By on April 8, 2009

The Honda Accord [shown] had at least seven things wrong with it. The non-primed hood was the color of pure rust because, well, it was. The tranny would need at least a computer and probably a vehicle speed sensor as well. Damn. Those few things alone were going to cost as much as a junkyard transmission. The trunk hinges were bent. The driver’s window regulator was bad. The chrome windshield trim was missing and shade tree glue was all over the place. The radio was kaput, and the tires were as worn out as an old broom. A $250 trade-in with at least $1000 in repairs . . . would it be worth it to fix?

Hell no! The one thing I’ve learned through the years is that absolutely nothing can make up for the stupidity of a neglectful owner. Nothing. The engine compartment alone would tell the tale with shoelaces and cardboard (yes, you read that right) intermingled with filters that hadn’t seen the light of day for quite the while—if ever. The Accord would be wholesaled for the trade-in money I had in it and that would be that. It’s a shame because these particular models are rarely worth more dead (parts car) than alive (running). This one is destined to be a parts car or a Frankenstein. A car made out of two to three other cars.

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31 Comments on “Hammer Time: Polishing a Turd. Or Not....”


  • avatar

    It always saddens me to see poorly maintained cars, especially ones that have potential. Why people are so neglectful sometimes is beyond me.

    The things some of my “friends” do to their cars. Cleaning snow off with a shovel, having the interior look like a garbage dump, sitting on the roof and denting it, putting their feet on the dashboard (if that airbag comes out for any reason you’re screwed), driving in the recline position (I know this technically does not harm the car, but it bothers me).

    If you have no respect for your own possessions, I wonder how you treat other peoples’ things.

  • avatar
    rehposolihp

    “Why people are so neglectful sometimes is beyond me…driving in the reclined position”

    That made me laugh, it really bothers me too, and I don’t know why.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    And it’s a coupe!

    People who neglect their cars like this scare me. I’d hate to see how they live.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Yup it’s ready for that great junk yard in the sky.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Parts car…

    Ummm, demo derby or 24 hours of LeMons could also be.

    You could get easily 250$ from the interior parts and have fun destroying that POS before sending it to the junkyard.

  • avatar
    TRL

    This car needs to be sold to some 17 year old kid. Both the kid and the car will benefit. Reminds me of a $50 58 Chevy I bought a LONG time ago. Untold hours and much money later I realized what a great experience it was.

    Presently my 17 year old has a 97 Accord (in considerably better, but far from perfect shape) until he bought it I would never have believed there was enough elbow grease in the world to make exposed bondo shine. There is.

    They day he complained about how expensive a replacement PW switch was I knew he was a man.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    putting their feet on the dashboard (if that airbag comes out for any reason you’re screwed)

    I thought I was the only one.

    It especially bothers me when kids do it. Heaven forbid the parent gets in an accident and that airbag deploys…the kid is screwed and no one else is to blame but that same parent.

    That generation of Accords had extremely good potential and I think was the last generation to be so sporty and responsive to hard driving (before the last and current Accords became so bloated and complex). The 2 door versions are still pretty good looking to this day.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    Man, that gets on my nerves too. Especially because the friends I have who don’t take care of their stuff don’t give a crap about mine. If I tell them not to put their shoes or dirty feet on the dashboard or not to eat in the car they act as if I’m OCD.

    I just don’t want my car to look, run, or smell like theirs.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Seeing these cars is grim enough when they are trade ins. When they are being prepped for private sale, it’s downright depressing. A friend who used to moonlight at a garage was often tasked with ‘refreshing’ vehicles like this. Typically, they had about 100k. When the oil drain plug was pulled, seemingly unrefined crude oil oozed out, but never more than half what it would take to fill the crankcase. The coolant was often the colour of ditchwater, the transmission fluid the colour and viscosity of cold coffee. People had abused these vehicles and now wanted to pretty them up to sell before they kicked.

    Therein lies the peril of buying a beater. Sometimes that beater has been beaten on since day one.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    That’s not a neglected car, that’s a car that someone tried to destroy and didn’t quite finish the job.

    I bought a neglected Tercel once. I first smelled trouble about a month after buying it upon the discovery that it had the factory fuel filter. Further probing proved that most of the fluids probably hadn’t been changed in the latter half of the car’s life. Still, the thing lasted me a good 10,000 miles until throwing a piston at 150k. Tercels are usually 200k cars, but it’s definitely a testament to Toyota’s engineering that it can survive that long under those conditions.

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    That’s a perfect car…for your local volunteer Fire Department to practice Jaws of Life pillar cutting.

  • avatar
    brettc

    My MIL bought a 1990 2-door Accord for about $500 a couple years ago. It had been rear-ended at one point and had never been fixed correctly so the trunk leaked when it rained. After a while, it developed a problem where the cooling fan ran constantly, so when she parked it, she had to pop the hood and remove the cooling fan relay. I think a mechanic told her it’d be a couple hundred dollars to fix the problem with the cooling fan. She’s poor (not working for 13 years will do that) so she instead got rid of it and bought a ’95 Impreza that has its own set of problems. Her Accord had a strong engine overall, and it was a 5 speed, so it was fun to drive when I drove it on the test drive. Too bad she didn’t keep it.

