By on March 23, 2020

1980 Honda Accord in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn rust-prone regions, first-generation Honda Accords oxidized to oblivion well before the 1980s were finished, but elsewhere they held together for decade after decade. I still see the occasional 1977-1981 Accord when I walk the rows of car graveyards in Colorado and California, though nearly all of those cars are hatchbacks.

Here’s a hard-to-find ’80 Accord sedan in Denver.

1980 Honda Accord in Colorado junkyard, rust - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt shows some rust, of the slow-motion sort we get here in High Plains Colorado.

1980 Honda Accord in Colorado junkyard, instrument cluster - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsHonda went to six-digit odometers on American-market cars for the 1982 model year, but we’ll never know the true total on this 1980 model. The pedal pads and seats don’t show the kind of wear you’ll see on a 300,000-mile car, so chances are this car has 110,662 or 210,662 miles on the clock.

1980 Honda Accord in Colorado junkyard, 5-speed emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFive-speed manual transmissions still had sufficient cachet in 1980 that it made sense to put boastful emblems like this one on cars so equipped.

1980 Honda Accord in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 1.75-liter four-cylinder engine seen here made 72 horsepower and had the still-somewhat-revolutionary CVCC system in place. No catalytic converter needed, although you were still supposed to run unleaded gas in this car.

1980 Honda Accord in Colorado junkyard, vacuum diagram - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe vacuum-hose diagram looked intimidating by 1980 standards, but CVCC-equipped Hondas of five years later had the terrifying “Map of the Universe” diagrams, required as emission-control laws became stricter during the decade. Electronic fuel injection did away with the need for CVCC long before the end of the 1980s.

1980 Honda Accord in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAmericans loved the early Accord hatchbacks so much that we can forget the sedans even existed. This car might have been a runner when it arrived in this place, but few want to buy a beat-up 40-year-old Accord when 25-year-old Accords sell for about the same price.

1980 Honda Accord in Colorado junkyard, bumper sticker - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ll bet this car still had 20 years to go when this sticker went on the rear glass.

Dynamic Accord!

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40 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Honda Accord Sedan...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Judging by the wear and tear elsewhere other then the pedals I’m going to say that this probably has 210K miles. A 110K miles Honda is just past broken in, these were pretty good cars during a time that most weren’t

  • avatar
    Lokki

    My dad had an Accord of this generation; a hatchback of course. I remember him saying with a tone of awe “90,000 miles and all I’ve done is change the oil”. I remember it because I was amazed too. In those days, a car was usually up for sale, and cheap too! when it hit 49,000 miles. Now, I’m sure that “only changed the oil” was figurative, meaning the car had only required routine maintenance but even that was unbelievable. Of course the car rusted into orange powder but we were used to mid 70’s Fords rusting through their trunk lids after three years and our Plymouth Volare had gotten free replacement front fenders from Chrysler as part of their infamous rust recall so that wasn’t a disqualifier. At least it ran well, and nothing fell off or failed.

    What? Of course my dad never bought another American car after that Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      In my late teens/early 20’s I bought an 83 Civic 1300FE hatchback. This was around 1988 or 89. It had just under 100k on it. I was also looking at another, more basic 1300 hatchback same color “Avignon blue”, with a 4speed instead of the economy geared 1300FE, more basic, and without A/C, but lower miles. At the time buying a used car pushing 100k was still slightly crazy, but me and my ‘rents rationalized it, somewhat knowing the selling owner and his commute, and figuring the miles were mostly easy highway miles. The a/c never worked well, and it ate a few mufflers, but the car helped land me into adulthood with lots of stories but few mechanical issues, 40+mpg most of the way, and ultimately traded at 205k, and still looking good except for a small patch of rust in the sheet metal under the bumper adjacent to the muffler. A minor fender bender was blessedly masked by a young bodyman just starting shop, who had the luck of finding color matched junkyard body parts. I miss that car terribly, still have dreams involving it, and it is the car against which I still have judged all my subsequent vehicles.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    Personally, I miss the 85-mph speedometer. Most cars aren’t even capable of the speeds their dials indicate these days, and it reduces the usable range of 0-70 mph to the first inch of the needle sweep, making it virtually impossible to tell how close you are to a 25mph, 45mph, or 65mph speed limit at a glance because the whole range is a few millimeters to allow for all those boastful numbers the car will never see. Ok, I’m old, I get it. Rant over. CVCC engine was great!

