Odometer (Legend): 533,911
Odometer (ILX): 133,031
Odometer (Vigor): 104,259
Trip Distance: 909 Miles
Ugh, I’m obsessed. As if it wasn’t bad enough having 4 Acuras around, I’ve adopted yet another.
From a 1993 Acura Vigor sales brochure:
From the moment of its introduction, the sophisticated Acura Vigor luxury sports sedan has generated excitement, admiration, and respect from the most important critics of all its satisfied owners.
As the newest model in the Acura family, the Acura Vigor has an impressive reputation to uphold: a promise of luxurious comfort, inspiring performance, unquestionable quality and state-of-the-art safety engineering. And judging by the early returns, the Acura Vigor is proving itself more than equal to the challenge.
As was clearly published in Steve Lynch’s April 2015 article on The Truth About Cars about “orphaned Hondas,” I’ve been on the lookout for an “Arcadia Green” Acura Vigor GS for some time now. I’ve crossed paths with a few but they’ve been total junkers. Bad paint, torn-up interiors, worn-out clutches, theft/recovery, and salvage title history. It’s amazing what kind of wear & tear can be thrown at a car in two decades’ time. But as I was en route in my Legend GS sedan to Acura of Tempe for its semi-annual oil change last Saturday, I was notified by my friend Kevin about a newly-listed Vigor on AutoTrader that he highly recommended I consider.
This car appeared to fit the bill nicely. It was my #1 color choice, a stick-shift (requirement!), and a true certified one-owner with clockwork emissions checks every two years. Best of all, it was an extremely low-miler with just a fraction of the miles compared to some of the Vigors I’d been considering. This one had traveled on average fewer than 5,000 miles per year since new.
So, while the Legend sedan was in for its 146,914-mile service, I was on the phone with Ben from AutoNation Subaru in Centennial, Colorado trying to swing a deal on that Vigor. In the end, we did come to an agreement on terms. Included in Ben’s end of the bargain, he’d be picking me up from the Denver airport when it was time for me to retrieve the Vigor a week later.
What about this odd-looking, ancient, boxy Acura holds so much appeal?
- The Vigor is extremely rare and only had a 3-model-year lifespan: 1992, 1993, & 1994
- The car sold only 43,908 total units, and 1994 was the lowest year at 8,722 units
- By comparison, the Legend flagship was sold for 10 years and totaled 477,831 units
- This car was powered by Honda’s only longitudinally-mounted 5-cylinder engine giving it 50/50 weight distribution
- The 2.5 liter puts out 176 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque
- The Vigor came from an era when every Acura model was available with a stick shift transmission. Today, zero are.
- This car was the predecessor to today’s best-selling Acura TLX sport sedan, filling the gap between the Integra & the Legend where today, the TLX bridges the gap between ILX & RLX
- The 1994 model year saw improvements over the prior 2 years, including increased rear seat room & a softened suspension
- Production of the Vigor ended on May 13, 1994. Since this car was built in April of that year, it was probably among the last few hundred cars off the line.
- Every Vigor has notable and very distinguishable features: Yellow integrated fog lamps and “frameless” door windows.
- If you roll down the windows in this car and open the door, it’s like a convertible’s door
- This Vigor is equipped in “GS” trim, making it top of the line. The GS got a power moonroof, full leather upholstery, and an upgraded stereo which set it apart from “LS” models.
- Has there ever been a cooler name for an interior color than “Cognac”?
My flight to Colorado would be Saturday morning the 4th of July. On Friday, I slept as best as I could knowing that I had to be at the airport the next day at 5:00 in the morning. But when you’re anxious about getting a new car and you know you have an 850+ mile drive the next day and aren’t even sure if the car will make it, it’s tough to catch any shuteye.
Ben from AutoNation Subaru picked me up in a Legacy wagon promptly at 9:30 after my short flight on Southwest and we made the 30-minute drive to Centennial. We both kind of laughed a little at the thought of someone like me going to such great lengths to buy a 21-year-old Acura. The Vigor was backed in at the covered entrance to the showroom in a delivery area when we arrived at the Arapahoe Road facility.
