CivicS Lesson

In the beginning, sporty Hondas didn't exist. There wasn't an S2000 or a Civic Si. In the late 70's and early 80's, Acura wasn't part of the Honda brand yet and a mid-engined supercar was still years away. Instead, Honda made solid economy cars that were built with tight mechanical tolerances and that held their resale value. So what moved the brand forward? The car pictured above, their new-for-1983 Civic S, or Sport model. It was the affordable, reliable sporty Honda that everyone could own!

I caught a glimpse of this example sitting at a local used car lot tonight on the way home from the grocery store, a vehicle I haven't seen since I was a kid. Especially here in the rust belt, these cars didn't last I whipped around and snapped a couple of shots of it just for grins. More to come.

A little worn out, but a mostly complete '83 Civic S. I'll bet it still runs good, too.
The Civic evolved from Honda's first successful entry into the world of automobiles, the CVCC. It was named for the low-emission Honda engine that powered it, an acronym that stood for Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion, and it was patented, trademarked, and rolled out to meet US Federal Emissions Standards without catalytic converters while the big three choked on their own exhaust. That's right, they ran so clean...that they didn't need a catalytic converter. This kept the unit cost down on each Honda, and therefore boosted the company's profits. All this happened at the same time Chevrolet's Monza fizzled, Ford's Pinto exploded with frequency, and the folks at Chrysler sold re-badged Mitsubishis to try and keep their foot in the door. This was the Malaise Era, and Honda was set to kick some US tail.

As the "Hot Hatch" craze took off in the early 1980's thanks to the VW GTi, Honda took their pedestrian people mover and turned it up a notch with a 1.5 liter 4 cylinder engine that churned out something like 67 horsepower. But that wasn't where it was at. It was the exceptional handling that made the car fun to drive. Firmer suspension bits, a rear sway bar, and sport radials. Seats with bigger side bolsters and sport cloth came standard. Topping the entire packages off was blackout trim and "S" badges.

The choice of colors?

Just two.


The little car took off in 1983 while 1984 models got a complete restyle and new technology which helped its popularity. The third generation Civic models were the first to offer the "Si" trim level, or Sport injection (denoting the switch to a fuel injected motor). The performance options and the debut of the CRX that same year pleased the public. Sales picked up through the 1980's and 1990's and the rest is history. Honda still uses the "Si" trim series today when it offers a sport model, and tuners have a soft spot for them. 

But the Civic S was a one-year only deal. A final 'hurrah' for the second generation car with earlier design cues and ties to Honda's CVCC and a remarkable track record for reliability. A new trim series for an old platform. Could you call it an odd pairing? Sure. What's even more odd is that one of the Civic S cars is parked at Pioneer Auto Center in Peoria, Illinois in the year 2013. Here's a few shots of it for your amusement:

The body appears straight and free of rot. The hazy finish hints of a sunnier climate.

The giant "S" emblem on the grille is nearly as big as the Honda emblem.

A little buffing, a little Armor-All and you're in business.

Original seat fabric on the otherwise sparse interior.

Tons of room in the backseat, right? :P

 Every Honda got one of these back in the day. Must've passed inspection.

While nothing on the car indicated it was for sale, it may be. I checked the dealer's website just to see, and found nothing on it. I'm not into niche Japanese cars like this one, but someone out there would be proud to wrench on this little hatchback. Cheap to run, great mileage, Honda reliability and a nice handling chassis? One thing's for certain: you surely wouldn't see another one like it for another 30 years.

  Before I sign-off, here's a totally useless Honda Civic Tidbit

"Sorry, baby but I had to crash that Honda." - Butch

Film Director Quintin Tarantino featured a white 1980 Honda Civic in Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Kill Bill Vol. 2. I remember reading somewhere that he drove an old silver Civic around LA even after he made a few bucks.



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