Curbside Musings: 1990 Honda CRX – Precious Cargo

1990 Honda CRX. Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, December 8, 2015.

In last Tuesday’s essay, I had made reference to an ’85 or so Plymouth Turismo hatchback I had looked at purchasing in the early ’90s, which had originally been presented to the seller’s teenage daughter and wasn’t good enough for her.  My disdain for what I had perceived as a confounding display of privilege and entitlement (“I don’t want that free car, Daddy!) had somehow tainted that Turismo for me, even if I wouldn’t quite have been able to afford it without financial help from my parents.

Still, I could kind of get where she was coming from, even if I liked the Turismo’s looks.  Things like image are important to a teenager, even good ones who are otherwise gracious and kind.  Maybe the little L-body Plymouth just wasn’t her jam.  I can remember feeling brand-conscious, even when it didn’t do me any good when it came to getting what I wanted.  It wasn’t that long ago that car ownership or even just a driver’s license were things to which the average youth aspired.  A car is the largest possession a teen might own, and thus the most obvious and conspicuous reflection of his / her / their taste and perceived social standing.

1984 Pontiac Fiero 2M4.  Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.  Sunday, September 13, 2020.

1984 Pontiac Fiero 2M4.  Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.  Sunday, September 13, 2020.

She had wanted a Fiero, though.  I do actually like the Fiero.  Always have.  I remember literally wiping a tear or two in the living room as I watched the six o’clock news story in the summer of ’88 the day the final Fiero rolled down the assembly line in Pontiac, Michigan, coincidentally on what was Madonna’s thirtieth birthday.  It all seemed so final.  The thing about a Fiero or another car like it is that it can carry only one other person in addition to the driver.  Isn’t part of the fun of teenage car ownership the ability to take a small group of your friends places and show off your ride a little bit?  Shared space and shared experiences: almost all of that gets lost with a Fiero, Toyota MR2, Mazda MX-5 Miata, or our featured car, a Honda CRX.

I also liked the CRX and had a serious car-crush on the second-generation cars once I had moved to southwest Florida in the early ’90s and was back in the market for a used car.  Back then, even an ’88 from the first year of the redesign was out of my financial reach.  For about five minutes, I had thought of owning one of these fun, fast, two-seat Honda sportsters, with their significant utility and terrific gas mileage to offset the absence of a rear seat.  Plus, it was a Honda, so I thought one would last at least until after college graduation, and perhaps afterward.  I’d get my money’s worth, and could sell it easily if I wanted to, as the resale market for the CRX had remained strong for a very long time.

1990 Honda CRX. Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, December 8, 2015.

I found a first-generation example in the classifieds of the Fort Myers News Press with over 100,000 miles on it and took it for a spin.  Driving it was more fun than I had ever experienced behind the wheel of a car up to that point, as I zipped along a half-mile stretch of beautiful, palm-lined MacGregor Boulevard.  It felt like piloting a big, street-legal, enclosed go-kart.  I ultimately passed on it as it seemed a bit rough around the edges for the asking price ($2,000, if I recall correctly; the equivalent of about twice that, thirty years later), but still kept the flame burning for a CRX even after I went on to purchase my ’88 Mustang LX with the 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine.  I loved that Mustang and it was a great car that served me well, but aside from it having a five-speed manual transmission that gave me something to do, it wasn’t particularly fun to drive – not remotely like that CRX had been.

1990 (or '91) Honda CRX. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.  Wednesday, March 20, 2013.

Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.  Wednesday, March 20, 2013.  Troy’s was nicer.

Later on and after having transferred to a different university, I made friends with (and briefly dated) a fellow classmate named Troy, who had a CRX like the one above.  It was even the same color, but in significantly better condition.  Whenever our large-ish friend group was going somewhere, Troy was always off the hook for driving since he could take only one other person in his CRX.  This all changed the day that he, our friend Christy, and I decided to travel the hour-and-a-half from Tampa to Orlando to go to Disney World for the day.

It didn’t matter that we were all young twenty-somethings and presumably too old to enjoy the Magic Kingdom.  We were determined to ride the rides, high-five Pluto, and do other things that others in our age group might have considered ironic, but that we actually, legitimately wanted to do for fun.  Looking back, I can’t remember exactly why I didn’t drive, but this might have been when my Mustang was in the shop to have the rag joint for the steering replaced.

1990 Honda CRX Si press photo, as sourced from the internet.

Christy rode in the front, and I curled up my six-foot frame into the hatchback for the entire ride to Disney and back.  Shockingly, this appears to have been allowed in Florida, since I was over age 18 and the cargo area was enclosed.  Still, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.  (If any of my older nieces or nephews are reading this, I’m still your uncle and older than you and I will come for you if I find out this is something you do.)

Troy and Christy were yukking it up in the comfortable front seats, with full access to the music, controls, and vents with the air conditioning blowing cold, while I curled up back in the cargo area like a big sow bug, baking under all of that hatchback glass.  Did I mention this was in Florida?  It had crossed my mind that maybe Troy was punishing me a little bit for our breakup, but the truth is that I was simply too slow in calling “shotgun” to ride in the passenger’s seat that morning.  He and I are still friends over twenty-five years later, and we had a laugh about this day trip last summer, when I had the chance to meet his significant other.

1990 Honda CRX. Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, December 8, 2015.

It solidified in my mind on that ride to and from Disney (three hours beneath the hatchback of a CRX in one day) that I could never own a two-seater, at least not as my only car.  I think of all the fun adventures in my young adulthood that I would have missed out on if I wasn’t able to provide transportation for, and share the experience with, more than one other person.  Now that I’m older and more selective with the company I keep (and this year marks my twentieth without car ownership), a two-seater for weekends might make more sense.  Still, if I was to go to the trouble of owning, garaging, insuring, and maintaining a car, I’d lean strongly toward something that would enable me to carry two or three other people, even if only in a pinch.  One thing’s for sure, though: If that girl back in Michigan ended up getting that Fiero she had wanted, she probably missed out on a lot.

Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015.