The Honda Civic

Aaron of Partial Transcripts reads the Toyota Camry rants and wonders what kind of person drives a Honda Civic. He asks, presumably, because he has one.

Now I’ve owned two Honda Civics over the years. The first being a 1979, which looked much like the one pictured above. That Civic and today’s model bear little resemblance. Cars back then were much smaller. Over the past 20 years, the size of small cars has gotten bigger and bigger — just look at what’s happened to Hondas and Toyotas over that time.

This Civic was small. It was dwarfed by whatever car was parked next to it. Being so tiny, it was easy to lose in a parking lot between two normal-sized cars.

It took unleaded or regular gas, although the cheaper leaded variety tended to gum up the carbuerator. Said carbuerator also cut off the flow of fuel on sharp turns, stalling the vehicle as it swung around the corner into the California State University Northridge “A” lot. The tape deck duitifully included an alternator whine that went up and down with engine RPMs. And above 60 MPH, the whole thing would shake uncontrollably.

Then there was the time I removed the back seats and the passenger seat, built a wooden platform and slept in the damn thing for awhile. What a car.

It eventually met an untimely (or was it timely) end on the 110 Freeway downtown.

In between I got a sweet 1978 VW Bus, another untimely end there, too, but after that I got a 1983 Honda Civic Wagon with 80,000 miles on it. It was the last model of that Civic redesign phase, and was just a great car, running until about 160,000. It needed a new engine and some bodywork, and wouldn’t come anywhere near passing the smog test. At that time, the state was buying back “gross polluters,” so I got the paperwork done, took it to a wrecking yard in Sun Valley, and they gave me about $500, which I put toward my current car, a 2001 Ford Focus, which, on the surface seems like a better car than the Civic (except for gas mileage, which is a bit low at 21-24 MPG).

You see, round about the 1990s, the Civic (and Hondas in general) got pretty boring. And the domestics started beating them in price and just about matching them in quality. Reputation aside, a Honda is just a car. I went through my share of water pumps, clutches, transmissions, thermoswitches, alternators, even radio antennas, and more — like any car.

The 2006 Civic looks a lot better (and is available as a hybrid), and Honda has that cool/quirky Element, so all is not lost. Maybe Honda can get back some of that ’80s mojo. I haven’t checked the prices. It’ll be 10 more years and 150,000 or so total miles, auto gods willing, before I need or want a new car.

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