MM Retro-Write-Up: 1985 Honda Civic Si


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MM Retro-Write-Up: 1985 Honda Civic Si

Honda OEM 17-18 Civic Type-R Rear Red H Emblem: K Series Parts

My brother, up to now, has owned three different Honda Civics....a used yellow 3-door 1975 CVCC version (which I recently wrote about), a two-tone silver/gray 3-door 1985 Si hatchback, and a bare-bones 1995 turquoise blue-green 3-door CX. My hands-down favorite of the three was the 1985 Si, for several reasons. It was the easiest one of the three to drive, had the most spunk from the engine (although I'm not a speed-freak by any means), and I simply found it the most enjoyable of the three behind the wheel. That's the one I'm going to concentrate on in this write-up.

By the mid-1980s, after having his old 1975 Civic, a used 1966 red air-cooled VW Beetle, a new 1979 Renault 5 Le Car (which was the very definition of quirkiness), and a couple of used mid-1960s-vintage Chrysler products with V8 engines, and maybe one or two other vehicles I don't recall, he felt it was time for a new, reliable Japanese product. After looking at several choices and doing some research, we decided to visit the nearest Honda dealership, which was only a half-mile from my brother's house....very convenient for not only sales, but service as well.

Hondas, Toyotas, and some other Japanese-sourced vehicles were often difficult to find in stock in those days, as the continuing poor-quality of most American-made vehicles had driven millions of folks out of their Detroit makes and into Japanese makes, creating excessive demand for them as new vehicles. Not only that, but supply was limited, because the Japanese had agreed to a 'Voluntary" quota on the number of vehicles...and there was an outright 25% tariff on imported Japanese trucks, which Toyota got around by shipping the truck-cab/frame/drivetrain-assembly across the ocean separately and having the beds welded on at their West Coast warehouse. Those welds were defective, and led to the well-known tendency of those trucks to rust out seriously along the line were the beds were welded on..that problem wasn't licked until around 1990. But that's another story, for another write-up.

Anyhow, at the dealership, we lucked out. They had a nice two-tone gray/silver 5-speed manual Civic Si hatchback in stock that was not yet taken...and the Si version, being the sport-oriented model, was often the one in highest demand. My brother liked its looks, and so did I, it seemed to fit both of us size-wise, and, of course, we both knew it was probably a safe buy mechanically, as Civics, at that time, along with Corollas, were at the very top of the reliability charts at Consumer Reports. So, me and my brother both looked it over carefully for defects (didn't find any), test-drove it (test-drive OK), got back to the dealership, and decided to work up a deal on it.

Given the market for these cars, and the economic condition of the times, we had expected do do some haggling, and for them to demand a substantial mark-up. What we were not expecting (and which surprised both of us) was that, after a few rounds of bargaining, they were willing to accept a figure very close to list (I don't remember the exact figure, only that it was close to or at list). My brother kind of looked at me out of the corner of his eye, and I nodded my head yes, take it....and that was that. We all shook hands on the deal, went into the Business Manager's office to finalize it, the car went into the PDI clean-up shop, and he took it home...a full half-mile LOL.

Unlike at least some of the cars he had owned previously, this one, for several reasons, turned out to be money well-spent. As Consumer Reports had indicated, it was quite reliable for the five or six years he kept it...the only quality-glitch I can remember was the fabric-stitching on the drivers' seat coming loose after several years and the ugly yellowish-color foam padding in the top of the seat sticking out. It needed very little besides routine oil-changes and tire/brake-work, which you expect with any vehicle. Except for the ugly foam-padding sticking out of the seat, I liked its looks on Day One, and still did the day he sold it. It was comfortable for a small car, had a nice combination of ride/handling (Civics used a double-wishbone suspension in those days), had good-road-feel from the straight (non-power) steering, and had what IMO was the best FWD manual-clutch action and transmission-linkage in production then....something that Civics excelled in for years. The shift-lever was so intuitive it seem to slip into its super-short throws almost by could do it almost with one or two fingers, and the clutch almost always engaged smoothly, with light effort. Even though it still had an emissions-spec carburetor (the Civic would not convert to EFI till 1987), it was one of those unusual carbs that seemed to start and drive smoothly every time, with none of those serious drivability-problems that the earlier carburated CVCC engines had had. You could almost drive and shift this car blindfolded, by feel alone. Every time I drove it, I liked it, although I also liked the Mazdas of the period that I was driving.

Later, after a few years of driving a Mazda 323 hatchback in the early 1990s, my brother was to own yet a third Civic (a base-model 1995 CX)...but it was nowhere near the car the 1985 Si was. It was much cheaper inside and out, drove like an appliance, lacked many amenities we take for granted today, (although the seat-stitching didn't fail like on the 1985 LOL), had a very weak engine (70 HP, if my memory is correct), and got phenomenal gas mileage, but part of the key to that mileage was not only a weak engine, but a 5-speed manual transmission/final-drive unit that was geared so tall that you had to excessively slip the clutch just so it would start rolling without bogging down. I never liked it.....but, as that is a story for another time, I might do a more extensive write-up on that car later on.

And, as Always, Happy Car-Memories.