By on May 18, 2010

Back in 1987 the only V8 I knew about was made out of tomatoes and some weird spicy stuff. I was all of 14 then, and my concerns in life were little more than the infrequent dating opportunity and eating out (my mom didn’t believe in cooking). There was college… but that seemed as far away as the drop dead gorgeous brunette who sat two desks in front of me in Spanish class. I was terrible in Spanish, and with good reason. Back then I remember trying in vain to read my Spanish homework at the local Audi customer’s lounge. A place my mom frequently visited and despised for 5000 good reasons. Later that evening, a 60 minutes expose would result in our Audi being taken straight to a dealership one more time. But this time the sign up front said ‘Acura’.

The Acura Legend was second in a long line of brilliant purchases made by my late Dad. My brother Paul got a 1984 Celica Supra new and kept it for 15 years. Mom had the Legend. Dad snapped up one of the last new Lincoln Mark VII’s for peanuts, and I ended up with a Toyota Celica GT-S. What you see below is exactly what the Acura looked like. On the surface it was a very bland three box design in a 1980′s car world that was loaded with them. Slight angle up front, right angle down back, and done. But in between the bumpers this car was a quantum leap in the very definition of luxury.

Open the door and say hello the best leather seats short of an S-Class. The Saab 900, Volvo 740 and Audi 5000 (a.k.a. the Legend’s real competiton) could all lay claim to great seats by this time. But as an affluent Jewish kid with Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and older cousins who had them all, I can safely say that the seats in the Acura were the absolute best bar none. You sat in them and they seemed to just mindmeld with the body. Twenty-three years later I had the same exact feeling with the Acura below I bought for $350 at a dealer auction. Unlike the leather seats that would eventually wear out, the cloth ones on this ancient car had virtually no discernible wear at all. Amazing.

The lack of wear held on to the rest of the car… so long as the name said Acura and not the deservedly defunct Sterling. When the Legend was first released in 1985 Honda offered a tried and true Honda 2.5L V6 with all of 151 horsepower. Don’t laugh but that was a class leading number. The 1000+ pound heavier Town Car offered only 140 horsepower and had to do it with twice the cubic inches. All the normally aspirated versions of it’s European competition? Substantially less. 112 to 135 to be exact. At the Legend’s 20k price point, and with all the powertrain goodies, it offered plenty of bang for the Yuppie’s buck.

During the first couple of years the Acura Legend pretty much melded with the competition. It did well, but not great because of the lack of brand cache. Then all hell broke loose for the Legend in 1987. Someone at Acura’s advertising agency realized that the Legend’s middle-aged clientele needed ‘validation’ for buying such a little known brand whose only other car was a cheap hatchback. Enter the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey. In 1987 you couldn’t watch an Acura commercial or visit a dealership without that accolade being smeared all over the place. The Acura slogan? Who knew? But chances are you already knew all about the J.D. Power Award once you visited the dealership.

The award would be featured predominately throughout the 1st generation’s model run. The second kick in sales performance came in the form of a Yamaha engine. The numbers varied from 160 to 170 horsepower. But the Yamaha C27 engine was amazingly fast and well-tuned for it’s time. Before Ford would ante up for it’s Ford Taurus SHO, Honda decided to make Yamaha it’s sole engine for the Legend. It was a great boost in every respect.

Once the coupe was released in 1987, the Legend’s performance was undoubtedly at the top of the class. A 1987 Acura Legend coupe with a 5-speed could hit 0-60 in 7.7 seconds. That number matched a Toyota Celica All-Trac, and beat the BMW M3 of the same year. All the while the 1st Generation Legend offered a level of luxury that was comparable to a Mercedes E-Class which cost nearly 50% more. Within a few years Toyota and Nissan would come in with their own heavyweights and ironically, Honda would then decide that the Acura marque was far more important than the ‘Legend’ name. Oh how wrong they would be…

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70 Comments on “Hammer Time: The Legend...”


  • avatar

    Fact check.

    The E30 M3 weighed 2800 lbs, had 190 hp, and did 0-60 in 6.9 seconds.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Here you go…

      http://www.albeedigital.com/supercoupe/articles/0-60times.html

      If you don’t want to scroll, point or click try this one…

      http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=231495

      Same list from same source.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      @Steven Lang

      That’s a pretty cool list. Fear the bullet-fast 1980 Mercedes 240D, which reached 60mph in a blazing 19.7 seconds!

