Consider me old fashioned, but what in the heck happened to us? We used to make cars that meant something to the consumer. These old cars would take us across the country and back giving us stories of epic road trips that couldn’t possibly have been true. Like that one time when we went to Panama City on a whim. Or when Biff got sick from eating too much endless salad and breadsticks from Olive Garden and had to be rushed to the hospital. Where are the windows-down road trip cars with the special mix tapes in the center console?
Automobiles of yesteryear offered a touch and feel that can no longer be manufactured, and I’m not sure if it’s because we have a new perception of “quality” or what. However, I’m on the side of “we’ve made a wrong turn.” I just drove a 30-year-old Honda Accord around for a week and it had fewer rattles and squeaks than whatever 2021-model-year crossover you think is new and hot right now. No, I don’t care about your BMW lease, it’s probably garbage in comparison to this old Accord and let me tell you why.
Take your grubby paws and touch the steering wheel. Go ahead, envision it. The wheel is coated in an indestructible plastic that actually feels good to the touch. Not impressed? Graze any button, any one of the million adorning this dash board and tell me what it feels like. Slick old-world plastic. You push it and you’re rewarded with a satisfying solid click. Christ alive, there are so many buttons, too.
Want to control exactly how far out you need your antenna mast to stick out? Got a button for ya. Need to control the passenger’s and driver’s floor vents… but separately? Hell, we’ve got two levers for you and the mister. Do you want to pop the headlights up – but keep the lights themselves extinguished? You bet your Rising Sun you do and we’ve got another button just for that. Can you control the functions of your modern Camry just as easily? Having actual buttons over a touch screen gives you more control than ever by allowing you to use muscle memory and keep your eyes on the road, where they belong.
Forget your Apple CarPlay, this Accord comes equipped with both a factory cassette and CD player. One doesn’t need some fancy-schmancy instant-connecting horse hockey nonsense. However, if you’ve got to have your phone connected to everything, there is a solution in the form of a Bluetooth cassette adapter. I know some of you can’t live without having all the computer-wizardy stuff and that’s fine, we sold Ford Fusions for a reason. But for those who buy a car for the driving experience and don’t care about what comes out of the speakers… might I interest you in a 1989 Honda Accord?
To be fair, my euphoria is spawned from the previous ownership of a 1995 Acura Integra which held such strikingly-similar driving dynamics and the same shrieking, high-pitched howl from the starter. From the driver’s seat, it’s easy to see Honda’s main focus of design was its large greenhouse and driver ergonomics. Thin A-pillars and an electric sunroof above give a feeling of open-air motoring unlike anything, short of an actual convertible. Coupled with a user-friendly 5-speed manual gear-slinger and a featherweight clutch dumper, this Accord offers a blissful motoring experience.
While the anemic SOHC 2.0 liter four-cylinder, with its 120 horsepower and 122 lb-ft, asks for encouragement and gentle words of persuasion from a dead stop, its silky-smooth delivery of its output is rewarding. Similar in vain to a first-generation Mazda Miata, tight curves are its best friend. Momentum is easily kept at speed given its flea-like weight of 2685 pounds – made even better with its independent front and rear suspension. I found the Accord composed no matter what environment or conditions I subjected it to, always finding sure footing whether I was driving like Mario Andretti or his grandmother.
To note, while I’m sure the powered, vented disc brakes up front and drums in the rear aren’t suited for any track sessions, they gripped rightfully well with no indication of fade. However, I can see how its more sporty brethren could be modified easily to make them stop on the proverbial dime. While I didn’t bother to look at the tires for their speed rating and treadwear, I can confirm that they in fact held air routinely, further proving old Hondas don’t need fancy sensors such as a low tire light.
It’s easy to imagine taking this 1989 Accord to a million miles. The interior is spacious enough and its seats comfortable, offering proper support without feeling like it’s getting fresh with me. I didn’t test the back seat, but judging by the looks of it I can’t imagine it’s a bad place to be either. With the wide-open interior, I never felt like I was as enclosed in a tight area, despite this older Accord being considered a small car by today’s standards. Truly though, the Accord offered a comfortable ride without wallowing about like a land yacht, and offered an interior worth inhabiting.
Alright, okay, I submit. While this car is a time-capsule with its 132,000 miles, it isn’t 100% original. If you haven’t noticed from the pictures, the car looks like a half-melted ice cream sandwich. This ’89 Accord’s interior is a luscious, deep burgundy, complimented by its exterior colors, Polar White and (unoriginal, 1991 Rover) “Rich Raisin” dark metallic red. That’s right, the owner took an original 30+ year old Honda sedan and made it his own. How dare he. Doesn’t he know that there are only so many left from what feels like 17 billion 1986 to 1989 Accords like this still on the road? And he ruined it! by giving the Accord’s dishwasher-like appearance some flair. This guy, I swear.
In the owner’s defense, I’ve never met a man more passionate about a car designed with a straight edge. That said, after considerable time together with the car, I can’t say that I’m not almost as enthusiastic. Take a long look at the Accord – how many other sedans had pop up headlights? Its spacious quarters add to this cars silhouette, instead of making it look like a pregnant popsicle stick. The Accord offers a glimpse into what was the norm for the late 1980s. At the time, this little car was considered a mid-sized sedan, fighting off the likes of the Ford Taurus and Volvo 240. And let me tell you, I’ve driven nice examples of each from this generation and they’re hot garbage compared to this little pup.
Volvo’s interior plastics easily shatter like my hopes and dreams, while I’m pretty sure Honda made a deal with the devil to have such previously mentioned indestructible plastic. And period Ford Taurus… well, just how many of those do you still see around? If you do own a first-gen Ford Taurus or Volvo 240, save the hate mail, because you lost. If they were so good, they’d have beaten the Accord’s unprecedented record of 35 appearances in Car & Driver‘s “10 Best” list.
And so here we are, at the beginning of a new decade, where combustion engines are being steadily phased out in favor of electric motors. Sedans are being traded in for crossovers, and car companies are dropping their keys in the Swinger Bowl by the door at the party, unsure who they’re going home with. They saw the pineapple at the door, they knew what they were getting into. With all of these drastic changes in our pokey little industry I can’t help but look back at this little Honda-shaped jar of lightning.
When Honda made this Accord over 30 years ago, they set out to make the best car they physically could, knowing full well their service manual could get this sedan to the million mile mark. Do they still want today’s buyers to see a similar milestone? Can they expect their 2021 Accord to out-live this ’89? To be honest, I don’t know.
I know it’s a cop-out, but dammit man they just don’t make them like they used to. And I guess I am rather thankful in a sick sort of way, because otherwise I would fail to appreciate this 1989 Honda Accord for what it is. It’s a family car. When you drive it around town you truly get the sense of the word family. Everyone had one! I was stopped so many times to have people tell me that they grew up in the back seat of one, or that it was their first car. No lie, when I was taking these photos, a police officer came up to me, hoping I’d sell it to him. Everyone has a Honda story and, in a way, I guess I do now as well. Happy Hondadays.
Special thanks to Wesley Zimmerman (Instagram: @meadrangerguy) for use of his wonderful 1989 Honda Accord LXi.
Thank you Noah Dawood (Instagram: @chorningnoah_d) for your photography skills.