A real threat
British imports of the Accord commenced in 1977, where one marketing challenge was still its nationality. Honda had been trading in the UK since 1965, but even in the mid-1970s, Britain’s private and fleet motorists were a good deal more conscious of a car’s country of origin than they are today.
However, for anyone seeking reasonably-priced transport for around £3000, the Accord looked to be an extremely viable offering. The styling was sleek enough to tempt drivers who might have otherwise considered a low-spec Ford Capri. The Vauxhall Cavalier was another close rival, but to see an early Accord at a car show is to be reminded that there would be no domestic front-wheel drive three-door car of a similar size until the Cavalier MkII in 1981.
Late 1977 saw the option of a 1751cc engine and the introduction of an Accord four-door saloon at the Tokyo Show which, in the words of Car magazine in April 1979, ‘just eats the established business/family cars – Cortina, Marina, Avenger’.
Indeed, a travelling salesman looking for smart transport for his samples’ case (it almost always was a ‘his’ in Britain of the late 1970s) would soon learn that there was no real British alternative. Regarding front-wheel drive offerings, the Allegro was much smaller, the Maxi and the Alpine were five-door hatchbacks, and Talbot’s Solara would not debut until 1980. However, the car from Ryton would certainly not be powered by an engine as sweet as this one. Nor would it have enjoyed such a high level of standard equipment as the Honda’s. There was also the Japanese company’s painstaking attention to detail – many CCW readers will remember the dashboard ‘coin tray’ for use at parking meters.
The original Accord ceased production in September 1981, and the following year saw the larger, more luxuriously appointed second generation Accord become the first US-built Japanese car when manufacture commenced at Honda’s Maryville plant in Ohio. On our side of the Atlantic, 1981 also saw the debut of the Acclaim, née Honda Ballade. But in fact, it was the early Accord that was very much in the Triumph marque tradition of providing low-key quality at an affordable price. One wonders how many Dolomite 1500 and 1500HLs were part exchanged at a provincial Honda dealer? If the original Accord is too often overlooked today, this is in part because of a poor survival rate due to corrosion and the neglect that befalls so many once popular mass-market vehicles. It is also due to the simple fact that the model, now in its ninth incarnation, has been taken for granted over the past 40 years. But those select few enthusiasts who take pride in their S- or T-registered Honda know that they drive one of the most significant cars in the history of the Japanese motor industry.
In February 1977, Car tested an early three-door hatchback opposite one of its main European competitors and observed that ‘there’s simply no escaping from the fact that the Honda Accord is a match for the Golf GLS. Is this the beginning of the real threat from Japan?’
The answer proved to be in the affirmative. Disc brakes as standard – one of many no-extra-cost fitments. Engine bay was designed with ease of service in mind.