Vintage & Classics

1985: When sports cars were exclusive and the Honda Civic CRX Si was the nouveau punk

The 1985 Honda Civic CRX Si is a throwback to a time when sports cars were sports cars and Honda broke the rules.

Photo by Chris Tonn

There was a time, not long ago, when enthusiasts had strict definitions of what makes a sports car. Rear-wheel drive was required. Manual transmission, of course. Light weight. Removable top. Good handling. Heritage from a blue-blood manufacturer and car-building nation.

A few of these were negotiable – toplessness became unfashionable as automakers worried about increasingly-strict U.S.-market safety regulations – but front-wheel drive was seen as heretical among "pure" enthusiasts.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si The CRX is a unique breed and there's a lot to love.Photo by Chris Tonn

There were certainly a few others before – the original Mini and the first-gen Volkswagen Golf GTI come to mind – but when Honda applied their brand of engineering to the hot-selling Civic to create this 1985 Honda Civic CRX Si, it became a sensation among those willing to look at driving enjoyment just a bit differently.

Honda has been pulling pristine cars out of their museum lately, letting journalists get a taste of their early hits during a lull in product cycles. This 1985 CRX Si has under ten thousand miles on the odometer and looks nearly showroom fresh. Nearly, you'll note – there are a couple of flaws, including slightly saggy vinyl on the door cards, a missing vent deflector on the upper dash, and a bit of bubbling on the plastic front fender.

Sadly, I added a flaw of my own during my day's drive in the Detroit area – an eighteen-wheeler tossed half a tire at the wee Honda's windscreen as I journeyed west on Interstate 96. Quick survival calculus weighed avoidance of the retread against the results of impacting either the center Jersey barrier to my left or the full-sized SUV to my right in a priceless 35-year-old subcompact without airbags. I'm pretty sure the scratch on the hood will buff out.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si This engine yields just 91 horsepower.Photo by Chris Tonn

I've driven a fair number of classic cars over the years – both recently, and back in the day when they were just used cars. I've found few that can stand up to modern traffic demands as well as the CRX Si. Ninety-one horsepower sounds minimal; consider, however, the light curb weight of 1864 pounds. I had no problems getting up to extra-legal speeds on the interstate. The short (86.6 inches) wheelbase might lead you to think that high-speed stability will be compromised – no nervousness was noticeable while I diced for position at eighty-plus.

Note the red badge on the tail of the CRX – Si. No, this isn't Honda trying to emulate Chevrolet by inadvertently adding a Spanish-language meaning to a model. Here, it stands for Sport Injected. Remember when fuel injection was so novel it warranted a special badge? Indeed, this was one of the first Honda subcompacts to use fuel injection rather than the funky three-barrel carburetor that had brought the brand into prominence in the emissions-choked Seventies. PGM-FI, Honda calls it – Programmed Fuel Injection, meaning a rudimentary computer meters the fuel into the 1488cc four. Power comes on beautifully from just off idle up to well over 6000 – no stumbling, no surges like one might expect from Eighties-era electronics.

The five-speed manual has a remarkably long lever that quite neatly rests within an inch or so of my right knee, perched as I am with legs splayed around the non-adjustable steering wheel so I can recline the seatback enough to fit my head against the headliner without denting the thin sheet metal. This is one disadvantage to the Si trim compared to lesser first-generation trims of the CRX – the standard sunroof pares headroom for this driver, six-four and long of torso, to barely manageable heights. I make it work – but when I started shopping Craigslist for a bargain CRX of my own, I found myself carefully considering the sunroof-free HF and DX trim models that had been modified for extra power.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si Driving an old car will help you appreciate how advanced new cars are.Photo by Chris Tonn

That long handle on the shifter does not mean long, vague shift throws. Notching into the next cog is simple and direct. Clutch action is light and progressive. The brakes, lightly boosted but built well before anti-lock brakes were dreamed of for budget commuters, are firm and communicative, whoa-ing the featherweight Honda with ease. The CRX Si is genuinely easy to drive, and quickly.

The air conditioning is one letdown – it was cool, but not as cold as a modern, oversized system. Further, switching the compressor on while sitting still seemed to drop the engine idle speed down a bit – causing a bit of roughness while I sat at stoplights. I opened the manually-cranked windows and the standard electric sunroof with ease for the majority of my driving on a hot, humid August afternoon – scattered rain encouraged me to persevere with the air con at times.

