COAL: 2003 Honda Civic – Perfect but Boring

Rallycrossing my 2003 Honda Civic at a Detroit Region SCCA rallycross.


I had sold my Focus ST for way too cheap, and a new ND Miata replaced it as my dual purpose daily driver and Street class autocross car. Then came the fateful day where my Miata got totaled, and I was out of a daily driver. I had my Corvette Z06 at the time, which (briefly) became my primary autocross car, so all I really needed was an every day commuter.

Daily drivers don’t get more simple than Honda Civics.

I bought this particular example because it was super clean for a Michigan car — I looked all over and couldn’t find any rust on the body or the underside, which blew me away — and because it was a stick. (If you haven’t noticed, outside of my very first car, my 1991 Subaru Legacy, all 13 cars I had owned since have been manual transmission cars only!) It was cheap, and it came with a second set of steelies with snow tires, so it seemed a no-brainer that I’d bring the car home.

Also important was the fact that I didn’t need to wrench on the car. At the time, I had my two Subaru XT Turbos collecting dust in the back of the garage, a 1966 Ford Mustang that was partially disassembled at the front, a 1967 Morgan Plus 4 parked next to it, and a perpetually leaking Corvette Z06 that had to live outside in the driveway. I already had my hands (more than) full trying to keep all of my projects going, and I didn’t want the daily driver to become a project itself.

To the car’s credit, it performed the duty of basic everyday driver perfectly well. I only ever added fuel and changed the oil. As a result, this particular COAL is going to be a lot shorter than most of my other ones.

Rallycrossing the car

Naturally, I can’t let a car come into the fleet without beating on the thing a little bit in some form of motorsport. Being a super cheap little car with super cheap winter tires, it was a natural fit for rallycross. I took it to a couple of rallycrosses and had some good fun with the car.

The Civic, with its homebrew light bar, at the hotel with other rallycrossers for a 2-day weekend rallycross event.


I even fashioned a light bar for the Civic that mounted to the steel hood with the help of powerful magnets. I festooned the car with cheap eBay LED lamps, and the setup worked well enough for the occasional night rallycross I ran with the Detroit Region SCCA.

Getting bored of the car

The smart thing to do would be to hang on to the Civic until it rusted back into the ground, but the Civic barely lasted more than a few months in my fleet.

Even now, it vexes me as to why I didn’t connect with the Civic. My Focus SE was also a Regular Normal Car, yet I remember that car very fondly and still wish I had it. The current classic car in the fleet (and subject of a future COAL) is also a Regular Normal Car with absolutely no sporting pretensions whatsoever, yet I love the thing to death. The Civic had a brilliant little motor, a great shifting transmission, and had a little bit of pep in its step. This was the kind of car I thought I’d love, but didn’t.

Maybe I had gotten too used to modern conveniences in my winter drivers? As I had a string of late model cars for daily drivers, I was used to having bluetooth capable stereos, sound deadening out the wazoo, and heated seats. Perhaps the Civic was too much of a penalty box for the daily commute? Then again, I willingly drove a ’66 Mustang with no A/C to California and back, and to Alaska and back, so maybe the modern conveniences theory doesn’t hold water.

I think what did the Civic in was that it was simply too good at being an anonymous car. Driving the car never made me feel special in a way that driving any of the other cars in my fleet did. It’s not the car’s fault — its only objective in life is to be an unfailingly dependable daily driver, and it’s my demands that it be fun or special that are unreasonable and out of scope. But what ultimately did in the Civic was what ultimately did in the Focus SE as well: I decided that life was too short to drive boring cars.

Having churned though a couple cars to reach this conclusion, I decided that the correct answer was to dump the Civic and replace it with something more fun, and then stick with that car until I got my money’s worth out of it.

Winter wasn’t even over when I found the Civic’s replacement. Naturally, after buying this brand new car, issues immediately cropped up — and the car proved to be way more unreliable than the old Civic could ever dream of being. But, three years later, I still have it.

The cursed Corvette Z06, the Honda Civic behind it, and way at the back, the Civic’s replacement.


Proof perhaps that personality and charm are enough to endear a car to my heart, while cold rationality isn’t.