Made in America, But Only for Japan: The Strange Story of Honda's '90s JDM Accord SiRs
The 1990s were an incredible time for Japanese performance cars, with each of the country’s automakers building entire lineups of fun, fast and interesting cars in a variety of segments. Some of these projects made it to the US market in the form of of vehicles like the Mazda MX-5 Miata or the Toyota Supra, while others like Nissan’s iconic Skyline GT-R were never imported to North America and could only be dreamed about from afar.
But did you know that during the 1990s Honda actually built certain high performance JDM versions of its cars right here in America, even though they were never sold in the US.
Hondas Made in America, but Only Sold in Japan
It starts in the early 1980s when Honda opened up its Marysville, Ohio factory to build Accords for its rapidly growing North American market. And by the time the fourth generation Accord went into production in 1989, Honda was actually building the more specialized wagon and two-door coupe Accords in the US and exporting them to the Japanese home market.
It’s when the fifth generation Accord went into production for 1994 that things really got interesting. By this point Honda had introduced a SiR version of the Accord with power, handling and other upgrades that made it into a legit enthusiast machine.
The most important part of the Accord SiR was its engine, the 2.2L H22A twin cam VTEC four-cylinder that Americans had gotten to know from the Honda Prelude sports coupe of the same era.
It made approximately 190hp and helped make the Prelude one of the quickest Hondas you could buy at the time, aside from the almighty NSX.
Needless to say, an H22-powered Accord sedan was a pretty hot car, and what was even cooler was that Honda also decided to sell SiR versions of both the Accord Coupe and the Accord Wagon in the Japanese domestic market.
But seeing as how they didn’t build the coupe and wagon in Japan, Honda instead shipped H22A powertrains to the US where American workers fitted them into Accord coupes and wagons and then sent them completed back to lucky drivers in Japan.
H22A Dreams—So Close, Yet So Far Away
Had an H22-powered Accord actually been sold in the US market, it likely would have been a revelation—as USDM fifth gen Accords were only offered with SOHC F-series engines and later a rather ho-hum V6.
Later on as the tuning movement grew in the US, many Accord owners started doing H22A swaps themselves, and for JDM geeks living in the US it was was a case of something being so close yet so far.
Interestingly, this also served as a preview of what was to come as Honda currently builds both the Acura NSX and the engine for the Civic Type R here in the United States.
While these Accord SiR coupes and wagons aren’t the same JDM dream cars that the Skyline GT-R or even the Honda Civic Type R are, the fact that they were built in America and exported back to Japan makes them a very unique flavor of forbidden fruit and an interesting footnote in Honda’s high performance history.