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Agree on the speedos. A 160 or 180 MPH sweep is just a waste of space.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      This. I think my GMC truck has a 160[!] mph speedo (or it might be 140). Which is kind of ridiculous given that it is electronically governed to, I think, 97 mph. Not that the 420 HP 6.2 liter engine isn’t capable of pushing the truck well into triple digit speeds. Apparently, however, strange and frightening things start happening to the drive shaft once triple digit speeds are attained.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        +3 – The manufacturers definitely have traded some degree of legibility for a seemingly more exciting high number.

        I won’t advocate egregious speeding other than on a really empty, straight road, but there was a fun point in the late ’80s–let’s call it the Dawn of the 3800 Era–when you could get the incongruous combination of a car with decent power AND an 85-mph speedometer. It was fun to see how long/far it took to see the needle sweep back down to 85 as you coasted down from a higher speed.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        My ’95 F-150 had an 85 mph speedometer, with a couple of extra marks without numbers (it was late in ’95 when the 55 mph national speed limit went away), and it was electronically limited to 98 mph (I bumped against it a couple of times in 17 years).

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I seem to recall reading some BS rationale that a speedometer is most accurate at top dead centre, so with freeway speed limits at 70-80 (depending on location) you’d want it to read accurately at that speed.

      I can’t recall all of the nuance of the reasoning, but that was the thrust of it.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        _Definite_ B.S. ~ the 85 MPH speedometer was a federal government mandate .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          @ tankinbeans – Grain of salt as I’m not a racer or track day guy, but I’m guessing what you read was from someone who misunderstood the concept of orienting a race car’s gauges so that the needles’ “all is well” positions are at 12 o’clock.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Agree with most of the above comments praising the vehicle and complaining about speedos that are designed for ‘show’ rather than funtionality.
    1) Honda at that time was light years ahead of most other manufacturers when it came to building a reliable and fairly fun vehicle. Much of the ‘Honda’ legacy belongs to their vehicles from this and the following generation.
    2) The major problems with Hondas of those eras were a) rust and b) the lack of manufacturer’s installed A/C. A/C was a dealer option.
    3) Love the colour of that interior. And the cloth Honda used on their seats in the 1980s was both good looking and long wearing.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    As others have mentioned the CVCC engine was very efficient with gasoline in its time. The 3rd valve that made the CVCC work could get rotated in the cylinder head. Then when spark plug was installed the gap would be closed leading to 3 cylinder running. Was not difficult to install the CVCC chamber properly.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The “TIRE ROTATION” light under the speedometer seems redundant – I mean, if the speedometer is registering over zero, the tires are rotating, right?

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    I used to only want white or black. But I love the Orange Crush of my current Jeep, and its visibility seems to be pretty good.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Had a 1978 Accord hatchback with, if memory serves, a 5-speed. Unlike just about all carbureted engines of the time, this one started and ran smoothly in all kinds of temperature/weather conditions. It is amazing to think that that car was about the same size as today’s Honda Fit.

    It was “arrest me” red, and the paint oxidized pretty heavily. It was our “family car” shared by me and my wife until 1980 when we went “upscale” and bought an Audi 5000 diesel. The Audi was certainly more comfortable and accommodated 4 passengers better, but otherwise was a total repair queen. The Accord soldiered on as our second car until 1984, when we traded on a new Jeep Wagoneer. That was probably a mistake, as we somehow continued on with the hugely underpowered and unreliable Audi until 1987. Should have traded it in 1984 and kept the Accord.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “The vacuum-hose diagram looked intimidating by 1980 standards, but CVCC-equipped Hondas of five years later had the terrifying “Map of the Universe” diagrams,”

    Japanese companies can be as stubborn and resistant to change as anyone else. They *should* have moved to TBI or PFI when the rest of the industry started. I can’t imagine how much it cost them having to add more and more of that rat’s nest of vacuum control systems just to limp along with CVCC for a couple more years. IIRC by ’82 or ’83 they had to go with a catalyst anyway.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I will never forget how absolutely gobsmacked I was when I first drove one of these with the CVCC engine. I owned a 1980 Pinto with the 2.3L Lima engine–which was coarse and agricultural on its best days. The CVCC was so smooth, quiet…

