By on October 29, 2020

The Rare Rides series has touched on Acura only once before, in the only Rare Rides Review (to date) of a Honda-owned 2003 Acura CL Type-S.

Today marks the second edition of Acura Time, and we step back to the company’s first-ever midsize coupe. Let’s check out a tidy tan-over-tan Legend from 1989.

Acura had a four-year jump on the Lexus brand which would eventually bury it in sales when it entered the North American market for the 1986 model year. At introduction, there were two models of Acura on offer, which were supplemented in short order to total four body styles. The entry-level models were the coupe and sedan Integras, flanked by the upper-middle class Legend coupe and sedan. Ah, simple lineups! What a time to be alive.

In addition to a first attempt at midsize luxury, the Legend was also the first Honda in production to have a V6 engine. Previously Honda shied away from excesses like power steering, air conditioning, and engines with more than four cylinders. But that skinflint essence of car attitude would not fly in an American offering above the Accord class. Worth a mention, the Legend project was a joint development with Rover, which netted Honda a reliable luxury sedan and Rover a much less reliable luxury sedan with wood and bad electrics. But we’ve covered the 825 before.

The Legend coupe joined its sedan sibling a year after the brand’s debut, in 1987. To compensate would-be buyers for the wait, the first-year coupe featured a larger 2.7-liter V6 engine (161hp) which was exclusive to the two-door for exactly one year. In 1988, sedan Legends also received the larger 2.7. Legend entered the North American market with a 2.5-liter engine that produced 151 horsepower. Two transmissions were on offer in the first generation Legend: a four-speed automatic, and five-speed manual.

The Legend’s first update occurred for 1989, with a visual refresh for the sedan which was not carried over to the coupe. Nonvisual updates were bestowed upon both versions of the Legend and included standard ABS and a memory seat function for the driver. The LS trim in ’89 also featured a standard driver’s airbag, a trip computer, Bose audio, and vehicle monitoring in the dash. Additional visual revisions were made for the first generation Legend’s final model year in 1990, and mostly consisted of tail lamps, some new seats, and body-colored trim. Those changes made it to the sedan and coupe.

The second-generation Legend was ready for 1991, and arrived with a larger engine, more modern styling, and a higher price tag (especially for the coupe). With the second generation Legend two-door, Acura intended to go head-to-head with the Lexus SC 300.

Today’s Legend is a base L trim, with a manual transmission and cloth seats. The seller claims it has no dents but those with functioning eyes will disagree. But hey, “I know what I got,” says he. Yours for $4,000.

[Images: seller]

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32 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1989 Acura Legend Coupe, Luxury With Five Speeds...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Nice car back in the day, but I might like to know more about the LS400 in the background of the first pic. This is showing some wear and tear, but it would probably make a decent winter beater for $4000

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “Acura had a four-year jump on the Lexus brand which would eventually bury it in sales when it entered the North American market for the 1986 model year.”

    There’s some tortured wording. It makes it sound like Lexus entered the market for 1986. Maybe this instead?:

    “When it entered the North American market for the 1986 model year, Acura had a four-year jump on the Lexus brand, which would eventually bury it in sales.”

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Looks like it could use a little PDR (paintless dent repair), and a center cap for the right front alloy. What’s up with the berber carpet as front floor mats? Also, no odometer reading?

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’ve owned two first gen Legends in my life. The first was an 89 L with leather and only 60k (around 1997). Total night and day difference with my previous Malaise era domestics. Sadly, being young and stupid, I totaled it after only two months. The only bad thing I remember was that the automatic had a pretty harsh 1-2 shift. Other than that, the ride, handling and build quality totally flipped me from domestics to imports.

    A few years (circa 1999) and a few cars later, I found myself with an 88 Legend sedan with the cloth interior but a 5 speed this time. I bought it from a BHPH lot and would find out years later that I was owner number 7 (well before Carfax). Still, being older and not as loved as the previous 89, it was still an excellent car. That 5 speed is still one of the best shifting manuals I’ve come across and totally changed the cars performance from the 4 speed auto in the 89. These were the days when automatics were the performance killers everyone thinks they still are today. Where acceleration times could change by seconds, not fractions of them.

    I drove it for a few years and then my Dad drove it for a few years. 155k on the clock when electrical gremlins kept causing the dash and lights to go out. Since he drove mostly at night, that was it.

    This one seems decent enough, with the rash and use you’d expect from a 31 year old car. No apparent “Honda Rot” in the haunches. I’d do 4k if I had room.

