Japanese car makers had spent the 1970s gaining market share primarily at the low-end of the U.S. market, unleashing an onslaught of high quality, well-priced, economy-oriented products—in contrast, their larger, more expensive products were relatively slow sellers. However, by the 1980s, the leading Japanese brands had more effectively set their sights upmarket, with an increasing array of attractive, luxurious and powerful offerings targeting affluent buyers. Brands like Buick, which had been immune to the first waves of the Japanese small car invasion, were suddenly in the crosshairs. In Consumer Guide Auto Test ’87, the editors evaluated key players in the growing crop of premium Japanese cars: the Acura Legend, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Cressida. How would these “upper-middle” interlopers be received by pragmatic testers in suburban Chicago?
It was a critical question, since the “upper-middle” segment (akin to “Near Luxury” today) was a sizable and profitable slice of the U.S. car market. The American brand that best embodied the segment was arguably Buick, which had for decades combined upmarket attributes and pricing with a premium, low-key image. For example, in the 1960s, the top-of-the-line Electra series was positioned as a well-balanced flagship and a nicely-equipped 1966 Electra 225 Custom 4-door Hardtop like the one pictured would have cost around $5,800 ($44,300 adjusted), which offered plenty of “quiet” prestige but effectively undercut the prices of cars like Lincoln and Cadillac that were positioned in the flashier “Luxury” category.
Importantly, Buicks were not always “old people’s” cars either. While today we think of typical Buick owners as being Ma and Pa Kettle out to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary at Denny’s (an image reinforced by Buick’s current advertising: “that can’t be a Buick, it is being driven by stylish younger people!”), during the brand’s heyday it was a “go to” choice for upwardly mobile professionals. Since Buicks weren’t cheap, the buyers were typically a bit older—with many falling right in the thirty-something to fifty-something sweet spot for affluent car buyers. A rich and large target, to say the least, and one that would grow significantly in the 1980s as Baby Boomers entered their prime earning and spending years.
The Japanese Big Three (Honda, Nissan and Toyota) were quite focused on the needs of the evolving American car market, as they well understood the profit potential of migrating into the upmarket territory where brands like Buick had historically reigned supreme. Unlike GM, which tried to graft fussy, formal interior and exterior styling cues from the 1970s onto smaller products in the 1980s, the Japanese discerned that tastes had changed and European brands like Audi were setting the style standards. The “International” look was “in” for the 1980s, with clean, purposeful lines and minimal ornamentation inside and out. Cleverly, the Japanese also recognized that Americans liked a little cushiness with their “International” style, so no need to mimic the austerity of the German interiors—rather the plan was to offer a fresh version of plush, American-style comfort.
Honda aggressively moved upmarket with the launch of the Acura division in the U.S. for 1986. While the smaller Integra went after younger buyers seeking a premium sporty small car, the flagship Legend was an expression of traditional Buick values updated for the 1980s: quiet, confident, luxurious and balanced—a bit like the “Tuned Car” that Buick was serving up in 1966….
The Legend offered more than advertising hyperbole. The testers at Consumer Guide awarded the new Legend “Best Buy” status in the Auto Test 1987 issue, along with an honest assessment of the car’s many strengths (and relatively few weaknesses).
Unfortunately for GM, Consumer Guide did not even view the Legend (or the Maxima or Cressida) as an alternative to any Buick—the competitive set listed was primarily imports along with certain Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler (FWD New Yorker!) models. For these shoppers, the Legend offered a smooth, refined 2.5 liter 24-valve OHC V6, nimble handling and a compliant ride. The interior was roomy, comfortable and featured excellent ergonomics, plus the car was assembled to Honda’s typically high standards. Granted, some felt the Legend looked anonymous and a bit like a jumbo Accord, but for buyers seeking “quiet” luxury at a premium but fair price ($21,173–$46,238 adjusted), the Legend was hard to beat. Buyers agreed, as Acura sold 54,713 Legends for 1987. Plus, in its first full year on the market, with 109,470 units sold, the Acura brand grabbed a 1.2% share of the total U.S. car market, a pretty impressive result for an upstart with only about 150 dealers in America at the time.
