Honda was the first of the Japanese car companies to create a separate luxury brand to sell abroad, beating Nissan and Toyota by several years. When the first Acuras appeared here in late 1986, there were two models: a dressed-up, hot-rodded Civic and an innovative midsize luxury machine co-developed with Austin Rover. Here’s an early example of the latter car, found in a Colorado self-service car graveyard.
The Sterling got a gentlemanly leather-and-wood English interior and a trip computer that could calculate fuel supply in liters, gallons, and Imperial gallons, but it also got electrical components from the Prince of Darkness and erratic built quality. Sales cratered quickly. Meanwhile, Americans soon learned that Acuras held together even better than the bulletproof Hondas they’d been lining up to buy ( not always with success) for years.
The Legend was the first production car Honda ever sold with a V6 engine (the Accord wouldn’t get one until the 1995 model year), and this car is covered with badges bragging about the engine configuration.
Did you know that there’s a V6 in this car? Just making sure you did! Toyota responded promptly by stuffing V6s in US-market Camrys, starting the following year. Mazda also introduced the V6-powered (and rear-wheel-drive) 929 for 1988; the original plan was for the 929 to be sold under a brand-new Amati brand, but that never materialized.
This DOHC V6 displaced 2.5 liters and made 151 horsepower.
The Legend was available with a five-speed manual transmission for every year of its 1986-1994 American sales run, but this one has the optional four-speed automatic. Toyota stopped putting three-pedal rigs in the Lexus ES after 1993.
CD players were still exotic and extremely costly in 1987, so cassette decks in luxury cars reached their peak of complexity. The digital seven-band equalizer is very much of its time. This elaborate radio was standard equipment in the ’87 Legend, which makes sense given the high quality of popular music that year.
Just 111,370 miles on the odometer.
The Legend could be had as a sedan or coupe in 1987. This is a Luxury Sedan, the very top trim level for the 1987 Legend, and its sticker price was $22,973 with the automatic (that’s about $61,185 in 2022 dollars). Its Sterling 825SL sibling cost less, at $21,032 ($56,105 now).
This commercial is for the 1988 Legend and its 2.7-liter V6, but you get the idea.
Striking fear into the Germans. The official full name of the Legend was, briefly, Legend Touring Sedan. That got shortened quickly.