      That’s still not the slowest car, though – as far as I can tell, that honor goes to the 1968 Fiat 850 Idromatic, which took 25.5 to get to 60mph but passed the quarter in 23.3… How many vehicles out there invert those two numbers?

    • 0 avatar
      ott

      1973 Volkswagon Super Beetle Convertible 23.8 22.5

    • 0 avatar
      ott

      And the all-time record for slowest quarter-mile goes to…
      1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel 0-60 in 19.4, 1/4 mile, n/a.
      I guess that would qualify for a Ken-ugly win on Pass Time…

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      Okay, I also find that figure of 8.1 seconds hard to believe, as US version of M3 had the same Cat equipped engine as Euro, the only difference being that US car had gearbox from 325i, instead of Euro dog-leg box. And that gearbox had 4.10 gears! I don’t know who come up with 8.1 sec time, but in book by Jeremy Walton it states that Us spec M3 had 7.5 seconds 0-60mph time. Here’s link: http://www.bentleypublishers.com/isbn/9780837602202/9780837602202/gallery-425-4.html

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      A Mack U600 dump truck at Raceway Park in 1989, 30 second quarter mile, 55mph trap speed

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      I used to drive a 190D. Wish they had 0-60 numbers for it. I can’t imagine it was much worse than the 240D. I recall the top speed being in the high 80′s.

  • avatar
    threeer

    I distinctly remember being at the local (Nashville, at the time)Acura dealership simply drooling over the coupe version of the Legend as my best friend was convincing himself to buy a used Shelby Charger (that self destructed not too long afterwards). The Legend was elegant in it’s simplicity and fluid in execution. How the mighty have fallen…

    • 0 avatar
      pooplocker

      I couldn’t agree more. My mom traded in her little 1982 Accord for a 90 Legend and it quickly became the envy of the neighborhood. The build quality was pretty amazing for any car at this built at this time. I bought it off of her while still in college and kept it for close to 6 years. By the time the car started experiencing any real problems, it was alread 15 years old with 235,000 miles on the odometer. It was the transmission that started to go south, but even with a tempermental tranny, I was still able to sell it for a decent price.

      Lang is right about the leather seats though. They’d split right open if left in the sun. Damn comfortable though.

    • 0 avatar
      Audi-Inni

      I’m maybe 10 years older than the author and can honestly say the first Legend was really just like a gussied up Accord (albeit bigger). I used to call the Accord of that generation the “little Legend” because they shared the same switchgear and look and feel. It was the second generation, in my mind, that took the Legend to the next level. So much so that I considered buying one, but opting for the new 1992 Lexus ES300 instead. A decision to this day I have never regretted. Acura was always and to this day remains at least a full step behind Lexus. Honda always seems to take the “cheap” approach and their premium line simply doesn’t come close to matching up to the competition.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    Yeah, for a few years in the late eighties and early nineties, Acura really had a great thing going…I remember my mother looking at a beautiful ’90 Legend LS coupe, dark green with tan leather. Acura’s were still hot stuff back then, and the dealer wouldn’t come down at all from list price…

    Well, that didn’t sit well with my mother, who bought a loaded LeBaron convertible, nice enough for the times, but nowhere near as nice as the Legend coupe (though several thousand dollars cheaper).

    I like the 2nd gen Legend even more, but by that time the Lexus LS400 got all the attention in Japenese luxury.

    The inside buzz was that the model “Legend” name had more brand recognition than “Acura” did, so Honda killed it in the American market in an attempt to bolster the strength of the Acura nameplate/recognition.

    The FIRST of many stupid decisions made by Honda in the mismanagement of Acura…”RL” has never come near to matching the prestige or recognition that the Legend did.

  • avatar

    I learned to drive stick on a 1987 Acura Legend V6 Coupe. This was in 1997, and at the time the car had nearly 200,000 miles on it. It was a friend’s car, that his mother bought new, and handed down to two teenage boys in succession. Despite that kind of expected abuse, it was on the original clutch, transmission, engine, everything. In fact, nothing had ever broken on the car, ever. I found reasons to borrow it constantly.

    They sold the Legend in 2000 with 245,000 miles on it for almost $5,000, after turning down my offer for $3,000.

