found it to be a rather high-maintenance car. The parts tend to be rather expensive, and the car IS difficult to work on. But alas, “true love” has no boundaries!!!

    The hide-away headlights are unique to the 3rd-Gen Accords. 1988-1989 are the only two years that three body styles were available: Sedan, Hatchback, and Coupe. The hatchback body was (sadly) discontinued in the 4th-Gen Accord…due to poor sales.

    Like the old Civic CRX Si, the Accord H/B LX-i is already desirable amongst the young “tuner” crowd and those (namely myself) who regard them as collectible.

    Although completely different in personality and performance, in many ways I enjoy my “Old Girl” more than the 2002 Accord Coupe LX V-6 I recently acquired. My ’86 car is kinda like a pair of old shoes that feel so good on your feet, you just can’t toss them out, no matter what…

    One more time, Folks: NO, it’s NOT for sale! It’s my “love affair” with no end to it!!!

  • avatar
    63CorvairSpyder

    “No one remembers what legendary pricks Honda dealers were during this model’s era”.

    I do…..and I also remember the hyper-ventilating, aroused, jerkoff buyers who were willing to pay $1,000-$2,000 over MSRP…..
    I sold Buicks at the time.

    No matter how much I ever fell in love with a car, I would never pay list or over list for it. I would simply look for another car. It’s called a “value based” decision.

  • avatar
    63CorvairSpyder

    And also……the 2000 Accord SE, auto, 4cyl I bought new with over $2,000 discount from MSRP was and still is a great car, even though the tranny failed at 45,000 miles(Honda paid even though I was out of warranty). It now is with my son at college with 170,000 on the clock and runs like a top.

    It was a great “value”…..at $1,000-$2,000 over MSRP, not so much.

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    Is it just me, or do Accords seem to be better built than Civics? My dad owns a ’97 Accord and it seems much better put together than my ’99 Civic. Of course, the previous owner did take out the center stack to put in an aftermarket stereo, but it seems flimsy. There are some small rattles in my car, yet none in his Accord, and they have about the same number of miles on them (over 170k for his, over 185k for mine).

  • avatar
    breimann

    i sold my 88 accord with over 400k miles on it and i regret it dearly. sure it had many exhaust systems, many many timing belts and a clutch or three but damn was that car SOLID.

  • avatar

    Mike – perfect timing for this. I bought an 89 Accord SEI 20 yrs ago TODAY – Dec 14 1988.
    I loved that car until its very last day which was only a few short years ago at almost 400,000 kms. The transmission and engine were still perfect but the body was totally rusted out.
    The only problems it had over all those years were very minor and fixable by any mechanic (or mechanically minded owner).
    I still remember getting into it for the last time and thinking how much fun I had with it.
    I have had Mazdas ever since as Honda had nothing cmparable available except perhaps the late 97-01 Prelude.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    wardenr: Are the flip-up headlights prone to malfunction, or do they continue to work well for many years? I witnessed one having seizures, where the lights would flip up and down until the battery died.

  • avatar

    Do the Japanese own TTAC?

    Cause my comments about the Accord keep getting deleted or flagged as Spam.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    Honda was so great from the late 80s up through the mid 90s. Then they lost their way. I’m still thinking of picking up a mid 90s Integra to replace the one I sold a few years ago. Damn that car could handle. I remember renting a mustang on vacation (05 model stang) and, while I love the mustang, being a fun car and all, when I returned to the teg it was like going from an oxcart to a laser-guided missile.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    Flashpoint: Not all Americans are “obese.” They (We?) are also simply taller and larger on average. Some of my friends are 6’3+, don’t fit in a number of sporty Japanese cars but are certainly not obese. When I’m in China or Taiwan, everyone’s about my height (5’5) and it’s fairly safe to assume most Japanese are under 6′.

    A friend of mine had a 1990 EX-i back in high school and I kind of actually wanted one too. It was peppy, comfortable and the AC blew cold (after it got fixed). We had plenty of adventures in that old thing. Between a few of my friends, we had every Accord from 1990 to 2001. Later, they were replaced with Honda Preludes.

    Also, this Honda Dealer scandal is fascinating. I wasn’t around for it and know nothing abut it. Will we see a retrospective editorial on that in the future for us young’uns?

  • avatar
    wmba

    No doubt these were great cars mechanically. However, here in Nova Scotia, they died from rust in 6 to 8 years. The previous model had a habit of having the motor mounts rust through in six to seven years, by which time skin cancer would be apparent even on the roof panels. Two of my employees at work suffered this on ’84s they bought at the same time to get a good deal.

