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Used Car Reviews – Forest Green 1986 Honda Accord on a forest stage

Antti Kautonen January 3, 2014 Finnish Line, Used Car Reviews 13 Comments


Way back when fuel was a mere one euro per litre – it’s at 1,6 right now – and I was a poor student, I used to daily drive a 1988 Nissan Bluebird. Pretty much the same thing as the Stanza sold in the States, it was a floaty, bargey, somewhat tired and rusty old thing, but one that was reasonably reliable and not thirsty for oil. One of the core competitors for the Bluebird was the 1986-released third generation Honda Accord, which blew everybody out of the water and made things difficult for every other Japanese carmaker, let alone the Americans. It deservedly became a big seller in its day, undoubtedly causing the Bluebird to be axed as it stood and replaced by a far more dynamic car, the Primera (G20 in American English)

Up until now, I hadn’t really driven one of these Accords with intent. I did move a friend’s super-rusty and super-tired, 50% Bondo Accord from one town to another around ten years ago, but it was so vague at that point I didn’t give it much thought. So, as another friend is now in that magical phase of Looking For a Reasonably-Priced Older Used Car (at this point, a heavenly light shines from above, an angel chorus can be heard and birds descend on his shoulders), I went to see this low-km example for sale in my town.

This 1986 Accord EX is for sale at a local Toyota dealership. It’s a one-owner car that has only done a legit 131 000 km. It lacks A/C and sunroof, mostly because no-one ever ordered a car with those in 1986 Finland, but otherwise it’s a perfectly well specced car with electric everything. It has been bought new from the Honda dealership close by, and it has lived its life in Terjärv, a predominantly Swedish-speaking municipality a little way south from here.

You might note that the Accord doesn’t have pop-up headlights, but that’s the way the Euro third-gen Accords came. Personally, I would love one just like this but with the extra ’80sness that only pop-ups can offer.

The car here had the 105-horsepower A20A2 2.0-litre 12-valve engine, fuelled by a carburetor. And it’s a five-speed manual, of course.

Otherwise, the Accord’s crisp lines are immaculate. It’s one of the best-looking average cars in its time: at the same time appearing well-balanced, suitably futuristic and light, as well as uncomplicated. It’s not a dull-looking thing, unlike the Camrys and Carinas of similar vintage, and even if I’m definitely biased towards the 1988 Mazda 626 for historic reasons, the Accord is the better looking car.

I have to admit, the air freshener tree was a weird addition to the Accord. It didn’t fit the picture of an otherwise unmolested car.

But the seats were clean and unripped, and still reasonably supportive after all these years.

Classic Honda gauge cluster and low dash, the latter contributing to the airy feel and good visibility.

Note the original Blaupunkt stereo. Also, note how low on fuel I was; driving back was almost terrifying since I felt I was going to run out of fuel – a couple of times I felt the car bucking slightly just like it was sipping some air from the nearly empty tank. Then again, it could be down to the fact the car was carbed and not fuel injected.

But, to put the Honda through its paces, I took it down the country road I use most often for getting beateresque driving enjoyment out of my 205 XS. It’s a forest road with a couple of nice bends, but mostly you can keep a good speed with a near-direct line through a couple of bends; the kind of road that tells you if the steering is direct enough and the body control in check.

Despite having a full set of tires in the trunk along with a new windshield (the original one was badly cracked), the Honda was a revelation. I had expected it to have a load of slack in its steering, to feel all floaty and bargey and tired by now. But no, with the car in third to build up the revs in the 105hp engine, it felt like an absolute joy to hustle on the back road. Extremely good for an ’80s Japanese sedan with no explicit intent for sportiness. The gearbox felt good, if possibly in the need of a little fresh oil; the engine clearly wasn’t a powerhouse but had a serviceable amount of punch in reserve. The skinny little winter tires probably contributed to the handling, and as the road was partially icy it was necessary for the car to feel trustworthy through the well-preserved plastic wheel. Despite being power assisted, with a large POWER STEERING sticker on the rear window, it felt like there was no middleman between me and the road feel to muddle up the driveability. The centre feel was definite.

And the suspension was tight as ever, too. No jitters, no bottoming out – for a 1986 car it was definitely super solid. And even if the road best suits the 205, I would even go to the extremes to say it was actually nicer to drive a slightly larger car with a more comfortable ride right there. The E34 is too bargey for the road, but the Honda was just the right size.

And of course, it’s a Honda we’re talking about. The car exhibited a slight amount of Honda Rust™ on its sheetmetal – nothing terminal, but were one to buy this example, it would be wise to take those bits under control so they won’t nibble more of the paintwork. Most Accords this old are long gone: the rust starts here, eats the arches, the rockers and the suspension mounts and kills the rest of the car. The engine is unburstable, but the body is fragile.

The driver’s side door corners had a couple bits that would need to be fixed, too, and on a couple of wheelarches there was stuff to do. Matching up the metallic green paint would be somewhat of a challenge, but still doable – someone had originally touched up the bubbles with a bit of different green paint, that had flaked off a while ago.

The removal of the bumpers would go a long way to show where exactly you would need to catch up on the rust, but at least the underbody had a good amount of protective seal applied a long time ago. I couldn’t check the boot floor or the shock towers as the spare windshield was in there and I didn’t dare move it; but before purchase, that would be wise.

As I took the Honda back to the dealer, I asked about the 1950 euro price. It’s a bit on the high side for an ’86 Accord that isn’t quite in show condition, and the km’s aren’t legendarily low to warrant a collector price. They agreed, and dropped the asking price to 1600. I expect it to come down just a little bit if anyone showed up with intent to grab the car.