  • avatar
    Stratos

    There is a gold over tan leather Legend coupe on a field behind my parent’s house. It has, I think, a broken steering column and no air conditioning, but the rest works perfectly. They don’t feel it is worth the investment to repair, so right now it just serves as sort of lawn art. Even after however many years, its seats are still among the most comfortable I have ever sat in.

  • avatar
    georgie

    I leased a brand new Acura Legend “L” sedan in 1988. (I was sold on the car after I saw it at the L.A. Auto Show in early 1988) It was a fantastic looking car and seem to be at the cutting edge of automotive engineering at the time (Much better than any domestic offering)
    During the three year term of my lease the Acura dealer practically rebuilt the car. Everything went wrong from the E.C.U. to the front drive axle. (And more I can’t remember) I got tired of taking it back to the dealer it seemed like once a month.
    In contrast my wife’s 1985 Camry was as trouble free as I expected the Acura to be.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      A friend of mine’s mother had one of these in two-tone silver-grey … after she bought her 2nd, perhaps 2-3 years later, my friend bought the 1st from her mom. After that, she spent a small fortune repairing lots of things, I specifically remember many electrical problems … I reminded her of this not long ago … she claims it never happened … but it did happen … I think she must be suppressing it as some kind of traumatic memory…

  • avatar
    twotone

    A Legend in it’s own time.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    Philip Lane

    I have to agree that the original Legend was the type of car that you don’t soon forget. One of my mom’s friends had two when they were new, and I was smitten. The JD Power award may be stronger in your memory than the slogan, but “Precision Crafted Performance” is still my favorite automotive tagline of all time. I can’t come up with three other words that better sum up what the Legend was about.

    I don’t, however, recall any mention of Yamaha in relation to the Legend’s V6. In fact, in a google search for the terms “honda”, “c27″, and “yamaha”, this post is the only listing on the first page that even mentions the Legend. The others are motorcycle race results or outboard motor parts lists. If I substitute “legend” for “c27″, EVERYTHING is motorcycle related. I have a feeling this association may be a figment of your imagination. Why would an engine manufacturer of Honda’s caliber need help from an outside source, especially during a period when Honda was coming to dominate Formula 1?

    • 0 avatar
      hurls

      I too have no recollection of a Yamaha engine…

      FWIW, Wikipedia describes the engines thusly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_C_engine#C27A

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      What I dont get the most is…

      Honda is a MOTOR COMPANY above all else.. so why would they put a “competing” motorcycle engine.. in one of their cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      Honda don’t need no stinking outside help.

      The SHO used the Yamaha engine. It was a good engine, too. But never installed in a Honda. Aren’t Yamaha and Honda bitter rivals anyway? That would be like putting a 429 Cobra-Jet in a ’69 Chevelle. (Both junk, but I’m going for the analogy.)

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Thanks for pointing that out, I too was baffled by this seemingly non-existent Yamaha connection. It has only been mentioned here!

  • avatar
    Tosh

    “Before Ford would ante up for it’s Ford Taurus SHO, Honda decided to make Yamaha it’s sole engine for the Legend.”

    Two things: One, it’s “its,” not “it’s” in both instances.
    Two, I had no idea that was a Yamaha engine (so are you sure?), and I had a 90 Coupe (5-spd AND cloth!) that I LOVED. A couple of years before I bought it, I test drove an ’88 with a worn out clutch (without the salesman), so I got to hear the engine at full revs a LOT. Very silky engine! And very good seats. And very precise shifter. One could tell Honda put everything they knew (except DOHC) into the first Legend.

  • avatar
    OWYHEEJIM

    I owned an 89 Legend for a number of years. Nice car except the engine gave problems once you hit the 100K mark, especially in valve train. I stuck my head in the service bay one time at the local dealer and there were probably 20 Legends in the air on racks. No Integras. You almost never see any year Legend on the road anymore. Does not say a lot for Honda’s proverbial engine engineering. I would not buy another 6 cylinder Honda engine. I saved all my service receipts and they exceeded the Volvo 850 GLT by a considerable margin.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      My 90 Legend had 163k on the original engine and was going strong when someone ran into it. But it was going to need a pricey valve job, as my Honda specialist mechanic told me ALL Hondas wear out the valve stem guides(?) eventually, and mine was making some wisps of smoke at start-up.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      At least that is better than what happened to some of the SHO engines … at relatively low-mileage, say 100k +- 20k, the press-fit between the camshaft-quill and the camshaft drive sprocket would fail and the valves would smash into the pistons … some people took to proactively welding the sprocket to the quill to prevent this…

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      @Robert.Walker:

      I’ve heard of this being an issue on the V8 SHOs, but not the earlier V6.