While Honda moved upmarket with a new division in the mid-1980s, Nissan had been selling larger-sized, upscale Datsun/Nissan products in the U.S. since the arrival of the 810 series in 1977. The Maxima name took over for 1982, while the car itself was redesigned and switched to front-wheel-drive for 1985. The square-edged European-style look was given a slight facelift for 1987. Nissan positioned the Maxima as both a “luxury” model (GXE)…
… and a “sporty” model (SE). Both were powered by the same 3.0 Liter OHC V6 found on the 300ZX sportscar—a point Nissan was proud to highlight in an attempt to lure upscale customers with performance aspirations. In keeping with that desired target, Consumer Guide reviewed an SE model with a 5-speed manual.
CG loved the performance of the potent V6, and praised the Maxima’s responsiveness and sporty handling. Compliments were also given to the Maxima’s attractive interior, though roominess was seen as bit tight. CG was skeptical of many of the electronic gizmos that Nissan offered on its flagship sedan, but they undoubtedly provided owners with bragging rights on having the “latest and greatest” technology. Build quality was generally found to be very good (though the test car had a number of rattles) and the pricing was aggressive: $16,499 ($36,031 adjusted) brought home a manual-shift Maxima SE. This was good value for a loaded sporty sedan, and that market was “hot” in 1987.
Even Buick tried—and failed—to attract these buyers with performance aspirations using T-Types and Touring Packages. But of course, these sorts of cars weren’t central to Buick’s image. Cars like the flagship Park Avenue sedan still were.
Upright and conservative, the Park Avenue boasted plenty of chrome, opera lights, “loose pillow”-look seats and gobs of fake wood trim. Close your eyes and imagine it’s 1977…. Buick did at least nod toward more modern attributes, touting benefits like electronic sensors and optional Anti-lock Brakes. But the biggest emphasis was on quality—in Buick’s case, they claimed that while “reliability starts at the factory,” it “continues at the dealer,” and then boasted that the buyer got the be the “final inspector” (nothing better than finding flaws on your new car). Hardly reassuring…
In contrast, Toyota had built its American reputation on delivering high quality products, and they chose to let the customers, not the advertising copywriters, sing the brand’s praises. Hence, Toyota used JD Power survey data to demonstrate that the Cressida was “the most trouble free luxury car you can own.” Who would buyers believe: the maker of the disgraced X-Cars and the dastardly Diesel V8, or the actual owners of some of the best-built, most trouble-free cars in the world?
Consumer Guide had high praise for the Cressida, with kudos for the smooth and potent 2.8 Liter DOHC Inline-6 (from the Supra) and the comfortable, well-controlled ride. Inside, testers appreciated the easy-to-use controls and good driving position, though they found fault with interior width, noting that the Cressida really wasn’t wide enough for three people in the back seat. The harshest criticism was leveled at the motorized shoulder belts, an inferior solution to passive restraint requirements. With Toyota being Toyota, workmanship was exemplary. The test car with optional leather stickered for $20,200 ($44,113 adjusted) and was seen as offering good value compared to European luxury cars (though not the Nissan Maxima).
The Japanese, however, were just warming up. For the 1990 model year, Toyota’s luxury Lexus division and Nissan’s luxury/sport Infiniti division were introduced in the U.S. market, sending shockwaves through the industry and significantly impacting both European and American makers. One of the brands that was hardest hit by the upscale Japanese onslaught was Buick, which had formerly been known for providing exactly the sort of quietly competent, modern, well-priced, upscale cars for affluent buyers that the Japanese were now conquering.
Within five years of the brand’s launch, Lexus was enjoying strong sales and a great reputation. Even the entry-level ES300 was a star: with a starting price of $30,600 ($50,827 adjusted) it was the most popular and affordable Lexus for 1994. Just as Buick had done years before, Lexus marketed its brand as smart luxury car choice for buyers who spent their money wisely on top products.