    Had an ’88 Accord back into my Audi back in ’94 right outside a store. As I watched this yahoo bang into my car backwards, I saw the whole Accord shudder. Ran out to see a half inch thick line of rust lying on the road in front of my front bumper and as wide as the Accord. That’s rot! Audi was fine (88 quattro), and the shop staff who’d also seen the incident came out to look at the rust pile in the street!

    From the late ’80s Honda had a department here headquartered in Dartmouth NS to simply see why cars rusted out so quickly here compared to anywhere else. Salt sea air, I suppose.

    Anyway, this was all hush-hush, but I was offered a job driving Hondas on a daily pre-arranged circuit to see how they stood up. An interesting thought, but engineering held more appeal salary wise, even though I’m certifiably car crazy.

    Honda itself is a toughly run outfit, make no mistake. They are killer sharks business wise, and I bet nobody will own up to the rust study shop these days. Not good for the rep and the memories of swivelling headlights rusted in the up position!

  • avatar
    morbo

    “Do the Japanese own TTAC?

    Cause my comments about the Accord keep getting deleted or flagged as Spam.”

    Nope. It’s just that TTAC, like the majority of the car buying American public, has tired of listening to Detroit’s excuses. Hell, even Detroit has stopped listening to it’s own excuses. The best Ford you can get is a 15 year old design Ranger or a Euro-Japanese mishmash of Mazda 6 and Ford Mondeo (Fusion). The best GM car you can get is either a Corolla wagon in drag (Pontiac Vibe) or a Aussie muscle car (G8). Sadly, the best CryCo you can get is still the Wrangler. Otherwise the best CryCo is a bastardized E-Class (300).

  • avatar
    wardenr

    In response to “mytypex” and others, more thoughts about the 3rd-Gen Accord, as they randomly occur to me:

    My headlight servos (motors) are original. I’ve never had a single problem, although I’ve heard other bitterly complain…especially if their car had been wrecked. For the uncontrollable flipping issue, I’d start by replacing the servo control solenoid(s). If that fails, then replace the combo (stalk) switch under the steering wheel. Both items are still available from Honda, to my current knowledge.

    YES, they ARE expensive! But it’s a HONDA, NOT a Chevy!!!

    Because they sold so many 3rd-Gen Accords (3.7 million), many/most parts for these cars are still available, OEM. One exception is the pulley for the water pump. You’ll have to dig that out of your local salvage yard. (It fits most of the “A” engines and many out of the “B” family.)

    Drip seal for the left (passenger;s) door on the H/B is now discontinued. (Honda P/N:72358-SE0-003)

    While some cars were built in Sayama, Japan, most were built in Marysville (OH). YES, there IS a slight difference in overall quality, but not enough to bother most folks.

    Honda used several A/C compressors. The Keihin (Honda) units really SUCK, very prone to premature “hand-grenading.” The NipponDenso compressors are damn near bulletproof. Thank God my car came with the ND unit; it lasted until 2001, with essentially no maintenance. There is an ND conversion kit (which supercedes the junky-ass Keihin). Honda P/N is: 38020-PJ0-R60. It will bite you for $700-$800, depending on where you obtain it. I’d suggest shopping around with various Honda dealers who do business online.

    Stick with OEM Honda clutch parts; my original lasted 180K, with meat (lining material) to spare on the disc. And be sure to replace the big-end crank seal while you’re there. Although not problematic, it’s only a few more bolts to yank the flywheel…and will cost only about $10.00

    The carb motors ARE a nightmare, respective to floats, idle controllers, and vacuum line issues. Getting hard to find parts…to get them to idle properly and generally run right. (This is WHY I deliberately sought out an injected (LX-i) car.)

    Kurt B: YOU, Sir, owned a real treasure! Although I despise leather and the steering wheel audio controls, the 1989 “SE-i” is seriously a KEEPER!

    Rev Junkie: The Civic serves a lower-end market segment, at lower price points. Vice-versa for the (upscale) Accord. Hence, the (obvious?) difference in quality and performance. (DAMN, I wish I had back my 1983 Civic Hatchback 1500 DX. It was the perfect reincarnation of a 1959 Mini-Cooper “S.”)

    Flashpoint: I don’t know what your “beef” is with the Accord. I have LOTS of “beefs” with the Accord, since I OWN two (2) of them! And I am quick to point out the flaws as well as the brilliance. But since I don’t “own” or “run” the TTAC forum, I certainly don’t “delete” or “flag” your commentary. And I don’t believe the Japanese do, either!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Having personally replaced/rebuilt everything (mechanically) from end to end, I have found it to be a rather high-maintenance car.

