By on April 2, 2012

Remember the Vigor? Probably not. Nobody remembers the Vigor. This car dates from about the time that Honda really got serious about its decline from former untouchable greatness, which may or may not have had something to do with the death of founder Soichiro Honda in 1991.


There was the Del Sol, which replaced the much-beloved-by-young-men CRX in 1992. Goodbye to that entire demographic chunk of car buyers, possibly forever! There was the Civic, which started getting bigger and fatter in every model year starting in 1996. There was the lack of a real minivan, which Honda remedied by slapping Honda Passport badges on an Isuzu product. There was the entire Acura line, which lacked both rear-wheel-drive and a V8 engine and got beat like a cheap gong by Infiniti and Lexus in the showrooms. There was the debilitating series of dealer-kickback lawsuits, over longstanding abuses going back to the 1970s, that threatened to plunge Honda America into a lawyer-populated Lake of Fire for eternity (more on that later). And, of course, there was the Vigor.
The Vigor sold in North America was actually a pretty good car, with a powerful inline-five engine, all manner of luxury touches, and top-notch Honda build quality. The only problem was that nobody had any reason to buy one.
You rarely see Vigors anywhere these days, on the street or pending consumption by The Crusher. I found this much-battered example a couple weeks back in a Northern California self-service junkyard.
Honda never stopped making good cars, but the North American stumbles of the early 1990s haunt the company to this day. It’s a good thing that Honda motorcycles and scooters (as I saw demonstrated with dramatic effect during my recent trip to Vietnam) have remained such a gigantic cash cow for the company.

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38 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1993 Acura Vigor...”


  • avatar
    Skink

    A friend of mine had a Vigor. Seemed like a nice enough car – I told him the name sounded like a brand of dog food. He’s an artsy image conscious guy. He got rid of it not long thereafter.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    This was a good car that cost $10,000 too much compared to similar vehicles. I remember the Vigor, but it was definately not memorable.

    I won’t even mention the window sticker except to say that it looks like the car was enjoyed by a working man who drove it to over 300,000 miles.

    This was a good car.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It cost more than a comparable loaded Accord, which is was about as good as, wasn’t much bigger than either the Integra sedan (which was more fun to drive) or 1.6EL (which did cost a lot less), and wasn’t as nice as the Legend, which it didn’t cost much less than.

      Say what you will about the TL, it make a hell of a lot more sense in terms of how it’s sized, equipped and priced. Unfortunately, the TSX and RL suffer for the TL’s positioning.

    • 0 avatar
      tparkit

      +1… it’s always been one of my favorite cars, and a Vigor still turns my head every time I see one. I would have bought one back in the day had it not been so seriously overpriced at (IIRC) about $32,000.

      I hate the idea of over-paying, and always have. I bought an Accord EXR instead, which turned out to be a wonderful car. The Vigor was about 75% more expensive than the Accord.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Thank the Plaza Accords for that. Honda probably had it targeted in the mid-high $20s when it was developed.

      • 0 avatar
        JRT01

        Indeed, kudos to the Accord – my daily driver to this day is a 1993 Accord EX 2-door, and the remaining zip generated by its 2.2L still amazes the young mechanics who perform its annual state-mandated safety inspection.

    • 0 avatar
      CA Guy

      A friend of mine had a Vigor that her son-in-law purchased for her at a car auction at a greatly reduced price when it was about a year old. I somehow doubt that many people paid close to full price for one. IIRC it was a good car, and my friend liked it very much. I remember how impressed she was with the audio system (compared to her previous Accord) that had a separate button to produce “concert hall” effects.

  • avatar
    wagonsonly

    The Passport was an Isuzu SUV with Honda badges. Honda did have a minivan (albeit not a real one) that got Isuzu badges, in exchange for Honda-badged Amigos.

  • avatar
    PJ McCombs

    As I recall, Consumer Reports tested one of these in the early ’90s and found that–despite Honda having gone through the trouble of extending the platform, mounting the engine North-South, etc–it felt pretty much just like an Accord, except with more body shake and an offbeat motor that didn’t agree with the transmission. No wonder it didn’t sell well.

  • avatar
    roger628

    In the JDM this was a sub-series of the Accord, along with the similar Inspire.

  • avatar
    missinginvlissingen

    Maybe it was the 5 cyl engine or the too-close-to-an-accord interior and the way it drove, but Acura did produce some good cars after this one. First, this Vigor got renamed the TL in the brand’s unfortunate effort to use alphanumeric models instead of model names. But then the second-gen TL (1998) was an excellent car, in my opinion superior to the Lexus ES that it went head-to-head against. Acura may have lost its way, but they did make good TLs after this Vigor.

  • avatar
    forraymond

    Bring back the Legend and the Integra! Don’t try to copy anyone else. Make your own way – build what is needed in the “luxury/sport” market.

    Legend – sedan/wagon
    Integra – coupe/hatch/sedan
    – Mid-sized CUV
    – Small CUV
    NSX – ultra sport coupe/convertible
    S2000 – small sport conv. with more luxurious interior than S2000

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The Legend/RL makes considerably less sense than it did with the existence of the current TL. One of the two needs to go, or move significantly upmarket.

