Junkyard Gem: 1983 Honda Accord Sedan with 411,794 Miles

Murilee Martin


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I've learned that finding discarded vehicles with astronomical figures showing on their odometers can be very difficult. Most manufacturers stuck with five-digit odometers well into the 1980s and even the 1990s, which rules out a majority of potential high-mile candidates right off the bat. With more recent vehicles, electronic digital odometers won't display unless you power up the main ECU— theoretically possible in a junkyard, but a real hassle. The most likely old cars to rack up interstellar mileage (Mercedes-Benz diesels) are also among the first to have their instrument clusters harvested by boneyard-prowling eBay sellers. Fortunately, Honda began installing six-digit odometers around 1981, and so today's Junkyard Gem (found last winter in a Denver car graveyard) can share its very impressive final odo reading with us.

I find junked 1980s Hondas with better than 300,000 miles on a regular basis, and most of that era's Hondas made it well past the 200k mark before reaching their final parking spots. My all-time junkyard-odometer high reading was 930,013 miles on a 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit, but I don't quite trust the integrity of the mechanism in that case; this 601,173-mile 1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E holds the non-asterisked record, with this 1985 diesel S-Class coming in second place with 535,971 miles. I've found a handful of 400k-plus-mile cars recently, including this '88 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon and this 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo wagon, and now here's a bulletproof second-generation Accord that traveled the equivalent of 16-1/2 trips around the world during its 37-year career.

These cars rusted with great eagerness in the red-powdery parts of the land, but this one took quite a while to get to this level of corrosion.

Colorado cars can rust to a certain extent, though most counties here don't use road salt and the single-digit humidity helps keep the Rust Monster at bay. This car lived in not-so-oxidey Texas as of 2011.

The factory emissions sticker shows that this Accord began life as a California-spec car, not a "49-state" federal machine. That doesn't mean it was sold new in California, but that's the way to bet; the cars meant for sale in the Golden State had more expensive underhood hardware. Honda's then-new plant in Marysville, Ohio, was making Accords by 1983, but this car came from Japan.

The vacuum-line diagram for Honda CVCC engines started to get intimidatingly complex about this time, but by 1985 it had become the Map of the Universe, so complicated that it had to be represented in isometric view. Amazingly, this system worked very well, though the failure of a single sensor or solenoid could make you fail the draconian California smog check.

The EK1 1.8-liter four-cylinder, rated at 75 horsepower in 1983.

From what I've seen of early-to-mid-1980s Accords in junkyards, the 5-speed/automatic split was about 50/50 on these cars. A few years later, it was more like 10/90 in favor of automatics.

Trunk lid won't stay closed? Home Depot to the rescue!

This appears to be a vintage yoga-related sticker, perhaps more appropriate to California than Texas or Colorado.

One thing I've seen with high-mile cars in junkyards is signs of owners who cared. Here's a bottle of touch-up paint still in the car, not something you see in most decades-old vehicles.

The interior looks all right, considering. Did the head gasket finally let go? We may never know.

This car isn't the luxurious LX, but it still came with some pretty good features for an affordable sedan in 1983.

This Japanese-market ad was in English, for added class.

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