    That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, you know. For most, the whole point of buying of Honda is to avoid that kind of work. Just sayin’…

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    Certainly one of Honda’s best. My Dad’s ’88 LXi 4Dr 5speed with 135K miles has had 1 set of axle boots, 1 thermostat and T-stat housing o-ring, 1 set of front brake pads…..and that’s it… otherwise just normal maintainence. Everything still works, it still looks/drives like (almost) new (of course being garaged all it’s life helps with cosmetics). Still has the orig. ND A/C compressor and the original R12 charge!!! I doubt there are any ’88 Chevy Corsica owners out there that can compare (sorry to say that’s what I thought he should buy back then….BOY was I wrong!!!)

    By far the best car he (or anyone in my family for that matter) has ever owned.

    And with all due respect to the Accords that came after, I think the ’86-’89 is the last to have any “sporting” feel at all to it. Clutch is nicer (cable instead of hydraulic), shifter is better (torque tube instead of cables). Light/tossable and just the “right-size” as far as I’m concerned.

  • avatar
    wardenr

    Pch101:

    You make a very fair point. But bear in mind that my 1986 Accord LX-i Hatchback is NOW over 22 years old. Any/every machine eventually wears out and/or breaks…including Toyotas and Hondas.

    I will NEVER assert that Honda (or any other company) offers a “perfect” car. How well YOUR particular vehicle performs, how long it lasts, etc., is contingent upon two, basic factors: 1)How well the car was designed and manufactured, and 2)How YOU personally drive it and maintain it.

    (Salient Point: A blithering idiot can destroy even a piece of pig iron…or a concrete block!)

    Also bear in mind that I am NOT the “average person” when it comes to automobiles. I LOVE the blasted things! A “perfectionist” type, I (try to) maintain my cars with a very high standard of care. I expect a LOT of excellent service out of them, since I keep a vehicle a long time (on average, 7 to 10 years).

    Someone was “biotching” earlier about the price gouging Honda practiced. I won’t even try to dance around that point; it’s pure TRUTH! However, bear in mind that the Accord was the Number ONE selling car in America, for three (3) consecutive years, 1987 through 1989. The Accord outsold the (mighty) Taurus, every year. The old laws of “supply and demand” always RULE: Charge whatever price the traffic will bear! If you don’t like the way the game is played, then change the RULES of (Adam Smith’s) Capitalism!!!

    And before I forget…someone was talking earlier about wheels…as in, rims and tires…

    From the salvage yard, some 15 years ago, I snagged a set of 13-inch “Sunburst” alloys that were standard on the 1986 LX-i Sedan…but optional on the other models. Sadly, Michelin discontinued selling a 13-inch radial in the U.S. circa 2004. Last year, I was fortunate enough to grab a set of 14-inch (directional) “Turbine” alloys used on the 1988-1989 LX-i Sedan. I then grabbed a full set of 14-inch Michelin “Harmony” radials, for about $300, locally. Given my penchant for Michelin tires, I had no choice.

    But, don’t do a “Panic Search” for 14-inch rims.

    I am pleased to report that Michelin has resumed providing a 13-inch radial for the U.S. market, available in the “Harmony” model. An “S-rated” Touring tire, it’s (ostensibly) good for 80,000 miles. Tire Rack, et al, offers them for about $75 each. Speaking from personal experience, I highly recommend the Michelin Harmony. Very smooth, very quiet, and performs extremely well, under most driving circumstances.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    In mid-late 80s, the only real options if you wanted a reasonably priced stylish midsized sedan were the Taurus, Accord or Maxima. The Camry was too generic to be accepted by yuppies. With the Accord, I remembered being amazed by the pop-up headlamps and the comfy interior. With the Taurus, I loved the round design and the digital dash. Hey, it was the 80s and I was a teenager… it didn’t take much to impress me! While I was in college in the 90s, everyone had these cars that got us through graduation. For the rare Accord that isn’t completely rusted, they still look contemporary. To me, this is the Accord that really got Honda going in the U.S.

  • avatar
    wardenr

    Poltergeist:

    Outside of alternator, starter, and the ECU (which I replaced by mistake), ALL the electrics on my 1986 Accord are otherwise original, right down to the gauge cluster, clock, and most of the light bulbs.