As for Buick itself in 1994? If you wanted 4-door that was comparably-sized to the Lexus ES300, well, hmmm, there was the Century sedan, entering its 14th year of production. Hey, it was only priced at $16,695 ($27,730 adjusted). Talk about value! No wonder Ma and Pa Kettle came running! Or for around the same price as the Lexus ES300, you could have gotten Buick’s flagship sedan—the Park Avenue Ultra—for $31,699 ($52,652 adjusted), a thirsty, super-sized, supercharged pushrod V6 front-wheel-drive cruiser with pillow-tufted seats and lots of fake wood trim. Not exactly the image statement desired by most upwardly mobile professionals in the 1990s…
Needless to say, evident by 1987 and confirmed by 1994, that “When better automobiles are built, Japanese brands (not Buick) will build them.”
I liked the 87 maxima most. I think that body style came out in 83. Was stunning to me back then. The interiors of Nissan and Toyota at that time were incredible too. Not a fan of Nissan quality today, but back then they were likely all equal (Japanese brands).
Rick, I had the opposite reaction. The same one I have today. I found the Maxima to have zero appeal in the style department because there seemed to have been no attempt to “style” anything.
No disrespect or trying to be antagonistic, but what about the Maxima hit a nerve with you ? And caused the reverse for me ?
I find the old Volvos from the 70s attractive, but can’t see the same in the Maxima.
That was my opinion in 1983 as a 13 yo kid. Going from the b210 and 510 and 810 this was an impressive change back then. Didn’t hurt that I was a zx fan as well. It was an impressive looking car when it was new in 83 – 84 model year. Flush lights in 87 freshened it up but by 87 it was aging.
Introduced for MY1985. The reason it looked “dated” in 1987 was that the conservative styling looked very similar to the 1981-1984, despite the car being all-new and switching to FWD and a V6 for 1985.
I’ve owned an 86 Cressida and now own an 87 Maxima wagon. I do very much enjoy the Maxima, especially the looks but it is far behind the Cressida in quality of materials and design. The Cressida’s interior is premium feeling (for 1980s) while the Maxima has too many cheap feeling, poorly laid out switches that don’t feel so much more premium than the 210/Sentra.
Ah! The Cressida. We had a greyish blue one for about two years and a white for several months. I learned to drive on both, and fell in love with their handling. Even in the early 2000’s we were getting compliments about the cars from neighbors and strangers. Still wish we kept one, although both were burning a lot of oil by the time we got rid of them.
When I lived in Memphis in the late 90s-early 00s, I saw many (slightly) older folks move from Buicks into Avalons.
I’m not sure many folks moved from Buicks to Cressidas, I think during the Cressida’s heyday buyers came from the existing Toyota customer base. And the same was probably true for the Maxima (to a lesser extent), and the Legend.
What strikes me looking at these various ads is that in profile, nearly all the cars pictured looked very similar. The crummy quality of GM (and Ford and Chrysler) cars must have been the strongest reason for buyers to trade in their domestic branded cars for similarly priced Japanese and German sedans.
It’s tough to say how much conquesting of Buick (and/or other “upper middle” domestic brands) the Legend/Maxima/Cressida were able to do. The only one where I could find sales stats was for the Legend, and I do think that impressive number had to have come in part from some people switching out of domestics. Anecdotally, on the block in New Orleans where I grew up, one family traded a Riviera for a Legend, and another traded a Regal for a Cressida–both would have been in their late-40s at the time, and had not previously owned an import.
I think the big issue for Buick was that they lost their hold on the upscale 40-something crowd that had been their core base. I agree that the conquesting the Japanese brands did in the 1970s, where buyers fell in love with Accords and 510s and Corollas, paid off down the road. As these customers aged, the Japanese served-up nicer, bigger, fancier products to match their growing aspirations and pocketbooks (just as Buick had done for Chevy customers in days gone by…). So affluent middle-aged (and younger) customers increasingly went for upscale imports, while Buick couldn’t/wouldn’t refresh its image and became an “old person’s” car and aged right along with the domestic die-hards in its core demographic.
