Curbside Musings: 1983 Honda Accord Hatchback – Stealthy & Studious

1983 Honda Accord. Bowmanville, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, April 24, 2021.

One piece of advice I wish I could give my younger self is that having “cool” friends is overrated.  By “cool”, I mean in the image-conscious sense of the word where appearance and social standing are of paramount importance, in that age bracket generally between adolescence and young adulthood.  I’ve written here about some of my experiences growing up and certain challenges I had faced, but in the big picture, many of us had some unique obstacles to overcome that were specific to our own, respective situations.  We may have been on the receiving end of poor treatment from time to time, but the reality is that just as many of us, self included, had made others feel bad with our own actions and words.

What’s done is done and we must give ourselves grace.  This isn’t meant to shirk off personal accountability, but both the good and bad are part of the socialization process and finding our place in the world.  I think of myself as always having had an innate sense of inclusiveness when it comes to others, but there are definitely people in my past (friends, acquaintances, schoolmates, etc.) to whom I wish I could apologize for things I did or said that I’m pretty sure made them feel terrible.  In some cases, it may not have even been an act that I committed, but an omission of an action that could have improved a situation or a missed opportunity to advocate for someone else who was on the receiving end of something negative.

1983 Honda Accord. Bowmanville, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, April 24, 2021.

As I type this, I’m thinking less of high school and more about my college years and living in the dorms.  At some point in the middle of freshman year, I had decided to chuck out much of my clean-cut image with a decidedly alternative way of thinking, being, and personal presentation.  While I’ve always had a decent ability to judge character, there have been times when those skills have faltered and I was more concerned with fitting in with “cool” people than with being genuine and staying true to who I am at my core.  (It often takes just as much effort to look like you don’t care.)  Others who have been less concerned with outward-projecting image have often proven themselves to be the most rewarding to know and to invest in emotionally.

I got along with most of the guys on my dorm floor pretty well, but there always seemed to be a few who were super-smart, kept to themselves, and were more reserved, who I usually didn’t make that much effort to try to get to know.  I regret that.  I understand and sometimes identify with it when people have varying levels of social ease, but who doesn’t want to be invited or included to participate in card games or James Bond movie marathons in the TV room?  I’m not trying to make it sound like I was the key social director, or anything, but I know from my own personal experiences with feeling alienated that sometimes it takes just one person or experience at a pivotal moment to help one start to steer the ship away from a negative self-view and potentially disastrous consequences.  People don’t go postal for no reason.  Feeling unloved is a certain kind of existential torture.

1983 Honda Accord hatchback print ad, as sourced from the internet.

The majority of my alternative- / counterculture-leaning friends were decent people.  In hindsight, I think some of us had bonded initially over our feelings of being outsiders, with the other (sometimes questionable) things we did for recreation being genuinely in pursuit of what we thought was fun at the time.  There were definitely some toxic people in my various social circles who were fun, hip, looked good on the outside, and whom many seemed to worship, but proved themselves not to be good for me or my well-being.  “Substance over style” was something that had to be reinforced within me from life experience.

This ’83 Accord hatchback is here to represent for those who study, like it, are perfectly content in their own company, are totally predictable, reliable, efficient, and do everything dynamically well… and elicit the excitement factor of a pair of rectangular, wire-rimmed eyeglasses from Sears.  These are the folks who, unlike the human equivalent of a flashy, same-year, U.S.-market Ford Escort GT, quietly go on to build strength upon strength and end up ruling the world.  If someone was to show me a picture right now of Bill Gates behind the wheel of an ’83 Accord hatchback like this one, I wouldn’t even so much as blink.

1983 Honda Accord. Bowmanville, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, April 24, 2021.

Paul Niedermeyer has already written a comprehensive article on a similar ’83 Accord that’s a great reference point for objective learning about these cars.  I do understand they were respected on the west coast, and that they were an effective antidote to the general ineptitude of many domestic, small car offerings of the previous decade through the early ’80s.  I grew up in Flint, Michigan, birthplace of General Motors, where drivers of imports were the regular recipients of visual daggers being stared into them, being seen as both treacherous and foolish for purchasing something without the style of, say, a Chevy Cavalier Type 10 hatchback.  That Cavalier, though, was inferior to this Accord in many ways, and though I like the style of the Cavalier three-door relative to other cars in its size class, I also recognize that looks are subjective.

The second-generation Accord was the first Japanese-branded car to be built in the United States, with production of the four-door sedan starting in November of ’82 in Marysville, Ohio.  The ’83 Accord was named to Car And Driver’s very first “Ten Best” list that year.  For ’82 and ’83, the Accord was powered by a 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine with 75 horsepower (which would be increased to 86 horsepower for ’84 with a slight increase in displacement).  A five-speed manual transmission was standard, with a four-speed automatic introduced for ’83 to replace the previous year’s three-speed unit.  Just six model years later, the ’89 Accord would be the best-selling passenger car in the United States.  Take another look at the pictures of this cute-but-terminally-dorky Accord hatchback and let that sink in for a minute.

1983 Honda Accord. Bowmanville, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, April 24, 2021.

I’m thankful for the life I’ve been blessed with, warts and all, but every once in a while I’ll wonder what had happened to some of the more quiet, studious individuals with whom I used to share space in some capacity.  Some of them have gone on to do significant, broadly impactful things.  Being smart and applying oneself and being socially active and adept aren’t mutually exclusive, which isn’t the picture I’m trying to paint here.  It’s just when I had spotted this Accord hatchback a few years ago, several thoughts crossed my mind.  The first was how long it had been since I had seen one of these, let alone in condition this nice.  The other was how unbelievable it seemed that a car with such an understated skin could have gone on to dominate the market only a few years and one generation later.  The ’83 Accord may not have looked cool, but in the end, nothing is cooler than success.

Bowmanville, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, April 24, 2021.