Junkyard Find: 1984 Honda Accord Hatchback

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Back in the middle 1980s, demand for the Honda Accord was so strong that American Honda execs grew fat on kickbacks from dealers desperate for inventory and buyers — especially in Honda-crazed California — and you weren’t going to get a new one for list price. Once Accord production started in Ohio, the second-gen 1982-1985 cars were everywhere on the West Coast, in such numbers that you just stopped noticing them.

Then, seemingly overnight, they were gone.

After a decade or three, the head gasket blew, or the interior got intolerably nasty, or the car couldn’t pass a smog check, or the 11th owner had one too many Tricky Dicky Screwdrivers and crunched into the San Mateo Bridge toll plaza.

They’re rare in junkyards now, so I shot this red ’84 when I spotted it in a San Francisco Bay Area yard last winter.

This one barely cracked 100,000 miles, which suggests that it spent many years waiting for a repair that never came.

Those lost years were not spent sheltered in a garage judging by this Bay Area-style rust by the window weather-stripping.

With the CVCC engine, meeting California’s strict exhaust-emissions requirements of the middle 1980s became absurdly difficult. Up until the early 2000s or so, the state used a (relatively) easy-to-pass high/low idle smog check process, but then came in dyno-based tests and letter-of-the-law standards for exhaust gases. Once something broke in that tangle of hoses, sensors, and solenoids, your car wasn’t going to pass cheaply.

Once EFI replaced the CVCC, those problems went away. The surprising thing was how well the 86-horsepower ES2 engine ran with all that Rube Goldberg fuel-delivery complexity.

Yes, just 86 horses moved this car. Curb weight was a mere 2,187 pounds, so it wasn’t quite as slow as that two-digit number might suggest (but it was still pretty slow, especially with the automatic transmission). In fact, this car was more than 300 pounds lighter than the 2016 Honda Fit, with 44 fewer horses under the hood.

There’s a strange lack of U.S.-market Accord ads from this era online. Did American Honda even bother to advertise on television in 1984?

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Laserwizard Laserwizard on May 16, 2016

    I believe the hood Rick Hendrick from NASCAR was one of the dirty Honduh dealers from that era - he was convicted and sent to prison as a felon who later was pardoned by the impeached Williams Jefferson Blythe Clinton. Today's Civic is the size of this Accord. And this Accord was a very good car - it was during this era when Hondas were decent products - which they are no longer even average. And now they are ugly to boot.

  • Dividebytube Dividebytube on May 16, 2016

    Owned a '86 (fuel injected) LXi and an '87 (Carb) - both were bought used and fairly ragged on by the time I got 'em. Interiors were beginning to fall apart, rust under the gas door was popular location, and the HP - at the time - was definitely beginning to fall behind the then current cars. But the Hondas handled nicely and never left me stranded. I didn't, however, become a Honda fan boy.

  • MaintenanceCosts Seems like a good way to combine the worst attributes of a roadster and a body-on-frame truck. But an LS always sounds nice.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I recently saw, in Florida no less an SSR parked in someone’s driveway next to a Cadillac XLR. All that was needed to complete the Lutz era retractable roof trifecta was a Pontiac G6 retractable. I’ve had a soft spot for these an other retro styled vehicles of the era but did Lutz really have to drop the Camaro and Firebird for the SSR halo vehicle?
  • VoGhost I suspect that the people criticizing FSD drive an "ecosport".
  • 28-Cars-Later Lame.
  • Daniel J Might be the cheapest way to get the max power train. Toyota either has a low power low budget hybrid or Uber expensive version. Nothing in-between.