      Is this true, or do both have the same flaw?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      The V8. From Answers.com:

      “Cam trouble: Soon after the introduction of the SHO V8, widespread problems with the cam sprockets began to surface. Ford had used a relatively unusual method, called “swedging”, of affixing the cam sprockets to the camshafts. The cam sprockets were fastened to the hollow camshafts by forcing a metal ball which was slightly larger than the interior diameter of the camshaft through the center of the camshaft, thus expanding the metal slightly and creating a mechanical bond between the cam sprocket and the camshaft. This method proved to be inadequate, and thus on some engines, the cam sprocket could break loose from the camshaft and spin independently from the camshaft (or “walk”). This would result in the camshaft stopping and thus not activating the valves, allowing the pistons to hit the valves, ruining the engine (see above section). The preventive measure of welding the cam sprocket to the camshaft soon proved to be a fix for engines that had not suffered such a fate yet [1]. Another such fix is “pinning” the cam sprocket, or inserting a pin in the sprocket to keep it aligned on the camshaft. There were calls for Ford to provide a recall, though none ever happened, potentially because it was a limited-production vehicle. Aside from this issue, the engine itself is considered to be fairly dependable and a good example of Yamaha engineering.”

      By the way, what is referred to above as “swedging” is what we called “ballizing”, this is the method that the GM Bay City operation used to make “assembled camshafts” for GM … the Torrington Company used to use a mandrel to expand their quill … and the Presta Company used a different method which expanded the outside of the quill by raising a small thread, then pressing the cam-lobes and sprockets (which had 0.1mm hi teeth on the inside diameter) over the threads, crushing them thereby locking these to the quill by a combination of press-fit and mechanical lock.

      Over the long period, the later-entry Presta system replaced the first-mover Torrington system whereby Presta became the main supplier of camshafts to Ford (found in the Ztec 4cyl, Duratec V6, Intech V8, V10 and Aston V12 applications) and Torrington left the camshaft business. BTW, I don’t know who made the SHO camshaft but it was not Presta (IDK, but it could have been Nippon Piston Ring though).

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      “Swaging”

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Be it po-tay-o or po-tat-o, it’s still a spud …

  • avatar
    snabster

    God I feel old.

    My cool cousin had gotten an Acura — 87 — and I thought it was the bomb. Then an uncle got one (different side of the family) which I managed to destroy the wheels by driving while flat. Sigh. Wonderful wonderful cars. I really wanted either an audi 4000Q or a sterling. I ended up with the European, and have learned to disdain Hondas.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Ac-ura?

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    I nice car for sure, full of period specific content.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    I think that I’m also going to question the Yamaha engine statement.
    I owned a string of four Integra’s from 1986 through 1997 and I was pretty familiar with the Legends as well since I aspired to one and I was a car-nut even then. Honda is fundamentally an engine company who makes cars to go around their engines. I can’t believe that they bought an engine from Yamaha, without seeing some evidence. * (My google search came up empty too).

    My theory on the decline of the Acura line goes as follows.

    1. Sochiro Honda died in 1993. With him passed the driving force towards performance and excellence.
    2. Also around that time the Yen became very expensive against the dollar, driving up the prices of the Japan-built Acuras.

    Acura and Lexus both faced the same crisis – decontent or raise prices. Acura elected to decontent, a decision leading me to dump my 97 “frog model” Integra after less than a year of ownership. Lexus elected to raise prices and maintain content and quality. Wish I’d bought one of those instead.

    History has shown that Lexus made the right choice and Acura never recovered.

    Had they continued with the Legend, they’d stil be a serious player in the luxury game today instead of the Oldsmobile status they currently ‘enjoy’.

    As for georgie’s bad experience with the quality of his 88 Legend, I’ll concede that I had a few teething problems on my 86 Integra.
    I’m perfectly willing to believe that his Legend was a lemon.
    However the dealership was so good about the problems I experienced that they convinced me I’d rather have an Acura with problems that would get fixed than less problems with something else. Compared to the dealership experience from other brands at the time, they were saint-like in their humility, apologetic attitude, and willingess to try to make things right.

