Back in the day when fuel economy was king, cars like today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe CRX ruled the EPA roost. Let’s see if this old school two-seater’s price means it’s still got money saving in mind.
If you consider hand-me-down clothes as serious fashion faux pas, then you likely didn’t find yesterday’s 2001 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante to be up to your own personal caliber of snuff. That was owed to the Aston’s borrowed bodywork, pretty as it may be. As the story goes, it was first offered to, and was summarily turned down by Jaguar as an XJ-S update. Yep, Aston got Jag’s not-all-that-sloppy seconds.
Good thing ours was only $39,979 then as that price seemed to overcome the little orphan Aston pedigree, as the car waltzed away with a decisive 70 percent Nice Price win. It’s possible the big V12 and six-speed gearbox held sway in that result too.
That big V12 did saddle the Aston one major issue, which was an almost unquenchable thirst for liquid dead dino. Around town you could expect 10 or 11 mpg, while cruising in top gear on the highway would yield a marginally better 16 to 18. That’s not that big a deal in a weekend warrior or investment-grade ride, but it can be a pretty big headache when a factor of a daily driver.
Fuel economy is certainly a consideration these days, but back in the 1980s it was paramount. The U.S. had just faced two artificially created oil crises that drove prices through the roof and caused long lines at the gas pumps. If you want a taste of what the latter was like, go try and get gas at Costco.
Car manufacturers were caught off guard by the whole mess but eventually managed to react, downsizing most models and introducing ever less thirsty offerings to their lineups. One company that actually seemed to know what was going on from the get-go was Honda. The Japanese maker of bikes, cars and everything in between had been building fuel-efficient models for years. Their Civic was, at the time, the gold standard of efficiency, class, and value.
That didn’t mean that they couldn’t do better, and so in the mid-Eighties the company introduced an even more fuel efficient model to the Civic brood, the two-seat and truncated CRX. Other companies had been trying to meet consumer demand for cheaper and more fuel efficient cars by simply removing the back seats. The most notable of these attempts was Chevy’s Chevette Scooter which replaced a small uncomfortable bench in back with an egregiously parsimonious rubber floor mat. That car was shame personified.
Honda did a much better job culling seats and raising mileage. The first generation of CRX arrived for the 1984 model year and could be had with a 1.3-litre four that could easily break 50 mpg on the highway. It wasn’t America’s top fuel sipper of the era, that honor would go to the Chevy Sprint which could eke out 55 miles from a single gallon of gas.
The Sprint wasn’t nearly as much fun to drive as the CRX however, and it still looked like an economy car. The CRX looked like a car you wanted to drive and then afterwards maybe hug.
This 1985 Honda Civic CRX comes to us in red over grey plastic rockers and bumper caps. This was the last year of the inset sealed beam headlamps which give the car a more aggressive appearance than do the later flush lamps, but which may be harder to find these days.
It should be noted that one of the ways Honda lowered the CRX’s weight was through the use of plastic front fenders. These tend to weaken over time and are pretty hard to replace should something bad happen to yours. This car shows some issue on the passenger side wheel arch, but I can’t tell for certain whether it’s a crack or just a scratch. The driver’s side and the rest of the bodywork looks to be in fine shape. Steel wheels and decent looking tires round out the exterior.
The interior carries some really cool seat covers. Wait, did I say really cool? What I meant to say was Pep Boys bargain bin. The car has serape seat covers from a Pep Boys or WalMart. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, but I don’t really want to know what’s lurking underneath those. The rest of the interior—what there is of it—seems to be in good shape with the exception of the steering wheel. That looks like its horn button is being held in place by zip ties.
Under the pint-sized hood resides the carburetor-equipped 1.3-litre 8-valve four. The seller says that the carb is new, as are the plugs and the rear brakes. The ad notes a lifetime of Mobil One motor oil and a history of “meticulous” maintenance. Hell, even the old-school A/C is said to work. There’s 175,000 miles on the clock here, and the car comes with a clean title and the claim of only having 3 adult, non-smoker owners—but not all at the same time.
Today’s cars are vastly more efficient than any that came before them. You can buy any number of mid-size cars—Jetta, Elantras and the like—that can easily do 40 miles to the gallon, all while providing safe, reliable service. That wasn’t always the case, and this CRX is a fine example of how car companies used to address consumer demand for decent mileage. The CRXs are fun cars to drive as well.
Today you’re not likely to find many in as nice of shape as this one, and that’s why we’re now going to consider its $3,850 price tag. Does that seem like a reasonable deal to turn back the clock with a CRX? Or, is this a fuel-sipping Honda that’s trying to erase all hose gas pump savings with a too-high price?
H/T to Shannon D for the hookup!
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