The first-generation Honda Civic sold very well in the United States, but it’s just about impossible to find early examples in junkyards these days; I’ve managed to photograph a few ’78s for this series and that’s it. Why? The cars in rust-prone areas dissolved quickly and those in low-corrosion regions got driven to death well before the beginning of our current century. Here’s the oldest discarded 1973-1979 Civic I’ve managed to find since at least the late 2000s.
It got picked over thoroughly by the local Honda fanatics before I got to it, so nearly all of the interior had been ripped out.
While Honda USA offered a “Vinyl Roof Decor” option in 1974, this car appears to have some sort of aftermarket top. Perhaps a dealer installed it, or maybe the car’s original owner brought it to one of the many shops that installed custom vinyl roofs during the middle 1970s.
In any case, the top encouraged some scary body rust over the decades.
The CVCC engine wasn’t available on US-market Civics until 1975, so this is the ordinary 1.2-liter straight-four, rated at 52 horsepower. This car weighed only 1,536 pounds, so 52 horses made it reasonably fun to drive.
The hatchback version cost $2,250, which was a full hundred bucks more than the goofy Civic sedan with its weird little “trunk” opening in back. That comes to $12,700 and $12,135, respectively, in 2021 dollars, making the 1974 Civic one of the best new-car deals of its era and maybe of all time.
Of course, the Civic was a somewhat unknown quantity from a company best-known for motorcycles in the early 1970s; it wasn’t until a few years later that American car shoppers realized that Honda cars were good drivers that held together amazingly well (if you could keep them away from road salt).
The Hubert’s Lemonade bottle as a temporary fuel tank indicates that this car sat for many years before someone made an attempt to get it to move under its own power again. Most likely, that final drive was just down the driveway to a waiting tow truck from U-Pull-&-Pay.
Back in the Civic’s homeland in 1974, the CVCC was the future.
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