The fun part of watching for Curbside Classics is that they appear in the most unexpected places–at least in Pennsylvania, where road salt and winter weather sends most cars to the crusher by their twenty-fifth birthday. In the case this 1987 Honda Civic sedan, my encounter was the result of a birthday party held for my daughter’s friend. As is always the case with this sort of vehicle, this Honda is still a daily driver owned by the birthday girl’s great-grandmother. She received it as a gift from one of her daughters when it was brand-new, just before her own wedding, as a show of gratitude for all that her mother had done for her.
The Civic has traveled all of 88,000 miles over its twenty-nine years. Unusually, the exterior is rust-free, and the interior is just as clean and presentable. I was on child-watch duty when the Civic’s owner left, preventing me from shooting any photos of the clean interior.
This generation of Civic debuted for the 1984 model year. Even Honda wasn’t immune to the “bigger is better” mentality – the wheelbase of this Civic was increased by five inches compared to that of its predecessor–but this increase was put to good use, making the car more palatable to Americans as a daily driver. Honda went four model years between makeovers in the 1980s, although modest updates were made for the third year of the cycle. For 1986, the Civic received flush headlights, along with a new four-speed automatic.
Honda’s advertising mantra in the early 1980s was, “We make it simple.” That ad slogan was abandoned for 1984 when this car was introduced, but the philosophy is nevertheless reflected in this car’s design details, making it a virtual Antibrougham. The horizontal taillights and panel, aero wheel covers and front ensemble all are simple and gimmick-free. If anything dates this car, it’s the Civic script on the back panel. It recalls the Reagan Decade, and reminds us that nothing becomes dated faster than the “high tech” look.
This Honda Civic, along with the contemporary Toyota Corolla, effectively dispatched the AMC/Renault Alliance, and sent VW reeling. It also signaled to the Big Three that they were in for a real fight if they wanted to regain market share, let alone push the Japanese back into the Pacific Ocean.
The CRXs and Si hatchbacks receive the most attention today, but it was these trim, no-nonsense sedans that convinced many middle-Americans to make the switch to Honda during these years. A subcompact didn’t have to be rolling reminder that you couldn’t afford anything bigger. To this Civic’s owner, however, none of that matters. Her Civic is a lovingly maintained and garaged daily driver. It is more than a car–it is a rolling reminder of her children’s gratitude.