The Great Honda Eulogy Part 1: The Cupholder

Jordan Durose’s beloved 1996 Honda Accord. Courtesy photo

Los Alamos

I have let Ohio down. My wonderful 1996 Honda Accord – constructed in September of 1995 at the Marysville, Ohio Honda plant – was recently involved in a terminal 40 mph T-boning accident last week that crushed in the passenger side of the car. It was loud, it sprayed glass everywhere, and it folded the roof line and quarter panel in. I’m OK, if anyone cares, I took it like a wet noodle.

I remember the first thought in my head after I regained consciousness – oh no! My morning commute soda can is upside down! It spilled soda all over the center console cupholder of my Accord, which as you may know was updated for the 1996 model year to include a larger front cupholder pocket for the American Big Gulp-loving crowd. It was a smart decision through collaboration of both Honda of Japan and Honda of America. The cupholder included an insert for the front cupholder pocket that retained the original 1994-95 dimensions – important for use in non-American markets as those tended to drink non-ridiculous quantities of beverage. Like any true American, that insert now lives in my glovebox that no longer closes since the accident.

The first generation of Honda Accords released between 1976 and 1981 had no cupholders at all – zero. Operation of the vehicle required use of holding the beverage between your legs just like Hank Hill riding his lawnmower around his precious 1/8th acre of well-trimmed lawn. Technology has come a long way since 1981! Imagine the prowess we’ve achieved to standardize an aluminum soda can to a diameter of 2.6 inches, and to ensure every car on the road has at least 18 spots of approximately 3.0 inches or greater to fit one of these standard cans without toppling except in the case of excessive T-boning. Standardization is one of the few true human accomplishments that go without celebration, but without which we would be lost. Everyone talks about Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos for bringing technology into your daily life, but what about the cupholder guy? He or she’s more important to your daily commute than those billionaires will ever be. At least until a Volvo throws standards to the breeze and destroys your car at 40 miles per hour.

America is a land that has vast stretches of empty space that are especially noticeable out here in the West. Truck stops such as Love’s and Flying J have built an empire out of this empty space backed on bathroom stops and ridiculously large beverages. They have built an entire industry around serving you way too much Coke Zero and banking on the fact that you’ll stop at one of their or their competitor’s stops in the next 150 miles. And this whole industry exists because of technological innovations like cupholders that store way-the-heck bigger than reasonable drinky cups. Of course I’d like to say the 1996 Honda Accord was the trendsetter, but who knows? The point is that somebody, by 1996, had to go out and take measurements of the largest tolerable drinky cup and say that’s it, that’s what the industry is now. It is never to exceed this limit. And it worked because by george, even a Super Double Big Gulp gets stuck in that there cupholder just fine. Until it gets upended by a Volvo XC90 going full speed into the passenger side of your car.

Cupholders are important to American progress, whether cupholding a Coke Zero or a café au lait. They drive our industrial, commercial, and financial sectors. The next time you pocket a drink on the way to work, think about all the engineering and thought that went into designing this magnificent hole thing in your car. It was probably more than zero. Which is also the speed at which my Honda got smacked in the side with.