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.