If you've been paying attention to the collector car market, then you know that Japanese cars are gaining ground as hot collectables. We can't promise that this 1976 Honda Civic will become a hot property overnight, but history shows us that ground-breaking cars from major manufacturers that transform markets are often worthy of their place in history and in collectors' garages. Perhaps the Civic is such a car.
If you're going to own one of these, this bright orange hatchback is an excellent choice. Perhaps you remember these zipping around city streets in the early '70s, or maybe you had one. It was the first truly mainstream Japanese car to appeal to the American public's fickle tastes, and that was likely due to Honda's wonderful combination of quality, fun-to-drive-quotient, and economy. Most of them were orange or red, so they were high-visibility, which I suspect was intentional, and despite the fact that everyone was deriding these as inferior to Detroit iron, one drive will convince you otherwise. Just the fact that the gaps are still tight, the paint is shiny, and all the unusual little bits and pieces are still intact speaks highly of the quality and care this car has received over the past 40 years. Nice chrome bumpers, a jaunty roof rack, and those familiar taillights out back make this a car that's going to trigger memories for everyone who sees it.
The interior is remarkably tidy and surprisingly spacious for such a small car. The bucket seats reflect Honda's driver-first mentality, and they're still comfortable wearing stock-style seat covers that are probably way too nice to be original, but just might be. Controls are simple and effective, with a big, fat steering wheel to manage the unassisted steering. Gauges are big, round dials that are easy to read and if you've ever driven a Honda, you'll quickly recognize the font, so they looked like this for decades. A modern AM/FM/CD stereo seems to be the lone upgrade, and it's a good idea, especially since the installation lets it blend into the dash so easily. A 4-speed manual shifts well, the pedals are situated just right, and the back seat, while not exactly spacious, is reasonable for a small car. There's a bit of trunk behind the back seat, but fortunately, the seat folds down and expands it to a significant degree for hauling just about anything.
Honda's 1238cc inline-4 isn't going to win any drag races, but it feels energetic and durable going about its business. This was, after all, an economy car, but there's no rule that says economy cars need to also be boring. It still uses a carburetor, but the design works well and makes the car feel perky around town. The engine bay is highly original and could use a deep cleaning, but it appears to be entirely complete from top to bottom and has not been modified. Note how the engine is canted forward a bit to facility packaging and the radiator is tucked over there on the passenger's side. It's as reliable as you'd expect from a Honda, and as I mentioned, showing up with an early Japanese hatch like this will get you all kinds of attention. The 4-speed has light clutch action and the all-independent suspension is surprisingly agile, so you can drive this car with gusto. Tires are modestly-sized 155/80/12s, but with so little car to move around, they don't need to be big and that means they're affordable, too.
A neat, well-preserved piece of Japanese motoring history, I think we'll see more of these in the coming years. Get ahead of the curve and call today!