After moving to Colorado for a fresh start, both personally and professionally, I figured that should also include a new car. Why? Well, why not? Not that there was anything really wrong with the Sentra that brought me to town, but it was possible that a need for four doors would crop up now and again. So, back into the market I went…
I arrived in Denver in August 1993, and I pretty much started scoping out the local car dealers after I got settled. I had a couple of requirements this time around – 1) 4 doors; 2) stick shift; 3) cheap. While my payment on the Sentra was reasonable, I now had rent, utilities and other living expenses to worry about, so cutting that payment would help. I didn’t want to give up the row-your-own transmission, but as I was turning 30 later in the year, I figure something more, er, “mature” might be in order.
As is the case with things that happened 25+ years ago, I don’t remember a lot about the search itself. Turns out there were more manual transmissions available then than there are now, so finding possible replacements was not that hard. It was the budget that was stretched (gee, where have we heard that before?).
Eventually, I wandered onto a Honda lot and spotted what was probably the last 1993 Accord there. This was the DX trim, which meant no real creature comforts. Burgundy, with the black bumpers that told the world you didn’t (or, couldn’t) spring for the LX trim that had pretty much everything you were looking for. Only sported the left mirror, too. But the test drive blinded me. The 2.2L engine made 125HP, and the transmission was a joy to operate. The dealer made me an offer – to lease. The payment was right, they agreed to add a second mirror, and a stereo, so I signed.
One thing I learned was that California and Colorado approached license plates and registration differently. In CA, the dealer handled all the registration paperwork and interacted with the DMV – it was part of the deal, and you picked your plates up from the dealer. In CO, each county manages their registration and plates, which meant you wrote a separate check to obtain your plates. And, CO has a personal property tax, which meant that the check was bigger than I expected.
The Accord was truly my commuter car. I lived in suburban Denver, and the office was downtown, so I spent 30-40 minutes a day, each way, in the car. No highways, all surface streets, so I had plenty of opportunity to use the transmission. Well, 1st and 2nd gear for the most part. You read about cars that have transmissions that you can guide with a single finger – the Accord was one of them.
As was the case with Hondas of that era, everything worked, everything was logically laid out and easy to use. The sight lines were amazing – for those of you reading this who are used to cars with restricted visibility (i.e. pretty much everything now), you should try and find one of these relics to test drive. Big windows, narrow pillars, great seats.
Having lived exclusively in California and Arizona up to this point, I was blindsided when the weather turned. I remember it was 90+ degrees on Labor Day weekend; a week later, I woke up to snowflakes falling from the sky. The drive to work was much slower than normal, natch. The snow didn’t really stick – the first one of the season rarely does, but I was amazed by how fast the seasons changed.
The four doors came in handy when my mom, sister and son came out for a visit. The Accord had plenty of space for them and their luggage, and the car seat that A needed at the time.
Fall turned to winter, and the Accord started spending a fair amount of time in airport parking lots, as the amount of travel for the new job ramped up. This kept the miles down – I was allowed 15,000 miles per year, per the lease agreement. Home, work, airport; there really wasn’t a lot of time for anything else, though I was able to explore the different parts of the metro Denver area.
I had made plans to fly back to California for Christmas that first year; about a week or two before I left, we had another snow storm. This time, the snow had accumulated on the asphalt. The road out from my apartment was curvy, and empty, and… well, let’s just say my car control under those circumstances wasn’t as good as it needed to be. I spun the car, and took it across the curb at precisely the right angle to bend the left rear wheel and suspension. It was towed to the dealer, where it spent the holidays getting repaired. No body damage, thank goodness, so the total bill (covered by insurance) was minimal. The folks at the dealer put the car back together well; I never noticed any problems with driveability after I got it back.
Soon after, I started dating a lady who had two kids from a previous marriage; one day we were all in the car and the kids were acting up. Mom wasn’t having any luck getting them to calm down, so I turned around to encourage better behavior. Wham! Rear ended the car in front of me at a speed of probably 30-35 MPH. Everyone was fine, thank goodness. This was my first accident with a car equipped with an airbag. The front end was pretty much demolished, but not so much to have it declared a total. The cost to repair it was about $5500; of that total, close to a grand was to replace the airbag and its related components. Again, the repairs were done well and I noticed no mechanical or cosmetic issues when the car was returned to me.
Relationships come and go, and I dated another lady for a time before I met C. C also has two kids from a prior marriage, and this relationship had legs. When I met her, C was driving a 10 year old Ford Tempo with over 90,000 miles on it. Gold, tan interior, stick shift, and on its last legs mechanically. I let her drive the Accord for a bit, since her drive got longer when she took a new job, and I took the Tempo. It started acting up even more, so C made the decision to get a more reliable car. As she was a Ford girl, she ended up leasing a 1997 Ford Escort LX (also with a stick shift). The Escort had AC and cruise, which put it two up on the Accord, and it quickly became the family car, despite it being smaller.
