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39k Miles? 1978 Honda Accord

In 1978, the Honda Accord was still in its very early days of production, having just been introduced as a ’76 model, with the first-generation cars appearing much differently from how their modern sedan styling looks nowadays.  One of the things I deeply respect about Honda is the company offering the Accord as a two-door all the way up until 2017, with manual transmissions available through 2020, outlasting many of their counterparts in these 2 important areas.  This 1978 Honda Accord is nowhere near perfect although it does seem to have a few strong points, so if you’ve been searching for some reliable transportation with low miles, this one may be worth a look.  The car is located in Spring Valley, California, and can be seen here on eBay, where a current bid of $2,900 isn’t enough yet to make the reserve-not-met disappear.

The backstory here goes that the Accord stayed with the original family until about a year ago when the second owner purchased it. However, he didn’t get around to doing anything with the car, so it was then purchased by the seller. Most of the exchanges have been made just recently. Many of the Honda’s days were spent in Imperial Beach near San Diego, and that’s still the original factory-applied finish outside.

For the most part, the seller says it’s surface rust that can be spotted on the body, but there’s one area of corrosion between the fender and wiper panel that might be a deal-breaker or at least make me want to make repairs here and have the whole car repainted.  The seller likes the patina and says the paint waxes up nicely, but it may be time to bite the bullet and perform some bodywork followed by a respray.

No photos are provided from the engine compartment, but the 1.6-liter CVCC 4-cylinder is thought to have just 39,400 total miles, with the Honda stated to be still performing in a way that reflects this to be accurate.  We get to view a video of the car being started and driven for a short distance, and while the exhaust is a bit noisy, the engine seems to be running OK, and I didn’t hear any knocks or strange internal noises when the driver revs the motor toward the end.

The interior is also said to be all original and has recently been detailed. The seats are showing wear and tear, but the only component in there not currently functioning is the fuel gauge, so make sure you fill up often. A part of me kind of likes this early Accord, and it seems like a fun knockabout car so long as the seller hasn’t set his reserve too high. Based on the positives and negatives, what’s fair to spend on this one?


  1. Avatar photo JustPassinThru

    Rust on a first-generation Honda.

    That’s a deal-breaker. Once it starts, it can no more be stopped than fire in a hayloft. If you need a parts car, there it is; but when the body is corroding, you just have no car.

    And that’s where this is, now.

    I see: New CA plates on a very-old car. Odds are likely it spent some time in a winter-salt area; but that doesn’t even matter. The issue is body corrosion and this example has plenty.

    Like 15
    • Avatar photo Steve R

      Those aren’t new plates. The ad says it spent most of its life in the coastal city of Imperial Beach, that explains the rust. It’s rust is not consistent with a car that was subjected to road salt. The rust, if it hasn’t spread to the inner cowl/firewall shouldn’t be too hard to repair.

      If the reserve is isn’t too high, it could make a good project for 70’s Japanese imports.

      Steve R

      Like 6
      • Avatar photo Robert

        From the open driver door shot, it appears the rust is creeping down the entire inner door well from the cowl. No undercarriage or engine shots also has me worried. I once looked at a car that lived near the ocean and that engine bay was a nightmare from the salt air corrosion.

        Like 4
      • Avatar photo David Kamenesky


        Like 0
    • Avatar photo Neil R Norris

      Legend has it, you could hear these cars rusting on the assembly line at night …

      Like 7
      • Avatar photo Michael Roob

        I had a 1976. Rust was such a problem, Honda actually had a recall to replace the front fender assemblies.

        Like 2
      • Avatar photo JoeNYWF64

        Hard to believe people continued to buy more & more of these imports – must have been the better-than-amer-cars mpg, tho automatics were only 2 speeds on these!
        But not good when you see rust thru where u don’t expect it.

        Like 2
    • Avatar photo John korner

      First car was a blue accord Hondamatic. Was a 78 bought in 81.
      $4700 41k rebuilt motor 48k . 15k on brakes of you were lucky…
      No power steering. 3500 rpm at 60 mph. $160.00 service contract.
      Lasted till 140K. Fond memories.

      Like 0
  2. Avatar photo Bob_in_TN Member

    I don’t know much about these Accords and don’t have much of an opinion about them. But one thought was that the nameplate has been around for almost 50 years, and is now attached to a largeish stylish four-door. This example looks well-used. Like JustPassinThru says, I wonder about the penetrating rust. At least the seller provided a picture, though he tries to dismiss it, instead promoting the car’s overall ‘patina.’

    Like 7
  3. Avatar photo Troy

    What am I missing I looked at all the pictures I believe that the odometer has rolled at least once I think bidding is higher than the value with all that rust

    Like 9
  4. Avatar photo Steve Haffner

    I had a 78 or 79, sold my CJ5 to buy it. So friggin slow! And what a 2 speed automatic. RPM’s were screaming on the highway. Went back to a jeep CJ7. Still own Hondas but that was not a favorite…

    Like 3
  5. Avatar photo Hans H

    I had one of these in college. Burned so much oil, I’d stop at the gas station and fill the oil and check the gas. Other than that the car was great, till the strut rusted out.

