The Beginning – 1981 Honda Accord

Before the Accord, most Honda automobiles were not terribly well-suited to the North American market. Think back to the S600 and S800, the N600 and Z600, the 1300 coupe (not even sold in NA) and even the Civic, which arguably owed a lot of its success to the fuel crisis. The Accord was the beginning of the end for that approach, and the current generation of that car is at the upper limit of the mid-size class. However, for a long time, they were compact and somewhat sporting sedans, and that’s what should draw some interest to this 1981 Honda Accord sedan, for sale for $4500 in Fountain Hills, AZ.

1981 Honda Accord right side

It’s actually a pretty smart-looking car, in the idiom of German sedans like the E12 BMW 5-series or W123 Mercedes, but with apparently tighter dimensions. Quad headlights, air vents on a bulging hood, and 5-speed badging lend an air of sportiness, and the 4-door body style expanded its appeal to American buyers. This particular car looks to be immaculate, with fresh paint (said to be a bare-metal repaint!) and tidy trim hiding any effects of exposure to the Arizona sun.

1981 Honda Accord left rear

Who knew you’d ever see historic plates on an Accord? Well, they’ve been for sale in the US since 1977, and this car is already 33 years old. Everything looks very tidy from back here too, although there has to be a way to remove the old wax from the part number on the tail lights. It would be neat to look up the selling dealer on the badge below the left tail light, and go back for a service, just to confuse young techs who’ve never seen a carburetor.

1981 Honda Accord interior

The interior is equally clean, with a surprising lack of sun damage to the seats and dash. More of the sporting feel comes through here, with a 4-spoke steering wheel, manual gear shift, 6000rpm tach, and a dash design that’s clearly taken some cues from BMW. Did these see any period action in SCCA, or was that left to the Civic? With 75hp and 96 lb.-ft. of torque, you won’t be at the front line, but perhaps you’d have some fun trying?

1981 Honda Accord engine

The engine is said to have had a complete rebuild after they found it under all those hoses. Clutch, brakes and struts were all replaced, and the suspension and steering have had some attention too. The seller has to be underwater at this point, which makes him the exact kind of person you want to buy from – one who sees the car as a hobby, not as some kind of asset upon which you expect a return.


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3 Responses to “The Beginning – 1981 Honda Accord”

  1. steve in podunk Says:

    I really like the color.

  2. pickles Says:

    Boy- back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there would be a waiting list 6 months long for this exact car in Cailifornia. I’d say the Honda Accord was the most piviotal vehicle in the tolerance, appreciation and desirability of Japanese cars in this country. When the Accord hit and specifically the 4 door sedan, it was officially respected to take one of these over a 5-series BMW. It was that good. It’s super to see one in such great condition.

    • Chris Keen Says:

      I suspected they had a sporty undertone, but having grown up in a parental selection of BMWs, Saabs, and VWs at the time, it’s interesting to hear that was actually true!

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