    Conclusion: Stanley, NipponDenso, Mitsuba, et al, built damn near bulletproof electrical components in the 3rd-Gen Accord.

    As you point out, the older Hondas had a cable clutch AND a cable for the throttle AND the cruise control. You can keep the damn “Fly-By-Wire” crapola! Change for sake of change doesn’t make much sense to me! The “Bowden” cable has worked PERFECTLY for well over 100 years!

    Now CRINGING, as I disclose these FACTS: On my 2002 Accord Coupe LX V-6, the alternator and the steering rack are provided by Delphi, a former division of GM, now under C11 Bankruptcy Court supervision. The instrument cluster, along with many of the switches…are built by FoMoCo…as in FORD! Seats and interior components are built by Lear-Siegler.

    Don’t EVEN care if they have an “H” emblem on their hoods, BOTH of my (“so-called”) Hondas are real AMERICAN cars!

    As Goldfinger once told James Bond, “Every man has a PASSION!” I readily concede a bias towards Honda. WHY, you ask? I climbed on my first Honda motorcycle, back in 1966. And I’ve never had another THRILL come even close to that experience.

    Just hope my “New Girl” holds up as well as, and delights me as much as, my “Old Girl.” AND the utterly FABULOUS Honda motorcycles I’ve owned…during the past 42 years!

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    A friend of mine back in school had a 1988 (I think) hatchback – the one without the dreaded door belts – and it finally gave up the ghost at over 300,000 miles. Like many who posted here, it just needed tires, oil and fluid changes, and the once a year tuneup. It had the typical Honda-rot by the rear bumper, but otherwise everything still looked and drove just fine.
    It’s amazing – I know every carmaker has to keep costs in check, but when you sit in a 20 year old Accord, the soft touch plastics on the dash, quality cloth on the seats, and lack of rattles show how well these cars were built.
    I also lump the 1989-1994 era Maxima and Toyota Camry into that group. That’s why you still see so many of them on the road…and many of them aren’t belching blue smoke and aren’t broken down on the side of the freeway.
    I like these capsule reviews – please keep them coming!
    If anyone has a last-gen RX-7 to write about, please do so. (Just a request!!!)

  • avatar
    M20E30

    Honda hit the high mark with this car. One of their best products, and it shows, 20+ years down the line. It has outlasted it’s awful domestic contemporaries and it’s well built Japanese rivals(save the Camry). Best Accord ever.

    It’s also interesting to note what they DIDN’T offer here. Overseas, the car was avalible with twin-piston caliper(On the front) 4-wheel disc brakes, ABS(Called ALB), 160HP engine, Digital Instrumentation, Climate control, and even a CD player(Although I believe certain 89 SE-i’s had CD players as well).

    The also got a quasi-hatchback thing called the aerodeck, which I would import could I find one.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    Many Japanese cars of that era last a long time. I have a friend from College who is still limping her late 80s Camry along. IIRC it is somewhere north of 200k on the odometer.

    My 1st car was a 1990 Subaru Legacy. It had 130k on it when it became mine in 1997. I ran that car with a rebuilt engine and tyranny out to 230k when it was rear ended in 2004.

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    wardenr :

    Don’t want to jinx you, but I’ve worked on Honda’s professionally for 15+years, and those Delphi alternators on the ’98-’02 Accord V6’s are notoriously bad. Haven’t seen too many steering rack issues. Just trannys and V6 alternators.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Well, if the number of these old Accords that are still are on the street is a measure of how good these cars were, they must be good. There are still tons of them around these parts with astronomical mileage on them.

  • avatar
    shabatski

    A 1986 Honda Accord 4-door LX-i was my first car. I bought it with 86k granny miles on it in 1997. It ran great, only needed the usually stuff (brakes, tires, 1 altimeter). A lady ran an intersection outside my house and totaled it one day as I was driving to HS. It was a cream puff that died with 99k miles… but I’m guessing it was put back together as a salvage and someone else is still running around with it. This was the car that convinced me Honda’s were the best cars you could buy. Now so many years later I wish they still made a Honda Accord Wagon… too bad for them, I have to spend my $$ elsewhere.

  • avatar
    wardenr

    Poltergeist:

    No “ASE” certification here, but I’ve been turning wrenches (strictly as an avocation) for about 40 years…until my health started failing. Perhaps I earned an “EST” rating…as in Expert Shade Tree mechanic. While I certainly don’t claim to know everything…and never will…I am nevertheless quite familiar with Honda’s machinery. My first job out of high school was as an assembler, then later doing PDS (Pre-Delivery Service) at my local Honda motorcycle dealer.