    Always wanted a 2nd gen car, but could never make the case for it. Even today, I feel vestiges of the same Honda who built these Legends in my 2020 Odyssey and Ridgeline. I can’t say I felt the same about the Toyota who built my folks 92 Camry or 04 Lexus in the 2017 Sienna we had.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Oh Lordy.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “Ah, simple lineups!”

    Honda in the 80’s was famous for limited build combinations. Many of the options were “Port-Installed”. One of the reasons they did it was because of transit time from Japan (but there are other reasons). Other OEM’s would eventually tighten up their build combinations, but not to this extent.

    (Some popular vehicles in the 80’s had billions or trillions of possible build combinations.)

    • 0 avatar

      Think of all the combinations of Eighty-Eight there were!

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      This still mostly holds true today with Honda. LX is base (as opposed to DX in the day), EX gives you moonroof and some more stuff, EX-L gives you leather and few more things and then whatever after that. (Elite, Touring,etc.) There’s very few stand alone options and many are dealer installed if available at all.

      Compare this to a Pacifica, where finding a moonroof in even the top trim was difficult. Or it would have one desirable option, but not another. Not that Honda isn’t guilty of that either, but not as guilty as others.

      Our EX-L Odyssey (with added rear seat entertainment and navigation lacks nothing truly desirable besides MAYBE the built in vacuum compared to a Touring or Elite van. I didn’t want navigation, but it’s part of the deal.

      • 0 avatar

        Just thinking how VW is pretty streamlined as far as equipment. There’s not really anything you can add on, you just look for the trim you want. Color choice minimal.

      • 0 avatar
        DungBeetle62

        I can vouch for Honda option simplicity. When I bought my 2000 Prelude, it was basically “what color and what transmission.”

        The unrequited lust for the Legend Coupe highlighted in this article actually led to that very purchase once I was to a point where I could be shopping new cars.

      • 0 avatar
        ktm

        I love my 2019 Oydssey EX-L. I picked it up used with 14k on the clock and the previous owner installed an aftermarket entertainment screen. My wife LOVES it on long trips as she will stream to the screen while I chauffer her in luxury to our destination.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      One of my favorite factoids is that in 1972 Ford Motor Co. offered 79 different cars you could buy across three lines not including trucks

  • avatar
    OzCop

    This is a rather rare car and looks to be in decent condition. I have seen much worse going for a lot more. A current odo reading would be nice…

  • avatar
    kkop

    We owned a first gen sedan (bought used) Since this was in Europe, it was simply a Honda Legend. Nice car, with a (for Europe) massive engine. 6(!) cylinders.
    Anyway, our Legend didn’t really live up to Honda’s reputation for quality with several expensive repairs needed over the few years we owned it. We were so sick of sinking money into it, that we traded it on the cheapest car we could find at the time: 1996 Suzuki Alto.

  • avatar
    markf

    My buddy had one of these and I had an ’89 Integra LX Coupe. Both were great cars.
    Base model as base can be, no power anything, 5sp but it had AC. Acura made some fantastic cars back then. I bought that Integra in ’98 for $4200 with 89k miles. I had one small issue in 4 years of ownership, the care was solid. I remember getting in rental Buick (I was always “updraded” with Grandpa cars back then)in the early 2ks and thinking “my 10 year old Acura has a nicer interior.

    I miss that car, it was great to drive and really comfortable.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    A great throwback to An era when vehicles had greenhouses you could actually see out of, and trunklids deep enough to actually load stuff in.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Can attest to the quality of Honda’s ‘velour’ upholstery, manual shifters and suspensions in that era. They combined to help make the Honda ‘reputation’ which still largely endures among consumers.

    Of course back then Honda still considered itself to be primarily a developer and manufacturer of engines.

    As well as the ‘off the shelf’ models offered by Honda, in my family at one time or another we had 3 ‘special editions’ which took the bottom rung and added some popular options from the more ‘upscale’ models.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Nice car .

    My son had an Acura Integra coupe, it was heavily Hot Rodded and once past 8,000 RPM simply flew .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Cicero

    The Legend was nice but it seemed like a halfway effort if Honda’s intent was to crack the premium market. With its midsize profile, front-wheel drive and nothing on offer larger than a V-6, it would never challenge the players in the ritzy end of the market. Honda needed to go all in with a full-size rear-driver with a V-8 (or more) if it was going to be taken seriously.

    While I was a longtime Honda fan and very open to the idea of stepping up to a premium product by Honda, I wasn’t interested in buying what seemed like an Accord at a higher trim level. Today I’m not even sure what Honda considers Acura to be in relation to the market at large, and I don’t give it a second thought when deciding on my next ride.

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    My best friend in high school had one of these. It was 1997-98 and the car had I want to say around 120,000 miles at the time but felt, looked, and according to him, drove like new.

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