Compact Cult Classic: The 1984-1991 Honda CRX

Recipe for a cult hit, Honda-style: Take one competent C-segment hatchback, lop a few inches out of the wheelbase, tidy up the suspension tuning and aerodynamics, and repackage as a pint-size sports coupe. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we examine the history of the 1984–1991 Honda CRX (née Ballade Sports CR-X) and its erstwhile successors, the del Sol and CR-Z.

1987 Honda CRX badge

THE RISE OF HONDA

The growth of the Honda Motor Company was remarkable by any standard. Established in 1948, Honda first branched out into passenger cars in 1962 and by 1969 was building more than 200,000 cars a year. The company suffered a serious downturn in 1970–71 due to much-publicized allegations of defects in the popular air-cooled Honda N360 kei-car and the failure of the bigger 1300, but Honda recovered quickly thanks to the launch of the new water-cooled Life and Civic in 1971 and 1972. By the end of the decade, Honda had tripled its 1969 production volume, achieving fourth place in the Japanese industry behind Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi.

What really put Honda on the map in the seventies was the CVCC (compound vortex controlled combustion) engine, launched in late 1973. With its unique stratified charge head, the CVCC engine enabled the Civic was able to meet 1975 U.S. emissions standards and qualify for Japan’s low-emissions purchase tax credit without the use of add-on catalytic converters or thermal reactors, something U.S. automakers — and some Japanese ones — had insisted was technically impossible. Toyota, which had been among those, actually licensed the technology from Honda for use in Toyota’s own products, a remarkable reversal of the usual order of things. There was also strong interest from Ford and even General Motors.

yellow 1975 Honda Civic CVCC three-door front 3q

A 1975 Honda Civic CVCC. The Civic was launched in July 1971 with an all-aluminum 1,169 cc (71 cu. in.) four, but the subsequent CVCC used the larger 1,488 cc (91 cu. in.) ED engine, initially rated at 63 PS JIS (46 kW) in Japan and 53 hp SAE (40 kW) in the U.S. American Civics were 9.8 inches (250 mm) longer than their Japanese counterparts due to the bigger 5 mph (8 km/h) bumpers then required by U.S. safety standards. This car also has a five-speed gearbox, newly optional in the U.S. for 1975. (author photo)

Since CVCC-engined Civics were also surprisingly fun to drive and returned fine fuel economy, American buyers stung by the recent OPEC embargo snapped them up, as did customers in Japan. The larger Honda Accord, introduced in 1976, met a similarly warm reception, selling more than 1.5 million units through 1981.

VERNO AND BALLADE

The Accord marked the first step in Honda’s expansion and automotive diversification, but not the last. The next followed in 1978 with the launch of the Honda Prelude sports coupe and establishment of the Honda Verno sales channel.

One of the factors that had kept Toyota and Nissan on top in the Japanese domestic market (JDM) was that these automakers each had a strong sales network with multiple sales channels. Each channel’s dealers offered distinct — though not necessarily different — products, many of them essentially very mildly restyled versions of one another with slightly different model and option selections. (For our American readers, the most direct parallel would probably be latter-day Fords and Mercurys, although in most cases the Japanese models are not sold as different makes.) By contrast, while Honda had no shortage of dealers, many of its franchises were very small, lacking even service facilities, much less the large, well-lit showrooms of Toyota’s Corolla Stores.

1980 Honda Ballade front 3q © 2006 Jimbo 2006 PD

The original Honda Ballade sedan was based on the four-door Civic sedan, but had slightly different styling and a different model range. Notably, the Ballade was available with both the 1,335 cc (82 cu. in.) and 1,488 cc (91 cu. in.) engines while the contemporary Civic sedan, positioned as a more upscale model, was available only with the latter. Dimensions were very similar. (Photo © 2006 Jimbo 2600; released to the public domain by the photographer)

Honda’s new Verno stores were intended to change that. The new dealerships, some of which were owned directly by Honda’s sales organization (something less legally problematic in Japan than it would be in the U.S.), were better-furnished and better-equipped than many of Honda’s existing stores and offered a distinct lineup. Honda intended Verno as a youth-oriented sales channel loosely analogous to Toyota’s later U.S. Scion brand.

