The 1981 Honda Accord, a First-ever Family Car


The Rare Rides series has been a bit skimpy in its Honda coverage: We’ve featured only four in past editions. Today’s fifth Honda Rare Ride is the first-ever Accord, a car some readers won’t have seen in real life.

The Accord entered production in 1976 and was the company’s first foray into the family sedan in North America. Initially a compact, it was launched for the 1977 model year. At debut, Accord was available only as a three-door hatch, a body style which sadly would not make it out of the Eighties alive.

Launch Accords all used the same 1.6-liter inline-four, which pushed the 2,000-pound hatch forward via 80 horses. The Accord’s range was quickly expanded, and late in 1977, a more usable four-door sedan joined the hatchback. Said sedan didn’t reach North American shores until the 1979 model year. The sedan was a more upscale model than the hatch, and as such in many markets was fitted with a larger 1.8-liter inline-four. That mill produced a more respectable 72 horsepower, though CARB-ready California had their own engine version. The earliest Accords were fitted with a five-speed manual or two-speed automated manual, the Hondamatic.

Around the introduction of the sedan, Honda started to take the Accord upscale. An LX trim was added to the hatchback and offered power steering, a digital timepiece, and air conditioning. In the Japanese market, the Accord sedan appealed to the middle-class family with fancy covers made of lace for the seats, and of metal for the wheels. Just as well it was fancy, that larger 1.8-liter put it into a higher tax bracket than the 1.6 hatchback.

In North America, the Accord sedan was offered in three initial colors: beige, dark red, and silver. In 1980 the two-speed semi-auto was swapped for a three-speed transmission that was actually automatic. Other North American updates included some changes to bumper trim in 1980, and the arrival of new fabric and paint colors in 1981. Most notable in ’81 was a new SE trim that offered the highest levels of luxury: Power windows and calfskin leather seating surfaces. Instrument clusters were also reworked, and warning icons replaced the less preferable textual indicators.

The first-gen Accord remained in production through the 1982 model year in select markets but was largely replaced that year by a second generation. The second Accord was larger, more powerful, more modern, and Honda was on its way to sedan success.

Today’s Rare Ride is stunning in seafoam and available in Long Island with functioning air conditioning. Over the last 40 years, its accumulated just 87,000 miles. Even with the low mileage, the seller indicates the Accord’s shockingly poor rust protection necessitated four different wheel arch repairs over the years. Yours for $14,500, and given the scarcity of original Accords that’s probably not out of line.

[Images: Honda]

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