      I don’t think they need RWD and V8. If Audi can get away without it, Honda can too. The RL’s problem isn’t the drivetrain—that’s just an excuse—it’s that it makes zero sense with the TL sitting in the same showroom.

      I agree about the Integra/RSX. They need something like that back, even if it’s a just a top-trim Euro-market Civic hatchback. The ILX might manage, to a degree, but I think it’ll just end up starving the TSX instead.

      • 0 avatar
        tced2

        My prediction: the TSX will go away. It will simply not be updated in a couple of years.
        Acura is on the losing end of the Yen/dollar exchange problem for the TSX. The TSX is manufactured in Japan, and the ILX is made in the US. Besides the TSX is poorly positioned vs the TL – they put a V6 in the TSX and the cost was too high. Acura already made a good V6 car – the TL – they didn’t need another TL-wanabee.
        If I was an Acura product manager, I’d want a 4-cylinder (TSX/ILX), 6-cylinder (TL), and 8-cylinder (RL) car lines.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I remember these and they didn’t seem to last very long as they got renamed along with the Legend in the mid 90′s.

    I just remember these slotting between the Integra and the Legend.

    If you look at the car’s body, it even looked too much like an Accord to really differentiate it from the more pedestrian model.

    I still love the first gen Integra so very much and wished I’d had an opportunity to own one back when new or nearly new. Oh well.

    However, I DID get to own a 2nd gen Civic for 6 years, now THAT was a fun car.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Ah, the Vigor. Developed during Japan’s salad days of the late ’80s and the pinnacle of Honda’s “just because we can” engineering. Probably wins the award for the wackiest powertrain (longitudinal FWD slant 5) in the plainest wrapper. The near luxury market wasn’t sufficiently developed in those days for three Acura sedans, so this one got lost between the Integra and Legend.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    My wife looked at one of these in the mid 90′s walk in ask the dealer the price he said full sticker buy from us or any other Acura dealer same price honey, well that was the end of that we walked out bought a Audi 90 the next day, she will not own a Acura ever and reminds me of this every time we drive by the dealer. Oh well the 04 TL would make a grab use car

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      My parents almost bought me one in 1992 as a college graduation present, but it seemed overpriced for what it was, and the dealer would not budge. Bought and Infiniti G20 instead: not only did they sticker for substantially less, but Infiniti couldn’t give them away, so they were willing to dicker. I think in the end, the G20 cost 2/3rds what the Vigor would have cost.

      That G20 lasted me 11 years. Good car, and the 5-year warranty was exactly what I needed.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    The thing that I find really interesting about this “Junkyard Find” series is that my everyday driver is older than many of the cars featured here recently.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I seriously doubt Infiniti was outselling Acura in the early ’90s. Infiniti was pretty much a sales joke until the G35 came along. The Legend and Integra were strong sellers for as long as the names survived. The Vigor was expensive and looked too much like an Accord, but it was funny that Honda solved Audi’s layout weaknesses on their first try while Audi was still building Jarts after 20 years of practice and continued to for years to come.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Acura was such a bizarre brand. In many ways it still is. I think its trajectory would have been a lot different had these cars been RWD- which they easily could have been, as the engines were facing the right way and the transmissions cut into the cabin like those of actual RWD cars. The engine did not hang too far (if at all) past the front wheels either.

      I am not sure Acura (or any brand really) has room to maneuver. The luxury market is way oversaturated. Acura’s time to pounce was 10 years ago when Infiniti made their successful bid. Now you have Acura trying to crowd in and a lot of second tier brands either on their way out (Saab) or on the ropes (Lincoln, Volvo). Maybe its in Acura’s best interest to keep selling warmed over Hondas.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        They had a line of RWD sports sedans under development in the mid 2000s, but they killed the program during the carpocolypse. S2000 style sedans would have been great, but Honda seems to be basing everything they do on the Japanese belief that the good days on earth are over.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    My strongest memory of this car, was riding in the back seat of one that a business colleague who was a Honda rep, had as a company car. It was torture. This car should have never been a four-door.

  • avatar
    Slab

    I bought one in 1991 (was called a 1992 model) to replace my 1986 Legend. IIRC, it was closer to $25,000 and the Legend had increased to $30,000 by that time. The first and only car I ever had with leather (never again if I can avoid it). The back seat was awful, but I didn’t use it much. Every year when I took it for the re-registration checkup, the mechanic would say “Five cylinders? Really?” After me, my parents drove it for a while, then donated it to someone at church. It’s still running around.

  • avatar

    I had no idea these had north-south engines.

    Huh.

    …pretty much sums up the Vigor, doesn’t it?

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      Yeah, I don’t get that either. Is Honda so afraid of rear wheel drive cars that they’ll go to such great lengths to keep from building one? At least go for four-wheel drive since you went through the hard part of getting the power to the front wheels!

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I always thought Acura should have offered the Legend and Vigor which had north-south engine configuration with an AWD option. Think Japanese Audi. A few of these came through w/ 5 spds quite rare.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Believe it or not, we still get these in for service/repairs every month or two. These and 2.5 TLs (son of Vigor).