The first Honda Verno product was the Prelude, introduced in November 1978, followed in early 1980 by the five-door Quint, ancestor of the later Honda/Acura Integra. These were joined later that year by the Honda Ballade, a restyled version of the new Civic four-door sedan, and in 1981 by the Accord-based Honda Vigor.

To our knowledge, the Verno sub-brand did not extend beyond Japan, but Honda did offer some of these models for export. The Prelude went to America and Europe while the Quint was sold in Europe as the Honda Quintet. The Ballade as such was not initially exported to the U.S. or Common Europe, but in late 1979, Honda licensed the design to the British automaker formerly known as British Leyland, which subsequently marketed the compact sedan as the Triumph Acclaim. (BL also marketed the Quint in Australia as the Rover Quintet.)

silver 1984 Triumph Acclaim 1300 front 3q © 2010 Charles01 CC BY-SA 3.0

The Triumph Acclaim, launched in 1981 to replace the rear-drive Triumph Dolomite sedan, was very similar to the Honda Ballade 1300 on which it was based, but had two carburetors instead of one and a slightly lower compression ratio, giving 70 PS DIN (52 kW). The Acclaim was replaced in 1984 by the Rover 213, which was based on the second-generation Ballade sedan. (Photo © 2010 Charles01; used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

BALLADE SPORTS CR-X

Toward the end of June 1983, Honda Verno stores unveiled another new model: a sporty hatchback coupe called the Ballade Sports CR-X.

While the name suggested a kinship with the Ballade sedan, the CR-X was actually a preview of the next-generation Ballade and Civic (EA Civic by its chassis code, although Honda’s Japanese advertising would modestly christen this generation the “Wonder Civic”), which would debut that September. The “CR-X” name also foreshadowed the new Ballade line, which would be offered in CR-U, CR-B, CR-L, CR-M, and CR-i trim levels.

white 1985 Honda Ballade Sports CR-X Si front 3q © 2009 TTTNIS PD

The original Honda Ballade Sports CR-X was 144.7 inches (3,675 mm) long on an 86.6-inch (2,200mm) wheelbase and weighed around 1,800 lb (820 kg) with a full tank of fuel. The “DOHC” lettering on the rocker reveals that this is actually a 1985 CR-X Si, whose heavier ZC engine and other hardware brings the curb weight to nearly 2,000 lb (895 kg). Only barely visible at this scale are the main distinguishing feature of the JDM car: the flip-up “eyebrows” over the headlights, also used on the second-generation Ballade sedan. These were not used on export cars and were deleted later in the run. (Photo © 2009 TTTNIS; released to the public domain by the photographer)

Structurally, the CR-X was an EA Civic/Ballade with the wheelbase shortened to 86.6 inches (2,200 mm) — coincidentally, the same wheelbase as the original 1972 Civic — and a new close-coupled coupe body. The CR-X was 5.3 inches (135 mm) shorter and 2 inches (50 mm) lower than the EA Civic three-door hatchback and 3.7 inches (95 mm) lower and a whopping 19.1 inches (485 mm) shorter than the second-generation Ballade sedan, although overall width and track dimensions were the same. The CR-X wasn’t as much lighter than the Civic three-door as one might assume, but the lower roofline and truncated Kamm tail did make for better aerodynamics. The CR-X had almost 25% less total drag area than the Ballade sedan.

