This past Saturday had Cody and me itching to get out of the house, sending us on an impromptu trip to Indianapolis with the stated goal of finding vintage clothing. Once we realized that we were in no mood to try anything on or spend money, we headed back to Bloomington after a quick walk. It would appear we had good timing, as we came across this converted CR-X on route 37 which connects the two cities. Thank God, too, because with so many stops and left-lane hogs–like the driver of this car–the two of us deserved something interesting to look at.
This CRX is a pretty clean conversion from three-door fastback to two-door convertible, if I do say so myself. I suspect it’s one of a handful of Straman ragtops, which number in the hundreds (I’ve read figures from about 150 to 350 units total). The lettering on the side is misleading and sloppy, like a cheap knock off of a graphics package which never existed from the factory to begin with. In looking up pictures of Straman CRX convertibles, I could find no examples similarly defaced. Let’s remind ourselves what the font is supposed to look like…
…that’s better, innit? I was explaining to Cody how well done the custom decklid was and how much I liked the large, blocky taillights. He probably couldn’t have cared less, but he took pictures for me since I was driving. He is a tolerant man of exquisite taste, so I know that he’d choose an agreeable car if left to his own devices, but he’s more interested in the process of production, procurement and marketing than in cars themselves. His willingness to take pictures and listen to me prattle on therefore makes him a real sport.
It was impossible to get pictures of the front or left side of the car without likely making the driver uncomfortable, but I can confidently inform you that the front of the car does not have the flush-mounted headlamps which signify a post-facelift ’86 or ’87. The wheels are less decisive, since the front is hiding beneath the wheel cover used on the Civic S, sedan and CRX from ’84 to ’85 while the rear wheel is from an ’84 or ’85 CR-X HF, but they do point to a rather indifferently maintained classic. This is quite possibly used as a daily driver, though I certainly hope that’s not the case.
This car, on non-stock wheels, with low-back front seats, is an ’86 or ’87 as is evidenced by the interior door trim, but it’s a good example of what these look like with the top down in more presentable shape (and without smeared, dead mosquitos obscuring the view).
Here’s a feature from when the car was new. The CRX was a light car that was very refreshing during the dark ages of the early-mid ’80s, so the idea of a convertible variant makes sense, but let’s consider how unremarkable such a car would have been when the factors of weight and torsional rigidity are taken into account. No wonder Honda never bothered.
But hey, unremarkable isn’t the same as undesirable. The 1980s was a great decade for convertibles, and if you wanted a custom job, you could find one. Perhaps a 300ZX or CRX convertible to go with your Hess and Eisenhardt Cutlass Ciera? Or a Baur 320i to go with your quasi-official ASC Celica? It’s a fantasy which is best kept in a retro Southern California paradise, free of pot holes, winters, or extreme humidity.
The Straman CRX should nevertheless be remembered as hugely flattering to Honda’s stylists, who created a cheap two-seater able to find a small following as a custom rag top. That sort of desirability was rare among Japanese cars in its price class, a fact not lost on VW, who was able to move Cabriolets even during their darkest years in the late ’90s.
If Honda wanted to take a bite out of that market, they’d have had a harder time doing so with the larger 1988 model which, lacking the original car’s forward slanting B-pillar and simple lines, came across as a stubbier convertible (not done by the Straman Company). But most of you are quite familiar with these lithe little cars and for now, sharing this little find is much more satisfying than telling the CRX’s story in full.