1988 Honda Civic sedan

There’s a white fourth-generation Honda Civic sedan routinely parked on the street about two blocks from my house. You can tell that it hasn’t led a particularly sheltered life, but it’s obviously still in regular use. That makes it time to add one of those sedans to my suite of eighties Hondas: the 1983 Civic 1500 S hatchback coupe, the 1984 Civic CRX hatchback coupe, the 1985 Civic CRX Si hatchback coupe, and the 1986 Accord sedan.

“That was then. This is now.”

For the 1988 model year, the Honda Civic was completely revised, with a brand new design with a lower hood line, an innovative four-wheel double wishbone suspension, and a wheelbase up almost two inches to 98.4 inches. All Civic sedans for the North American market were built in Honda’s still relatively new Marysville, Ohio factory.

The standard powertrain for the Civic sedan was the D15B2 92 bhp 1.5 liter/91 ci inline four with twin-injector fuel injection mated with a five-speed manual. Fuel economy was quite good—33 city/37 highway by the standards of the day (28/34 by 2018 standards). An optional four-speed automatic took mileage down to 28 city/33 highway. With an 11.9-gallon gas tank, a Civic owner could expect a range of between 330 and 375 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

The Civic’s performance was competitive for the class—0-60 came in about 11 seconds with the five-speed manual in a car whose curb weight ranged from 2,039 to 2,205 pounds. The sedan was almost a second slower with the automatic; common in many cars in the eighties.

For $8,795 (about $19,200 in today’s dollars), the base DX version of the sedan came with flush low profile halogen headlights, tinted glass, rack and pinion steering, front disc/rear drum brakes, and 175/70R13 steel belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 13 x 5-inch wheels. Inside, an adjustable steering column, a rear window defroster, intermittent wipers, and full carpeting were included.

Moving up to $9,625 (about $21,000 in 2018 dollars or about $1,500 more than a 2019 Civic LX sedan goes for) LX added power brakes, a tachometer, power windows, power door locks, power side mirrors, and digital quartz clock.

Other than the choice of trim level, exterior and interior colors, and transmission, there were no options. Air conditioning was available only as a dealer accessory, as was a choice of various car stereos: Honda would continue to sell AC as a dealer accessory well into the 1990s.

The larger 1988 Civic was well received—it made Car and Driver‘s 10 Best list and sold like hot cakes; a 1988 Civic LX sedan marked the one-millionth car built at the Marysville plant in early April 1988. They were still small cars by modern standards—the 1988 Civic was only about five inches longer than the current Honda Fit.

In 2018, the Civic sedan rarely comes up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds. Some do show up on eBay Motors, but they’re often in sketchy condition.

Make mine Cardinal Red Metallic, please.

1986 Honda Accord sedan

“Once again, other manufacturers will be forced to return to their drawing boards.”

The Honda Accord was all new for 1986, with a brand new body and upgraded engines—the standard powertrain was the A20A 98 bhp 2.0 liter/120 ci inline four with two-barrel carburetor paired to a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic was optional). Acceleration was acceptable: 0-60 came in a little under 11 seconds in the approximately 2,400-pound car. Mileage was good: 27 city/33 highway by the standards of the day (about 23 city/30 highway by 2018 standards). With a 15.9-gallon fuel tank, Accord drivers could expect a range of from 380 to 430 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

By modern standards, the 1986 Accord was not a large car: with a 102.4-inch wheelbase and a 178.5-inch length, it was four inches shorter in both wheelbase and length than a 2018 Honda Civic and was classified by the EPA as a subcompact car (the modern Accord is classified as a large car). What’s even more striking is the height or lack thereof: at 53.3 inches, the Accord was only three inches taller than the same year’s Camaro. The 1986 Accord had a six-inch longer wheelbase, three inches more of length, and was almost an inch shorter than the 1985 version.

Standard equipment on the base Accord DX sedan included front wheel drive, double wishbone front and rear suspension, power brakes, variable-assist power steering, pop-up halogen headlights, hidden wipers, and P185/70R13 tires (a size still available) on 13-inch wheels with full wheel covers. Inside reclining front bucket seats, an adjustable steering column, and cruise control were included. The DX went for $9,299—about $21,600 in 2018 dollars.

Moving up to the LX added air conditioning, power door locks, power windows, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player and power antenna. The top of the line LXi went for $12,675 (about $29,400 in today’s dollars or about what a 2018 Accord EX-L sedan goes for) and added the 110 bhp fuel injected engine, cast aluminum alloy wheels, and a power moonroof.

1986 Honda Accord advertisement.

The 1986 Honda Accord was well received. It was present on Car and Driver‘s 10 Best list and got good reviews. Honda sold 325,000 in the United States, making it the fifth best selling car model that year.

Third-generation Accords were once prevalent on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see these Accords for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were no sedans out there as I write this in July 2018.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si hatchback coupe

“Fuel injected fun.”