The Ballade Sports CR-X’s relationship to the Civic/Ballade continued beneath the metal-and-plastic skin. For the “Wonder Civic,” Honda had opted to trade the previous Civic’s fully independent MacPherson strut rear suspension for a more compact beam axle located by trailing arms and a Panhard rod. The axle was not a torsion beam in the Volkswagen mold; in fact, a “sway bearing” on the right side of the axle tube prevented the axle from acting as an anti-roll bar, although some models added a separate anti-roll bar inside the axle tube. The new “SPORTEC” front suspension retained MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar, but the old Civic’s coil springs were replaced by longitudinal torsion bars, again chosen primarily for space efficiency. Brakes were front discs and rear drums.

red 1984 Honda CRX front 3q

Extensive portions of the Mk1 CR-X’s outer skin are plastic. The bumpers are “HP Blend,” a Honda-developed polypropylene blend. The rocker panel covers, front fenders, and the panel between the front bumper and the hood are “HP Alloy,” a proprietary mix of polycarbonate and ABS plastic. (author photo)

In Japan, the CR-X was offered with a choice of two all-aluminum SOHC fours. Although similar in displacement to the engines of the outgoing Civic/Ballade line, the new fours were extensively redesigned, with conjoined cylinder bores, a shorter and lighter block, and the latest 12-valve, cross-flow edition of Honda’s CVCC cylinder head with two intake, one auxiliary intake, and one exhaust valve per cylinder. The CR-X 1.3 used the carbureted 1,342 cc (82 cu. in.) EV engine, making 80 PS JIS (59 kW) and 82 lb-ft (111 N-m) of torque on 10.0:1 compression. The CR-X 1.5i had the EW version with a lower, 8.7:1 compression ratio; a longer stroke giving a displacement of 1,488 cc (91 cu. in.); and Honda’s PGM-FI electronic fuel injection, yielding 110 PS JIS (81 kW) and 100 lb-ft (136 N-m) of torque. (We should note here that the above output figures are JIS gross numbers, not net ratings. The European 1.5i engine, which had fewer emissions controls than the JDM version, was rated at 100 PS DIN (74 kW), so it’s reasonable to assume that the Japanese engine’s net output was somewhat lower than that.)

Both engines were linked to a five-speed gearbox, but the 1.5i could be ordered with a three-speed Hondamatic with lockup torque converter and overdrive top gear. The 1.5i also included a stiffer suspension and vented front brakes. With the five-speed, Honda claimed the CR-X 1.3 could go from 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) in a bit under 12 seconds, the 1.5i in less than 9 seconds, respectable performance for the time. The factory estimated a top speed of 124 mph (200 km/h) for the 1.5i, which was wildly optimistic — probably by as much as 10%.

1987 Honda CRX Si interior rear

Without the ludicrous rear seat, which U.S. CRX buyers were spared, the Mk1 CRX has a useful if not vast amount of cargo space. Note, however, how close the passenger seat is to the rear shelf, which along with the downward slope of the roof would make stuffing an adult into the back an exercise in physical comedy, particularly in locales that require passengers to have proper seats and wear seat belts. (author photo)

Although it would be sold in some markets as a two-seater, the CR-X’s Japanese specifications claimed four-seat capacity thanks to a tiny rear seat on which one or two people could theoretically crouch for short, uncomfortable journeys. Honda frankly described this as a “one-mile” seat and we can only assume it was a concession to some marketing demand or regulatory loophole. The seat could be folded down for additional cargo space.

In Japan, the CR-X was offered with a number of novel options, including an electric sunroof that slid back over the outside of the roof rather than into it and a peculiar roof ventilation system. The latter, standard on 1.5i models, could best be described as a cross between the cowl ventilators offered on prewar American cars and the popup ventilation hatches found on some conversion vans. It consisted of a retractable roof-mounted scoop that channeled outside air into a pair of adjustable interior outlets located above the windshield. Japanese buyers could also order a trendy digital instrument panel, a trip computer, and 14-inch alloy wheels.