I also agree that quality was a major reason for domestic defectors in the 1980s–the reputation of the U.S. makers, most especially GM, had been so badly damaged that many upscale buyers weren’t willing to take the risk. That perception was reinforced in a vicious quality feedback loop: loyal buyers like my parents, who did stick with premium domestics in the late 1980s (Buick, Cadillac in our case) and then had to deal with shockingly bad lemons, felt stupid and duped. There’s no faster way to end brand loyalty…
Yes, by the late 80s those in upper middle age had been hearing about superior Japanese quality for 15 or 20 years. And by then you did not have to make a trade-off into a little penalty box of a car in order to get the benefits of that high quality. By that time an attitude was taking hold that you were smart if you spent your money on a Japanese car and were a little retrograde for buying domestic. I knew several life-long buyers of American cars who switched to Japanese during the 80s and never went back.
Yes at a lower scale level my GM to his boot laces father took his redundancy package 87 VL 5 speed Commodore and swapped it straight across for a ex demo Toyota and never looked back, one more Toyota this time an automatic and that was it till he died.
My grandfather was in his 60s when he replaced a 1982 Buick Regal (the last of a long line of Buicks and Oldsmobiles) with a new 1985 Maxima.
Yes, those Japanese cars were priced very strongly in the late 80s, making the American cars real bargains in comparison. Of course, people paid those high prices for the (real or perceived) superiority of Japanese wheels. And they really did find a sweet spot between modern, European-inspired styling and american comfort that sold a lot of cars here.
As for that early 90s Park Avenue, I considered it one of the few bright spots in GM’s lineup. Finally, a beautiful, desirable large-ish car from GM, something we had not seen since maybe the late 70s? I think those brought Buick’s age demographic down a bit, but it got no help from anywhere else in the lineup.
I agree that the Park Avenue was one of the nicest GM products of the 1990s. I think the problem with the car was that it was full-sized at a time when so many folks wanted something smaller (the dimensions of the Park Avenue were very close to those of a concurrent Mercedes S-Class, which was definitely considered BIG). In that “super premium” full-size class at the time, most entrants were rear-wheel-drive as well, which was seen as more desirable. I wish that the Park Avenue had been more of a proper flagship, priced higher than the entry level Lexus, and perhaps equipped with AWD and a more premium/contemporary interior with real wood trim, etc. Such a product would have held more appeal for high-end big sedan buyers, and could have still undercut them on price. I also agree that Buick’s real miss at the time was not having an appropriately upmarket (and higher priced) mid-sized offering targeting the heart of the upscale sedan market. The Century was a joke at this point, and the Regal was subpar generic GM that was really no better/different than a Lumina/Grand Prix/Cutlass Supreme of the same vintage and price range.
GN: I saw the Park Avenue @ the LA Auto Show that year and immediately wanted one. It was just so “right”. A very impressive car.
While I guess I blame the dealerships for wanting “what the other guy sell” for this, Buick should never have reached down to the cheapo market and concentrated on what they used to do best. Even as a life long Buick guy, I never really paid much attention to anything below the LeSabre. If I were in charge at the time, I’d let the Park Avenue be as it was (with material upgrade like real wood, ETC) The LeSabre would have been “Century” sized,but rather than a straight badge engineered Celebrity, A unique body with “Park Avenue” level trim and equipment. Keep the Riviera around as long as coupes were “a thing” and simply drop all of the rest. But then watering down content in search of volume certainly helped Cadillac, Right?!?
+1 on the Park Avenue. As a 23 year old in 1991, the first time I saw a new Park Avenue Ultra with its color-keyed covers over turbine alloys, ‘supercharged’ badges and tasteful but high-quality-looking tuck and roll leather upholstery I was shocked at how drawn I was to it, because a) it was an American car, and b) it was a Buick.
I still think it was a beautiful design, and time has proven that it was more than a pretty face. And that was a true rarity in GM’s lineup at the time.
I had the non-supercharged Ultra version of 1991. I liked how it looked but it didn’t age too well. It was a good car for the first 100,000 miles, then not so good!
Talk about coincidence and CC-effect, maybe!
