Long-Life Car Of A Lifetime: 1994 Acura Legend LS Coupe – Half Million Miler

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(Submitted by Tyson Hugie)   

The drive to 500,000 miles started with an errand of just 3 miles. By age 16 I was already hooked on the open road, so when mom asked me to drive to the convenience store for a gallon of milk, I bolted for the door. “… and you can take my car,” she added with a smile. I screeched to a halt in my Nikes just before getting out the door, turning around suspiciously. “Really?” I confirmed. “Keys are in it,” she said.

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My own hot rod at the time was a hand-me-down 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity Classic. It was the kind of car you’d picture your grandma driving: Cloudy-day gray color, vinyl roof, whitewall tires with wire hubcaps, and velour bench seats front & rear. It was a fine ride and served me well for my first year as a motorist. But mom’s car, well, driving that was something special. Mom had a Sherwood Green Metallic 1993 Acura Legend L Sedan. It was a far cry from my old Chev in terms of amenities. And its 3.2 liter V6 made the car feel like a catapult in comparison to the tired old 2.8 in my Celeb.

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Which is why, on that trip to Red Sands Market in St. George, Utah, I redlined the Legend all the way to the store and redlined it back. It’s probably a good thing mom didn’t see me barreling into the neighborhood practically on two wheels as I took the curve. Hey, I was 16. But that drive ingrained in me a true spirit of driving that I would never forget.  The Legend for so many reasons became my dream car, and it gave me grins every time mom entrusted me with it.

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Despite having already become very active in the Legend online enthusiast community, it took a few years before I had the means to join the ranks of Legend ownership. Meanwhile, I’d upgraded to a Phoenix Red 1989 Honda Prelude Si, outfitted in all manner of high school “flair” (chrome wheels, fog lights, giant Wings West spoiler).

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After high school, I spent a two-year stint as a (car-less) volunteer church service representative, returning when I was 21. My mind had long-since been made up: I wanted–no, needed, a second generation Acura Legend coupe.

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I plunged into diligent searches online for several weeks. Decent Legends were selling for upwards of $10-12k. My heart was set on Milano Red or Granada Black but there was something compelling about the Desert Mist Metallic 6-speed coupe I found on Autotrader in San Jose, California. I followed my heart (but probably not my brain, as I hopped on a plane with $9,500 cash in a Ziploc baggie in my pocket) and took a one-way American flight to the Bay Area to retrieve my new baby.

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The Legend came with all original paperwork including the $41,885 sticker. Eleven years later, I still have that car. March 26, 2014 will be the 11th anniversary of my purchase date. I was 16 when I first drove a Legend. Now I’m 16 years beyond that, and it’s still my favorite car. How in the world did I get so committed to an automobile? It’s a story that’s unraveled over more than a decade of travel.

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My Legend had just 95,000 miles on the odometer when I took delivery. Today, it’s sitting at 528,911. My work commute has usually been light – so don’t even begin that whole “Oh, you must drive a lot for work,” talk. My miles are primarily joyrides. Pure adventure. Sure, I went through the years using the Legend as a daily driver – 3 college degrees, 6 different houses, 4 employers. But on weekends, the road was mine. I took every opportunity to explore this beautiful country from behind the wheel. And the road was filled with memorable drives.

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In the summers, I traveled to every annual National Acura Legend Meet (“NALM”) since the first event in 2005. NALM took me to cities from Las Vegas to Dallas to Morristown, NJ, and plenty of places in between. I began to build a reputation on the Legend forums as “Road Trip King.” And the miles that I put on my Legend weren’t always easy ones.

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I got stuck in a snowbank in winter 2005. I also drove it into Mexico twice. In 2006, my dad and I drove it to Fairbanks, Alaska, then back to the lower 48. In both 2007 and 2008, I road raced the car at triple-digit speeds on a closed highway in northern Nevada at a 100-mile-long event called the Bonneville 100.

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On countless occasions, I took it off-roading, like the time I drove it down a 4×4-worthy, rocky 19-mile dirt road near the Great Salt Lake. In 2009, I competed in an autocross event in Branson, Missouri. I’ve never heard Michelin tires howl quite as much as mine did that day.