    That was the thing that kept me coming back until the 1997 model shocked me by its cheapness.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Most folks with the late 80′s early 90′s Legends gave them up because the repair bills were getting crazy expensive mainly for the engine which was costly to keep throwing money into valve jobs, timing belts and other expensive items. The exhaust was another costly thing that seemed to dog many. I remember the interiors when new where pretty nice however and these cars drove smooth and quiet.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    I believe the Taurus SHO had a Yamaha designed engine. The Legend was pure “Honda engine Company”.

    The V6 wasn’t exactly bullet proof, if you didn’t re-torque the heads regularly, head gasket failure could occur.

    Pretty expensive to fix and another reason why these cars did not age well. Honda generally made good stuff at that time but the V6s were a B-.

  • avatar

    “All the normally aspirated versions of it’s European competition?”

    How about the MB 190E 2.6?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Completely different clientele and price range for the time. The 190E was a far harder riding vehicle with an interior that wasn’t nearly as spacious as the Legend. It was basically a compact sports sedan (with the engine to prove it on the 2.3L 16v or the 2.6L) while the Legend was more of a midsized luxury car in the tradition of the 740, 900 and 5000/90 models.

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    Acura is almost a sad case – they had great cars with evocative names (Integra, Legend, Vigor), they had a supercar (NSX), they gained a following… And then somehow all the personality drained out of them.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Okay, I am going to have to concede on this one.

    From the onslaught of nearly 20 years worth of senior moments… I just apparently had another one.

    The 2.7L was made by Linhai and the engineeer was Deng Xiaoping.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deng_Xiao_Ping

    There. I feel better already!

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Steven, please correct that Legend was faster than M3.

    I’ve seen your link and that post on the forum does not list any particular source for performance figures.

    I have several books on BMW. Here’s link to one of the books published by Bentley Publishers. Name of the book ‘BMW 3 Series Enthusiast’s Companion’ by Jeremy Walton. Time listed for 0-60 for 1987 US spec E30 M3 is 7.5 seconds. And that is 0.2 seconds faster then 1987 Acura Legend.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      You needed to click on the first link. The list is a compilation of numerous sources. None of which are the manufacturer.

      Besides why rely on something as biased as a BMW enthusiast when you can look at the objective data of Car & Driver?

      Wait… did I just repeat myself?

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      A useless comparison Steven. The BMW M3 was a completely different car not built for outright speed, even though it was fairly quick. A solid 14 sec car in a 1/4 mile by most accounts, and the 15 something Legend would not be able to keep up with it. But that is ok, this is apples and oranges, and the 2.7L 5-speed Legend was plenty quick for its day.

      Cherry picking numbers because some car rag got an abused M3 that was slower than normal just weakens your credibility and makes you look like an Acura Fanboi. How ’bout you be a little more objective?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      A few quick points.

      1) Neither the M3 or the Legend Coupe were built for outright speed at that time. This would make it a more meritable comparison than their succeeding generations but if you read the review… I already mentioned the Acura’s competition for the time.

      2) Do you have any proof that the car mag in question got an abused M3? Somehow I highly doubt that BMW would intentionally provide an abused vehicle. I would love to see the logic behind that move.

      3) Why do you care? Really? It’s two frigging 20+ year old vehicles we’re talking about here… not the damned Euro.

      You’re making me feel like William Shatner at a Star Trek convention. You can Grok Spock or BMW’s all you want. Just don’t confuse me as a ‘fanboi’. In my work at the auto auctions, the brand insignia doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    My neighbor just put one of these Legends back on the road after several years spent gathering dust in his carport. Looks very nice and from what I can tell, runs well.

  • avatar
    ReverendOlaf

    I love my RL, but it would sure be easier for folks to know what it is if it were still called the Legend. I never understood Japanese car companies trying too hard to copy the Europeans. By the time Americans accepted Japanese car companies, they started to become bad clones of Bimmers, Benzes, and Porsches.