    I still like the looks of these cars, along with the next generation (1994-?) Accord wagons, which are just as rare as 95-97 Passat wagons.

  • avatar
    ridelife

    Years ago a friend of mine owned some apartment buildings. While he was showing prospective tenents an apartment his wife would go out to the tenents car and peek inside. They were of the belief that how a couple kept their car was a good indication of how they would maintain the apartment. I always respected this insight.

  • avatar
    rhino26

    My first car was a 1992 2-door ex accord. It was black with the five spook rims, wing, and a sunroof. The hood started oxidating just after i got the car in 99. It was a nice car it was a lot of fun to drive. The seats were low in the car puting the steering wheel directly in front of you were it belongs. the car had a nice subdued purr that came from the exhaust. It was a really fun car to drive. i now own a 2001 2-door v6 exl accord. I like it. it is quick and is fun to drive. I put a k&n typhoon cold air intake and sounds great. however i do not like how the drivers seat sits so high. i dont like how they think that the seats should be like in a truck. my 1992 reminded me of sitting behind a sports car like the camaro but sitting about 2 inches higher. it really had a sporty feeling which my new accord kind of lacks sometimes.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    And don’t forget the R-12 air conditioner that will never work again without an expensive retrofit.
    Yes, it’s sad. These were such good cars. But there are 2 facts of life that none of us can do anything about. 1: Almost every time a car changes hands, it goes to a buyer who is less financially able to properly maintain the car than was the seller. 2: Very few people will put more money into a car “than it is worth.” The inevitable result is that these two rules converge on the same car. A vicious downward cycle that results in a trip to a junkyard. Unless a car is lucky enough to be, say, an early Mustang convertible, it is usually a one-way trip.

  • avatar
    TR4

    Older cars need more care and attention than newer ones but they usually get less. Repairs get deferred until one day the cost of fixing everything is overwhelming. Looks like this one is a good candidate for the “cash for clunkers” program if that ever happens (I’m not holding my breath).

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Guys, guys, remember that these are just cars. They are meant to be bought, used up, and discarded. An early 90s Accord was never intended to be anything more than an appliance.

    My dad takes this tact with his cars. He’ll buy a used Honda, with 100k miles or more. He’ll run it for another 100k miles while trying to minimize his running costs. I’m talking annual oil changes, which is every 15,000 miles for him. No new air filters or plugs. He’ll replace the tires with used ones from the back shelves of Discount Tire a few thousand miles after the cords start showing on the old tires, and he’ll only replace the corded tires at that.

    Sure, he’s basically running the car into the ground and those annual oil changes would probably not work too well if the previous owner tried that for the first 100k miles of that car’s life. But he buys the cars cheaply at auctions, and can usually recover most of his purchase price when he sells the car. Of course the car is thoroughly used up by then, but it has literally cost him nothing to drive it for 100k miles.

    I look at Mr. Lang’s Accord and see that someone probably bought the car cheaply and used the car as intended (an appliance) and didn’t treat it like some kind of show car.

  • avatar
    70 Chevelle SS454

    There’s nothing wrong with that car that a 12″ spoiler, a window sticker that says “2FAST4U RACING,” and Pep Boys spinna hubcaps can’t fix.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    We had a 92 EX 5-speed sedan, bought new in Seattle silver because it came with a maroon interior. 230,000 miles later when we sold it, it was still working well with the original engine and clutch. I loved the flexibility of that 5-speed. The only problem we had was a little body rust on the corner above the exhaust pipe…the car lived outside. It had had many exterior body panels replaced due to my wife’s hitting a deer once and another time being sideswiped by some guy who forgot how wide his house trailer was, but there weren’t any bad gaps or paint mismatches afterward. The left side and top still had the original paint when we sold it.

    The current Accord, a 1999 EX sedan with leather and automatic, is a lot more like an appliance to me. Oddly, when I look out the front window of the house at it, something about the way it looks reminds me of my father’s 1950 Packard. I don’t know what it is, because there isn’t any actual resemblance that I can see.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    jpcavanaugh :
    April 8th, 2009 at 10:52 am

    And don’t forget the R-12 air conditioner that will never work again without an expensive retrofit.
    Yes, it’s sad. These were such good cars. But there are 2 facts of life that none of us can do anything about. 1: Almost every time a car changes hands, it goes to a buyer who is less financially able to properly maintain the car than was the seller. 2: Very few people will put more money into a car “than it is worth.” The inevitable result is that these two rules converge on the same car. A vicious downward cycle that results in a trip to a junkyard. Unless a car is lucky enough to be, say, an early Mustang convertible, it is usually a one-way trip.

