Phil Coconis
by Phil Coconis
bodacious beaters em and road going derelicts em unanimous accord

Periodically, I’ll be featuring some outstanding vehicular examples from the bodacious photo archives, as I have done already in the past (see “LO-LUX”). I wanted to get this one out before the end of the year, so here you go!

Hearing about the outrageously high-mileage original vehicles is one thing—and continues to be the stuff of urban legend—seeing physical proof of one is another matter, entirely. Of all of the well-worn autos I’ve had pass through my shop, I’ve never seen one displaying this kind of mileage, and in this kind of bodaciously original condition.

he first time I was granted the privilege of laying a wrench on this 1989 Honda Accord Lxi Coupe, I had to do a double take of the odometer reading, as I was writing the repair order up. It just didn’t seem to jive with the general condition of the vehicle. While showing signs of definite use, upon closer inspection, it was the kind of use I’d normally have associated with an example displaying one-third the mileage.

Yes, the paint was somewhat “swirly” and dull—if not even in appearance and devoid of impact damage (even on the bumpers, which possessed a notoriously wimpy painted “shell”)—and the interior controls (steering wheel, gearshift and HVAC interface) were worn a little smooth in places. But overall, the unit neither looked nor drove like a motor vehicle that had made the equivalent of a round trip to the moon and change! The customer told me pretty much EVERYTHING was original and undisturbed—including engine and transmission—save for the usual and customary maintenance. I was a bit skeptical about that, but I wasn’t going to dismiss it out of hand, either. People in the know were (and are) aware of the high level of materials and build quality, and fit and finish of Honda products from this period.

It’s doubtful we’ll ever see such examples of this combination again.

To add emphasis to this statement, I’ll relate why this car was in my shop in the first place. It wouldn’t start at the beginning of the day. The engine would spin all right, but it would no fire. Typically on these models, the problem would be something like a failed fuel pump or relay, worn distributor, or ignition switch. It turned out to be none of these.

We had been having some damp weather, but it was sunny and dry the next morning when I went to test it. It fired right up.

I would then typically have a look at the secondary ignition system (especially the spark plug wires—a design concept long since supplanted by coil-on-plug spark delivery systems). I figured that somewhere along the way, someone performing maintenance would have found it necessary to change those spark plug wires.

On most Japanese vehicles, the production date would be printed on the wire itself. I would generally recommend replacement at the ten-year mark, regardless of mileage. I found their performance to be somewhat suspect beyond that point.

These particular leads read 1988, however. Somehow, this set of wires had slipped between the proverbial cracks! They were the original units—well over twenty years old! The customer hadn’t been exaggerating—the car really WAS that original!

With a new set of wires installed, the ol’ Accord ran as good as new.

No joke. And the pop-up headlights (a design exercise whose passing I’ve lamented ever since) still worked, too!

Phil has written features and columns for a number of automotive periodicals and web-based information companies. He has run a successful Auto Repair Business in the past for many years (See “Memoirs of an Independent Repair Shop Owner” on this ttac site). He can be contacted through this very site, or

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  • Thornmark Thornmark on Dec 27, 2012

    "Joe LoCicero purchased “True Blue,” his 1990 Accord LX, from an elderly couple in 1996. At the time, the car had roughly 74,000 miles on it; that’s an average of around 12,000 miles per year. Today, it has 1,002,515.9 miles on the odo—meaning Joe’s averaged in the neighborhood of 58,000 miles per year since. A former Honda mechanic and an inveterate tinkerer, Joe set out to prove that proper maintenance could extend the life of his Accord. After soaring past the 700,000-mile mark, though, Joe figured he just had to go for 1,000,000 miles. He accomplished this extraordinary feat in early 2011. After 15 years, Joe’s Accord has racked up 185 oil changes, 72 tires, 31 transmission fluid changes, 13 sets of front brake pads, and a new muffler. In all that time, Joe never opened the engine, never got in an accident, and was only towed once—when the original fuel pump finally died at 741,000 miles."

  • MightyOne MightyOne on Dec 28, 2012

    That was my first car! 1989 Honda Accord LXi Coupe, 5-speed, black with tan interior. I loved that car. Bought it at 120,000 miles and drove it to 168,000 miles. Only issues were a dead driver's side power window and dead tape deck. Other than those issues, the car never failed me. Day after I bought it I drove from Boston to Rochester, NY in a blizzard to see my girlfriend who was still in school -- 12 hours in a whiteout, only car on the highway, while learning to drive stick. After I got my next car (a '97 Prelude), I garaged it for six months while I was figuring out what to do with it. Got in an accident in the Prelude and had to go back to the Accord while it was repaired. Started up on the first try. Finally lost it when the battery died and I had to move it into the street for my landlord to do some work on the driveway. The city towed it and I couldn't afford the bill at the time. I'll hate that $%#!@& tow driver forever. I have driven faster cars, more luxurious cars, better handling cars, more comfortable cars... But in my opinion, there has never been a better overall car. If I had the opportunity today (and a garage to work on it), I would buy one in an instant. I'd fix it up, keep it running and give it to my daughter as her first car... 14 years from now. :) And yes, the pop-up headlights always worked. Plus there was the wink! There was a button on the dash that opened the headlights and kept them up (so they wouldn't get frozen shut in winter). If you tapped that button really lightly, just one of the lights would open and close quickly. Man, I loved that car.

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that