C and I got married in 1997, and we settled into a new routine. Her commute was about 30 minutes, one way, while I continued to commute into downtown, when I wasn’t traveling. That October, one of the biggest fall snowstorms struck the Denver area. I was flying back from the east coast that Friday night. I changed planes in Chicago, and C told me that the snow had just started falling, but it wasn’t too bad, just yet. Between then and the time I landed in Denver, all hell broke loose. I had parked my car on the top level of the parking garage, and everything was the same color – white. Once I dug it out and got in, the traffic was about as bad as I had ever seen it. It took me 4 hours to get home – a trip that would normally take 45 minutes. My wipers froze solid, so I was driving by following the taillights of the cars in front of me. About a mile from home, the last car I was following turned off, and I immediately drove into a snow bank. Fortunately, there were roving bands of teenage boys roaming around in 4×4 pickups, digging folks out. They got to me, eventually, and I finally got home, where the 24” of snow we received snowed us in the entire weekend. The kids had spent the night with friends in the foothills, where they received much more snow – 40”, I think.
The Accord continued to soldier on, though little things started to happen – the left rear window wouldn’t roll down, for example. It never left me stranded, and I always enjoyed the transmission and sporty feel from what was a mundane family sedan. The large trunk came in handy, and I always enjoyed the ergonomics of the dash, the pedals and the gear lever.
Eventually, the lease was coming to an end (as was the lease on the Escort), and decisions had to be made as to what was going to replace them. C woke up one November Saturday morning with a great idea… which I’ll report on in the next installment.
I really miss the “road in your lap” feeling from 90’s Hondas and Acuras. Sight lines are so bad in modern cars, you have to drive an SUV just to be able to see, especially if you are of short stature.
The best Accord? Perhaps, certainly one of my favorites. We did the total base model thing with our RAV4 when we moved to Colorado as well, the trick is to get them in black so all the unpainted stuff (door handles, mirrors, trim, bumpers in your case, just blends in.
Definitely my favourite Accord, which was followed in Europe by two generations of inferior Swindon-built cars.
I love Tom Halters’ “road in your lap” analogy which also applied to the Honda-cloned Rover 213.
I bought a new Civic in 89, a DX 4 door, so pretty much the same thing…but on a smaller scale.
And yes, I too miss a car with a low hoodline, narrow roof pillars, and intuitive controls. (I have a Crown Victoria and whenever I try to adjust the speed of the windshield wipers I ALWAYS get the reverse of the adjustment that I wanted.)
When dealers do ALL the paperwork I almost don’t mind paying the “Doc” Fee. I grew up in a state that still does the paperwork like Colorado did/does, and if you don’t live near the county seat it can be a hassle getting a car on the road.
Since used Accords just like this were the go-to cars for folks of my age in the 1990s and early 2000s, I’d driven quite a few of these that belonged to friends. Although bland, it was hard not to have a tremendous amount of respect for these Hondas from a driveability standpoint. My favorite part: Like you said, the transmission that you can could be guided with a single finger — these were absolutely the best manual transmissions I’ve ever experienced.
And your accident caused by turning around to discipline the kids — wow. I always warn my kids acting up in the back seat can cause an accident, but until now I’ve never known someone who’s actually crashed in such a way. I can absolutely see how that happened.
My dad passed away last New Year’s Eve and left me his 1992 Accord LX. Only 130K and drives like a champ. Mine is that ubiquitous teal from the early 90s with an AT. Gets me back and forth to work, with great visibility. Has to be one of the best cars ever. We also had a ’91 Accord that my daughter drove for over 10 years. She liked it so much she finally upgraded to a 2019 Fit. Long live the 4-Gen Accord!
I havent seen one of those Accords to notice it in a while they have simply vanished or just blended in yet they seemed popular not long ago, they were popular as used imports but not in base trim only the high trim levels attracted the dealers and punters all keen to have as many creature features as possible roll your own windows and row your own gears fell out of favour here long ago to the point where people who can drive a manual are becoming rare never mind the actual cars equipped that way as I found when it took 3 months to find the car I have now though a workmate from France told me they were all like mine when new and automatics were not wanted there, go figure.
I can vouch for Hondas of this vintage being a pleasure to drive. My younger sister had a ‘91 Civic hatchback with the 5-speed stick, and it was a revelation compared to the balky shifter on my ‘84 Cavalier. I also drove a newer manual-equipped Civic about 5 years ago when my wife and I were house-sitting for a friend of hers. They let us use their car while they were away, and though I hadn’t driven a stick in several years, I just got in, gave it a little gas and I drove off with a smile on my face. Great cars. I actually prefer the older Accords over the new ones, and it’s still not unusual to see one here in Ontario.
Limited visibility is the reason my wife and I still drive older cars. I have an 04 Xterra 4 cylinder, manual everything, she has an 02 Forester with 260k. She purchased it new, and still pretty much looks like it. Last week I replaced the transmission from a parts car we bought earlier this year. My father in law offered us his 14 Ford Fusion Hybrid for nearly nothing, but we turned him down. Neither my wife and I like the newer cars where you have to rely on backup cameras and lane assist just to drive the thing! The Fusion has such poor visibility, and from what I hear most cars and SUVs are like that today. I’m glad we have a parts car for hers, now I need to find a donor car for my Xterra as we have no plans to buy another car for a long time.