1987 Honda CRX Spyder digital LCD dashboard

LCD instrument panels were very popular in Japan throughout the eighties and were optional on the CR-X, Civic, and Ballade. American import buyers were less enamored of digital dashboards and the Japanese automakers who offered such features in the U.S. generally relented by the late eighties. The digital instrument panel seen here is on a 1987 CRX Spyder convertible, an aftermarket conversion. (author photo)

The CR-X’s substantial commonality with other Civic/Ballade models kept prices very reasonable. In Tokyo, the Ballade Sports CR-X 1.3 started at ¥993,000 (around $4,200), which would split the difference between the 1.3-liter Ballade CR-B and CR-L sedans. The CR-X 1.5i started at ¥1,270,000 (about $5,400), a little cheaper than a comparable Ballade CR-i. That wasn’t dirt cheap, but it was certainly affordable and a good deal cheaper than the larger Honda Prelude, whose base prices ranged from ¥1,360,000 to ¥1,718,000 (roughly $5,700 to $7,200).

DECIPHERING THE HONDA COUPE

All that describes what the CR-X was; understanding why it was is a little more complicated.

26 Comments

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  1. Great article about a model I’ve always found compelling. And look at the list of sources – the depth of research is what really sets this site apart.

  2. I think it can be argued that Honda replaced the CRX/Del Sol with the Insight MK I. While it never had any sporting aspirations, it did fill the same basic role as the CRX HF in that it was a small, light, extremely fuel-efficient 2 seat commuter car. To this day it still holds the title of the most fuel-efficient gasoline powered car ever sold in the US market. While it was a flawed vehicle (due to battery life issues), it was still a better effort than the CR-Z at filling the sporty commuter car role. As far as the CR-Z goes, I don’t see how it is an improvement over the same product had it just been fitted with the drivetrain from the Fit/Jazz. It would have been lighter, within 2-4MPG of the hybrid system and far cheaper to produce and buy.

    1. There is certainly a case to be made for the Mk1 Insight as the next-generation CRX, although in that case more than CRX HF than the Si or VTEC editions. You could have fun with an Insight, but it was not a sporty car in any quantitative way other than having only two seats. The original Insight was also more of a sui generis piece like the NSX; the Mk1 Insight had a bespoke (and very expensive) chassis and engine where the CRX, even the del Sol, was a Civic derivative.

      The CR-Z is, to my eyes, a neat-looking car that tries to do two quite different things at once and ends up not being great at either of them. You have a point about the powertrain; the CR-Z is more fuel efficient than the Fit on the EPA cycle, but not dramatically so (the difference between a five-speed Fit 1.5 and a CR-Z six-speed is about 17%) and if you subtracted the added weight of the IMA system and battery (something between 110 and 150 lb, if it’s comparable to the Jazz Hybrid) it would probably be a wash. On the other hand, that would itself leave people searching for the point, since you could always just buy a Fit/Jazz, add your own suspension tweaks (which at this point Honda dealers might even sell you — I haven’t looked recently), and come out ahead in just about everything but looks.

      Of course, if Honda had really wanted to cheer up the faithful, they could pull the hybrid gear and battery pack from the CR-Z and install the K20 engine. They wouldn’t win any fuel economy prizes that way, but they could probably have matched the old CRX Si (27 mpg combined on the post-2008 cycle, compared to 24 mpg for the last of the previous generation 2-liter Civic Si) and there would be a lot less moaning about the old car being better.

      I think the bottom line is that Honda appears to be really stung by the fact that Toyota has made the Prius practically synonymous with hybrid cars while a lot of Honda hybrids have gone nowhere commercially. Honda keeps looking for a space in that niche they can call their own (the sporty hybrid, the cheaper hybrid) and so far they haven’t found it.

      1. "You could always just buy a Fit" pretty well sums up my thoughts on most new cars under $50k. I might add "and a motorcycle".

      2. "Of course, if Honda had really wanted to cheer up the faithful, they could pull the hybrid gear and battery pack from the CR-Z and install the K20 engine."

