Frequently in the collector-car industry, we read about “multi-year” restorations. “Frame-off,” “no-expense-spared,” “nut-and-bolt,” are some of the other phrases that convey a sense of all-inclusive attention to detail when it comes to bringing a car back to life. Having been through the process, I now get it: Doing a car restoration the right way will test anyone’s patience – and his or her pocketbook.
It is hard to believe, but it’s been a year since I last provided an update for The Journal on my final-year Acura Legend LS coupe. In all, I produced nine different videos in a playlist for YouTube that showed the car going all the way from a salvage-yard-destined heap to a showroom-worthy collector item. It’s only fair that I provide our readers with some closure on how things turned out.
The car was acquired on September 23, 2021 after about two decades (!) of trying to get it from the owner. From there, I took a methodical approach to getting it back on the road. After all, what good is a car with a fresh paint job if it doesn’t run? With that mindset, I prioritized the checklist to include mechanical and safety concerns first, followed by the interior, and finally the exterior.
Each phase brought its own challenges. One of the key hurdles in restoring any car is finding available parts. Automakers frequently begin to discontinue parts for cars after 15 years or so. And while some car companies have “heritage” lines of business that offer replica or reproduction vintage parts, Honda and Acura are not totally there yet.
Luckily, I had access to a running and driving parts car, as well as a strong enthusiast network. A Facebook group called “Acura Legend Owners & Enthusiasts,” has over 7,000 members – and this community operates more like a family than like a traditional car club. People are overwhelmingly eager to engage and help source needed parts for folks who are trying to complete a build like mine.
It was over two years from the day I picked up the car to the day it was shown at its first “real” show. The high-level timeline has looked something like this:
- September 23, 2021: Vehicle acquired and towed home
- January 17, 2022: After some tinkering, the car moved under its own power around the block
- May 18, 2022: Mechanical rebuild completed
- June 2, 2022: Interior refurbishment underway
- December 15, 2022: Wheels and tires completed and installed
- January 17, 2023: Paint work completed
- March 12, 2023: Vehicle revealed to prior owner
- April 2, 2023: Car went into the Acura of Tempe showroom for five weeks
- April 4, 2023: Fun Jalopnik story released on the build
- October 14, 2023: First show at RADwood Arizona
The Big Reveal
My palms were sweaty the day that my friend Ian and I drove over to the original owner’s house to show her the car in March. The context of my visit was pretty vague. In a text message, I had told her, “I’d like to show you some updates to the Legend.” We rolled up to her home, and I parked the car in her driveway in the same location where it had been immobile for at least three years prior to the rescue.
Her reaction was priceless, and a few expletives left her mouth because the transformation was so staggering. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said as she came out the front door. I gave her a tour of the exterior, interior, engine bay, and trunk. Then I tossed her the keys so she could start the car up like old times. At the conclusion of my visit, I gave Amy a framed 8×10 photo of the restored car that I had signed with, “Thanks Amy!” All of this is featured in Part 8 of my YouTube series.
In addition to showing the car to Amy, I mailed some photos to Kurt Antonius, one of the pioneers of the Acura brand when it launched in early 1986. Kurt worked in Public Relations for the company until well into the 1990s; in fact, his signature was the one on the press release when the second-generation Legend debuted in 1991. Kurt mailed me back a note: “Thanks so much for sharing the photos of your restored Acura Legend. You would make the factory proud.” I have that note framed in my garage now.
If there is anything that this restoration (and others, like my Acura RSX project) have taught me, it’s that restoring a car takes a great deal of patience – as well as a generous budget. Even though this car was “free,” my total receipts and expenditures now creep into the $30,000 realm.
When put into perspective, is that really a lot? I’d love to hear it in the comment section. How much have you spent (or would you spend) on fixing up your dream car? Truly, putting this car back on the road was a labor of love, so the financial outlay didn’t mean all that much. This build was, as they say, “Priceless.”
There are still some ongoing phases of work planned for this old car. It will undergo suspension work to address some creaky struts in the coming weeks, and I still need to install a custom fabricated wiring harness so that the fog lights turn on. As soon as I cross something off the checklist, another item gets added. In that way, the car will continue to progress on the path to perfection.
Most importantly, I am content to drive and enjoy it just as-is. I will likely debut the car at a National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) in the future, but until then, watch for me on the road with a big grin on my face. Thanks for coming along on the journey, and to the Collector Car Network for letting me share it.