    My 2002 Accord Coupe LX V-6 presently has 80K miles. Honda CLAIMS they fixed the 2nd-gear clutch pack lubrication problem along with the substandard differential bearing problem in the last of the 6th-Gen cars. Honda claims a two percent failure rate; six to eight percent is likely closer to the truth. I shall soon add a CompTech tranny cooler and MAY switch to AmsOil or Redline fluid…which I shall religiously change every year, regardless of mileage driven. Cheap insurance, in my book.

    I just about PUKE everytime I see that godforsaken Delphi alternator. If I could replace it with an ND, I’d bolt it on tomorrow. And if the Delphi fails under 100K miles, Honda is going to get a nasty EARFUL…from ME!

  • avatar
    golf4me

    I had an 87 Lxi…hands down the worst car I ever had. Brake rotors kept warping due to bad calipers, which were expenive to replace, two PS pumps, and then the tranny crapped out, all before 90k miles. It was fun to drive though, and was a decent long-distance runner, but I never got more than 28 mpg, even on the highway. Surprisingly, the VW, Audi, BMW’s and Mercedes I’ve had since have been much more reliable, about as efficient, and much more fun to drive.

    In it’s day, though it was probably the best car for the money bar none. Mine was just kinda a lemon by Honda standards, and when I dumped it I swore I’d never buy another one, but then the S2000 came out, and I’d still like to have one of those!!

  • avatar
    Matthew Potena

    With regard to the business practices of some Honda dealers, I have an amusing story. As the “car expert” in the family, I am often asked to help out with car buying decisions. In 1988 (or so), I went with my neighbor’s niece to look at Accords and Civics at a dealer who had a bad reputation. We look at the cars and notice a “Market Adjustment” of $2,500. I, knowing full well that it was just additional dealer markup, ask the smarmy salesman what that was. When he rambled on about the Yen/Dollar exchange rate, and how Honda couldn’t price the cars until they reached the dealer due to the fluctuations, I laughed out loud. Loud enough for a bunch of customers to hear me. I then motioned him over to the driver’s door jam where is said “Made in Ohio” and inquired if they use Yen as money there. About 10 people within earshot laughed, as this 23 year old smart-ass made a 40 year old car salesman look like a douche! We left and the niece bought a VW Cabrio.

  • avatar
    Johnson Schwanz

    wardenr,

    Don’t bet the farm on that ’02 V6. It sucks compared to old Hondas and is not built to last. I still own my 2002 Accord Coupe V6 EX coupe with 150,000 miles. I’ve been through one transmission, two alternators, and suffered a rattling sunroof. Real-world gas mileage averages 19.6 running Northern Virginia’s E10. My Dad’s work car, a 1992 EX, went 374,000 before it’s blown head gasket with all original parts (minus wear/tear,) and his 1985 LX went 410,000 before it fought a bear and lost.

    Thin paint and thinner fog lights aside, I think that in its favor, Honda’s ivory interior is one of the most beautiful and functional in its class. Before Honda went button crazy, they simply incorporated two rotary dials for HVAC, and extremely simple radio controls. Today’s Honda Accord resembles an QWERTY keyboard with all of its buttons.

    God bless the soul that likes Michelin Harmony tires in any size. They are “no-season” tires: they don’t do anything well. Nevertheless, your mileage may vary.

  • avatar
    Johnson Schwanz

    wardenr:

    My 2002 Accord Coupe LX V-6 presently has 80K miles. Honda CLAIMS they fixed the 2nd-gear clutch pack lubrication problem along with the substandard differential bearing problem in the last of the 6th-Gen cars. Honda claims a two percent failure rate; six to eight percent is likely closer to the truth. I shall soon add a CompTech tranny cooler and MAY switch to AmsOil or Redline fluid…which I shall religiously change every year, regardless of mileage driven. Cheap insurance, in my book.

    My 02 was purchased brand new in December 2001, with tranny fluid changed annually by myself and Johnson Sr., and it STILL FAILED at around 120K. Don’t believe Honda. It’s a pin problem, not a heat problem; therefore, the tranny cooler won’t solve the problem. The “fix” was the re-machining of a notch in the transmission, one that was done with the transmissions that were replaced under warranty.