        Sweet Jesus man, it is cruel and unusual to even discuss something so easily do-able and yet so thoroughly un-fulfilled; especially considering the audience is made up of almost nothing but gear-heads. Somehow, the notion feels even more tantalizingly realistic when hearing you say it. Alas, the possibility exists only in the world of engine swaps for now and, I fear, the indefinite future :(

        There seem to be a lot of these common-sense type solutions kicking around that plenty of automakers have been picking up as of late. I mean, good god, just look at Ford, Hyundai, or even Toyota with the bold-move FRS/BRZ platform and even a looming collaboration with BMW. If you can’t beat ‘em, coerce ‘em into helping you build something that doesn’t suck. At least they’re doing <b>something</b> to inject some vitality into the brand.

        Honda, on the other hand, seems to be sitting on their hands. The Acura brand is a great example. It has made money for them in the past, but now it withers on the vine with more than one of their models falling seriously short of sales projections in recent years. The cars have good tech, Honda’s SH-AWD drivetrain is among the best in the business. Yet somehow the final package they’ve been putting together has been falling short. The RLX is, objectively, a perfectly decent sedan in its price range, but <b>nobody</b> has bought the thing.

        It seems to come back to Honda’s corporate culture. They just don’t do U-turns. They’ve been incredibly dedicated to the parrot-face family-resemblance front grille. Nobody likes it. Nobody <i>ever</i> liked it, but that doesn’t matter to them. This is what they planned and they’re doing it, period. Over at Toyota, Akio Toyoda has been wreaking havoc, changing all manner of product plans. So far, his efforts appear to have yielded entirely positive results. They’ve gained hugely renewed consumer interest in the brand and yet none of their "core customers" are abandoning their 2014 Camry buying plans just because Akio has pushed to build a few interesting cars. All is well for them. Sadly, it seems such is not the case over at Honda.

        I deeply want to continue being a Honda fan. Some of my greatest automotive experiences have occurred in or around one of their cars. However, hardly anything in their 2014 lineup sparks my interest. I’d <i>love</i> to be driving a Honda, but I recently scooped of a ’10 Hyundai Genesis Coupe fresh off a trade-in instead. Powerful V6 engine, 6 speed manual, RWD, and all for way less than $20K even though the thing still had 30K miles of warranty left on it.

        And the thing that really irritates me is how much better my car would be if it were a Honda. Honda could *easily* build a car just like the Genesis Coupe. Only if Honda made it, its engine would be more powerful, more fuel efficient, and more refined. Its interior would be made up of much higher quality materials to make a more quiet and comfortable cabin. The gearshift would be a nearly-orgasmic joy to operate rather than merely adequate. It wouldn’t have such an absurdly small amount of front bump travel. Its handling would be snappy, agile, and precise. Its ride quality would be supple with perfect damping. Its steering would feel tingly and wonderful and perfectly weighted.

        Alas, it would have been $6K-8K more expensive and-OMG I WOULD NOT HAVE CARED! <i>AT! ALL!</i> I would <i>so</i> prefer to own a Honda-built version of my Genesis Coupe.

        Honda! Hooondaaa! Please! Please just build *one* proper enthusiast’s car?! With no hybridized whatever? Just wheels and a meaty engine and some seats and perfectly ergonomic controls and every other exquisite, driver-focused quality that we all *know* you can build into a car.

        Aaron Severson has penned an ode, yet another lovingly detailed history of an incredible strain of automobile. It is truly baffling to read it to its end and then consider what Honda’s product tree looks like right now. What a shame.

        1. It should be said that however much the recent Civic and Accord models have been lambasted by the enthusiast press, both have been selling quite well in the U.S., so they seem to be going over okay with consumers.

          As for the hybrids, the last time I checked, the Prius was by a healthy margin the bestselling car in Japan by a substantial margin and it and the Aqua (the car sold here as the Prius C) account for a substantial portion of ALL cars sold in Japan right now. By contrast, Honda has had a lot of difficulty carving out a piece of that market; Toyota has really branded itself as the hybrid company at this point, which has left Honda trying to maneuver around them.

