Junkyard Gem: 1987 Acura Legend Sedan

Murilee Martin


See Full Image Gallery >>

Honda beat Toyota and Nissan in the race to bring a luxury marque to North America, introducing us to the Acura brand for the 1986 model year. Acura shoppers could buy a luxed-up, more powerful Civic (the Integra) that year, while the real high-rollers went for a smooth-looking, V6-powered luxury sedan co-developed by Rover and Honda: the Legend. That was quite a leap for a company that had been selling tiny cars with two-cylinder motorcycle engines just 15 years earlier, but the 1973-1985 period had been spectacularly good times for Honda. The early Legend sold very well in California, and that's where I found this high-mile '87 a couple of months back.

While the Legend had the same underlying chassis structure and engine family as the Rover 800 (known as the Sterling in North America), the Honda-grade build quality and non-Lucas electrical components of the Legend meant that it outlasted its Rover cousins by decades and hundreds of thousands of miles. This one didn't quite make it to 300,000 miles, but 281,032 miles blows away the readings I see on most 1980s junkyard cars not made by Mercedes-Benz.

It's hard to imagine a prestigious luxury sedan with three pedals these days, but plenty of the early Legends were sold here with the five-speed manual transmission. Starting in the early 1990s, though, nearly all U.S.-market Legends had slushboxes (though the manual could be had all the way through the final Legends of 1995).

Every Legend ever made came with a V6 engine. This car has a 2.5-liter DOHC rated at 151 horsepower, while the 1987 Legend coupe got a 2.7 making 161 horses.

Other than the worn-out front seats, the interior in this car looked fairly decent when it arrived in its final parking space. Most super-high-mile cars I see in junkyards aren't very trashed-looking, presumably due to owners who took good care of them for decades (I do see the occasional exception to this rule, of course).

The body shows no rust, as you'd expect in California, but the paint hasn't fared so well over its 33 years.

It's the performance sedan making European automakers uncomfortable.

Unlike many of the wild Japanese-market car ads of the 1980s, Honda pitched the JDM Legend in a most dignified manner.