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The Carchive: 1978 Honda Accord

There was a time, long before PCP deals put everybody behind the wheel of a fashion-friendly SUV, when people just wanted solid, economical, trouble-free transportation. We took a look at this era last week with the Fiat 126 of 1981, and we’re sticking to the same theme this time around. This time we’re looking at the 1978 Honda Accord. Admittedly a much bigger car than the Fiat, but barely any more pretentious.

So lets recline in the armchair of curiosity and let history sweep us up in its warm, comforting arms. Welcome back to The Carchive.

“The Honda Accords — European quality, elegance and refinement, combined with Honda’s reputation for reliability”

The thing that immediately strikes you about this brochure is that there’s barely any lifestyle nonsense. There are no laughable attempts to define the Accord as ‘dynamic’ or ‘innovative’, and it makes no claims of ‘bold’ or ‘iconic’ styling. Instead, it serves to list exactly what the Accord Hatchback and Saloon offered buyers in ’80, and it does so with remarkable clarity.

This was the first generation of Honda Accord, one of only two Honda models when it first arrive in ’76 as what was essentially a larger version of the Civic and used an expanded version of that car’s mechanical package. It’s also fair to argue that it was the Accord more than any other model that made North America really take notice of Honda – the Civic had been an interesting little economy car, but the Accord was built to a scale that was far less quaint and curious.

I’m not sure I’ve ever known anybody else to say this, so I will. The first generation Honda Accord was a genuinely handsome car. Yes, most aspects of its shape are derivative in some way, and the whole has been compared to the Mk1 Volkswagen Scirocco, but f0r me this first Accord had the best nose of all.

Zoom on in the above picture and the extent of its ‘sharknose’ effect can be seen — there were overtones of BMW going on there, and its twin headlights were far more distinctive than the single items worn by the Civic. The saloon was somehow rather less glamorous, though, Japanese sedan-by-numbers rather than ‘almost coupe’.

The Saloon was nine-inches longer, too, and all that extra length was found in a trunk that was three cubic feet bigger than the hatchback. This pushed it even further into ‘normal size car’ territory – the hatchback was still a bit Civic-and-then-some.

We all know the rest of the story – if it wasn’t for sheer patriotism the Accord would have taken an even stronger grip on the American market than it did, and the same can be said about the UK. These were around the most capable ‘transportation appliances’ you could buy in the late seventies, and their interiors showed typically Japanese fitness-for-purpose that certainly shamed some European and North American rivals.

Thanks to their propensity to rust, compounded by their somewhat non-aspirational image, very, very few of these now remain on the streets, and I reckon that’s a pity.

(All images are of original Honda publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Honda – who really need to bring back sharknose styling)

 

  • Van_Sarockin

    The first Accord was a transformational car. People could see it as a respectable primary car for a family. And it delivered, particularly since it was very reasonably priced and had excellent gas mileage.

    But I wouldn’t call it handsome. It was a clean and integrated design, and lit lacked the ‘visual excitement ‘ that typified most Japanese cars of the time.

    Most of these cars were used up and disposed of, a lot being passed on to kids in college, etc.

    And it planted the kernel of the idea that became Acura.

    • outback_ute

      I think handsome is the right descriptor, being a much different term than beautiful for example. Clean and integrated are consistent with this, visual excitement is not required. The sweep of the hatch’s window line and the forward lean of the front are nicely done, and even the sedan is neatly done. Some of the proportions look quite different than modern cars, eg the height of the greenhouse and low boot height, but that says as much about today’s cars as 1978.

      ps Chris I expect PCP relates to some sort of financing rather than one of the worse drugs that people have inflicted on themselves?

      • It does, but there might will be cases where the latter have lead to the former…

        • outback_ute

          Really? Lenders generally don’t react well when assessing people using the latter. At least so I understand.

          • Very true (I hope). Still, something must account for the sheer number of people signing up to years of finance just to drive an SUV around.

  • tonyola

    My oldest brother bought a new Accord in 1977 – a gold 5-speed three-door LX with a red cloth interior. I drove it briefly – quite luxurious for a period small car and lots of thoughtful touches. He loved it and it served him well for several years before he replaced it with an ’82 model. I find the three-door cars to be very good looking, with the only off-putting detail being the regulated impact bumpers that US-market cars were saddled with.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    I remember those well, my parents bought a 77 hatchback in gold and I drove it for several years before rust and a cheap used 84 Accord sent it on its way. In 77 the US market only got the three door and only in silver gold or blue with Hondamatic as the sole factory option, although thankfully ours was a 5 speed. Since I owned a 78 Scirocco around the same time I could make an interesting comparison. The 77 Accord felt much more eager than the 84 and was much more fun to drive, although the newer car did have air conditioning and a cassette player. My Scirocco was a sharper more rewarding drive than either Honda, although not as good on the highway since it was only a 4 speed. All three suffered badly from tinworm in the salt using Northeast but here in the PNW i could probably find a restorable one, although I’d only want a Scirocco.
    They definitely were the second wave of Japanese cars after the original wave of the Toyota Corolla and Datsun 510 and I could watch them supplant American cars in the driveways of my neighborhood.

  • Luxury Lexus Land-yacht

    A good friend of mine’s father bought one of these/received it in trade, back in the mid-80s.

    Large, they’re not, but it fit three normal-size 18-19 year olds just fine. That one had an automagic, and wow, was it a painful transmission to experience doing its magic.

    At the time, one of us was driving a ’77 Golf 2-door, and I was driving a ’66 Rambler 660 wagon. The friend whose father owned the Honda drove an ’86 Mustang GT.

    This was 1987. I didn’t own a vehicle in the same decade it was made until 1997.

    I went back to my older vehicle ways after Y2K, but that’s so I can drive much, much nicer ones for the cost of a three year old Kia.

  • kogashiwa