A real threat

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Forgotten Hero -

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.

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