You could get a new Forester. Big windows all around if not the size in the ’02. Newer cars are far safer both in structure and airbags etc. and in all the electronic aids, not to mention quieter and more comfortable than something 17 years old. Also adaptive cruise control is awesome.
I’d rather not be dead or maimed in a possible collision myself.
Speaking of Hondas, the current (ending and the next one probably not coming to the US) Fit is a fishbowl, and also extremely economical and clever spacewise.
Otherwise they are awful though. I’ve been driving my sister’s and it’s kind of shockingly bad in ride and NVH.
We had a 91 Accord DX 4 door stick that I bought well used for $500 and sold for $850 a year or two later. It had led a hard life but everything worked including the AC, and it was great to drive. Smooth shifting and excellent outward visibility.
We also had a 92 Civic DX that we bought new. The article reminded me that when we would travel from WI to Denver the Civic would start poorly once we were in Denver. Honda stated it was due to altitude change and that I should disconnect the battery for a minute when we got into Denver to “reset the computer”. Worked like a charm.
Late 80’s/Early 90’s were pretty much Peak Honda (so long as you chose a manual – AT’s had problems). My 86 Civic Si hatchback is still the best car I’ve ever owned.
Hondas needed snows in winter, though. The Michelins I got with my Civic lasted 60k but were awful in snow – way too hard a composition. Snow tires transformed it into a winter bomber.
My oldest son, a retail manager on the other side of Pittsburgh from me, owns one. A gold ’93 SE.
Well, actually, it’s at my place now. Bad axle and possibly a driver’s side lower ball joint.
While the undercarriage remains amazingly solid, the Honda Rust has caught up with both rear wheelwells, it’s bumped into other vehicles and obstacles on BOTH ends, leaving nominal yet actual damage, the gas tank leaks and it eats rear brakes since the right rear caliper bracket’s pretty much frozen in place and I don’t have the torches to just cut it off and start over…so that rotor’s pretty much chewed up.
And did I mention the electrical issues? Probably a bad ground, IF I took time to look. But with everything else it needs, is it worth the time?
You have to be pretty fluent in Honda to work on it, it’s quite quirky…but in a way that also makes mechanical sense. I can understand why the engineers did it that way.
There’s a solidity about the way this car drives, that’s absolutely missing from the brand-new 2019 Nissan Altima my youngest son had as a loaner a few weeks ago, when a deer decided it wanted to mate with his 2014 Accord…which, honestly, compared to his older sibling’s ’93, well, numb is a good way to describe it.
Not as bad as the Altima – which actually felt like a new ’85 Celebrity, only with a better interior – but still numb. More numb that the 2011 Accord he traded for the ’14.
While that ’93, for the eight years and 150k miles my oldest son’s put on it, has been anything but numb. In fact, it’s a study on why America Fell In Love With Honda, now with 228,000 total miles.
Almost the 240,000 showing on my 2002 Tahoe’s odometer.
So options are being weighed, and there are many. My youngest son’s pretty mechanically inclined and has the network of friends around him that he can scope out and find the right ride. So far, he’s done quite well.
But my oldest son has different skill sets and different financial obligations including college loans. This conversation will probably end with Mom and I helping him find something he can afford and fronting him the money, which he’ll pay back as he can, just as he did with the Honda.
We can only hope the next whatever it is, is anywhere near as durable.
I worked at a car wash and detail center out of high school, just as this generation of Accord was introduced for the 1991 model year. I recall seeing tens of dozens of these roll through that center between 1991 and 1992 when I worked there. (I got a more respectable, grown up job in May of 1992 at a commercial cabinet manufacturer.) Even though by that time, the seeds of Panther love had been sown into my brain in the form of my Medium Red Glow 1982 LTD Crown Victoria, I was amazed (and surprised) at the admiration I had of these Accords. Their interiors alone would put anything from GM to shame. They had an almost German level of quality about them. I never really got to drive any of them at length, save for a few feet at a time, but I was always impressed with how the switch gear felt, the action of the shift lever, be it manual or auto, and the feeling of the steering. And the quiet–as quiet as my vaunted and beloved LTD.
But the admiration of these was never enough to want one personally. Even though, I was quite intrigued by the wagon version that debuted in the 1992 model year, I believe. One of the nicest wagons on the road at the time, IMHO.
Had to put my poor, worn out Mercedes to pasture a while back. Thought I’d get a Toyota with a smaller engine and better fuel economy. Didn’t happen. I broke all the rules when this 2009 Honda Accord came on the market at a price that was way below it’s value. With 100k on the clock and some dodgy paint; everything worked and my garage confirmed that it was otherwise a good car. I’ve done some 3K now and am thrilled with it. Parking is a challenge as it’s impossible to see any of its’ corners but otherwise I feel like a king of the road driving it. I’ve had to replace both license plate bulbs, but that’s it. This will be my second Accord and has confirmed to me that the Japanese still build cars to a high standard and not to a price. I never got any owners manual with it and wondering if this is the EX or LX model. Anyone out there who can help with this puzzle?