I was actually driving behind this rather clean Park Avenue yesterday for a few miles, and couldn’t help but thing of what a nice looking design it was. Very elegant and almost European looking. Buick’s designers did a really good job with what they had to work with, and I guess it just took me this long to finally appreciate it.
This particular one was a non-Ultra, but I could tell from the headrests it had burgundy leather. It also had aftermarket chrome wheels, but they actually looked pretty nice. Too bad you couldn’t get bucket seats and a floor console shifter in it, as that would make the car much more appealing to me.
I’ve said this before, but a lot of the trend in U.S. prices of Japanese cars in this era was directly attributable to shifts in the exchange rate. Broadly speaking, the yen went from about 150/USD at mid-decade to around 100/USD by the early ’90s, so it says a lot for the product that they were still able to sell so strongly here.
As a college freshman in 1987 I lived across the hall from the girlfriend of one of my university’s star basketball players (who’d been aggressively recruited with a pretty impressive swag package). His car? A new ’87 Maxima SE in black over black leather. In retrospect that was an “Ahah” moment for me, as it was the first inkling I ever had that Japanese brands were now revered for something other than economy or low(ish) priced performance cars.
These really were a shot across the bow to the next echelon of the American auto industry, much the same as the Civic, Corolla, 510, etc had been 15 years before. As a car crazy young guy during these years it was a very exciting and intriguing time to watch the marketplace. This was also the time when it became clear, at least to my way of thinking, that pretty much anyone who went out and purchased a new American car was going through life with blinders on. Obviously it was that “understanding” that infected pretty much my entire generation, and we all know how that ended up.
Well said! We are about the same age, and I very much experienced the same phenomenon. Japanese cars became cool and desirable in the 1980s, while most of the American cars that had been “hot” in the prior decade were no longer seen as fashionable. In 1977, for example, the basketball star might have wanted something like a Pontiac Trans Am. Ten years later, the Maxima (especially a black on black SE), would definitely have been a lust object and a logical choice.
Also, by the 1980s the “import invasion” was not just an “elite coastal” phenomenon, nor was it limited to just younger people. One of my college roommates was from Ohio, and his 50-something parents traded a Chrysler for a Cressida–they felt like they had arrived! To my knowledge, they’ve never owned a domestic since then. Likewise, all over the Deep South, buyers began questioning their allegiance to American products, and I saw the switch to imports, firsthand, over and over and over. Only breakthrough products like the Ford Taurus and Chrysler minivans were able to keep many customers in the domestic fold in the late 1980s.
“Since Buicks weren’t cheap, the buyers were typically a bit older—with many falling right in the thirty-something to fifty-something sweet spot for affluent car buyers.”
Here’s a not so secret thing: You may market to young people, but old people have money. 🙂
I do get a kick out of the fact that used car salesman slang for Lexus is: Japanese Buick.
However the drivers I most often see driving like Buick drivers did in my childhood are Toyota drivers.
I’m gonna guess that Toyota Avalon =Japanese Oldsmobile ?
I enjoyed my G-body Cutlass sedan when I had it and I’m certainly looking at returning to the sedan fold in about 2 years or so when I’m looking for a vehicle. The short list has got the Impala Premiere, Avalon, Lacrosse, and 300S on it – so I guess those are the most Oldsmobile like things on the market right now.
Yes, the long-dreaded “Old Man in a Buick”, who was everyone’s worst nightmare on a windy 2-lane road has now handed the baton to the “Old Man in the Avalon”. And so it goes…the circle of life.
Nice piece on covering the stories of the three cars and how Buick lost its cachet!
I liked reading the ad copy of the Acura Legend. I have not driven a first generation but the 91-95 is my favorite car, ever. Interesting that it was equivalent to $46k then. By 1995 the price was close to $70k adjusted for a loaded LS coupe.
The Maxima is the rarest survivor these days… I see original Legends far more often, followed by the occasional Cressida, but these Nissans are far and few in between. A neighbor had a tan sedan when I was very young and I distinctly remember the bronze window glass and “MAXIMA” printed on the rear quarter window catching my interest. It was replaced by a white Altima (All-Teema to my 5 year old mind) around 1996…what a change from the rather misproportioned Maxima!
