11 February 2016

Does an ’81 Honda Accord signal a shift in the classic car market?

How much do you suppose a 1981 Honda Accord might be worth, maybe a couple thousand dollars? Try again. At the time this article was written, bidding on Ebay had ended at $25,211 for an ’81 Accord LX. Now let’s be clear, this isn’t just some hand-me-down Accord. It is a virtually showroom new, obsessively clean Green example with only 4,651 miles on the clock.

Here’s why it matters: This Accord is unexceptional in every way except for its originality and condition, and is the very definition of mundane. It is the embodiment of the classic car market’s shifting demographics and it’s Generation X’s ’57 Chevy Bel-Air.

Some people may try to argue that the Toyota 2000GT made it clear that imports were hot, but I’d disagree. The fact that the 2000GT’s prices lagged for years was more a function of its obscurity than the fact that collectors didn’t like Japanese imports. But moving past its anonymity, the 2000GT is the very definition of a collector car: It is an achingly pretty sports car; while not quick, it is well-sorted; and most importantly, it’s rare—only about 350 were ever produced.

On the other hand, the Accord was built in numbers rivaling the number of stars on a clear desert night. And yet…

Here is a 35-year-old example that sold for more than $25,000. The listing states that the Accord Coupe has no rust and is completely original and complete down to the spare tire, jack, tool kit and owner’s manual.

You may not love the Honda Accord or even find it worth mentioning, but with some collector car prices stagnant on traditionally strong segments (such as 1955-57 Thunderbirds), it bears noting that not all classics’ values are sluggish. More than reinforce 2016 Scottsdale’s results favoring very low-mileage examples, this Accord signals a marked shift in the classic car market.