    My girlfriend bought a 2006 TL brand new, and her transmission died at 40,000 miles. Honda’s new automatics with VCM feel funny; the same feeling I felt before my tranny blew. Honda simply cannot build an automatic transmission these days, whether it’s the 4-speed in our cars, or the 5 speed sport shift models…

  • avatar
    V6

    i agree with including the 89-94 Maxima. i’m driving an 89 Maxima after getting sick of car payments and it’s great, no problems at all and handles well and has enough power and room plus full electrics inc the seats and cruise control. i see so many still driving around as well and i have no doubts mine will keep going for many years

  • avatar
    holydonut

    Re: V6 –

    I dunno about you, but I had a 93 GXE Maxima with the VG30E… it was horrible in the reliability department. The fuel injectors, mass air flow sensor, ignition coil (which sucks for getting stranded since the car has a distributor) went out all the time. Luckily salvage yard parts were plentiful.

    The transmission did not hold up well, and
    the drum brakes in the back were ill conceived for a car in this class and performance expectation.

    I was smart and kept up with my timing belt changes, but other colleagues of mine with the timing-belt based Maximas all blew their engines when their belts snapped.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    Back in high school, most of the guys I knew couldn’t wait to get their license and first set of wheels. They all wanted 4wd trucks, Camaros and Mustangs. I was the oddball because there was only one car for me- an ’89 Accord!

    I turned 16 in 1991 and my grandfather surprised me with me with an ’89 Accord LXi 4-door, 5-speed with only 26k miles. It was White with an interior color Honda called Brown-Red. He wanted to give me the car, but wanted to teach me financial responsibility…I ended up paying him $150/month for the 2.5 years I owned it.

    It was a blast to drive, definitely more fun than any Camry or Taurus. My best friend had an ’88 Prelude Si and the cars felt very similar from behind the wheel. I enjoyed it for the remainder of my high school days and expected it to spend at least four more years with me at college.

    After my high school graduation ceremony, I returned home to find a brand new ’93 Accord EX 4-door sitting in my parking space. My pop had done it again- a new one this time! It was Taffeta White with Blue interior, but had an automatic transmission. I hated to say goodbye to my ’89 LXi, but this car was a worthy successor.

    As for the ’93 EX, I drove it daily until 2005. It had 292k miles on it at that time and I retired to second-car status. Since then, it’s had a new paint job (thanks to my brother, who has worked in a Honda body shop for almost 20 years). I still drive it on the weekends or whenever the mood hits (318k miles on it now). The engine has never had any work beyond maintenance items (timing belts every 90k). The transmission is also original but needed a $300 solenoid around 250k. Still purrs like a kitten!

    The ’90-’93 Accords didn’t have quite the same fun-to-drive (go-kart-like, almost) feeling of the ’86-’89. But it is a fun car compared to most new ones, even now. It’s impressive that the 140hp 2.2L will run with almost any 4-cylinder mid-size today!

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I don’t see many of the ’86-’89 generation on the roads up here in the snow belt. Seen some rusted out hulks of them in the junk yards. Seems the Japanese models from that era weren’t the best in the salt. Still, I’ve had the pleasure of driving a couple of that and the ’90-’93 era and both are great fun cars to drive. Not so sure about fun to ride in the backseat of.

    The ’94-’97 era seemed like a dud to me, at least stylistically, but the ’98 generation is really where Honda left their “fanboy” roots and really started to compete in the family mid-sized segment.

    Back in 1989 my father was looking for a new family car. My brother and I were teenagers so we needed backseat room and my father is 6′-1″ (not obese). We looked at the Camry and Accord but both were not practical for back seat passengers of any size. Would guess a child carseat wouldn’t fit behind the driver after my dad put the seat all the way back. I seem to recal the Maxima being slightly larger but not much. He bought a Taurus because it comfortly rode 4 adults. That car was eventually replaced with an ’02 Accord, which all 4 of us ride in on occasion with similar comfort of the Taurus.

    I love the older gen Accords, but the fact of the matter is, the backseat was more decoration than function. Granted the current model Accord feels bloated, but back in ’86 the Accord was small.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    My wife had just bought an 88 LX when I met her. This was probably the best car we ever owned. At first I was smug about the superior performance of my 85 GTI, but then a review of the relevant stats showed that the Accord was more powerful and had just as good of performance figures. Just toned down the Fun To Drive quotient.
    I didn’t really appreciate the Accord till I got an 89 Camry as an extended rental. Hated that car, but it turned me into a big Honda fan. Honda has seemed to me what Chrysler would have been in the 60s among US iron, had it been able to build them properly.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    Will I be the only B&B to voice dissent here? Maybe it’s the carburetor that ruined it, but I owned an ’88 and it was the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever owned in my life. Easily my worst car, far worse than the ’89 Caravan or the ’96 Cavalier I own right now. Over a period of THREE months the fuel pump died, the distributor died TWICE, the transmission slipped severely, it never started quite right, and the heat and A/C were both awful.