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But with each of these trips, the Legend wagged its proverbial tail at any opportunity for adventure. Most of these were well before the days of GPS and smart phones. I would hit the road with a stack of Mapquest printouts, a giant road atlas, and a CD case full of “Jock Jams” mixes. Such a primitive way of travel made for a much more raw road-tripping experience compared to what we have today.

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Maintenance needs for my Legend coupe along the way were predictable. I built a relationship with Acura service advisors at dealerships in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona thanks to my frequent visits to all three states. My oil changes (162 in total) were always performed like clockwork at/near 3,000 miles with 5W30 oil. The Legend has gone through 7 timing belts and water pumps, including its originals. Here are some fast facts I pulled from a detailed Excel spreadsheet which tracks my records back to new.

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First page of Excel maintenance tracking spreadsheet with records back to new

Changed Once:

• Brake master cylinder at 80,000

• A/C system recharge at 203,677

• Vehicle speed sensor at 319,842

• Differential fluid at 345,522

• Fuel pump, main relay at 399,745

• Oxygen sensors at 434,740

• Blower motor at 479,319

• Front upper control arms at 509,030

• Front brake rotors at 516,346

Other Maintenance Stats (Numbers Include Originals to the Car):

• 10 manual transmission fluid changes

• 7 air filters

• 7 timing belts & water pumps

• 6 batteries

• 5 windshields

• 5 fuel filters

• 4 sets of spark plugs

• 4 EGR (engine gas recirculation) valves

• 3 radiators

• 2 rear transmission mounts (72,390 and 279,266 miles)

• 2 alternators (400,392 miles and 506,964 miles)

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The “90K” scheduled services were the most expensive maintenance items I ever had to do, with intervals every 2 years or so. I forever resisted the “mod bug,” despite pressure from fellow enthusiasts who wanted me to alter the car’s appearance or performance. My only indulgence was with wheels. I went through 13 unique sets of wheels and tires, trying everything from 19” Racing Harts to 17” Lexus IS300 wheels.

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There were two key times when I had to make a choice about potentially letting the Legend go. The first was in 2007 when at 299,000 miles, I had a freak encounter with two (!) suicidal deer near Austin, Texas. My battered Legend still got me safely home to Arizona, but State Farm didn’t see the value in replacing the entire front clip on a car that had clearly already been used up from a mileage perspective. I knew better than to let it go. I had the car fixed to factory specs and with new OEM parts, though it cost me dearly out-of-pocket. 100,000 miles later, at 399,745 miles, the original fuel pump died. Miraculously, I was only a mile from my home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Faced with a substantial repair bill, I had to choose whether it was time to finally retire the Legend or put it back on the road. I chose the latter.

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That was the only time my car has ever been on a tow truck. Today, the car isn’t without its share of issues. The power steering pump leaks, the differential seal leaks, and the original clutch is barely hanging on for dear life. But the car fires up reliability just as it always has.

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In March 2011, the Legend had 467,000 miles on it. A few friends had encouraged me to start tracking my progress to 500,000, so I created a WordPress blog called “Drive to Five.” It wasn’t long before Acura headquarters picked up on it and started following along on my journey. A representative reached out to me about potentially celebrating my half-million mile mark at the main office in Torrance, California. “Seriously?” I thought. “That’s awesome they even care!”

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The long-awaited day came on November 4, 2011 when I had strategically orchestrated my drive from Phoenix to LA so that I could turn 500,000 on a red-carpet rug on-site at Acura’s office. The timing was perfect.

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Best of all, Acura liked my enthusiasm for the brand and asked me soon thereafter to be part of a launch campaign for the all-new 2013 ILX model.

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On June 12th , 2012, I was handed the key to a Silver Moon 6-speed 2013 ILX with 16 miles on the odometer. “Let’s see if you can put 500,000 on this one too,” said John Watts from Acura’s Digital Marketing team. And thus an entirely new chapter was started. The ILX, by the way, has over 70,000 miles on it now. Guess that means I’m 14% of the way to yet another finish line in this endless road trip that is my life.

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