Still, the little rust it has isn’t a dealkiller, if it’s all there is. The car is absolutely fine – it can be expected to remain reliable, with that odo reading. To drive it vigorously is rewarding, to use it as a daily driver is what it was built for. With a little scheduled perfecting, it’ll easily make historic plates in two years, as it’s that original. It definitely deserves to go to the right kind of owner, that will take required care of it. It’s still a good car, as good as it ever was.

[Images: Copyright 2014 Redusernab/Antti Kautonen]

  • FuzzyPlushroom

    I was hoping, from the lede photograph, that you'd piloted an Aerodeck – but nay, those actually came with pop-ups.

    I'd hold out for one of those. They're on my list of Cars I'd Like To Import Because Why Not.

    This one is a very nice shade of green, however. The rust is totally expected, and it doesn't look to have eaten through anything yet. The hubcaps surely added to your impression of complete originality, too – a bit of alternate-universe nostalgia, really.

  • Lucas

    I prefer the fastback style hatchback version of these year Accords. I like it even better than the Aerodeck everyone else seems to want. I've always thought it would be awesome to do an H22 conversion to one. But they are so rare they are almost impossible to find and when you do see one (maybe once a year) it is beat to the point of being one minute away from the scrapyard.

    • Annoyingly we didn't get the three-door hatch. The Aerodeck was available, but it didn't sell as well here and remains an anomaly, more so nowadays since they all rusted away by the mid-'90s or have insane mileage.

      • Lucas

        When I was a kid my neighbor had one and I always thought it was a cool car. It helped that it looked like a big CRX, which eventually became my first car. It probably didn't drive nearly as well as the CRX did though, at least not stock.

  • Rover1

    My mum got one of these to replace her Renault 25V6 that's transmission had failed. It was actually the garage's courtesy car and had been a second hand Japanese import to NZ. It had done 200 000 km and everything worked including the aircon, apart from the bulb in the display which indicated D for Drive, and no rust.
    It smoothly and reliably ran up another 150 000 km with only oil and tyre changes.The insurance company wrote it off after a very minor bump due to it's value having dropped so much,and I will always regret not buying it back.
    In terms of reliability it was so far ahead of my Rover 800 that it may as well have come from another planet.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Sweet car. I'd buy it. But the rust says it only has about 2-3 years around here.

  • dukeisduke

    Without the pop-ups, the front looks like a Civic.

  • rwcglenwaverley

    Only the entry-level Accord ES comes with a standard suspension set-up, as the rest of the range is fitted with sports suspension as standard. The ride can be a little firm, but it generally strikes an excellent balance of decent comfort and good handling. Inside, wind and road noise are barely audible, while the engines, the diesel especially, prove to be very quiet indeed, giving the interior a nicely chilled out, calm feel. The ride is also extremely calm and comfy when driving on the motorway, but that sports suspension can judder over uneven roads and rough surfaces.

  • Preludacris

    Don't think we got that nice green in North America. It's well suited to the car. The headlights, though, are a bit jarring when you're used to pop-ups.

    I had a really beat-up one for my first car. Not that long ago! It was a rustheap and got totaled by a vehicle inspection when I moved to Canada, but its visibility, efficient use of space, and nimble, light feel made me an instant fan of the brand. Compared to the Tauruses, Bonnevilles, and assorted Buicks my midwestern friends drove, it was a real driver's car.
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  • mr smee

    Wow, Hondas of that era were amazing for what they cost. So elegant, lightness in all the design elements, great engineering and build quality. I worked i a GM dealership back then and the Japanese cars were "the enemy" so I never considered driving one. While my GM cars were very reliable and had many good features, I wish I'd bought the CRX that I test drove and was enchanted by.

  • Wildcat_445

    I didn't recognize it as first without the pop-up headlights. If that is one thing I could have changed, it would have been those terrible pop-ups. We'd gotten TWO tickets in that car over the course of a few years because the wiring harnesses become pinched and worn out in the mechanism.

    There were some plastic bits that decomposed inside the car (the recline lever on the seat), the top of the rear seat got sunbaked and split, and a little bit of rust had started in the typical Honda spot at the back end of the rear fender. Beyond that, and one other issue, we got a lot of use out of our late-'88 Accord DX Coupe. It had a dealer-installed AC, so we missed out on the fancy controls like this one pictures has. It did have an aftermarket popup sunroof installed–I had a great time popping the glass out and driving it that way in the summer.

    I sadly had to have it towed to the junkyard when I was in a rush to relocate. I'd had it stored in the garage after the timing belt gave out. We'd gotten the '97 CR-V and it was not driven much, so the '88 was a third car for us. When my ex decided to have my Civic irrevocably shortened (she and automobiles never did play nice together), I had to switch back to the '88. While I did drive it and run it every so often, getting pressed back into daily service was its undoing. Oil had leaked onto the timing belt from the valve cover, softening it, and she quit at a traffic light. I'd parked it and bought another cylinder head, but over the next several years I never had time to repair it. I only just found out during the past year that the engine in my DX did NOT have the interference design–I could have lined up the crankshaft and camshaft, slapped a new timing belt on, and been back on the road!

    Whichever salvage yard got it, got one heck of a nice body to part out… :o( I would probably still own it today–it's practically a classic! With the sticky Yokohama tires on it, it handled better than it had any right to, and still had a nice ride.

    BTW, the power steering only engaged in this car at very low speeds; once you got above maybe 10 or 15 MPH, it would disengage and would be purely manual.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Different tail lamps than the US version, too, but I still like these cars.

    They're what a mid-size sedan should be.

    Wait, there was a full set of tires in the trunk AND a windscreen?!

    • Yepp. You can see from the photos that the seat was folded.


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