    It was at that moment in the mid 1980s the I first understood that US auto manufacturing was very, very far behind what Honda had achieved. There was no US 4 cylinder engine that could compare with this gem. It was watershed moment for me.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    My brother and I shared this same ’80 Accord . Thhis was in ’93. Tan over beige. We bought ours from an older widow , it had only 82k miles. We both learned how to drive a stick in this car. We didn’t know how fortunate we were to learn in an Accord. What a smooth transmission. Better than the MK1 GTI I eventually purchased as my own.
    Ours had looked well taken care of, but remarkably , spun a bearing at <110k miles. Infrequent oil changes by previous owner was likely the cause. My dads mechanic found a used motor to swap but could never get the carb tuned right.Often it would stall mid corner at low 2nd gear speeds. My brother found a low mile Corolloa FX16 5 speed(powered by the MR2's 16v engine) to take to college, silver over gray interior with 14 inch steel wheels. It was a stealth rocket at the time and was a blast to drive.
    It was remarkable how well built that Accord was. The switch gear, seats, etc. was miles ahead of even late 80s USDM/non Honda JDM offerings.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The auto center manager where I worked all through college was a stern, uptight business type who rarely smiled and never played around, sharply pressed at all times, and a task master to boot. He was also deeply revered and respected by all of the employees because of his work ethic, willingness to compliment and help as needed, and always fair treatment of the customer.

    That said, his 1980 Accord 4 door was the pride of his life when he got it, although he was a little disappointed that he felt he could no longer buy domestic brands because of shoddy mechanics and workmanship. Every 10 years, like clockwork, he bought a new Accord… in 1990, 2000, and 2010. Sadly he passed away in 2015…he was a good man and a great boss.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Nice story, Dave, guys like that are pretty rare these days

    • 0 avatar
      randyinrocklin

      I know I’m late to the thread but…..Amen to Dave and Lie2me. A good story! I inherited a 1985 Accord after my dad passed away a month after he purchased it.
      I drove it for 285k miles with nary a major problem other than timing belt, water pump replacement regularly @ 60k miles you’re good.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I love that “slow motion rust” photo because it reminds me of when I shipped a car from Colorado to Hawaii that had some of that kind of rust. It did not take long for the rust to turn a far brighter angrier orange in the humid salt air. It changed back when I brought it back too.

  • avatar
    ccxianson

    I bought one of these in 1989 for the then staggering sum of $3250. It was a repo at our credit union, but it was a creampuff with only 60K on it. My first car loan at the age of 20. Four door sedan, beige with tan interior and 5 speed. It replaced a ’74 Mustang II, and this Honda was an order of magnitude better than that pile. I was amazed at how refined this car was, having gone from one American jalopy to another as a teenager. Being in the Pacific Northwest I never had to deal with rust. This car was an absolute tank. I abused it. I don’t remember changing the oil. Maybe I did a couple of times. I took it off road. I put a ton of miles on it, I don’t remember how many, but it never gave an ounce of trouble. Stellar gas mileage. I sold it three years later for $2500. You didn’t see a lot of the sedans. I would have rather had a hatchback. The only car I’ve had that was as reliable was a ’98 Accord coupe that I sold at 180K, again with no problems.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I’ve always looked at these CVCC vacuum diagrams and thought with all of the engineering they did on that, wouldn’t it have been easier just to design an effective Catalytic Converter set up?

    • 0 avatar
      pwrwrench

      Re. CVCC vacuum hose monster. Toyota and others had similar nests of hoses in the 1980s and Toyotas had Cat convertors. The complexity came from using carburetors during a time of emission regs. When FI replaced the carbs the number of vacuum hoses, valves, actuators, etc was dramatically reduced.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I remember the first time I ever drove a 5 speed CVCC coupe ~ wow, it was light, had tight handling and was *so* much fun to drive .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      Although the Accord was really more of a 2-Door Hatchback Sedan, than a Sports Coupe, car magazines of the time usually compared it to the Toyota Celica and the Volkswagen Scirocco. Later Honda would introduce the Prelude to complete more directly with Celica and Scirocco.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Yes, just so , sedans .

        They were *so* small, smaller than the VW Beetles I was making my daily break upon .

        Better built too (gnashing of teeth) .

        They had only one serious fault in the South West : failure to change the oil meant the engine would give up around 60,000 miles so I began to make a fairly good bit of $ by buying dead ones, replacing the engines with low mileage domestic market take outs and selling them on .

        For $75 extra I could get the 5 speed tranny attached, almost all sold in California were total strippers, four speeds .