          Also, Honda today is in a very different position than it was when the original CRX was developed. Back then, Honda was just barely edging out Mazda for fourth place in Japan during a period when the Japanese economy was really starting to boom and the auto industry (after some sluggish years in the mid-seventies) was taking off. Those are the kind of conditions that seem to inspired companies to produce their best products — periods in which there’s obviously money to be made (and thus more incentive to take expensive chances), but where the company isn’t so far out in front that they second-guess themselves to death try to hang onto their established market share.

          Today, Honda is I think still No. 2 in the Japanese industry, having displaced Nissan, and one of the top-selling automotive brands in the U.S., but the Japanese economy has been rocky for some time — the earthquake certainly didn’t help — and the auto industry in general is in a weird and uneasy place for everyone but the high-end German brands. Those are the sort of conditions that discourage companies from taking chances; there’s a lot to lose and not necessarily a lot to gain.

  3. Admittedly nit-picky, but I remember CVCC being an acronym for "compound vortex controlled combustion" rather than "compound vortex combustion chamber." Or maybe it stood for both.

  4. When I first heard of it, I was really hoping that the Scion iQ was going to pick up where the CRX left off…tiny, nimble, quirky, efficient, and unapologetic about styling. Sadly, it appears to have been a flop in the U.S. at least.

    So what is the CRX’s closest successor? The MINI products are a little too form-over-function, the MX-5 is too expensive, we (U.S.) got the wrong Smart, the MR2 Spyder was apparently not as fun as it looks, etc.

    I’m calling out the Mazda2…and the Fit, of course.

    1. Well, neither the Fit or Mazda2 is really the same sort of car. The Fit/Jazz is in size and purpose basically a cleverer, modernized version of the EA Civic Shuttle/Wagon five-door. (The Fit is about 3.5 inches shorter, but 2 inches wider and about an inch and a half taller.) The 2/Demio is a supermini like the Fiesta that shares its platform. Neither the Fit nor the 2 is particularly sporty — which is not to say they’re bad to drive because they’re not, but being fun to drive is really not their primary mission.

      Of the various smaller hot hatches, I would say the closest direct comparison is probably the Suzuki Swift Sport three-door, not sold here. If you want to be technical, it’s closer to the EA Civic Si than the CRX, but the Swift Sport is about as close to a "back to basics" small sporty car as you’ll find these days.

  5. I’d like to know why Honda was able to make money offering such a wide range of Civic variations back in the ’80′s. Heck, they even offered 3 versions of the CRX (CRX, CRXhf and CRXsi). Plus the Civic hatch, the 4-door Civic and the Civic Wagon.

    Now it’s 2-door, 4-door or hit the highway.

    Same with most of all the other car companies.

    Back in the ’60′s you could get a full-size Chevy in 4-door sedan, 4-door hardtop, 2-door sedan, 2-door hardtop, station wagon and convertible. Most if not all in Caprice, Impala, Biscayne and 210 variants.

    Maybe the car companies would sell some more cars if they gave us some choice.

    1. Well, Honda does offer a Civic hatchback and a wagon/MPV (the Stream), just not in the U.S. Conversely, the Civic three-box sedan and two-door coupe aren’t sold in Europe. In both cases, the reason is that in the past three generations or so, interest in hatchbacks and small wagons in the U.S. has been minimal, while European buyers have a similar feeling about notchback sedans and coupes.