  • avatar

    I simply can not understand the “Legend’ary reputation of these cars. I worked as a service manger at an Acura Dealer from ’93 to 99 and these things were horrendous to repair and keep running…..collapsed lifters (24 x around $55.00 ea + about 10 hours labour) no sense just doing a ½ dozen or so if it was opened up, automatic transmissions beyond belief (you ordered a reman, that believe you me was overhauled with the bare minimum of new parts) I saw many vehicles go through 3 or 4 under warranty. God help you after warranty, because Honda would not sell a “remain” at retail….it was part by part, have you ever seen inside a Honda auto box? Who the hell knew what was wrong and often the bench repaired box would be out of the car again after the road test for another round of parts. Technicians would threaten to quit if they had do another one. Clutches flew out of these things, A/C compressors and evaporators only second to Volvos…..broken springs and other suspension parts non stop, those leather seats…cracked and split like crazy and replacing the heater grids was equal to 2 or 3 months worth of payments and rust…..holy mother of God, they just disintegrated….the gen 2 was only better because all of the above problems seemed to kick in maybe 12 or 18 months later than the gen one.

    I probably drove hundreds of these things over the years, they were rough, banged and rattled. The steering was horrible and lifeless, and truth be known, underpowered and vastly underbraked as the slider pins seized solid after two or three years. Any Audi, Volvo, BMW, Benz or Saab of the day was a vastly better car. I would rather walk than ever purchase any Honda product.

    • 0 avatar
      mtypex

      Wow, are we talking about the same car here? It doesn’t sound like it.

    • 0 avatar
      IronEagle

      Well he would know! Working at a dealer for six years. I remember the Legend coupe from “Moonlighting” and the dream episode where Cybill Shepherd rammed hers at full speed into a brick wall. Mabye she got fed up with the repair bills lol.

    • 0 avatar
      texlovera

      Well, a “Moonlighting” reference deserves an “Al Bundy” response!

      From the episode “A Dump of My Own”:

      http://www.albundy.net/marriedaniac/ate/script/0305fin.html

      Just scroll to the end where “AL ENTERS, DEPRESSED, FROM THE GARAGE”- it’s worth it. (Alas, not on youtube…)

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Another car were the perceptions vary in direct proportion to the amount of salt spread on the roads. Up here in New England, these things rusted to pieces! They did not last long enough to make much of an impression reliability-wise. I was very thoroughly under-whelmed by the couple I drove back in the day. Typically Honda torque-less motor, but plenty of torque-steer. Nothing special in the handling department, and really very bland and characterless compared to the Europeans. Meh.

  • avatar
    segar925

    The Acura Legend was a car worthy of its name. These cars are classics, especially the late model coupes. I followed a late-model Legend coupe to work yesterday & thought to myself “that’s one gorgeous car that I’d love to own.” The current lineup from Acura is pathetic, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a new TL. Acura needs to return to its roots, the Legend & NSX will always be on my most wanted list.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Steve,

    If you think the Legend seats are great, then you haven’t sat in the superlative Connolly leather swathed thrones in a Merkur Scorpio – perhaps the best automotive seat I’ve personally ever experienced and no doubt the best part of the whole car. The only design issue with them was the problematic manual lumbar, but I never needed the lumbar anyway, so it was of no consequence to me.

    Also note that the 2.9L V-6 in the Scorpio was rated at 144 HP, so not far off of your Legend, and I think it may have had a slight torque advantage over the Acura, but I believe the Scorpio was probably a heavier car overall.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Interesting theory. Would you mind writing about it? We can always a first hand witness to such a rare vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I’ve actually owned 2 of these over the years and still have my second one, although I haven’t driven it in some time. I’m currently considering rousing it from the dead to sell it and free up some room in my garage for a newly acquired ’06 Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited that I plan to keep until I retire – seriously.

      Anyway, it really was/is a beatiful car and a rare example of an almost “no compromises” design making it through the system of a mass market manufacturer. Ford really blew a ton of money on this car and the only thing they couldn’t afford to do at launch was come up with new powertrains, so they lathered on the money liberally in the interior and body construction/sound deadening/NVH abatement to make up for it. The car literally has all-leather seat coverings – no vinyl to be found anywhere, even behind the rear folding armerest and inside the front seat map pockets, which were double lined with leather so that no matter which way you oriented your palm when reaching into the pocket, you feel smooth leather and not some rough/cheap backing material like most cars. If I could mount the complete interior in my living room, including the power reclining rear seats, I’d do it.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    While I don’t have any direct experience with the original Legend, or Acura, I had plenty of exposure to Sterling…

    Just after high school, I worked at a Porsche-Audi-Sterling dealer in Bedford, OH (southern suburb of Cleveland). I was the porter, which means I was the grubby wash guy out back. Besides all the cool Porsches and Audis I took care of, I was also tasked with maintaining the appearance of our Sterling inventory.

