Honda Accord

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Honda Accord Series I

1976 - 1981
4 cyl.
68 hp (51 kW)
5 spd. man / 2 spd. auto
Top Speed:
Number Built:
1 star
Honda Accord Series I
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


When the Accord was released Honda had manufacturers from Wolfsburg, Milan, Turin, Billancourt and even Japanese Toyota in their sights. Of course with the benefit of hindsight we can claim the Accord was a brilliant car - arguably better than any of the competitors. It was beautiful, it went well, cornered well and stopped well. At release, the Accord was available in only one body style, a 2-door hatchback. Its body dimensions were similar to those of the Scirocco and Toyota Sprinter (badge-engineered Corolla) liftback. All three were hatchbacks.

The Accord body shell was a sturdy all-steel welded, unitary construction. Like the Civic, Honda employed large single side pressings wrapped onto the roof, with welding seams cleverly camouflaged by a pair of chrome strips running the full length of the roof. The body featured a thick, full width tailgate like that of the Scirocco, however, with more elaborate care in fitting tolerances. The hatch was supported by twin gas filled struts, which retracted completely into the C-pillars when closed. All but the base SL model are fitted with standard rear wipers/washers.

Honda claimed the Accord's larger body shell was as torsionally stiff as that of the Civic. Power unit for the Japanese and US markets, where the Accord was sold at the rate of 8000 units a month, was Honda's famed super low emission and low consumption CVCC engine with dual combustion chambers and three valves per cylinder. This was a stroked version of the series II 1500cc unit, further refined and improved in detail. While the bore remained 74 mm, the stroke was extended to 93 mm for a total cubic capacity of 1599cc.

All Honda CVCC engines, from the smallest 1238cc unit to the then new 1599cc version, shared the same cylinder head with interchangeable valves. The improved combustion chamber, port and manifold design enabled CVCC engines to burn leaner mixtures, the order of 17 to 19:1 air fuel ratio compared with the series I's 16 to 1 AF ratio. The compression ratio was raised from the series I's 7.7:1 to 8.0:1, and ignition timing advanced two degrees. Even the valve timing was revised.

The Accord version was rated at 59.6 bhp @ 5300 rpm, which was about 53.6 kW net, and produced a maximum torque 120.6 Nm at 3000 rpm. Official fuel consumption data published by the American EPA certified consumption of 31 mpg (U.S.) for the city cycle and 44 mpg for the highway cycle for the Accord fitted with a manual transmission. The Australian version was fitted with a non-CVCC 1599cc engine, which offered slightly better performance.

The transmissions fitted to the Accord were basically the same as those available on the Civic. The single dry plate clutch for the manual transmission was updated to be hydraulically activated, instead of cable operation. There were four and five speed mechanical gearboxes and Honda's own 2-speed semi-automatic. The power unit was mounted transversely at a 15 degree tilt forward, and the transmission was inline with the engine, a la Fiat 128, driving the front wheels via unequal length drive shafts.

The power unit and suspension lower members were carried on two hefty cross members, the former on an elaborate four points mounts which reduced transmission of noises and vibrations to the body shell. Suspension was again following the tested and proven Civic layout, in that front was by MacPherson struts with lower transverse arms, located by diagonal trailing rods and checked by an anti-roll bar, and rear by MacPherson struts on A-arms and trailing radius rods. Coils were used all round.

Steering was by rack and pinion with 3.2 turns of the 382 mm steering wheel. Honda offered power steering on the top of the range, the EX model. Honda's R&D division had been developing the system since the late 1960s, and had installed it on a fleet of smaller Civics from around 1974 onward to ensuer it was well suited to application in the Accord. The brakes were a front disc and rear drum combination with standard servo assistance, split diagonal circuits and twin pressure control valves. The pressed steel disc bolt-on wheels were shod with 6.15-13 cross ply or 155SR13 radial tyres on 4.5J.

Behind the Wheel

The Accord looked pretty good, if you judge it on the style of 1976. It looked extremely low and wide, but the looks were a little deceptive, checks of actual dimensions proving it to be slightly taller than both the Scirocco and the Toyota Liftback. The detail of the exterior finish was typically Honda - superb. Step into the cabin through the wide door, and you were in for pleasant surprise. The cabin was fully trimmed, and the instrumentation panel featured a full complement of easy-to-read, day and night instruments. Every Accord, including the base SL, was fitted with a 7000 rpm rev counter red-lined at 5800 rpm, 170 km/h speedo including total and trip gauges, flanking fuel and coolant temperature gauges. Under the smaller gauges was a graphic display and idiot lamp panel that warned you if one or both doors (or tailgate) were ajar, or brake lamp bulb(s) burnt out. Functions of these lamps could be checked by pressing a tiny button on top of the steering column cover, which lit up the lamps.

Above the instrument cluster was a strip of more warning lamps, for hand brake, oil pressure, charge, headlamp beam and fuel low level. The last lit up when fuel level fell below nine litres. Inside the large diameter speedometer were three tiny windows marked oil filter, engine oil and tyre rotation. The windows remained green for 4500 km for engine lubricant and tyre rotation - after 4501 km, they changed to orange, and changed to red at 5000 km. For the oil filter, green went up to 9000 km, caution up to 10000 km, then went to red. To reset after obeying the signal, you only needed to insert the tip of the ignition key in one of the three slots under the speedo, and it would be reset to green. We suspect this was often done when 2nd hand Accords hit the second hand market. The instruments sat behind a single non-reflective curved lens, and were illuminated at night by no less than nine tiny bulbs.

