Consider the Following: The third-generation Honda Accord is a great buy


With the prices of the most popular models entering unattainable status for a lot of younger JNCers, we felt it necessary to highlight some painfully overlooked — often for no good reason at all — yet still affordable (for now) nostalgics. Consider the following: The CA Honda Accord. 

Mugen Accord

The third-generation Honda Accord, known as the CA chassis, was produced between 1986 and 1989. The second-gen Accord may have been the first Honda built in the US at the company’s then-newly finished Ohio plant, but the CA was the first Japanese car designed and built in America for the American market.

It was then reverse exported to Japan where it became extremely popular at the time, especially in coupe form. Mugen even had a swath of aftermarket goodies available, from exhaust to body kits. However, despite its popularity in Japan and within the 80s American mini-truck scene, the car was largely forgotten during the sport compact golden era of the 90s.

1986 Honda Accord Sedan

Aesthetically, this chassis was the only Accord graced with the greatest design cue of all time: flip-up headlights. The poppers were used by designer Toshi Oshika to develop a more sleek “California” look, which does lead the car to be one of the most attractive Accords to date.

In addition to looking good, it allowed the hoodline to be cut significantly and dropped the drag coefficient down to just 0.32 Cd, putting it on par with Toyota Supras of the time. Unfortunately, the A20-series 12-valve engine wasn’t up to the performance the bodywork eluded to, and turned in quarter mile time in the 18-second range.


Although on par with competitors such as the Subaru GL and Toyota Camry at the time of release, by the end of the generation even a base model Civic would have bus lengths on it in a quarter mile drag. Luckily, the car sported an impressively low curb weight of 2,529 pounds (compared to 2,800 pounds for its successor, the more popular CB generation).

With the parts interchangeability of Hondas, performance modifications can be made easily. For carbureted models, a simple Weber or side-draft carburetor swap from a Prelude can make a noticeable gain in horsepower, and Bisimoto offers custom camshafts for carbed and fuel-injected versions as well.

The fuel-injected models can easily be differentiated from the carbed models by their trim level, which is denoted with a “-i” at then end (i.e., LX-i). These add a much needed 20 horsepower.


Like most Hondas, engine swaps are a significantly more popular choice, as seen above on Adan Reyes’s GSR turbo-swapped sedan. If you’re lucky enough to get a fuel-injected model, it is entirely a bolt-on affair, thanks to Innovate’s B series swap mounts.

Wiring isn’t much of an issue either, since there are a number of conversion options, from adapters for an OBD1 ECU swap onto the original chassis to wire-tucking engine harnesses.

If you’re not interested in engine performance as much and just want something that is a blast on curvy canyon roads this car is still a great option. It predates the Civic’s double-wishbone suspension by two years. Brakes, suspension and even whole trailing arms can swap over, making aftermarket support some of the best for any JNC. The Japanese models even included a digital dashboard.

1985 Honda Vigor 2.0 Si

For those who are too big of a hipster to sport a plain ol’ USDM version, the first generation Acura Vigor was based off of this chassis. Assuming they can be found, a set of bar-style taillights will swap right over onto a sedan.


Furthermore, if a hatchback more of your style, Honda even released a shooting brake body style in Europe called an Accord Aerodeck, which is considered the most desirable of the generation.

Of course, the long-time bane of the Honda community is ease of theft. While it’s mostly Civics and Integras drawing thieves trying to extend their criminal records, CA Accords aren’t nearly as commonly stolen despite the large parts interchangeability with more popular chassis.

514-1759_Honda Accord3gHatch-Prelude2g

Due to being criminally overlooked during the 90s and 2000s Honda craze, a clean example can be found in fair condition, often for under $2,000. Both carbureted and fuel-injected engines are plenty reliable even if underpowered, but be weary of vacuum leaks on the cacophony of lines coming from the intake. If you can find an SE-i, you’ll be graced by not only fuel-injection but leather interior trim, alloy wheels and rear disc brakes. It makes a great Japanese nostalgic daily driver, or an excellent Honda project if every Civic and Integra in your area has been stolen nine times over.

This post is filed under: Consider the Following and
tagged: , , .