    Quick side note: We also had a rental car fleet that we’d use as loaner cars to folks who brought their cars in for service. Half the fleet was comprised of Mazda 323s, the other half was comprised of Yugos. It was always a hoot when someone would roll in to the service bay with their $80K Porsche 928S4, only to be handed keys to a orange Yugo. Talk about a litmus test!

    The brow would furl, the face would tense, usually they’d let out a sigh…then they’d either laugh out loud, and you could tell their day was made, or they’d pitch a fit and I’d be on my way to the used car lot to grab an older Audi or BMW for their use. I’m not making any judgements here, I can relate to both folks. And depending on the day I’m having, I could be either one…but you had to appreciate the customers who got a kick out of the Yugo, no matter what they normally drove.

    Back to the Sterling…British Racing Green, pungent tan leather, glossy wood interior trim, and when the battery wasn’t dead, the car was blessed with a wonderfully smooth six cylinder engine. I would leave that dealership car washing job to pursue a BA at Ohio State. However, what I brought with me to Ohio State was a PHD in working a quick charge machine, and a talent for carefully, skillfully, hopefully listening to the click-click-click of the starter to determine how much longer I’d have to sit outside waiting for the Sterling to suck up enough electrons to actually whir to life.

    None of the other cars, not the Audis, not the Porsche’s, not the classic 356′s, the rarely driven Speedsters, the Esprit Turbos, the Ruf 930′s, the 323′s, or the Yugos…really…none of them ever put me through my paces the way the Sterlings utterly abused me.

  • avatar
    cirats

    Had a second generation Legend (a ’92, I believe) for about 6 years in the late ’90′s and man I loved that car. My dad was working at an Acura dealership at the time I bought it and I remember going to there to look at lightly used Vigors and Integras because I wanted a manual transmission, and they had a 4-door Legend with a 5-speed there on the lot. Took it for a test drive and was immediately sold. Tons of luxury for the price, low-slung seating position, plenty fast and fun to drive. I think I bought it with 60k miles and sold it at around 130k and only ever had to replace/repair the radiator, the leather on the driver’s seat, and the ball joints. If I could buy the exact same car again for the exact same price, I’d be tempted to do so.

  • avatar
    csf

    I live in Baltimore, Maryland. After owning a Prelude and an Accord, I bought the first 1987 Integra ever sold from our brand new Acura dealer, who was working out of a trailer while their showroom was built. Two years later I sold the Integra (to my sister) and bought a Gold/Tan leather Legend Coupe, which I thought was the most beautiful car on the road. I loved that car, but apparently so did the Baltimore City drug dealers because the car was stolen less than a year after I bought it.

    I took the insurance money and could only buy a Camry but really missed the Legend. So when the second generation Legend sedan came out a few years later I bought a Navy blue/light blue leather. I loved that car as much as the Coupe . . . but the drug dealers stole that one also, cutting right through the steering wheel and leaving my “Club” in my parking space at the mall.

    Those are still the only two cars I ever had stolen. At that point my insurance agent asked me not to buy any more Acuras . . .so I bought a Taurus SHO. Funny, no one ever tried to steal that one.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      While I do feel horrible about you buying 2 Legends and having them stolen…

      And buying a Camry…

      I do have a note for you…

      I had a CLUB.. and its pivotal feature.. was its ability to be physically attached under the cast iron brake pedal.. at the firewall, so I could essentially GIVE you the keys to MY car WITH IT RUNNING, but you couldn’t push the brake down.. to disengage the shift interlock.

      And you couldn’t steal it.

      That.. is why I bought THAT club, and not the other one..

      EVERY WHEEL on EVERY CAR is made of the same plastic / rubber material… I still see those damn things.. on numerous cars.. everyday. Does NOTHING for the safety of the vehicle.. just a nuisance to drive with the damn thing.