        I shoulda kept one and prolly should have switched to being an Indie Honda shop but I was too young and proud or some such foolishness .

        I never drove one farther than around town but they flew in traffic, were comfy and easy to drive quickly where the fun really lies .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          pwrwrench

          Saw many early Honda 4 motors have a rod bearing failure. Often this lead to the rod breaking and exiting the side of the engine block. Of course this rendered the engine non-rebuildable. Those early 80s Civi-Cords tended to have a high oil temp and without more frequent service the oil would not lubricate properly. Later cars had OEM oil coolers. In cooler climates this was not as much of a problem as the SW USA.
          A friend needed to get this fixed on his Honda and had to have a used engine shipped from Salt Lake City to Socal as all the local scrap yards either had no Honda engines or ones with holes in the side.

  • avatar
    B&B? PFFFFTHAHAHA

    Wiped the floor with any garbage American car made at the time, which was all of them. Nothing else came close in its class.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    I am amazed at the condition this car is in at 40 years old. My first car was a ’78 Accord hatchback. I bought it in ’84 – when it was six years old. Even by then it was a porous as lace. I couldn’t open both doors at once as the car would sag in the middle because all the structure had rotted away. People couldn’t ride in the back seat if the pavement was wet because the rear fender liners were full of holes and road grime would spray into the back seat.

    I guess the difference is I was in Atlantic Canada surrounded by salt air and this car had the luck of the draw to be in an arid environment.

    Rust and all, it was a great car.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    These cars were sensational when they were new, even though Honda hadn’t figured out North American climate or road conditions yet. They got steadily better at that over the next few years and the result was the third-generation Accord, which in LXi form was literally a decade ahead of its competition in refinement. I always love remembering how great Honda was in its heyday.

    Speaking of which, my final GS wheel for my Legend arrived today! Once tire shops can open again, it’ll be time to get some decent tires mounted on these wheels and get them on the car. The Legend GS had one of the best car/wheel combinations ever and I’m super stoked about it.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      _SO_ true ! .

      You had to experience British and other odd ball imported cars in the 1950’s and 1960’s to grasp just how badly some manufacturers failed to adapt to the American market .

      -Nate

      “These cars were sensational when they were new, even though Honda hadn’t figured out North American climate or road conditions yet”

  • avatar
    cprescott

    It is so sad what has become of Honduh. During the years before 2000, Honda was a remarkable brand. Since then, Honduh has produced nothing but bloated junk that has gotten uglier after each version and so fat that even the new thing called a Civic is larger than that Honda Accord. I marvel at the idiots who think Honduh is Honda. They’ve been conned into buying something that is only a mirage.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    This was the year it first went head to head with the Chevy Citation. It got a fat lip, sales wise, that year, but consumers quickly learned what was what. Today, we still have the Accord (for now anyway) while the Citation has been dead 35 years now.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I remember when these (and the Civic 4-door sedan) came out. Our neighbors across the street had one of these in the same red with red bordello velour.

    The maintenance reminder lights were kinda cool. You can see the three slots under them – you were supposed to insert your key in those, to reset them.

    • 0 avatar
      ccxianson

      Ha! I had forgotten about that. Probably because I ignored mine! It also had the door and trunk open indicators which was pretty deluxe for the time. Also the A pillar antenna that you had to remember to deploy after a car wash. I don’t remember the stock radio because mine came with a cheese-deluxe Schuck’s special AM/FM cassette unit already installed.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Really late comment but I remember my grandma had one of these in the early 1980s. I don’t know what model year but definitely this vintage. One of my uncles, my hippy uncle as it were, had a Civic wagon. I don’t know who got their car first and I wonder if one inspired the other’s purchase.

    Honda has always been stubborn. They did CVCC (a lot of genius and understanding of gasoline combustion that nobody else had) and successfully avoided catalytic converters when most of the competition didn’t yet understand how to build an effective cat that didn’t also incur a 5-10% penalty on engine output. When fuel injection became universal in the American car market in the late 1980s and early 1990s, almost everybody went to closed loop feedback systems that used an oxygen sensor (this is a good thing). Honda used their own “PGM FI” that was Honda marketingspeak for open loop (no oxygen sensor). That design philosophy isn’t superior—it’s actually inferior in a market with challenging emissions standards—but yet again stubborn Honda decided to be different and their own system was competitive and successful. Go figure.

    Anyway, neat cars and the beginning of an era when Honda made a lot of money!

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