    It was also ergonomically the worst car I’ve ever owned–it was about the same size as my Cavalier, and my old B13 Sentra, yet in the Accord my right knee was CRAMMED into the center console and my left knee CRAMMED into the door.

    Maybe the lesson here is, if you buy an old Honda, buy one with EFI and a 5-speed? :/

    I tell you, I do miss the pop-up lights though. Sometimes I would just sit and play with them.

  • avatar

    Eric_Stepans : … several of the sales/distribution managers at American Honda were ‘doing a Blagojevich’ and shaking down their dealers for kickbacks.

    http://www.amazon.com/Arrogance-Accords-Inside-Story-Scandal/dp/0965776611/

    So, many Honda customers had to pay this hidden ‘cost of doing business’, and those that wouldn’t were shown the door.

    Absolutely amazing. I was too young to understand, but this sure sounds like the Honda dealer I met in December of 1988. I’m just glad my Dad saw the light (with my great-grandmother’s help) and didn’t give those scammers a dime of his hard earned money.

    I’m continually amazed at the depth of knowledge that our B&B possess. Bravo to all of you.

  • avatar
    JeremyR

    We inherited an `87 LX-i from my wife’s grandmother last year. Since there was nothing really wrong with the car (with only about 85K miles on it at the time), we kept it and I still use it as a semi-daily driver. It’s been another 25K since then and it’s still going, with only those pop-up headlights and a little rust on the rocker panels to show its age. And other than the occasional scheduled maintenance, the only money we’ve put into it has been discretionary: a Maaco paint job to cover the oxidized paint, an R-134a retrofit (which cost only about as much as an R12 recharge would have), and a higher-flow intake and exhaust. I feel like the auto transmission slows the car down; I’ve been toying with the idea of a (relatively straightforward) swap for a 5-speed. Could probably do with some new suspension bushings as well, but other than that, it can actually be a moderately entertaining car to drive. And I’m still amused every time I encounter a later-model Civic on the road and am reminded how small this Accord is by comparison…

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Mike Solowiow:
    Twenty years later, the third-generation Accord is Honda.

    PeteMoran:
    A carb? In 1986? Really?

    My thoughts exactly. As good as the 3rd-gen Accord is/was, the fact remains a large number of them were the non-FI, carb models. That one fact right there is a deal killer and also an early sign back then in the 80s of the creeping ignorance and stubborn attitude that was beginning to set in at Honda. This attitude unfortunately is very prevalent among Honda executives today, and Honda today is not the same company it was back then.

    Still having carburated engines, and having fuel injection optional in the mid-to-late 80s in my opinion is inexcusable. Virtually all of the major and direct competition at that point had fuel injection standard.

    While some things may change, some things stay the same. 20 years ago Honda was too stubborn updating from carburetors to fuel injection and back then their own A/C compressors were problematic. Looking at today, the stubborn attitude is even more so prevalent. Honda is still too stubborn to offer a production V8, continues to use timing belts on a number of engines when most of the competition is using timing chains. Also, new Honda models just like old Honda models have weak A/C compressors that do not hold up very well. I can also mention Honda right now is behind on offering new and efficient transmissions. Even on hybrid technology Honda is being stubborn by continuing to invest in a very simple and basic hybrid system that provides little benefit.

    As a small sidenote, I used to be a huge Honda fan and enthusiast. As the years went by though, and as I became more experienced with other brands and companies my distaste for Honda started to grow. The more Honda models I drove and examined, the more I found out about Honda as a company the more I started to lose interest in Hondas. I still currently own a 97 Accord out of necessity but my next vehicle definitely will not be a Honda.

  • avatar
    HondaFanGirl

    Help! The alternator on my 1989 hatchback LXi finally went out, and the Honda mechanic that has helped me baby my car to 205,000 miles on the original clutch told my husband that the cost of repairing the alternator is more than the car is worth.

    My Honda runs like a champ, but looks like hell (lots of rust over the rear wheels, below the passenger side door and along the hatch hinges. I wouldn’t mind spending the money to fix all the rust problems, because I know this car’s got at least another 100,000 miles in it (great on gas, peppy to drive, no damn ABS or DBW, even functioning pop-up headlights!). I guess I have to ask is it worth the money to fix cosmetically (my mechanic assured me it was still safe to drive, because nothing vital is rusted, but he thought it was time to let my car go. But I really, really, really don’t want to. Help me before my husband forces a sales (luckily, I haven’t found the darn title yet!).