I was initially disappointed with the factory radio reception as I headed west from the Motor City – I quickly lost connection with the local classic-rock station as I approached the northwestern suburb of Novi. I drove on in radio silence until I emerged near the town of Hell to realize that I hadn't raised the manual radio antenna atop the driver's A-pillar. The strains of Bon Jovi quickly filled the tiny cabin, augmented by the dealer-installed graphic equalizer. I still wish I'd thought to grab some cassettes out of the basement to slide into the dividers below.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si The interior has held up rather well, with the exception of a few spots.Photo by Chris Tonn

In some ways, driving enthusiasts have it great these days. Many mainstream manufacturers offer a car straight from the showroom that can best limited-production supercars from the 80s or 90s down a drag strip or around a road course. Many of these cars, you'll note, have but two pedals.

Honda has signaled that they'll stop offering manual transmissions except in a few performance models. Enthusiasts - the same ones who once told us that a real sports car has two doors, was front-engined, rear-drive, and was made in Germany, U.S.A., or the U.K. – have displayed their lament, as one would expect.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si Despite its small size, the interior of the 1985 Honda Civic CRX Si is spacious.Photo by Chris Tonn

While I love rowing my own gears - especially in a vintage hot hatch such as this 1985 Honda CRX Si – the picture of a sports car has changed over the years to become more inclusive. No longer must a manual transmission define performance. No longer must the ability to manipulate a manual transmission be a shibboleth for driving enthusiasm. Drive what you like. Me? Like I said, I'm looking for an old Honda of my own. But if what fits you, your roads, and your needs best has two pedals – don't let some old fart give you the "save the manuals" line.

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Honda notified dealers of upcoming supply cuts.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Honda, like all major automakers today, is truly a global operation. Though it produces plenty of vehicles here in the United States, many of the components it relies on for manufacturing come from elsewhere in the world. That means Honda, like the other auto giants, needs its global supply chain operating smoothly in order to prevent disruption. Unfortunately for Honda dealers and potential customers, disruption is what's about to happen. The automaker recently sent a letter to its dealers, forecasting reduced vehicle supply in the coming weeks.


2021 Honda Ridgeline No. 19 - Honda Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc


The dealer letter, posted to the Civic XI forum and fan site, was dated August 25 and confirmed by a dealer upset with the development, according to Automotive News. In the letter, Honda cites the ongoing pandemic and microchip shortages as major factors impacting its production efforts. Total shipments to dealers could be cut by up to 40 percent, but not all models will be affected to the same degree.

The letter noted that supplies of the Pilot and Passport SUVs will hold steady, and shared that production of the Civic hatchback is on schedule. However, the situation is fluid and could change at any time, so there's a chance that timelines could speed up or slack off as necessary.


2022 Honda Pilot Some models will see more cuts than others.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc


Honda is just the latest in a long line of automakers struggling to keep pace with demand in the face of several converging global crises. In an effort to keep vehicles rolling out of factories, General Motors has implemented selective feature cuts in some of its new vehicles, such as the removal of engine start/stop tech from some trucks and SUVs. Earlier this month, Ford Motor Company told Mustang Mach-E buyers to expect delays of at least six weeks as it grapples with the chip shortage, and will temporarily reduce production capacity at a few of its plants.

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New sports car

The Acura Integra is coming back in 2022

This is all we know about the new Integra's styling.

Acura

Secrets are hard to keep these days. It seems like new products always end up being leaked by one of the hundreds of people involved in the development process, to the point that even the most secretive companies have a hard time unveiling a product that people don't already know about. That wasn't the case this week, though. After announcing the final version of its NSX supercar at Monterey Car Week, Acura took to the skies with an impressive drone show that eventually spelled out a message no one expected to see: The Integra is coming back in 2022.



The original car launched in 1986, and its legend grew over time. After accumulating dozens of awards and spawning an entire industry around customizing and enhancing the Integra, Honda and Acura discontinued the car in 2001. We saw a successor to the crown in the Acura RSX for a few short years afterward, but it's been 15 years since a small, tossable sports car has graced the Acura catalog. Granted, Honda has been on a tear with the Civic Si and Civic Type-R, but there has been a hole in the Acura lineup for some time now.


Acura Integra The original Integra is the stuff of legend.Acura


Waiting is the hardest part, as they say. Other than the gorgeous drone display and tantalizingly mysterious teaser photo, we know nothing, which is a difficult spot to be as a car enthusiast. There are a few details, though. The car will return in 2022 as a "compact premium entrant," according to the press release. Company VP and Acura Brand Officer Jon Ikeda also said that the car is "returning to the Acura lineup with the same fun-to-drive spirit and DNA of the original, fulfilling our commitment to Precision Crafted Performance in every way – design, performance and the overall driving experience."

Given parent company Honda's success with performance versions of the Civic, we're optimistic that the 2022 Integra will put its compact dimensions to good use on the road and on the track. We'll have to be patient, though, because official details won't become available until closer to the car's introduction in 2022.


2022 Acura Integra Acura shared the new Integra's logo.Acura

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