I have a soft spot for the Cressida because they were and are my mothers’ favorite cars, and we had a string of four 81-84 sedans in the early 2000’s starting with a yellow 1981 that replaced a troublesome ’90 Escort when I was in second grade. It was the first time I had been in a car with power windows and a sunroof. We never owned the 85-92 versions as they held their value very well even then, and now they are almost all gone.
Interestingly, while typing this out, I saw a 89ish Maxima driving by, followed by a second generation Legend sedan.
Here in car capital of the U.S, the LA area the 85-88 Maximas far outnumber those 86-90 Legends and 85-88 Cressidas. Some of them are in surprisingly good shape as well, I see Cressidas secondly and rarely see those Legends any more! I use to love those Lazyboy style seats in the Maxima GXE and Cressida and how loaded up they came without options compared to later generations!
Hm, weird. I grew up and still live due west of Downtown. Maybe it’s because my mind focuses on Legends and Cressidas more often… to me the 89-94 Maximas are much more populous than their predecessors.
AFIR the early Legends engine was quite intolerant of deferred maintenance. If neglected, many of them developed horrible valve train sounds. Those delicately-cast heads were not designed with US-centric maintenance habits in mind, perhaps.
Who knows, sludge plugging up smaller than-prudently sized oil inlets is my first guess, anyway, awesome find as it seems (80s Honda fan here), very few must have survived 3rd owners. The Nissan inline six, OTOH, takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
The Nissan has a V6 (the VG that started life in the ’84 300ZX and was last used in the ’04 XTerra/Frontier).
Brain Fart. I was thinking of the rear-drive one, AKA Datsun 810, that preceded this. That’s the one I like.
Yuup, well the 89-94 will be more numerous as way more were made as it had a 6 model year run vs 4 for the 85-88. I’m down here in the Southbay area of LA and see plenty of 2nd gen 85-88 Maxima’s driven by people of many different races.
I think that’s the Philip Johnson Glass House in the first Buick ad. See theglasshouse.org.
Yes! And that is why I picked this particular Electra ad. The Glass House was very iconic for the tastemakers of the day having been prominently showcased as an example of great mid-century modern design. So Buick at the time understood their audience well, and knew that people reading The New Yorker, National Geographic, Architectural Digest, Life, etc. (where this ad would have run) would get the reference and/or appreciate the style statement. It was subtle and high-end, very appropriate for the brand image Buick was trying to promote.
My uncle was into Electras and LTDs back in the mid to late 70s. Then they bought a corolla wagon for my aunt. From then on, it was a mix at their house for many years. Now, they are Avalon people and Toyota loyalists. A Ford Super Duty to haul the camper. But lots of Toyotas in there since then. These were probably the “standard”folks who became disenfranchised with the domestic markets. My uncle is big on reliability, ease of maintenance and repair, and so on. With the toyotas, he can spend his golden years driving mostly and not worrying about getting it fixed as much. Maybe. I have had good service out of everything but German vehicles. Cars and motocycles have turned me from those forever.
As a recommended correction, the Toyota Cressida used a DOHC In-line six cylinder engine, not a V6, as stated.
Very accurate (or wait, should I have said “acura-te”) comparison to Buick’s positioning in preceding decades. The Japanese automakers were smart in their approach to take more of the middle road, appealing to those who found most European sedans a bit too flashy in a “hey, look at me!” way.
I predictably am drawn most heavily to the Legend, especially when equipped with those inviting gathered leather seats and wood trim. The Maxima and Cressida each have styling that’s a little too angular for my tastes of cars from that era, and while more visually interesting, their interiors aren’t what I’d prefer in a car.
I was working in Bloomington, MN, SW of Minneapolis, in 1990, driving a 1989 Acura Legend L coupe. My boss was driving a 1988 Buick Park Avenue. When the car needed service he would drop it at the dealer and I would take him to the airport. One time he called me and said the dealer called and asked me to call to make sure that the car was ready when he returned the next day. I called service, said I was calling to return your call to Mr. Kennedy. The service writer said “why did we call”! I said you are servicing his car, he said let me check. 15 minutes later he came back on the line to say it was ready.