37 Responses to Consider the Following: The third-generation Honda Accord is a great buy

  1. tek says:

    on the subject of theft, that really scares me about the honda scene.. I know not all of them are stolen, but whenever I see someone driving a modded civic, i always wonder if they stole stuff for it.. =\

  2. Scotty G says:

    Dang, as we all get older the collector cars get newer..
    I’ve never seen the Aerodeck, fantastic!

    • Dupre says:

      I had an Aerodeck EXi 2.0 – from 100,000 to 130k never failed to start

      Very rare now in Europe and getting a cult following – oddly the UK Accords did not have flip headlamps , only the Aerodeck

  3. Scott says:

    this was the first car I ever bought, a brown on brown 1987 sedan, carburated. The flip up headlights looked cool, but the wire always pinched cutting out one headlight.

  4. Dimitry says:

    Wait, rear disk brakes in late 80’s? That’s actually pretty awesome.

    • Chris says:

      Rear disks were standard equipment on the Camry with the optional V6 when it hit the market in 1988. But yeah, not something very common, especially in the family car market then. Toyota and Honda really were much higher grade stuff and more comparable to the Germans than anything the big three were making at the time. But their cars also cost more than your average family car too.

    • Andre says:

      Rear disk brakes on a front-heavy car are seriously overrated. More weight and less clamping force for the price of looks and ease of maintenance, and since rear disk brakes on older Hondas are used by the handbrake, they tend to drag as well.

  5. Kev says:

    For the last 2 months there has been a sedan version for sale near my house parked on someones front lawn. Maybe I should actually stop and look next time I go by. People don’t know what they’re missin!

  6. Danny says:

    Good luck on finding parts. They are impossible to locate these days.

  7. Michael says:

    Anyone know what wheels both cars have in the top pic?

  8. CobaltFire says:

    I learned to drive in a 1989 LX-i, black over purple cloth. I’ve thought about getting a coupe for fun, but I wasn’t aware that the suspension was so similar to the EF/EG/EK/DC2 stuff.

  9. Ryan Senensky says:

    Yeah thats why I was recommending modifying the car.

  10. Chris Green says:

    I love these, and I’ve been looking for one for quite a while. In fact, it was when searching for one that I found my 1986 Prelude (shown in the bottom photo). That has gone a long way toward satisfying the itch, but I would still love to have an LXi hatchback, SE-i sedan, or an Aerodeck, as long as we’re dreaming!

    • dana s. says:

      With you Chris and a little tired of repeaters out there passing along half truths?
      They like to pick at the flip glass headlights on 3rd generation? Problematic on Corvette and many competitors, the accord pup ups soldier on. Protected in daytime, hard glass flips up at night. Much cleaner behind closed doors. Guess some prefer the cloudy plastic ever present light shields? Makes no sense.
      … And the 89′ Accord SEI had beefed up internal parts in the automatics, and the shifts were much firmer. Honda listened and improved. The 89’SEI had more suspension travel, rich leather interior, cup holders, refined magazine holders on back of front seats, 14″ alloys just for the SEI, disc brakes all corners, of course IFI programed Fuel management recognized octane choices across the three pumps, regular, Ethel, premium and power increased with octane going up. Also 89′ accord SEI had a variable steering pressure being light in town but more firm to the wheel at higher speed driving.
      Also, the 3rd generation accord SEI never seems to wear out the catalytic converter? And if the engine thermostat sticks it is designed to stick in the open position. And the water pump is separate removal and repair from the timing belt, tensioner. The newer Honda’s need have that whole area torn down forcing service on tensioners and belts before their time?
      The biggest plus for fuel injection 3rd generation accords is their durability. Because they are slightly underpowered 115 bhp and 120 bhp they last longer. High powered engines means a bigger explosion in the cylinder against cylinder walls and valves and heads. Parts try to escape their confinement when power goes up. That’s why you will see 3rd generation accords over 300,000 miles but not the faster Acura type R for one example. think of it this way, when electric autonomous cars are forced by their computers to keep safe distance between cars, Your 3rd generation accord will be darting in and out of those electric cars forcing their computers to break, speed up? making more safe distance. But first you have to be their in the old school car to aggravate the electrics. That’s where the 3rd generation accord will shine as a collectible. Extremely durable, cheap to own, stays on the road longer than any other competitor. Look at the beater 86-89 accords on the road still soldiering along!
      And we all passed over these 3rd generation best, for a more powerful Japanese or import unaware the extra power won’t last, but the taken for granted accords spoke of herein 86-89 remain the best built cars in the world at any price? Blog it and that is what people are saying about their 3rd generation accords.