Interior designer Komuro

The Civic was a nice, lively car, but for all its charm, the heating and ventilation system was pretty average, the heater being pretty much an all-or-nothing affair, and the fresh air vent offered little in the way of fresh air. Thankfully the Accord was a vast improvement - arguably the best HVAC system on a small car available in 1976. Interior designer Komuro boasted that, in the beginning, he set side and central air outlets on his work bench, around which he formed a facia. The end product offered good ram air effects, forced fresh air vent by quiet three speed blower. You could have cool fresh air coming from the facia outlets, and warmth from heater from under the dashboard. Komuro included air outlets on the doors which would demist windows.

An optional air-conditioning system was a fully integrated one into the heating-ventilation system, and was controlled by the same two lever-blower/dial arrangements. Lighting and wiping/washing functions were controlled by twin stalks growing from the steering column, and more expensive models had additional intermittent wiping position to the two speed system. You could unlatch the tailgate by the tiny lever beside your seat. These days its standard kit, but back then the idea came from Honda's ESV which intended the tailgate as an escape hatch.

A heated rear window was standard on most of the models, so was a clock, large piece full carpeting, swivelling rear quarter lights, reclining front seats, and a radio (AM/FM-cum-tape player in the EX). The seats were well shaped and padded. The driver's one combined proper thigh and lumber support with softer feel of comfortable cloth upholstery. Honda designers had trimmed several centimetres in the height of the backrest which wasn't really supporting anything, and instead added an adjustable head-restraint. The new front seat definitely added to the airey feel of the cabin.

The rear seat had a tall and properly raked squab. There was no occasional seat, instead the Honda designers deciding it better to take two adults in comfort, and an additional one in the middle on shorter hops. The squab folded down, of course, to enlarge luggage carrying space. Another feature we take for granted these days, but was not a common fitment on cars of the era, was the three piece luggage cover which fitted in place when the hatch was closed, concealing contents from outside eyes.

On the Road

The 1600 CVCC charge stratification engine was no fire breather, but adequate and willing to propel the compact car for all practical purposes, and more. The engine revved happily to its 5800 rpm rev limit which was 500 rpm above the maximum power rpm. Slight resonance built up from above 3500 rpm, but it was not obtrusive. The optional 5-speed gearbox allowed you to avoid this resonance range except for shorter periods during acceleration and deceleration. Sitting on Austalia's legal speed of 100 km/h the engine would be ticking over at 3200 rpm in overdrive fifth, which made highway touring both comfortable and quiet.

The Accord also offered plenty of grip, able to handle poor road conditions typically found on Australian country roads. But as good as it was, perhaps it was in the roadholding department that the Europeans proved their worth. Honda did not do themselves any favours by fitting the Accord with skinnier 155 section Japanese brand. But the gap between the best in class Scirroco and the Accord was minimal - and few could argue the difference in ability given the Accord was a car almost half the price. The Accord's understeer was almost unnoticeable, and lift-off at mid-corner produces very controllable. At the time the Accord was considered to be one of less throttle sensitive FWD cars, very predictable and utterly safe.

The manual steering was very good - although with the power version there were far less kick-backs, yet enough road feel. It made your work very easy on tighter hairpins, yet on faster corners, as solid and stable as the manual system. The front disc, rear drum brake combination provided reliable retardation. Servo assistance was just right, and the twin pressure limiting valves worked effectively.

The Accord 4-Door

On October 14, 1977, a four-door sedan was added to the lineup, and power went to 72 hp (54 kW) when the 1599cc (97.6 cu in) EL1 engine was supplemented and in certain markets replaced by the 1751 cc (106.9 cu in) an EK-1 unit. In 1980 the optional two-speed semi-automatic transmission of previous years became a three-speed gearbox (a 'proper' self-shifting four-speed automatic transmission was not used in the Accord until the 1983 model year). Slightly redesigned bumper trim, new grilles and taillamps and remote mirrors were added on the 4-door (chrome) and the LX (black plastic) models. The CVCC badges were deleted, but the CVCC induction system remained. In 1981 an SE model was added for the first time, with Novillo leather seats and power windows.

Base model hatchbacks, along with the 4-door, LX, and SE 4-door, all received the same smaller black plastic remote mirror. The instrument cluster was revised with mostly pictograms which replaced worded warning lights and gauge markings. Nivorno Beige (code #Y-39) replaced Oslo Beige (#YR-43). Dark brown was discontinued, as was the bronze metallic. The shifter was redesigned to have a stronger spring to prevent unintentional engagement of reverse, replacing the spring-loaded shift knob of the 1976 to 1980 year model cars. The Accord competed with Japanese competitors such as the Toyota Corona, Datsun 510, Mazda 626 and Mitsubishi Galant, which were also part of the mid-size Japanese market.
1976 Honda Accord

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Also see:

Honda Production 1963 - 1979
Honda Accord Brochures
Honda History
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