  6. Great article (you keep spoiling us, Aaron!). I owned a ’77 Civic CVCC and an ’85 CRX and the CRX was such a quantum leap over the Civic. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison given eight years of progress separating them, but the ’77 was such a piece of crap I swore I’d never own another Honda, so when I broke that rule and bought the CRX it was so good it more than evened the score. I figured I’d quit while I was ahead and have yet to buy another Honda (as if I could even afford a new(er) one…

  7. I had a 90 Si with a b16 and IHE, brake upgrades.
    at 50 years old I had a fast! fun, and reliable car that I drove every day.
    God, the fun I had with that car…

  8. Great article! Well written and probably the only one so far which captures the fact the CR-X Ballade Sports started its existence in 1983… Although the first month of production was May 1983 (not late 1983 as written). Chassis numbers started as AF1
    The 1.6l DOHC CR-X did come out in 1984 but again as a Ballade Sports with the chassis number AS100 whilst the Si model on 1986 had the chassis number AS110.

    1. To the author: I own a 1983 cr-x ballade sports which was early build number 29 and also a 1.6 1984
      Ballade sports with the chassis AS100. I also have a parts book which shows the models if you’d like that for reference. Thanks.

    2. By introduction, I’m referring to the public announcement rather than the start of production, which for obvious reasons would have been somewhat earlier. Honda announced the new model on 23 June 1983 and according to their press release, the car went on sale through Honda Verno stores on the first day of July.

      I didn’t mean to imply that the JDM Si was not still a Ballade Sports CR-X, which it was (as can be seen by the identification on the back of the black car), and have amended the text a bit to make that clearer. The main issue was that it can get tricky to describe cars sold in distinct versions under different names without making the text very cumbersome…

  9. <cite>The factory estimated a top speed of 124 mph (200 km/h) for the 1.5i, which was wildly optimistic</cite>

    I have an ’84 1.5 I purchased new from a dealer in AZ. The best I ever got out of it was 105. 124 is is wildly optimistic.

    1. The factory figure was for the more powerful Japanese-market injected engine. The car you had was the less-powerful carbureted U.S. 1.5; I don’t know if Honda ever released estimated figures for that version, although your 105 mph result is quite consistent with the independent U.S. tests.

      Either way, 124 mph was optimistic. The JDM 1.5i had probably just about the same net output as the later U.S. CRX Si (i.e., about 92 hp SAE net), which didn’t get close to that speed without aftermarket help. Even the European injected cars, which were almost certainly more powerful than the JDM version (no catalytic converter or EGR), couldn’t manage 120 mph in independent tests, much less 124.

  10. The photo of the S800 brought a tear! I owned an S600 Coupe (essentially the same car as the S800) and drove it for 18 years in and around Vancouver. With its 9500 RPM red line, what a hoot that car was! Still have the original (and incredibly detailed) shop manual for the S600, as well as one for the S800.

  11. THANKS for writing such a thorough and interesting history of the CRX! I truly enjoyed it!

    My sister’s first car (in ’88) was a very gently-used ’85 CRX (1.5) with only 34k miles on it. It was red with an after-market pop-up sunroof and oh-so-80s rear-window louvers that rattled constantly. Questionable accessories aside, it was still a blast to drive. Just a few weeks later, her best friend got a dark blue ’85 model, but with the dreadful 3-speed automatic.

    In 1990, shortly before I turned 16, my sister graduated high school and my dad bought her an ’86 Nissan 300ZX from a friend. Even though I always loved her ’85 CRX, I wasn’t thrilled to get my big sister’s hand-me-downs. But if I didn’t take the CRX, it was very likely that I’d be getting my mom’s ’77 Cutlass Supreme….so I took the CRX! =)

    Four months later, I lost control in a curve and put it into the guard rail at 70mph+. I walked away with just a few bumps and bruises, but the CRX wasn’t so lucky. I replaced it with a white ’86 CRX Si and kept it for almost two years, until I graduated high school in 01/1993.

    I went thru a series of Integras, Accords, a Prelude and even a Legend over the years. In 1999, when my daily driver was a ’94 Legend GS, I ran across a deal on a black ’90 CRX Si that I couldn’t pass up. It was pretty tired with just over 200k miles on the clock, but it was still fun for to play with for a couple of years until the head gasket blew.

