COAL: 1990 Honda Accord LX – Sublime Perfection

With the Buick gone, I spent the summer riding my Seca 650, which was a very fine bike with a particularly nice exhaust note. However, riding season on the Wet Coast is not very long, and I started thinking warm, dry, car again. I had never really forgiven myself for the Jetta debacle; I really should have bought an Accord instead. This time I resolved I would, and keep it for a while. I reasoned that a good car would have reasonable depreciation and give me a few years with no wrenching. Hence  my purchase of a new 1990 Honda Accord four-door sedan, a Canadian LX model.

Few cars I could ever write about would earn this title of “perfection,” but in the entire time I had my 1990 Honda Accord, there was not a single malfunction. This was quite breath of fresh air after the Jetta experience and perhaps needs some explanation. Why in Buddha’s name would someone who was around good, cheap cars all the time spring for a new Honda? This car was anything but cheap; it retailed in Canada in the neighborhood of $15,000, and that was for a total stripper.

At the time, I was totally immersed in Detroit Sled-dom, but when I drove home, I wanted something different. That explains the Jetta; I wanted a sporty yet practical ride that would last a long time. I know that many readers might laugh when I say, “sporty” and “Accord” in the same sentence, but herein lies the magical blend that Honda brewed up for this generation Accord.

The Canada-spec 1990 Accord LX was the last one made in Japan and was unique to our market. It had no a/c, power anything, and a five speed manual transmission. Weighing some 2700, and with no power-consuming equipment, this Accord was downright spirited.  The great part was the Accord returned excellent fuel consumption; no matter how hard it was flogged, it always returned an honest 8.5 L/100 km in the city, and on the highway it was often below 7.0.

The Accord was not a car that engendered instant emotions; it fact, if you drove it a couple of times, you could come away rather unimpressed. It didn’t really do anything exceptionally well, but after a time it grew on you. For example, the quality of the blue velour interior was simply top rate. The fit and finish were impeccable. The clutch and shifter were among the best I have ever used. The trunk as large, useful and well lined. The back seat was large enough for full sized adults. The motor had that sweet Honda sound. This car was one of the few cars I have ever owned that I enjoyed driving more and more as time went on. It was a supremely competent automobile.

What else is there to say about a car that is so intrinsically good as this? Have a look at the photos of the one featured here; this is a twenty-two year old car. The interior is as good as new, and the body is in excellent condition. This one now has 250,000 km on it, and according to the owner (no pun intended) has only had regular maintenance since new. There are loads of this generation of Accord on the streets of Vancouver, and even quite a few of the previous generation. I don’t see many VW products of this era, and essentially no American cars at all. This says volumes, since at at time that a Tempo could be had for $8995 with automatic and a/c, whereas a comparably equipped Accord was selling for double that money. Seems it was a good buy even at that money, given the number I still see around.

I would love to tell some interesting story about my Accord, but I don’t have any. It just always ran and drove flawlessly, sipped the fuel, was very comfortable, and always started. Mine was white just like the photo car, and it always kind of reminded me of a refrigerator, something that you used when you needed it and forgot about when you didn’t. I bought the car in late 1989 and kept it until mid-1994. This was a very busy time in my life and it was nice not to have to drive a GM sled all the time. We took it all over the west coast of North America, and because of the white paint, there were few occasions that the a/c was missed. It hustled and scooted with the best cars I have ever driven. It was a really good car but one that I never got excited about.

In the spring of 1994, I made a big decision: to leave the family business. I had spent six years in university and earned two degrees. Quite frankly, I was sick of wrenching on other people’s cars, while taking crap and abuse from their owners. I had always wanted to work and travel overseas so we made the plunge. I sold everything and prepared to move away. The Accord went to a good home; my sister had just had a disaster with a loaded GM Astro Van and was eager to get a good car. The Accord had 110,000 km on it and ran like new. I sold it to her for an even $10,000, which was $5000 less than I had paid for it four and a half years earlier. She drove it for another six years, when it was passed down to her oldest daughter. Finally, it was passed down to two more kids when it was totaled in an accident in 2008. That Accord had lasted eighteen years, eight of them at the hands of teenagers. It had almost 400,000 km on it, and had only had minor work done in the whole time.

Hondas always generate strong opinions in people. I have had three Honda cars and two Honda motorcycles and all of them have impressed me as well engineered machines. However, no matter what you say about them, or your own record of service with them, you’ll always get people slamming them. I often hear things like, “Well, my aunt’s Honda went through drive shafts like candy!” In my garage experience we did indeed do such jobs on Honda cars, but only at very high mileage, the kind that a GM car of the era would not likely attain. For the most part, they are really fine cars that drive very well; that’s the reason I still drive a Honda today.