CRAVING FOR A TRUE LEGEND, ACURA LEGEND THAT IS

In the 1980’s, Honda planned its entrance into the United States luxury car market with a new brand and models suited to luxury buyers. That brand was Acura and the first car to launch under that plan was the Acura Legend. In collaboration with UK’s Rover brand, which was also looking for a new flagship at the time, Honda embarked on a mission like no other taken on by a Japanese company. In reality, the Acura Legend became a car of many firsts for Honda. It was the company’s first executive class vehicle, its first production V6, its first longitudinal front wheel drive platform, and Japan’s first luxury brand in the US (three years ahead of Lexus). The original Legend sedan was a notable success and even the coupe offered healthy sales in its first generation. To stay on top, and as Toyota and Nissan launched their own Lexus and Infiniti luxury divisions respectively, Acura had to create something significantly more impressive with the launch of the second generation Legend which became the early benchmark for executive sedans and coupes in the 1990’s.

1990 saw the second generation Acura Legend debut as a 1991 model year. The new model featured extremely modern styling for its time both inside and out, and the influence of Acura’s flagship uber-sportscar, the NSX, can be seen in many parts of the car’s design such as the raked wrap around rear glass and premium 5 spoke aluminum wheels on the outside, to the cockpit-like driving position and sportscar styled NS gauges inside. Up front, the new longer hood hid an updated and powerful 3.2L V6 in a longitudinal configuration, something rare in a FWD car and unique in Honda’s history. The design was sporty, luxurious, refined, aerodynamic, and in the case of the Coupe, timeless. The Legend Coupe was and still is one of those cars that looks fast standing still.

The Coupes at the time came equipped with some of the best standard features of any luxury car, including vacuum operated soft close doors, driver memory seats, heated leather seats, dual front airbags, automatic climate control, steering wheel mounted radio controls and a car phone. The real standout of the second generation Legend models was the 1993 to 1995 Coupe. Many upgrades landed in the 1993 Acura Legend Coupe to tip the car’s balanced scale more toward sportscar than luxury car. To do this, Honda/Acura delivered the Type II SOHC V6 with 30 more horsepower made possible by a higher flowing intake manifold and slightly more aggressive camshafts, and paired it to an excellent six speed manual gearbox that traces its heritage to the company’s NSX supercar. The engineers didn’t stop there. To further refine the Legend Coupe’s performance feel, the car’s suspension was upgraded to improve handling and used electronic traction control to help deliver the power to the ground, while larger brakes were used to help the car stop faster. Safety was upgraded too with seatbelt pretensioners and the addition of a passenger airbag. The 1994 and 1995 models received subtle updates to the body including more aggressive bumpers, a body color matched grill and revised deck lid badging, as well as advanced tech updates like an innovative electronic tilt and telescoping steering column.

In our casual search for future collectibles, the second-generation Legend Coupe stands above many other makes and models with far less in terms of production volume and heritage. Here is why:

Timeless Design: The second-generation Legend was an award-winning design in its day and has gracefully stood the test of time. Like a fine wine, it seems to only become more desirable as it ages.

Rarity: Despite there being a real lack of actual production numbers, trolling Acura-Legend.org has generated some interesting numbers. Just under 25,000 coupes were sold in the US between 1991 and 1995. Only 6,276 of those represent the desirable 1994 and 1995 models with the Type II engine. From that subset, only 3,358 were the desirable LS models that featured all the bells and whistles and visual enhancements such as the 5-spoke aluminum wheels. From that specific subset, we can only guess that maybe a quarter of those (about 840) were equipped with the 6-speed manual versus the far more common automatic. Finding low mileage and clean examples of any Legend is a task these days, but try locating a pristine, unmolested, low mileage, 6-speed LS Coupe from 1994 and 1995 and you will soon discover that the odds of finding one are probably lower than your odds of getting struck by lightning.

List of Firsts: The second-generation Legend introduced a number of firsts when it came to technological and refinement attributes. In addition to offering what might have been the world’s best naturally aspirated production V6 engine in any luxury car at the time, mated to an equally impressive 6-speed manual transmission, the Legend Coupe offered soft-close doors which was a true rarity at the time, pioneered the fuselage exterior design concept, brought in a longitudinal mounted engine in a front wheel drive luxury car, and offered advanced driving technologies such as ABS brakes and electronic traction control as standard fare.

The Last Legend: As perplexed as many of us car enthusiasts still are, Acura/Honda seems to have no desire to bring back the legendary “Legend” name back to their US line-up. So, while we may never see another Legend in America, Honda has been reluctant to let go of this trademark perhaps realizing how powerful the name truly is. To many of us 90s Japanese car enthusiasts, and of course as history shows, only one legendary car truly personifies the rapid rise of Japan’s automobile industry to the top of the 90s automotive food chain, and for that, Acura’s Legend will remain in our hearts and minds, as the one and only legend for automotive eternity!

Given the above, the Legend coupe has proven itself to be a true automotive “Legend” and, already, the amount of money people are putting down to obtain clean examples of these rare cars has reached borderline insane. With an impressive list of firsts, its many technological advancements, its perfect balance of sporty and performance, and of course it’s undeniably attractive styling, propelled of course by its rarity, the second generation Legend Coupe will continue to weigh on the hearts of enthusiasts and collectors alike and prices will most certainly climb higher as the years pass. Bear in mind that, as the Legends changed hands and became used cars in the late 90s and early 2000s, they also became fairly popular cars with the VIP and Stance car scenes. That said, finding unaltered, low-mileage examples of this car today is truly difficult. Although, if you watch eBay daily, they do seldom pop up and tend to close for about half the cost of a new Accord.

It is almost inevitable that in a couple of years we would look back and reminisce the good old days when you could buy a nice, low mileage Legend Coupe for $15,000 or so.

ACURA NSXAlyson Yarberry