    Like 4
  6. Avatar photo HoA Member

    I think it was this car that finally won over long time foreign car holdouts.( not me, or my old man, for that matter) A Civic on steroids, kind of. For many, the Civic was too small, and the Accord was just right. For a car to rust in California, only bolsters what serious rusters they were. This car? Well, with a 5 digit speedo, it’s hard to tell, but clearly, pops drove this car to oblivion and back, couple times. I read, these cost $3995 new, about $300 more than a Pinto, but options pushed it well over $5grand. I too would be concerned of the structural integrity of the underside, but one thing for sure, folks that bought an Accord, usually bought another and it started right here.

    Like 5
  7. Avatar photo M vickery

    As someone else here said, that is what I call seaside rust. The car is near the water and at night, the dew that is deposited on your car has salt in it and the car rusts from the top down. I guess a close look could reveal if the firewall is rusty. If it is, I don’t think it’s stoppable. My brother had one of these about 1980, and it wasn’t particularly reliable. It blew it’s head gasket, and if I remember correctly, at the time the only place to get a head gasket was the dealer. I remember it being pretty expensive for the time.

    Like 5
  8. Avatar photo TinIndy

    Rust is like mice. You see one and there are 50 nearby you don’t see. Some are acting like the salt water just sits on top the fender. No, it gets everywhere.

    Like 6
  9. Avatar photo angliagt Member

    That ocean air does nasty stuff to metal.I once went to check
    out an MGA coupe parked right near the Pacific near Trinidad,CA.
    It was uncovered,& not much was left intact.
    I talked to an MG guy who told me he bought it for parts,so I
    was happy that it wasn’t just crushed.

    Like 4
  10. Avatar photo Roland

    In New England these were recalled for the front fenders rusting out. I remember in high school seeing them with faded paint and fresh, non-matching paint on both front fenders. The thin metal was hard to work with if you wanted to do any kind of body work. However, today body shops probably have more experience with thin metal, so welding a patch might be possible with good results.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo HoA Member

      I thought the front fenders were a Honda recall, but apparently, they were not. These were recalled for a suspension glitch. You could tell the cars that had replacement front fenders, as the replacements didn’t rust as fast. It was common to see Accords like this, rusted out with good front fenders.

      Like 4
  11. Avatar photo Driveinstile Member

    I worked at a Honda dealer in the late 80s. The Accord evolved so much in just 10 short years. The ones from the late 80s were a nice size, comfortable and drive well. I had a chance to drive a couple of older ones, and truth be told, there was no comparison back then, at least not to me. They all rusted very quickly in the North Jersey area where I grew up. Im kind of surprised how much of this one is left after all these years, I’ve seen worse.

    Like 3
  12. Avatar photo JMB#7

    Three things to consider. Check under the hood to make sure the strut towers are not separating from the inner fenders. Try to verify that the rust has not moved to the firewall. If you buy it, remove the exhaust manifold and torch out the thermal reactor before it warps inward on its own. Beyond that, just treat it the same as you would any 46 year old car. By the way, it is a 5-speed manual. I suspect that the odometer claim is accurate and an in-person examination would confirm that. These are great cars and this one appears to be worth saving.

    Like 5
  13. Avatar photo Dan

    I would stop at $3k because that rust looks ominous. A 1st-gen Accord is a super-rare sight now because most of them rusted out. That 5-speed, which most of these came with, is a plus. The drivetrain seems OK so I can see investing $8K to bring this to a #2 or high 3 car, and $10K looks to be the going price for a high #3 car.

    Like 3
  14. Avatar photo Mister Green

    Yeah, those are ‘beach-salt rims.’ And the cancer is a deal-killer. Call it a “classic” and donate it for some pie-in-the-sky deduction.

    Like 4
  15. Avatar photo Big C

    Did they leave a bag of salt on that front fender? Or, did they fix the rest of the rust, and gave up on that fender, years ago? The wife had one of these, and it sold her on Honda’s. Well, until she met me…

    Like 3
  16. Avatar photo Phil G

    We had a 78 Accord hatchback like this one, lovely little car. Handled well, good gas mileage, really nice interior. The top of the front fenders at the back did rust through like this one. I reached up in there, and there was a spot way up near the A pillar where dirt collected, got wet, and stayed. I just scraped it out of there and put some bondo on mine. When the family grew, we had to say goodbye.

    Like 1
  17. Avatar photo Rodney - GSM

    As the long term owner of not one but two of these, I can confirm that the rust you see is only a warning sign of what lurks beneath. I would carefully disassemble this for the parts which are super rare now and sell them to save others that are not so terminal. Ask the man who drives not one, but two.

    Like 1

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