    For the record, I hated the del Sol, but the current CR-Z could have some potential! Screw the hybrid crap, borrow the powertrain from the Civic Si and I’ll be first in line to buy one!

    1. I suspect the CR-Z won’t be around much longer. I saw news the other day that the Insight on which it’s based has ceased production and since CR-Z sales have never been great, I have to assume there isn’t a strong business case for continuing the CR-Z much longer. If it had become a cult favorite, keeping it might make sense as a goodwill-building gesture, but the people who might have made the CR-Z that kind of success have largely turned up their noses at it.

  12. Excellent article. I owned an 87 CRX DX for a few years and still own a 1997 Del Sol VTEC (bought new, but sadly the rust belt is about to claim another victim), but noticed you claimed the suspension didn’t change between the second generation CRX and the Del Sol. The Del Sol inherited the same suspension used in the same generation Civics (which is why most of the parts I’ve been buying lately are Civic parts), which is a true double wishbone up front and a trailing arm multilink arrangement in the rear. It is a funny looking double wishbone, I’ll grant you, with the two wishbones connected by an extended hub (Honda calls it a knuckle). There are some exploded parts diagrams of the suspension on OEM parts sites if you want to verify my statement (assuming Majestic Honda hasn’t yanked the Del Sol from their online parts catalog). I’ve been toying with the idea of replacing the Sol with a CRZ but for some reason the insurance rates for one in my neck of the woods are outrageous – I can insure a Pontiac Solstice GXP for less. Now if only I could afford the GXP… and the maintenance…

    1. I wasn’t trying to imply that suspensions were identical or interchangeable, but that they were substantially similar in layout. However, you’re quite right about the lower wishbone change — I’d missed that when I was looking at the itty-bitty diagrams in the del Sol press kit. One could argue (as I imagine Honda engineers would have) that a wishbone formed by two links is still functionally a wishbone; it sort of comes down to how picky you want to be. In any case, I’ve amended the text on that and to better describe the extended steering knuckles, which are shared by both generations.

      1. Agreed, though I think they’d need to be really picky indeed to argue that a lower control arm that consists of two pieces bolted together and attached to a single ball joint at the bottom of the knuckle isn’t a wishbone. It could have just as easily been a solid piece (indeed, some aftermarket arms did just that) with two horizontal pivot mounts on the car side connecting to a ball joint on the knuckle side. I don’t fault you for scratching your head at the diagrams, I just stared at one now and had to puzzle through what was what, and I’ve held the arms in my hands before. The steering tie rods almost look like they should be a load bearing piece. And I’m sorry, I didnt mean to infer that they would be interchangeable either, just that the design had changed between 88-91 and 92-95. Thanks again for the informative article. Oh, and if you haven’t read "The Honda Myth" before I can’t recommend it more highly… It’s a really compelling story about Honda’s history.

        1. My dilemma with the diagrams was that I originally looked only at the del Sol press kit, which has only one very small image of the front suspension — and that from an angle where the lower wishbone is completely hidden behind the knuckle. I went back and looked up the press kit for the Civic line, which had a more complete set of illustrations from several angles. (I assume since the del Sol followed on the heels of the other Civics, Honda didn’t see the need to belabor the point.)

          It’s sort of interesting that they went back to a solid lower wishbone. A lot of times automakers go the other direction, principally because creating a "wishbone" of several links gives you more flexibility in tailoring bushing compliance in different directions. I suppose it might have been a cost-saving thing, since by that point the Japanese economy was a mess and Honda was fighting to hold the line on export prices. It might also have just been an about-face in terms of philosophy for any number of reasons — I really don’t know.

          I have read the Masaaki Sato book, which was fascinating. There was a lot of stuff about Honda’s early history I really hadn’t known and it gave me a new perspective on some things, like the proposed auto industry consolidation that prompted Honda (and Mazda) to get into the passenger car business in the first place.

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