    • 0 avatar
      csf

      Yes, I bought the brake pedal Club too, but for my SHO which had the 5-speed manual transmission. But I don’t think those Clubs were even on the market yet when my Legend was stolen – only the steering wheel models. There were hundreds of Legends stolen back then in Baltimore – apparently they were very easy to steal, even with the “factory security system”. But once the Infiniti Q45 was for sale, the Acuras were no longer as popular with the car thieves. The guarantee by Winner ( maker of The Club )to pay my deductible was all BS, because they denied my claim, I think because the car was at a mall and not my home or work.

      Even now, when I see a Legend on the road, I remember what a nice car it was. But then I remember the agony of having my Legend stolen – twice, with belongings in the trunk each time, and the deductibles I had to pay each time, and I know why I’ve never been in an Acura dealership again.

  • avatar

    Back when I was looking for another car to fix up and drive around in, I had two opportunities to buy a 1st gen Legend, one with 150k+ miles on it for $700 and another one with an overheating/slipping that I’d talked down to about $500. Both looked to be in fairly good shape. Both times I got beaten to the punch, and I had the indignity of seeing the first one being driven past me on my way back from work.

    So the 1st gen Legend joins the 1st gen Infiniti Q45 on the list of “the ones that got away”.

  • avatar
    Toyondai92

    I keep looking for a first generation Legend Coupe five-speed for my first car, but finding one around here in the Northeast without enough rust to fail inspection is impossible. With the five-speed manual it’s a very reliable car, the automatics usually go out around 175-200K. The second generation Legend’s don’t rust quite like the first but the things blow head gaskets and drink coolant like clockwork. The four-speed autos and five-speed manuals are reliable, the six-speeds eat synchros after a while, and good luck finding a replacement. The motor from a 3.5RL can be put in to solve the head gasket problem for the most part, however. Their residual value above the blue book despite this doesn’t help ($8K for a Coupe 6speed with 150K on the verge of blowing head gaskets? Forget it.)

    Another thing with Legends, since they say “Acura” on the back, you have every five-story-spoiler Civic trying to race you at stoplights. I know because I drove my friend’s ’88 Coupe around, and every stop light there was a riced out Celica or Accord or Neon etc. That would drive me insane, and draws the attention of the cops around here, even when you don’t take up the race offer. (Cops like to chase the honest guy driving rather than the unsafe ricer?)

    As much as I love these cars, everything above is driving me to other alternatives. Mainly RWD ones, lest we forget the Legends/3.5RL and current RL are all on FWD platforms (with the current one having a prop shaft and some extra electronics thrown into its luxo-Accord body.)

  • avatar
    Johnson Schwanz

    You can Google 1994 Acura Legend 400,000 miles and find a long thread about one of the cleanest high mileage vehicles you will ever see.

    Here’s the real hammer: the owner has ALL service receipts since the car was new. $24,000 in service and maintenance without major part failure. Incredible.

    It’s worth the Googling. The car is in a thread on a popular automotive detailing site.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    We owned 3 Legends – a first-generation (1990) LS Coupe in Pearl White, a second-generation (1991) L Sedan in black, and a 1994 L sedan in white. I got compliments on the coupe all the way up until the day I sold it, with 140K miles on it. Only ever needed brakes and tires, plus a timing belt.

    Kept the 1994 sedan until it had 165K miles, again with only brakes and tires, plus a radiator around 140K (stoopid plastic top cracked and started leaking).

    All great cars. Sad that Acura has mostly lost their way ever since.

  • avatar

    I bought a brand new 1987 Acura Integra LS back then. The dealer service was second to none (at the time my parents owned a BMW, an Audi and a Porsche but their dealer service was absolute crap). The car was cheap, fun to drive, frugal and reliable as sin. I put well over 250K miles on that little car and other than rust, no major issues or repairs at all.

    Fast forward 16 years to the end of 2003 when I bought a new 2004 Acura TL 6 speed. My, my, how times have changed. I had more problems (nothing major but still needed dealer visits) with my TL in the first year than I had with my previous Mustang GT in 75K miles. The dealer service was still great but the maintenance costs for the TL were prohibitive. I lost count how many times I had to bring the car in because one of the windows got stuck in the down position – once while on vacation in the middle of winter. I got rid of the TL after a couple of frustrating years and replaced it with a BMW 330Ci with the Performance Package. Happy days are here again!


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