Monday, June 25, 2012

My first car: the 1982 Honda Accord

 It was my worst-best car. The second generation 1982 Honda Accord hatchback was my first car, a belated 17th-birthday gift from my parents in Miami Beach. The first time I saw it, the car was parked, with all its glorious small dents, in the driveway of our home. No one was around when my friend Kellyn and I discovered the car but as soon as we peeked through the window, I knew this was my car. It spoke to me. Sky-blue with a whoosh Accord logo written in italics on each side. The smallish hatchback looked sporty, cool, contemporary despite being 8 years old. Something about the word "Accord" sounded important, unique. I couldn't wait to drive it. I just had to figure how to drive a stick-shift. But after a few starts and stops, I nailed down how to switch gears without that annoying grinding noise and I hit the roads of Miami Beach. With its 75-horsepower engine, the car provided me a smooth ride with enough pep to speed down Pine Tree Drive or whip and weave on Interstate 95.
 A navy-blue velour material sheathed the seats that seemed to suck you in. The shag carpeting tickled my feet. The AC was icy cold blowing my curls of dark brown hair. Whenever I pulled away from a greenlight, the car carried an electronic hum, reminding me of a futuristic exhaust of a spaceship.
Although the car was heralded as one of the most reliable in the US, my used vehicle with some 70,000 miles, had some car quirks and I knew we I were going to have to work together if we were going to stay in this for the long haul.


When it rained, it literally poured inside the car. Sealant problems plagued my front-glass windshield. I used napkins to dab the wet spots that pooled on my dashboard but my uncle/godfather patched that up for me. Another time, when my high school lunch-bunch friends piled into the car, a rattling sound followed us as we left the school lot.

 The car dragged the muffler like the end of a Just-Marred chain of cans. We didn't make it to Burger King that afternoon and my dad gladly took care of the repair. Although I lived and hung out in Miami Beach, I had trouble leaving the 33140 area code. The car's temperature spindle would inch into the red zone if I ventured over the causeway to the Miami side or if I idled in traffic too long. I replaced the clunky radiator. When the car did work properly, it sparkled and I beamed just as brightly whenever I pulled into my driveway, my high school parking lot or at The Miami Herald building where I was an intern penning a weekly column titled "Friends and Neighbors." The Accord meant independence and I felt that spirit whenever I started the engine or paid for my own gas at the local Amoco station. This was my Accord and I could deal with all the minor auto warts I had inherited from the previous owners. The car liberated me. I felt like I was growing up, becoming a man. Too bad the Accord didn't last through high school. The car only survived two months in my hands. After making a McDonald's run with Kellyn on Thursday afternoon, I collided with a rental car driver and my Accord spun down NE 30th Street off Biscayne Boulevard like a dreidel. (No one was hurt but we still can't account for the missing medium chocolate shake that I had in my hands.)


Post-crash, the car sat lifeless, its rear folded in crushed like an accordion. I felt the same way. A tow truck dragged the car back home where an insurance adjuster eventually declared it a total loss. Until it was towed away to a car cemetery, I sat in the car each day, my fingers grazing my weathered steering wheel as I relished my short-lived adventures this vehicle gave me. Then it was gone. Over the years, I've seen clones of that light-blue Accord. When I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I often saw an identical car (but with lots of rust) parked on side streets in Harvard Square. I was often tempted to leave a note for the owner to say "I used to own a car just like this high school. I am glad to see that it's still running for you." More recently, I saw another copy zoom by me in Miami's Little Havana. Whenever I see my Accord's double, it's as if a ghost from my past, my teen years, another time, dashes by. But I like to think that my old car may have been restored by someone and that it's out there somewhere in South Florida giving another owner the pleasure it gave me for those two sweet months.

That's me with my 1982 Honda Accord parked outside a friend's apartment building in South Beach. Check out the dents.

(The top two Honda images above were original magazine ads and brochures for my model.)

12 comments:

  1. OMG! What DID happen to that shake?!? LMAO! We had some great times in your Accord!

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  2. It sure brings back some old memories. Last week, I saw a vintage Cadillac speeding on the street. I immediately remembered my old ride. It was also a birthday gift to me by my dad. We bought it on a car sale near our place. When I saw that shiny chrome, I knew right away it was “THE ONE.” Luckily, the seller gave us a reasonable price. I immediately revamped the car, and it turned out pretty nice. The car and I went through a lot, but I had to put it on sale years later because it was giving away. But I still love that ride. Given the chance, I would buy one again.

    (Patrick Gauer)

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    1. Birthday cars are one of the most memorable things in life - these are milestones to remember because they signify that you’ve become worthy of a bigger responsibility. You have a loving father, Patrick. I wonder if you could post a link for us to see the present from your dad.

      Delsie Maidens

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  3. “But I like to think that my old car may have been restored by someone and that it's out there somewhere in South Florida giving another owner the pleasure it gave me for those two sweet months.” - Losing a car very much feels like losing a dear friend. I am glad, though, that you’re seeing the incident with a positive perspective. :)

    Stelle Courney

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  4. That’s true, Stelle. You can’t just forget the happiness your car gave you even after a long time. Our car is both like a precious baby and a best friend rolled into one. Kind regards, Johnny! =)

    - Naomi Champy

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    Replies
    1. What kind of car do you own, Naomi? All cars really seem to be precious because of the owners, hehe. Your name sounds familiar. I think I have already seen your comments to all car blogs now. What do you do?
      Leighlie Ashton

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  5. Thanks Stelle and Naomi for stopping by :)

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  6. :O I see, you still keep your classic picture with your first car. I still have mine in the closet. :P The 1982 Honda Accord was the first car from a Japanese manufacturer to be produced in the United States, Johnny. Since then, Honda has offered several different car body styles and versions of the Accord. By the way, have you seen the 2012 Honda Accord Sedan? I was dazzled by its interior and pretty amazing exterior design!

    Nicole Vickers

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  7. Oh! This car seems to have a sentimental value, huh. You really value the things that were given to you. Your father must be proud and happy that he has a very appreciative son like you. This car really has a lot of safety features. It includes negative steering roll radius that’s responsible in assisting a safe stop and brake. As well as, a rear view clear window that enables good visibility from the inside.

    Dewey Setlak

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  9. I prescribe purchasing low mileage Toyota Used motors foreign from Japan as they are low mileage!

    Honda Cars // Buy Honda Cars

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