For 1985, Honda put one of its hottest four-cylinder engines into its tiny CRX, creating the Si. Si stood for Sports, injected and the new EW3/4 engine was a multiport fuel injected version of the carburetted 1.5 liter/91 ci engine that had been the top of the line in 1984.

Horsepower was 91 bhp at 5,500 rpm, up 20% from the carburetted engine. This increase doesn’t sound like much, but the CRX only weighed about 1,800 pounds—to get the same power to weight ratio in a 2014 Honda Civic coupe you would need 143 bhp (interestingly, the 2014 Civic coupe has a … 143 bhp engine). Car and Driver recorded a 0-60 time of 9.1 seconds (Motor Trend reported 8.5 seconds) and a top speed of 112 mph. The EPA fuel economy rating with the required five-speed manual transmission was 32 city/36 highway by the standards of the day (27/33 by today’s standards).

The $7,999 base price (about $17,700 in 2014 dollars) included a power sunroof, a rear wiper/washer, 175/70R13 tires (a size last seen on the 2005 Hyundai Accent) on 5.0-inch-wide alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler molded of soft urethane instead of the hard plastic in other CRXs.

Since the CRX Si came pretty loaded by Honda standards, there were few options. The Si received an exclusive black paint option in place of the white available in other CRXs—red or blue were also available. Air conditioning was available only as a dealer accessory, as were a rear speaker and a choice of various car stereos: Honda would continue to sell AC as a dealer accessory well into the 1990s.

I don’t see a lot of first-generation CRX Si’s come up for sale in either the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. However, there is good club support for the CRX at Red Pepper Racing.

Make mine black, please. It looks sharp with the red band on new for 1985 charcoal gray body cladding.

Short Take: 1983 Honda Civic S hatchback coupe

Finding detailed information about the 1983 Honda Civic S turned out to be surprisingly hard, so this is my first “Short Take”—a post that I don’t consider long enough to be a full discussion.

“We Make It Simple”

Honda continued to hit on all (four) cylinders in 1983 with the introduction of the Civic S. At $6,399 (about $16,400 in 2019 dollars), the 1500 S was the top of the two-door hatchback line and over 30% more than the base 1300 model.

The engine in the S was not specific to it, but was the optional EM 1.5 liter/91 ci inline four with a three barrel carburetor, making 63 bhp. Mileage with the standard five-speed manual transmission was 35 city/46 highway by the standards of the day. 0-60 came in a little under 13 seconds, and top speed was about 99 mph for the last of second-generation Civics.

A handsome little car, the Civic S was fitted with firmer suspension (with rear stabilizer bar) and 165/70R13 Michelin tires (a size still available thanks to Vredestein) on 13-inch wheels. A red accent stripe encircled the S and set it apart from other Civics as well as a black grille and blackout paint around the window frames. Standard equipment on the S included a front spoiler, a tachometer, and a quartz digital clock.

Standard equipment on all 1983 Civics included front wheel drive, rack and pinion steering, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes, and MacPherson struts on all four corners. Inside, full carpeting, reclining front bucket seats with adjustable headrests, and a fold-down rear seat were included.

There were only two color choices for a 1983 Civic S. Make mine Black, please.

Updated February 2019.

1984 Honda Civic CRX hatchback coupe

“Are you using the right car for your gasoline?”

Even for the 1980s, the 1984 Honda Civic CRX two-seater was absolutely tiny, with a length of a little over 12 feet and a weight of around 1,800 pounds. The CRX debuted as a new model included with the introduction of the all-new third generation Civic line.

There were two engine choices for the CRX in 1984. The CRX HF (High Fuel economy) got a 1.3 liter/82 ci inline four with a three-barrel carburetor and all of 60 bhp—but this got you 46 city/52 highway by the standards of the day (still 38/47 by today’s standards). It also got you a 0-60 time of about 12 seconds.

Moving up to the DX got you the EW1 76 bhp 1.5 liter/91 ci inline four with a three-barrel carburetor—enough to reduce the 0-60 time to a little over 10 seconds and still get 32 city/38 highway by the eighties standards (28/35 by the current standard).

A five-speed manual was standard, but you could get a three-speed automatic with the DX—though I’m not at all sure why you’d want one. All CRXs included a front air dam, rear spoiler, flush-mounted glass, vented front disc brakes, and front and rear stabilizer bars.

The first generation CRX found its markets and sold quite well, with over 48,000 in 1984 and a total of 218,000 over four years. In 1985, the fuel injected 91 bhp Si would come along—but that is a topic for another blog post.

I see early CRX’s occasionally, but they’ve become rarer and rarer on the roads in the northeast. I have yet to see one at an auto show, but I’d love to.

Make my 1984 CRX a DX in blue (with the standard metallic gray lower rocker panels), please.

Updated February 2019.