24 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Michael Bay Area February 17, 2016 at 18:50
    What does it mean? Sounds like a leading question. Anyway it means nothing, nothing, nothing.
  • 2
    Billy Wisconsin February 17, 2016 at 18:56
    These rusted so fast you could almost see it happening. To find one like this is pure joy. Anyone who like myself, back in the day, took the plunge from American iron to these, can understand why I feel this way. Us Baby Boomers might like the muscle car stuff, but these are the cars our kids grew up in. They want this, not the cars I wanted in high school, nor more than I want the 1930s cars my Dad lusted over. I say, good for them. I am also happy to see more every mans cars as collectibles. Really now, how many purple Hemicudas did you see on the street back in the day? We all drove sixes and small blocks. Those are the cars that people gather around at shows. There are now so many over restored muscle cars (real and otherwise), its no longer a big deal, but to see a Gremlin or a Maverick, tugs at our heart strings. My kid brother has a 1965 four door Valiant, people go nuts over it, and the crowds that gather to see my slant six 1983 Mirada, makes me smile too.
  • 3
    Joe Central VA February 17, 2016 at 19:38
    I love them, especially the hatchbacks in that very color. Perfect daily driver that was fun to drive during a dark time for the Big Three.
  • 4
    dave az February 17, 2016 at 19:48
    different strokes for different folks. maybe the buyer of that car will figure it out one day. now the market will be flooded with '81 hondas and his will be worth zilch.
  • 5
    James Texas February 17, 2016 at 20:28
    Like most everyone, I am a fan American muscle, but I also have a great appreciation for vintage Japanese. They may not all be fast, but they have style and craftsmanship that all car enthusiasts should appreciate. One of these days I hope to see television shows that profile Japanese automobile restoration...a growing population of car owners who are currently overlooked.
  • 6
    Paul Denski Plymouth, MI February 17, 2016 at 20:42
    Say it ain't so a Honda worth more than my Wife's 67 Camaro, help us all!
  • 7
    Skip Thomsen Forestville, CA February 17, 2016 at 23:19
    I get why this Honda was worth $25K to somebody. If I was in the market for a small, economical car right now and had the choice one of our current new or nearly new generic transportation appliances or this Honda for the same price, I'd take the Honda in a heartbeat (If it has A/C). I owned one back when it was nearly new. It was a joy to drive, handled and performed sweetly, got 25-35 mpg, and was blessedly simple in its construction. Anyone at least a bit mechanically adept could easily service it, and with even with just basic maintenance, these cars were bulletproof. And on top of that, the Honda in such pristine condition is a very special car. Park your ancient Honda in a lot full of new look-alike econocans and see which car gets all the attention!
  • 8
    Ray Cleveland, OH February 18, 2016 at 14:15
    I bought an '81 Civic 5-speed wagon off guy who had stored it in a heated garage since new. Fun little car! Only sold it because we outgrew it. Sold it for what I paid for it the first day the ad was in the paper to the first person who called.
  • 9
    Mikee Long Beach February 18, 2016 at 16:25
    Nice car
  • 10
    David Wagaman Frederick, Md February 18, 2016 at 07:36
    Who cares?
  • 11
    James Tichenor Clarksburg WV February 18, 2016 at 08:47
    Fascinating story, I bought a new Honda Accord EX-L V6 Coupe for not much more than this old Honda sold for. I've had two Camaros, a Chevy 396 and a 454 Corvette and got my hands on a hot Plymouth once but this new V6 Accord is as fast if not faster than any of them other than the Corvette and it is much more comfortable with some very nice luxury touches. They don't build them like they used to, thank goodness.
  • 12
    TRCass Georgetown, MA February 18, 2016 at 09:14
    I'm in my 30's and my first car was an 84 Accord, it looked pretty much the same as this one. It's neat to see these cars coming into their own as collectible.
  • 13
    Cobranut VA February 18, 2016 at 09:19
    Just proves that there's a sucker born every minute, and that a fool and his money are soon parted.
  • 14
    Cobranut VA February 18, 2016 at 09:22
    Just proves that there's a sucker born every minute, and that a fool and his money are soon parted.
  • 15
    Eric Bair Grand Rapids MI February 18, 2016 at 09:32
    I would argue that rather than a shift in the market, there was a bidding war between a couple people that owned these vehicles when new and loved them. Now fast forward to a time when entry level cars are in the 25 grand range and faced with the dilemma of choosing a new car, why not take a trip back and drive a brand new classic. I personally would do the same given an opportunity. To purchase a car such as this as a collector wouldn't make as much sense as purchasing this car to enjoy and reminisce. Just sayin.
  • 16
    Car Collector Chronicles SE Wisconsin February 18, 2016 at 11:37
    It just stands as proof that the hobby is broad enough to encompass all types of interests/collectors.
  • 17
    Billy Wisconsin February 18, 2016 at 11:41
    It is nice to see more average cars getting some respect. Back in the day, really now, how many purple Hemicudas did you see on the street? At car shows, those are a dime a dozen, but a nice car like ones we all drove get lots of attention. My slant six 1983 Mirada is very popular.
  • 18
    John Littleton, CO February 18, 2016 at 12:11
    I had 2 Jap cars 240z & 510. Both rusted a lot. I have a 1963 Comet s22. NO rust. Runs great. Looks great. 110,000 mile. Wouldn't trade it for all the Japanese cars.
  • 19
    Brian at large in LA February 21, 2016 at 17:51
    I owned one of these back in the day, it was a good car, 40 mpg as I recall. Kind of a purple/brown if you can imagine. Sold it to a fellow Marine, two days later it burned to the ground.
  • 20
    tom CT February 21, 2016 at 07:42
    The next collectible Honda will be the Gen 2 Prelude Exceptional handling, power and comfort. I loved that car and drove it forever. Sold it to a kid for half of what I paid for it despite a slipping clutch.
  • 21
    Steve G Benicia, CA February 22, 2016 at 16:38
    I think the second comment by Billy, is spot on in his analysis. The fast, high-end, over-the-top cars are always admired. But the ones that really bring a smile to your face are those you remember seeing everyday growing up. Those are the ones that transport you to the earlier time and trigger the memories. A 57 Chevy or a 65 Mustang means little to me. But seeing a 1981 280ZX with T-tops, or a TR-7 wedge - the "everyday cars" of the 80s is special. The best part of watching an old movie is seeing the cars on the streets. A HemiCuda is fun to look at - same with a Ferrari - but I would prefer a concours of well preserved everyday cars any day.
  • 22
    Karen shadle Oregon February 28, 2016 at 19:13
    So does this mean that people are finally going to quit laughing at me for keeping my '90 CRX? It's gets 40 mpg, no rust, can go up steep hills at 100mph & pick up speed doing so. Burns no oil. It's original, just needs buffed out & new clear coat. Everywhere I go, somebody tries to buy it off me. 160,000 miles and the only repair ever needed was a new coil. I think the lines are BEAUTIFUL. Stock ugly wheels and Mark is helping me pick out new ones. Pondering a little delicate pinstriping. Blue book & insurance value it at only $1,000. Whatch all thinking? Go back to Hagerty? It will go to carshows. AND, a huge thank you to my husband, Mark Robertson and DAVE Johnson, my nephew for being supportive in this.
  • 23
    Charles Kentucky December 12, 2016 at 14:54
    I have a gray 1981 honda accord hatch, 5spd , in great shape
  • 24
    Mike Mississippi April 21, 2017 at 21:07
    This car may once have been as common as dirt, but not any more. Most went to the crusher or fell victim to rust. When was the last time you saw one on the road. And the first generation Accord really announced Honda's commitment to producing high quality, high content family cars for the American market. Only problem with this one is, what do you do? If you drive it every mile will lower its value. And if you bought it to look at, why pay such a huge premium for low mileage? I recently picked up a fully optioned 79 with 56K miles for about 1/10th the price of this one.

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