    To this day they seem to be a favorite of the lower-middle class Hmong community…

  • avatar
    rpn453

    My buddy has been driving a ’92 5-speed for the last 10 years. It now has over 200k miles. It replaced an ’87 Legend that got hit-and-runned. The Legend was a better car because of the extra interior space, but his Vigor is still in much better condition than the Legend ever was during his ownership. The interior is mint and it’s mechanically sound. The only issue is some serious rust in a small area by the back edge of the rear wheel well. It’s a white car, so he just scrapes and sprays that area a couple times a year. It’s a nice car to drive, and I love the long hood. It has also been reliable. Aside from routine maintenance, he’s replaced o-rings on the distributor and oil cooler (a common repair on older ones), rear calipers, a clutch, a refrigerant hose, and CV joints (due to boots).

    I think the main reason these didn’t sell is the lack of interior space. The low seating position requires an adult male to move the seat back pretty far, leaving little room in back. It can hold a couple of average sized men up front with two average sized women in the back, or a couple adults up front with three kids in the back, but nothing more unless it’s a short trip. Because of the lack of demand, he was able to buy his from the original owner for less than what Civics of the same year and mileage were going for, and with a big stack of dealer maintenance receipts showing that the guy even went as far as having the brake fluid flushed every few years.

    He even has a 120k mile, 5-speed, mechanically sound, rear-ended parts car with a good interior that he got for $200 at a salvage auction. We were thinking it would make a great LeMons racer.

    • 0 avatar
      lunashine

      No doubt the Vigor would make a fine race car…its basically a European Touring Accord of its era.

      I have a 91′ 5-speed…mildly tuned with intake, exhaust, ignition, and fuel management, and having owned many fast Honda’s, the Vigor is a strong performer.

      Estimates of its horsepower were quite conservative, and owners with a manual transmission will tell you, that the beefy, straight 2.5, puts out nearly 200hp. It has almost perfect weight distribution with its longitudinally mounted engine, and a longer wheelbase than its Accord brethren…

      In short. The Vigor, once massaged, is a real Honda performance vehicle.

  • avatar

    Biggest problem with the Vigor? The Integra was not renamed the Vim at the same time. Vim & Vigor, the ad copy writes itself!

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “There was the lack of a real minivan, which Honda remedied by slapping Honda Passport badges on an Isuzu product.”

    Not true at all. Honda offered a foor door Odyssey van in the 90′s, before the sliding door version. Passport was an SUV. Please research facts before posting anything.

  • avatar
    elcalculo

    oooo, is that picture in the junk yard in merced?

    i bought a 94 vigor five years ago, and it had 120k on it.

    i’ve put 200k on it since, still running, so I’m HAPPY.

    whenever this one dies, i’m totally buying another.

  • avatar
    lunashine

    Those of you who have never owned an Acura Vigor, may think it… some forgotten odd ball of the classic Honda/Acura years.

    Those of you who have had the pleasure of piloting a Vigor, and preferably a 5-speed/manual, will sing a very different and almost invariably happy tune!

    The Vigor is much like a European Super Touring Accord of its era, and its meaty 2.5l pumps out more power and torque than many of its V-tech cousins. The longitudinal mounting of the the big straight 5 cylinder, is proof of the Vigor’s racing heritage… and the gear box is very close ratio, so much so that the big girl can wrap out fifth gear, and as a result, see the dark side of 140mph.

    Further exploration will reveal to the Honda/Acura novice, that the Vigor is very well constructed, if not, “overbuilt,” performance sedan, and therefore a bit heavy on the scale. They are however, quite nimble in the handling department, thanks to a very firm factory double-wishbone suspension(which includes rear sway bars) and nearly 50/50 weight distribution. Honestly, if you can put one on a diet, and shed a couple hundred pounds, the Vigor’s 180hp and 180pds torque will dispatch many competitors, street and track.

    Now, that said, if you can find Vigor that isn’t entirely consumed by rust, and she’s a manual, this car makes for one very willing and capable partner. (Heck, it might be worth putting some money back into one of these classic greats!) In good condition, the Vigor is beautiful to look at, and displays a styling that Honda/Acura may have lost forever.

    Ssssshhh. Don’t tell anyone. The Vigor is good-looking, strong, and hard to find.

    JAM

  • avatar
    Ackvig

    ^^^^^ THIS.

    Lunashine, Elcalculo, Rpn453, thank you for the TRUTH. The comments above yours are… misinformed, at best. And I don’t necessarily blame those folks, because the Vigor has been so maligned through all these years, that this mis-information has become “fact”. Those first critical reviews from 1992 are about the only literature easily found on an internet search, so they have become “fact”.

    The true owners of these cars all collectively have that “best kept secret”, “secret weapon” knowledge that we are doomed to die with, knowing that the world at large we never know what really happened.

    Ackvig, of the Yahoo Acura Vigor and Legend club
    300,000K+ 1993 Vigor GS 5sp
    1992 Legend LS


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