      • Qspec says:

        The smartest thing I ever did and dumbest…


        Smartest, buying my this as my first Honda back in 1989.
        Dumbest, selling it in 2003

      • mike S says:

        If imitation is a sincere form of flattery, flatter away. Above is actually my post copied and changed slightly. See if anyone agrees how great these cars are, especially the 89′ SEI Accord which is the culmination of all four years from 86 through 89. Sweet!

  11. Nick says:

    This is currently my first car, i have the 20th anniversary 89 Accord Hatchback. seeing this article brought me so much happiness because i usually dont hear much about my car

  12. MikeRL411 says:

    The original US to Japan exports were Left Hand Drive and sported an American Eagle on the horn pad rather than the standard Honda “H”. Established bragging rights.

  13. Becca O'Rly says:

    Glad to see the 3rd gen finally getting some recognition. I own two Aerodecks (in the UK) and absolutely love them both. I don’t think I will ever want to sell up!

    Awesome write up guys 🙂

  14. alvin says:

    I’m not afraid to admit that I like these.
    Community college parking lot comments aside…I liked the showing at JCCS!

  15. Scotty says:

    I was never was a Honda fan TILL I was handed down my great grandmas all stock Se-i with only 75,349 original miles on it and still perfect black leather interior and dark gray paint with silver flakes with only a little bit of fading on the top of the trunk. I get a lot of attention from all the guys at meets especially the Honda guys and even just normal people driving next to me. When I first got it I started reading up on it like swaps, coilover, ect and became amazed how rare they are and how they were ahead of their time and setting the bar high for most of the other Japanese commercial cars. I use to hate Hondas but I definitely respect them a lot more especially 3geez but the one thing I hate is that they have almost no after market parts unless you have a swap

  16. Ben Hsu says:

    Great article, Ryan. I recently rode in a CA Accord and found it immensely enjoyable.

  17. PDXBryan says:

    I love that Aerodeck!

  18. Pete says:

    I have driven a 3rd Gen Honda Accord since they were built. I still have one today; make it 2. I will have it forever..

  19. JovaTecH says:

    I have a good friend he’s own a hatchback. The story is he imported the car from connecticut to puerto rico, the car had a excelent condition overall! Paint, interiors, engine like new car, but the car had an accident.
    From the repair to now the car was not the same, electrical problems… Today car is on another friend backyard rusted nearly dead! 🙁

  20. Grant says:

    I had an Aerodeck in the late 80’s, it was a quickish car in its day and I had a blast, put 100,000 kms on it with no dramas at all, once I had lowered it and put a set of koni’s in it, it was fastastic to get 4 wheel drifts going and was a great machine. Have just picked up another one now and will give it what it always deserved, h22 or similar conversion, with full suspension and brake upgrade, and a subtle kit, it will be good for sh*ts n giggles.

  21. mike says:

    some how 3rd generation accord gravitated towards me? an 86 lxi that honestly still delivers grins. just picked up an 89′ accord SEI two door coupe with 40,000 miles. Likely the 86 lxi bug had bitten me so hard, couldn’t pass on a second 3rd generation? Shocking how these cars hold up over time. Maybe being underpowered a little is a good thing. Why? … Engines seem to last longer when not cranking out maximum power. Well at any rate, I could drive anything I want, but the accords are amazing so why bother.

  22. artoncraftscn says:

    Hello. And Bye.

  23. Chris Cloherty says:

    I live in Australia and can not get a thermostat housing for my 1985 build accord ,I have tracked one down to an Indonesian aftermarket supplier but they do not ship to Australia .the company is Bukalapak they are based in Jakarta andnthe part name is Rumah thermostat Prestige 19320 PH Housing thermostat Accord1986-1989 ,if there is some one out there who can help me please do .Chris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *