For $2,000, Could This 1987 Honda Civic Real Time 4WD Wagovan Be The Real Deal?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

The modern Honda Civic is a good car, but is it a funky car? When it comes to Civics, you don’t get much more fun and funky than today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe 4WD Wagovan. Let’s see if its price brings the funk.

Where would we be as a species if we didn’t take chances? How different would we be today had we never tamed fire just because it seemed so dangerously hot? What if we were absent the transcendent experience of a dry Gin martini simply because 17th Century distillers chose not to take the chance of adding pine tree berries to malt wine in order to make it half palatable?


Taking chances is what separates us from all our extinct forbearers. They just sat around the cave going ‘Mammoth too big. Hurt less to starve than maybe get trampled to death. Ugh.’ Pfft, what a bunch of losers.

We’re not losers. We make the hard decisions and take those chances. One of the riskiest decisions to make—financially at least—is to buy an older car with a rep for frequently needing expensive repair. Last Friday’s 2008 Audi S5 was just such a car, and hence just such a risk. And you know what? Fully 58-percent of you decided its $11,400 asking was worth that risk!

See, that’s why we’re the survivors.


Speaking of survivors, check out this 1987 Honda Civic Wagovan with Real Time 4WD. Holy crap, this gold on gold tall hat accommodating wagon represents one of the coolest Civics of all time. This one looks to have actually have stood the test of time as well.

First off though, what’s the deal with that ‘Real Time 4WD,’ right? That’s Honda-speak for a 4WD system that works in Real Time, not like tape delayed or maybe sitting on your DVR but you’ll never get around to watching it time.


Okay, not really. In fact, the Real Time name denoted an AWD system that automatically engaged the rear wheels when slippage from the front wheels was detected. A center-located viscous coupling senses traction loss from the fronts and then brings the back end to the party in order to keep things from getting out of hand.


In addition to the Real Time 4WD, this Wagovan comes with Honda’s six speed manual transmission. Now, before you get your panties in a bunch about this being some sort of close-ratio six speed box, let me explain it’s real function. The gearbox is nominally your standard five-cogger. However, Honda added a sixth gear way down in the basement below first for use with the 4WD when the going gets super tough. It’s a good thing to have, but you’d likely only use it once of twice a year at most. I live in dry as a can be Los Angeles so I’d never use it.


Powering this Wagovan is Honda’s 1488-cc 12-valve four, a mill that was good for 76 horsepower from the factory, along with 84 lb ft of twist. The seller says this one needs some TLC, although aside from a mad nest of vacuum hose snakes in there, nothing looks amiss.

What’s not immediately visible is an apparent valve cover gasket leak and the seller avers that the engine needs a ‘tune up.’ That’s generally classified ad speak for ‘there’s something wrong with it that I can’t pinpoint and I don’t wanna even think about what it will cost to fix, so please just take it off my hands and make it your problem.’ See, his way is much more efficient.


I’m not saying that there’s something evil lurking under this cool old Civic’s hood, but the fact that it comes with a replacement head either bodes well or ominously. The seller does say that the car ‘is very clean it has a couple little dents here and there but nothing major it runs, drives, brakes, shifts fine,’ all that apparently despite the need for some under-hood attention.


The bodywork is clean, showing some wear in the trim paint and pinstripes. There’s no major damage of note, but a good sized dent does mar the driver’s side front fender, and there’s a rust spot on the nose. A sunroof punctuates the top and some nice multi-spoke alloys underpin down below.

Inside, the condition appears to be much the same. The seats are a bit grungy, as it the carpet, but it’s not bad. A crack in the dash is unfortunate, however that’s somewhat made up for by the cool pop-up air vent just below. I defy you to find one element of the modern Civic that expresses such a level of whimsical design as that air vent.


Overall the car’s condition is pretty amazing for its 30-year and 230,000 mile existence. It hails from an era when small 4WD wagons were a thing, well before the current crossover craze took hold. The fact that it’s a Civic means it’s potentially sturdy enough to do daily driver duty for years to come. It’s also funky enough to draw a crowd everywhere from Radwood to your local cars and coffee come in and conk out event.


What could that all be worth? Well, the seller says he’s asking $2,000 for the car. That however doesn’t account for the year of back registration it needs (it was last registered in 2017), nor any possible work required to get it passing smog if that’s required in your neck of the smokey woods.

With all that in mind, do you think this Thicc wagon might be worth that $2K asking? Or, with all the red flags in the ad, is that just too chancy?


You decide!


Portland, OR Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.