Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Cars (September 3, 2013) -- Our 1981 Honda Accord LX

Our green 1981 Honda Accord LX on a visit to friends in Malvern, PA circa 1982.

This is the latest in a mini-series on "First Cars."  The light green 1981 Honda Accord pictured above is just one of several "first cars" (see first car definitions in the post of August 28th).  This first car is the one that Molly and I bought as our very first, brand new, never-previously-owned car.  It was the car we owned for about three years before we started our family.  It is the first car our two sons ever knew -- although I am sure neither of them actually remembers it.  The first car they remember will be the subject of another post in this series.

The Honda Accord began production in 1976 and grew in size and luxury over the years.  Of course it is still in production today, but the current version would dwarf our 1981 First Generation Accord LX.  Over the years, the Accord has been rated as one of the world's most reliable cars and we had ours until it had just over 200,000 miles on it. It made many trips to the Adirondacks from northern Virginia over its lifetime with us.  

As stated at  http://www.edmunds.com/honda/accord/history.html, the early 1980s Honda Accord was considered a "jewel of a small car."   Of the 1981 version Edmunds states . . .  

"In 1981 a full-blown luxury trim level, called the SE, was offered. Sending out the first- generation Accord in style, the SE stocked an Accord Sedan with leather seating, power windows and door locks, alloy wheels and a sound system with cassette deck. Though this may not seem like a big deal now, back in 1981 manual window cranks and vinyl seats were typical for small cars while leather seats were reserved for big American luxury cars or expensive European makes such as BMW.  As far as pricing went, a 1976 Accord was $3,995. By 1980 the base hatchback's price had gone up 50 percent, to $5,949, and the LX version was $1,000 more. The 1980 Accord Sedan was $6,515. Unfortunately for consumers, demand for the early Accords was greater than supply, so dealers would typically add a second window sticker next to Honda's. Appearing on this second sticker would be vastly overpriced dealer-added options such as pinstripes, mud flaps and rustproofing. And, as if this wasn't bad enough, sometimes this huge profit "tool" (the second sticker) wouldn't even show anything tangible being added to the car, just the letters "A.D.M.U" (which stood for Additional Dealer Mark-Up) or the words "Market Value Adjustment" followed by a dollar amount that could oftentimes exceed $1,000. Nonetheless, people were willing to pay a premium to drive this jewel of a small car."

When Molly and I ventured forth to buy our first new car, we haggled at some length with the dealer in Tysons Corner, Virginia.  We specifically told the salesman just what we wanted right down to the color and we made it clear we were not in a rush and were willing to wait for it to ship from overseas (they were not yet produced in Marysville, Ohio).  However, when the car arrived and we went to pick it up, the salesman suddenly tried to charge for mud flaps and rustproofing we had not ordered and I showed him the order form.  It was touch and go until I told him he could remove the mud flaps and throw in the rust treatment which was unnecessary and we never ordered, or he could find us the car we ordered and we would wait.  The manager was called in and the pressure mounted, but in the end we got the car without the additional mark-ups, BUT they refused to give us the warranty paperwork on the rust treatment.  It was a great learning experience and the car turned out to be, as Edmunds said, "a jewel."

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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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