    Does anyone have any experience or thoughts on the “fixing the rust” issue? Thanks!

  • avatar
    janter

    Currently I have 3 Honda Accord 3G’s all run and all are a blast to drive my 1987 LXi Hatchback has 186,000 miles and climbing.  My 1988 DX four door has barely 120, 000 miles and my 1989 LXi has 112,000 I try to be as quiet about these cars as possible.  I am always looking for others to add to the fleet.  My one regret all are automatics.  Still a blast!

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    I bought a 1988 Accord LX-i coupe in 2013 to use as a car to learn stick on. It was horribly beat-up, had a halfassed automatic to manual conversion, and cost me the princely sum of $450. Any used Honda in good condition would run at least $1k in California, so it was as bad as you’d think.

    The previous owner used it as a commuter car since 1995, but he was a contractor and the car was rather filthy inside. Not to mention his kids helpfully put on a straight pipe and removed the catalytic converter so every time I’d downshift, the poor sap behind me met with a cloud of grey smoke.

    Obviously, I got no respect driving that car with four mismatched sizes of tires, missing emblems and snapped off chrome trim. In an act to restore a modicum of dignity, I got a license plate frame from the dealer where it was originally sold at which actually looked period-correct since Honda of Pasadena still used black plastic frame with a simple script, much like the Honda of Hollywood plateframes my dad’s Prelude had from ’86. People would cut me off and honk for no reason aside from the fact I was driving such a disgusting clunker since I drove the same way I drove my regular car. However, I grew up riding in my dad’s 1986 Prelude, a car I regretfully never had the chance to drive, and it reignited the memories I had in that Prelude. Handled well, no superfluity in its design and felt much more powerful than the 113 horses that traveled 250,000 miles would suggest.

    I decided to sell it after one week before I would be forced to register it in my name with the emission issues and such, but it will be remembered as one of the best cars I ever owned and might be tempted to pick up one in the future, or a clean third-generation Prelude 4WS, a car I’ve wanted since I was four years old, but that’s a story for another day.

  • avatar
    janter

    I have had the luck of owning 3 third generation Honda Accords. My first was a 1988 DX with 64k miles she died at 180k. I also owned a 1987 LXI hatchback this car was my favorite I had so much fun driving her. Her acceleration was impressive. My last was a 1989 Accord 4 door LX. I drove all these cars till nothing more existed. I sometimes wonder why can’t we just make cars like that now? Same style, same features, same incredible durability, and pleasure to drive. I know as do you that is not possible except in dreams. Hands down the best cars I have ever owned. Hands down the most fun as well.

  • avatar
    DepressBrakeToShiftFromPark

    I’m looking at buying a used 1996-2002 Accord with a Manual. I’ve test driven them and in my opinion they’re excellent cars. They’re not perfect, but I especially liked the smoothness of the engine and the slick action of the gearshift. These cars and the camry really gave Detroit a run for their money and it forced them to wake up. American cars of the same vintage or a few years newer are just so rough for me. I think the problem with Detroit was not that they even built the worst cars, but they built cars that were just “good enough”. These cars would meet the minimum requirements to be a car and would just last long enough, but everything else would be poor quality. Examples would be the GM A-body Cutlasses/Centuries/etc., later Ford Tauruses, even some Crown Vics/Grand Marquis. I believe until about the mid 2000s or so this was the case. The second gen focus we got here is a good example. I used to own a 2005 ZXW wagon. The engine itself was bulletproof, but at 125k it developed a valve rattling noise which is apparently common with these, and it was rough and buzzy compared to a Honda or Toyota of similar vintage. It’s interior was AWFUL, not a single soft touch surface anywhere except the armrest, and even that was very thin. It was worse than even 90s GM cars I’ve sat in. It felt like being inside a plastic cave, and the doors shut with a hollow metallic thud. I loved the handling though, had the ride of a big car with the cornering of a small car, and it was cheap at $2800. 2000-2007 Foci have great handling and comfort, and with the duratec 2.3 engine they could be fast, but everything else seemed a cut below. In the past 10 years Ford have really stepped up their game though. I got to drive a 2014 Fusion for an auto auction and it had a superb interior, with old-school Honda levels of soft touch materials.


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