Perhaps not surprisingly, my mom’s favorite was the only one that she bought on my recommendation. All the rest were picked out by my father, who had a bit of a control issue. Well, come to think of it, maybe he let me recommend this 1990 Honda Civic sedan to her because he was driving the only car he’d ever bought based on my recommendation (a 1986 Taurus). Now that really was surprising, on both counts; that he would buy a car on my advice, and let my mom buy a Honda since he wouldn’t touch an import ever since he was disappointed by his 1965 Opel Kadett. And as much as they both loved these cars, he reverted to form and went back to picking their last two cars…ugh. But while she had it, Mom loved her “sporty little Civic”.
After her 1965 and 1973 Dodge Coronet wagons, Mom was ready for something smaller, as my younger brothers were past needing rides, mostly. So during this Ford phase (Dad was driving a Zephyr), he came up with an Escort wagon for her. They were like lot of folks at the time, trading in big cars during the second energy crunch years for little ones. It was wheezy, handled like it was perpetually tipsy, and the torque-split automatic shifted very oddly; like an old Mercedes-Benz autobox. But she really liked having a small car, even if it was a rather mediocre one.
When the Escort got on to close to ten years old, they decided it was time for a new car for her. And somehow I got into the conversation, even though we lived on the other coast. And my recommendation was easy and unequivocal: a Honda Civic.
I’m a huge fan of this generation Civic; in fact I consider it a true milestone car like the Mercedes W124. I had a coworker who had a fuel-injected EX stick shift sedan like this one, and we swapped cars once or twice and played hookie for an hour or two of back-road bombing in the hills south-east of San Jose, seeing if one of could lose the other. That little Civic was the shits; its gutsy 108 hp 1600cc four revved like crazy; the five speed stick was slicker than a politician, and it ate up the curves with an appetite that just seemed to never be satiated. If it hadn’t been that my 300E was a company car, and I’d have had to buy my own wheels, this is what it quite likely would have been. Just about the closest thing to a four-door sports car ever made.
Well, Mom’s Civic was a low-end DX automatic, which came with the 1500 cc mill with dual-point fuel injection and made 92 hp. But it was still a Civic, and enough of the intrinsic goodness that this generation Civic had to offer was still on tap, if in a more muted and motherly fashion. The visibility over the low, sloping hood was unparalleled; it was the closest thing to sitting in a go-kart that a sedan would ever be. The manual steering was light and tight, and the engine purred. The Honda automatic also shifted rather Benz-like but not nearly so abruptly as the Escort. In every way possible, the Civic was a giant step up from it.
The Civic gave splendid service for well over a decade. I used to look forward to taking it out for a spin on visits home. It led a pampered existence, garaged and not driven much anymore. It could and should have been Mom’s last car, and she loved it so.
My father had never bought a GM car except for that ’65 Kadett, but in the mid ’90s he suddenly decided to replace the Taurus with a… Buick Skylark. Highly unexpected, and not what I would have suggested. Ironically, I unwittingly did play some role in his decision. On a trip out to California in about 1983 or so, I let him borrow one of the four 1981 Buick Skylarks that our tv station then had in its fleet, and one of which was then my own company car. He always raved about that car, and how well its V6 handled the Sierras.
And then one day in 2007 or so, he took the keys to my mom’s Civic, drove off and returned later with a green Saturn Ion coupe, without her knowing anything about it. That did not go over well…and she held it against him for several years; rightfully so. She loved her Civic and was going to drive it to the end of her driving days. The Ion ended up doing that duty, in the process collecting several nasty scrapes on its bumpers (as can be seen here) and then it went to one of my nieces, who was still driving it last I heard.
And what car did your mother love the most?