    I must be crazy for buying $800 in parts for my ’02 Diamante. At 137,200 mi, it was still on its original timing belt, spark plugs, wires (Australian Controls brand, so I know they were original), and accessory drive belt.

    Of course, I promptly (and utterly accidentally) dropped a 10mm locking washer into one of the cylinders when removing the intake manifold for the ignition tune-up, didn’t realize it, and started it. So, now, I’ve got a car worth perhaps $5,000 that I bought for $3,250 (dealer auction) into which I have to dump an additional $1000 for a piston and head machining. As long as the car will last until 200,000 mi, I’m happy. I like the car and a Diamante isn’t worth anything, anyway.

    The point being that even before my unintended repair bill, I was spending more on upkeep than the previous (original) owner. And I could easily just abandon the car given the forthcoming huge repair bill, but it’s more than an appliance to me.

  • avatar
    t-truck

    For some of us a car is just the machine that transports us from point A to B, it is not a part of our life or identity.

    A scratch on the car is does not equal a bruise on the face, as long as the car runs good it really doesn’t matter what it looks like, and yes I’ll confess to, a shoe lace bundled up with cardboard keeps the front lights in place on my 18 daily driver after a minor fender bender that was not worth fixing right, the radio has not worked in years and a car wash is a yearly event at best.

    So I would give this owner some slack for the dents, unpainted hood and missing trim. On the other hand there is no excuse for driving unsafe and polluting cars, bald tires and missed oil changes should not happen with any car new or old.

  • avatar

    Good parts car, and I bet those doors will be worth some cash. How many Accord coupes did Honda even make?

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    KalapanaBlack:
    The point being that even before my unintended repair bill, I was spending more on upkeep than the previous (original) owner. And I could easily just abandon the car given the forthcoming huge repair bill, but it’s more than an appliance to me.

    Point well taken. I happen to agree with you, and am quite willing to spend more than my 12-15 yr old car is “worth” on repairs and maintenance so that it remains a nice car. But you and I are exceptions to the rule. What about the guy you eventually sell your Diamante to? At some point, it is going to be 13 yrs old with 270k miles on it and it is going to get neglected by somebody.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Manual tranny swap would be first order of business for that Accord.
    Sort of the opposite end; I hate people who look at a slightly dirty car and say “That’s awful, people don’t take care of their cars anymore.” I usually ask the same accusers when they change their air filter or coolant or serpentine belt or some other engine maintenance item and they look at me blankly.

  • avatar
    jaje

    You can buy a h22 dohc vtec engine with manual transmission for $1200 used normally as the H22a are repressed in price compared to their dohc vtec b series cousins. You can sell off the old F22 motor and transmission to make up part of the cost. It’d make a nice fun and easy to drive track car for a cheap price (h22 powered Accords are pretty quick – and with 4 wheel ind suspension and double wishbone setup…they handle very well).

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Damn…I sold these things when new……..
    Am I getting old or what?
    But I`ll bet I could still give a good ‘walk around’!

  • avatar
    black turbo

    When I see cars in similar condition, I tend to think more about their potential, rather than the negligence of the previous owner. My most recent purchase was a heavily neglected, but not abused, 15 yr old Saab. I bought the car for significantly less than what the car really is worth, and have spent a few hours here and there fixing small things like light bulbs and switches and buffing the oxidized red paint, and without any real work, the car’s value is growing.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Trust me oldyak. With this one there is no walkaround.

  • avatar
    cos999

    My first car was a sweet 1990 Accord Coupe bought Presidents day weekend 1990 for $12988 + tax. 190k miles later (and nothing more than a generator and radiator) I had a minor accident bashing in the right rear quarter panel (not my fault). With rust in the rear wells from winter weather each year, ins company gave me a check for $1250 (500 deductible) and I pocketed the check and traded it in on a 1999 Pathfinder XE (got pathfinder at invoice -3000 rebate/dealer incentive) and got $2000 for it.
    Pathfinder was POS which I got rid of in 2004 after replacing struts 3 TIMES (only 1 covered by warranty and no offroading) at 90,000 miles (HVAC fan also broken). Got a Pilot which is running fine at 115,000 miles today.

  • avatar
    Dangerous Dave

    ridelife –
    I do the same thing when I interview a prospective employee. I walk him to his car at the interviews conclusion. If his car is full of trash and generally uncared for, his resume hits the circular file.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    That’s pretty lame. My cars are immaculate and my housekeeping sucks. That doesn’t tell you anything. My work record is impeccable. For over 20 years. One has nothing to do with the other.

    With that sort of standard my employer would have missed out on the best and most loyal and most productive and honest employees they have had over that same amount of time.

    And the General Manager is the opposite. His car is a mess on the inside. Always. But he’s helped build their business to the point that he is an integral part of the company over the past 20 some odd years and to replace him would be a disaster.

    They’ve had some real neat freaks that stole them blind though, but if that’s your system, by all means……

    Checking Facebook and My Space is a far better gauge of the person you want to have working for you rather than some arbitrary yardstick such as how well they keep their car cleaned.

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