Ben said he’d had the car detailed the night before, and I could tell. It was gleaming. Right off the bat, I did notice some flaws: both the front & rear bumpers were scuffed, the tint was purple and bubbling all over, and some of the wheels had a little clear coat failure. But the body itself was absolutely miraculous in its condition. For being a Colorado car and in an environment where winters are very harsh, it didn’t have an ounce of rust. I couldn’t detect any paint work at all, and everything was factory original. The driver’s seat showed a little wear on the side bolster but otherwise the interior looked like a brand new car.
While Ben rounded up paperwork with his finance guy, Mike, I had 10 minutes to chill, so I walked around the car and then started rummaging through the glove compartment. The leather-bound owner’s manual was there, and I noted that the original owner’s name (Kathy) & her information were handwritten on the inside of the front cover. Kathy bought the car from Riverside Acura in Little Rock, Arkansas on March 23, 1995 from salesman Jack Storey who left his business card there.
I got a little hopeful that I’d find an original build sheet / window sticker inside the portfolio. I stuck my fingers down into the pocket and BINGO. Found it. Folded 6 times and ripping in multiple places, but clearly the piece of paper I’d been looking for. The MSRP on the Vigor was $28,735 including destination and handling, kind of shocking since the Legend flagship at the time was a full $10k more expensive. That paperwork discovery made my day as much as getting the car itself.
Unfortunately AutoNation wasn’t able to give me any other documentation on the car aside from an in-house work order showing that they replaced the sway bar bushings in the front suspension at 103,342 miles. They also provided a Carfax print-out but it didn’t show much more than clockwork emissions tests every two years.
Finance Mike and I completed our business inside his office. “Who’s the car for?” he asked. “Just me,” I told him. I mentioned that I already had a couple other Acuras and he said, “You should get an NSX.” He was surprised to learn that I already had one. It would be inappropriate to complete any car sale transaction without a proper key-handoff photo, so Ben and I posed for a couple of those before I drove off the lot. That drive-away, by the way, was the first time I’d even driven the car. I had declined a test drive upon first arrival because I already knew I wanted to buy the car. Probably not the smartest move, but it worked out anyway.
How’s it drive? The car’s 176 horses are elderly and I’m sure they hadn’t been pushed to a great extent in a very long time. As a matter of fact, the Carfax showed that the Vigor had only been driven about 1,000 miles per year over the last 4-5 years. I was about to embark on a nearly 1,ooo-mile trip taking place in a single day. Crossing fingers, I got on the Interstate 25 southbound onramp and gave it a go. The clutch felt good, the suspension tight, and the 5-cylinder engine gave off a unique growl upon acceleration. At 75 miles per hour, I set the cruise and noted the RPMs at right around 3,100 RPM in 5th gear. We were in business. I spent roughly the next 13 hours getting to know my car. Visibility was great, thanks to huge rear windows and a high seating position. I got comfortable easily.
It became clearly evident, though, that cars have come a long way in technology and amenities in the last two decades. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to set up climate control settings manually – as in, fan speed & temp – without just being able to dial in a thermostat. The Vigor has no radio controls on its steering wheel, and of course no connectivity for an iPod of any sort. There’s no keyless entry. And, unlike my ILX which has 6, there are zero cupholders. Upon sending a photo to friend and Acura conoisseur Scott, he replied with:
It wasn’t until about 100 miles into my drive that I even turned the radio on. I was too busy enjoying the sights and sounds that surrounded me in that “Cognac” colored interior. The motorized antenna mast went up on command, and I connected my tape deck adapter and iPod for a concert. Album of choice? Ace of Base “The Sign,” which was released in 1993. I wanted the first song to be a period-correct selection, so this was the obvious way to go.