When I would take my Acura for service, as I drove in they would put the licence number into a computer and greet me by name.
I would suggest it wasn’t just the cars, advertising, or tastes of Americans, the legacy dealers of GM may in fact be their ‘deadliest sin’. I have friends who are retired execs from both Cat & John Deere. The companies invest in their dealer network to ensure the best possible customer relationship and product success.
I grew up in the Twin Cities. The Buick dealer was Walser, wasn’t it? The situation you describe just reeks of my experiences with them around that time.
Hmm. Buick “reliability starts at the factory,” eh? If the recent T-Type article is any indication, the car that started at the factory won’t as soon as you get it home.
Our family had a first-generation Cressida way back when. Very nice car in its fuzzy-velour cushiness. We were after something a little nicer than the old Corona, and my father – who wanted a Mercedes all his life – just couldn’t bring himself to spend the extra for one of the European brands. Toyota definitely got the value equation right that time. By the time came to trade the old Cressida in, however, the 2nd edition had gotten too pricey in turn, so we went in for a Camry. Everything goes in cycles, I suppose.
We only got the (Honda) Legend and the Cressida new in New Zealand – although we did get the PU11 Maxima’s short-nosed U11 Bluebird sibling which competed with the Honda Accord/Toyota Corona.
My father was a Honda dealer mechanic when the Legend came out; it was seen as an unexpected step up for Honda. The local vet bought one new which was always muddy after bouncing over farm tracks – but he drove it for a decade or two, so it was obviously solidly built. I don’t recall how Legends sold here, but there are practically none left now – I can’t remember the last time I saw one!
There are still plenty of X70 Cressidas left though, because their RWD straight-6 nature means they were and are sought after by the younger JDM tuner crowd.
At the time (I was 13 in 1987) I preferred the Cressida’s styling (I’m a sucker for an elegant 6-window design!) and engineering (I’m a bigger sucker for RWD straight-6 sedans) found the Legend too FWD and a little oddly proportioned in places. Yet reading the article above and studying the pictures, I actually now prefer the Legend’s styling. It looks more modern and less fussy than the Cressida. And more thought-provokingly, it reminds me of what Honda used to be like – a marked contrast with the Honda of today.
I had an ’87 Legend. One of the best cars I’ve ever owned. As it was new that year people would stop me and ask me what it was.
I had a manual since in those days honda automatics were suspect. Folks asked me why I’d gotten a stick as well.
I purchased a three year old 1989 Acura Ledgend to replace my horrible 1987 Chrysler Le Baron GTS turbo ( an absolute piece of sh&@) back in 1991. I purchased my Chrysler new and it aged 25 years in two years time! Well, my dreamy Acura was simply an amazing car. It did everything with grace and finesse, and it could even out accelerate a lot of those clunky, old muscle cars. My Acura served me well through two marriages, five children, and seven jobs! Sadly Acura has sort of lost its way in recent years.Not that they build anything remotely bad, just not as energizing as the first generation Legend and Integra. Today’s Accord is kind of like my old Legend, and that’s why I drive one with the blistering hot V6.
The Accord really is the closest thing to a Legend these days, and you can still get a 6-speed manual with the V6 in the coupe.
The move upscale by the Japanese vehicle makers in the 1980s was very timely, because trade issues between the US and Japan resulted in the VRAs (voluntary restraint agreements) limiting the volume of Japanese vehicle imports to the US. Pragmatically this meant that Toyota, Honda and Nissan would be incentivized to ship more higher value vehicles to the US. At the same time, this also encouraged the future expansion of local manufacturing for these manufacturers.
All of these were not good for GM, Ford and Chrysler.
Anyone else think that the spreads between invoice pricing and retail were huge on a percentage basis compared to what you see today? How much of that shift is because invoice pricing is so easy to find now? It’s been quite a while since invoice stopped meaning much of anything relative to how much a dealer ends up paying for a car.