CC Capsule: 1987 Honda Civic – Queen of the Strippers


As is often discussed, the selection of colors on today’s cars leaves much to be desired and the sight of this third generation Civic hatchback serves as a good reminder.  Parked on Bloomington’s North Side in front of a former Duesenberg dealership, now café and clay studio, I’d passed by the car too many times before I finally decided to take photos.


Smart observers will note the pre-facelift front end; this car had been poorly repaired after a fender bender at one point (notice the upside down logo and slightly mismatched paint on the fiberglass panel above the “grill” and on the hood).  I initially thought it was a 1984 or 1985 model but the label on the door jamb confirmed this to be a 1987 model, as did the third brake light on the tailgate.

Being a base model, it has vinyl seats, a 4-speed gearbox and 1.3 liter engine, with a rear window defroster serving as its major extravagance.  But for all its austerity, Honda saw fit to offer it in maroon with a matching interior.  Also note the rear vent windows: manufacturers aren’t quite so generous these days.


The owner, in his 40s, inherited the car from his uncle.  That gentleman made a wise choice in buying it, 27 years ago.  Shoppers in the market for a budget stripper had a lot of choices in those days, but none as visually appealing as this one, in my not so humble opinion.  With a low roof and sharp folds in the sheet metal, the third generation Civic hatch was a closeted example of function closely following form.


The look emphasized the sportiness the company now wanted to be known for, with wraparound “aircraft” style doorframes, a long roof with full length rear vent windows, and an upright tailgate being the hatchback’s dominant features.  Wherever possible, interruption by painted metal surfaces is avoided: the taillights and their trim panel continue across the width of the car, the B-pillar is blacked out, and the rear window glass extends past its opening to the bottom edge of the hatch door, with the license plate moved onto the bumper.  All the lights and the door handles are 100% flush, with black plastic bezels entirely covering their recesses.  None of the competition put this much effort into making their cheapest car look sexy.  What dour personality could have honestly preferred an Escort Pony or Tercel EZ, sans discount, over this mini shooting break?


This car’s fourth generation successor, which followed hot on the heels of its dynamic and styling success, is now a bona fide classic, with clean examples in Si trim commanding seemingly exorbitant sums of cash.  The 1984-1987 models don’t attract a similar degree of attention from enthusiasts and that’s a shame.  Out here in the midwest, these are now truly rare cars and as I write this, our city is preparing for a good deal of snow and record breaking temperatures.  For my sake, I hope this stripper isn’t left out in the cold.