Heritage, Part II

This was a quiet weekend, as I stayed local after a busy work week. In addition, my Dad is soon to be retiring after 45 years of work as a minister, and so yesterday his church threw him a goodbye celebration. All together, it meant that DH and I did not venture further than 30 miles away from home, although we still managed to add 150 miles to the odometer over the past two days.

I was talking to Mom and Dad recently about cars, and we ended up discussing how our family became a Honda family. Mom and Dad both grew up as the children of parents who only bought American cars. Among his cars, Dad had owned a 1969 Dodge Challenger 440 R/T and a 1973 Ford Gran Torino. Mom had driven her parents’ Chevrolet Corvair. Cool cars, all. However, after they had been married, they purchased the Worst Car In the History of the World: a 1978 Ford Thunderbird.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I was able to find a photo of a 1978 Ford Thunderbird. Because horror such as this deserves photo evidence.

Let’s look past the 5.0 liter V8 engine that managed to produce only 134 horsepower, the suspension that had the cornering agility of a runaway freight train, and the fuel efficiency of a WWII tank (15 mpg). While depressing, those specifications only meant it was a mediocre car, common among late-70’s American vehicles. The horror show, worthy of a Stephen King novel, only appeared after they purchased the car. The transmission died at 12,008 miles and Ford refused to fix it because the warranty was only good to 10,000. In order to successfully operate the powered headlight covers, you had to use a screwdriver to pry them open. When it rained, or sprinkled, or you took it through a car wash, a waterfall would appear in the back seat. The coup de grace was when Dad hit a small pothole, and the right front wheel broke. The tire was fine. The steel wheel cracked and split in half.

Positively apoplectic, my Mom (a librarian by trade) did research and found a Japanese car company that was producing high quality, fuel efficient cars at an affordable price: Honda. Mom and Dad ditched the Thunderbird after less than two years of ownership and came home with a 1980 Honda Accord hatchback. This website features an ’80 Accord that was identical to ours, except that ours was the 3-speed Hondamatic (automatic) transmission, and the one in the article is a manual. My parents were thrilled. Nothing fell off the car. Everything worked correctly. The CVCC engine was highly fuel efficient, saving them a significant amount of money at the gas pump. My Dad’s fondest memory of the car was its nimble handling and my Mom’s was its utter reliability.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated (either by purchase or by gifts) a small collection of magazine articles and reviews of old Hondas. I have a review in Road and Track magazine of the 1976 Honda Accord, which was the first year that car was produced. The author marveled at its standard AM-FM radio, its door ajar buzzer, and the remote trunk release. Another review, of the 1980 Accord, nodded approvingly of its new 3-speed automatic transmission. “Everything fits and works,” said the article of the Honda. The same, of course, could not be said about the Thunderbird.

Road and Track, 1976.
Unknown magazine, 1980.

A few other items for this week. As I discussed in a previous post, last month I visited the Honda Heritage Museum in Ohio. I was unable to take photos when I went on the accompanying tour of the Honda factory across the street from the museum, but Matt from Honda of America Manufacturing was kind enough to email me a few photos from inside the Marysville plant. I’ve included them here.

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The factory tour was amazing. At times we were within a few paces of the actual assembly line.
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Finished products. I want the job of the guy who takes the cars off the assembly line for a short test drive. Test driving cars all day long? Yes please.
Lynn from the Honda Heritage Center was kind enough to mail me a copy of this 20″x30″ poster of the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team. I had meant to grab a copy when I was in the museum but in my excitement,  I had forgotten to take it. Lynn is awesome. FYI.

Finally, I recently had to take DH in for a bit of service. Several weeks ago I hit a nasty pothole, and afterward I began experiencing a vibration at highway speeds. I took the car to the dealer, where they diagnosed  bent wheel (unlike the Thunderbird, nothing broke, however). The wheel has been replaced. I’ll admit to a bit of sticker shock when I saw the price for the new wheel, but all is mended now and the car is back to tip-top shape.

New wheel, everything properly round again.
An evening night drive. The weather has been beautiful lately.

That is all from this week. I have another fun trip planned for the July 4th holiday weekend, which I will be happy to share here. In the meantime, thanks for taking the time to read this article, and I hope your summer is going well.

‘Til next time.

2 thoughts on “Heritage, Part II

  1. Loving this back-story. Look at the length of that Thunderbird hood! And you mentioned the “test driver” job at the assembly plant – I actually got to do a ride along with the person who does that at the Greensburg, IN factory where they used to make ILX’s! (They’ve since moved ILX production to Marysvale, OH). Fun little loop for sure. Including a water spray chamber.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember you touring the plant from one of your posts, but I didn’t realize you got to do ride-alongs. Very cool. And the bonus part of that job? New car smell, all day long.


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