I noted that the brand new Michelin tires provided an ultra smooth ride. I was also a little amazed that the frameless door windows did not have any wind noise, even at highway speed When asked by a friend how the car rode & drove, I replied: “Like a 21-year-old brand new car.” I pulled off I-25 just briefly when I saw a sign for “Greenland,” since I felt it only appropriate in my Arcadia Green car to document such a thing.
Since Ben had sent me off with a full tank of gas, I didn’t need to stop for fuel for awhile. While on the phone with my friend Chris from Maryland, I pulled into the Shell station just north of the New Mexico state line in Trinidad. The Vigor took only 5.6 gallons of Premium fuel to go its first 186 miles – netting economy of over 33 miles per gallon! Not bad considering the window sticker has an EPA rating of 27 mpg highway! I grabbed some Wendy’s to go, which I ate VERY carefully inside the car. No fries allowed under the seats here.
Raton Pass at 7,800 feet in elevation took me over the Santa Fe trail and on southward into New Mexico, where I grabbed a quick roadside photo and then continued on my way. For being a holiday weekend, the interstate was miraculously “dead” and I was able to set the cruise control at 78 miles per hour and enjoy the green, rolling hills. There were dark rain clouds on the horizon and I knew it was only a matter of time until my clean Vigor got dirty. Luckily it had brand new Bosch wiper blades that swept the windshield clean with ease.
It wouldn’t be a proper road trip unless I did a little bit of sightseeing, so I scouted out a place to get a picture in Albuquerque. Having seen the entire TV series “Breaking Bad,” I knew that the show’s location was in Albuquerque, and I’d been able to Google the location of the main home used in it. It took me about a 15-minute detour to get there, but soon I arrived at 3828 Piermont Drive and it felt a little unreal to be driving in front of a house I’d seen on TV so many times. I got out of the car long enough to take a “selfie” with the house in the background, and then a shot of the Vigor parked on the street in front of it.
Just moments before I was going to leave, another vehicle pulled up to do the same thing, and I saw the garage door of the home roll open. A woman stood there with her hands on her hips giving us crusty looks. I took that as an invitation to leave, so I happily headed back down Wyoming Street to Interstate 40 and on my way.
At this point, I was a little over halfway home and I was determined to press onward. I declined the chance to stop at other roadside destinations like the historic Route 66 bridge in Rio Puerco, but instead pointed the nose of the Vigor westward and decided not to stop until I needed food or fuel.
Daylight diminished and I had spotty rain showers all the way into Holbrook, Arizona where I grabbed a bite to eat and checked the oil in the Vigor while topping off the fuel tank. I watched 4th of July fireworks from the interstate in Winslow, Arizona (and yes, I’ve stood on a corner there!). The last stretch of road was Interstate 17, dropping down sharply in elevation from Flagstaff into the Phoenix metro area. Even at 11:00 at night, there was fairly heavy holiday traffic along this piece. It was 11:50 when I finally rolled into my driveway, grateful for a safe trip and happy to have finally made it home.
I’m not yet sure what the future holds for my new Vigor but I fully enjoyed spending 909 miles with it. Here are the rest of my trip photos and a video!
Early morning flight on Saturday at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport
Vigor on display in the delivery area
Ben filling out my temporary registration tag
That interior color is really bold! I do like the woodgrain trim which goes from the dash to the door panels.
A few pictures at the Greenland exit off I-25
Few bumps and bruises but not bad shape for its age
Love those integrated fog lamps
The AutoNation advertisements will be ditched soon
Headed southbound toward New Mexico
Revs at 80 in 5th gear
This is how you improvise when you don’t have a cup holder
Not the Vegas you’re thinking of! This one is a small town in northern New Mexico
Historic Rio Puerco bridge was once a part of Route 66
Arizona state line! And, apparently I have a taillight bulb out.
Christmas in July. Home the following morning with the NSX (and a piece of the Legend)
Going through paperwork
Here are a few more shots from that brochure for any who are interested!
There were 6 colors available in 1993. Arcadia Green was offered only with Cognac interior.
Thanks for reading!