This Is an Ode to a Rusty CRX
It doesn’t take a Concours d'Elegance judge to notice that this CRX, in particular, is pretty damn crusty. But it still has some verve left.
If you’re my age and into cars (I mean, why else would you be reading this website) you were probably once as ignorant a twerp as I was – meaning, at some point, you typed “FWD SUCKZ, RWD RULEZ!” into some forum thread about a Honda. Something, something, wrong-wheel drive. Right? Well, In my last installment of the informal “cars abandoned at my house” series you learned about Andreas’ 1990 Acura Legend. Well, Andreas has another car – the holy grail of ’90s Hondas, a CRX Si. I think our thirteen-year-old selves can shut the hell up now.
To create a CRX, Honda took the same-era Civic and trimmed it a little. The wheelbase is shorter, the roofline is a bit more raked, and the car overall is lighter, faster, and more efficient than a comparable Civic hatchback or sedan.
This second-generation version (the first gen ran through the mid-’80s) is the most sought-after CRX. It’s better looking, more powerful, and most importantly, it’s got those sweet-ass double wishbones that my colleague Chris doesn’t think are worth a damn.
Like the Legend, Andreas found this CRX online. It was a little less rusty than it is now, and they traded an old Protege for it.
Some of these cars are now starting to catch the attention of collectors, along with almost every other ’80s and ’90s car from Japan. But it doesn’t take a Concours d’Elegance judge to notice that this CRX, in particular, is pretty damn crusty. The rear quarter panels have holes in them, and so do the doors. The front fenders are dented and rusty, and what’s left of the paint is faded and peeling.
Still, the undercarriage and suspension mounting points are in decent enough shape, so the car continues to safely roll down the road. At least, for now – the quarter panels are getting pretty sanctified with holes.
Andreas lives in Dallas, more than 14 hours drive from Columbus, OH where the car is located. He wants to bring it back to Texas soon, but the CRX is not the most practical Texas car, as the 1990s era dealer-installed air-conditioning isn’t working. Not too comfortable in the unrelenting Texas heat.
The CRX has been sitting at my house for a long time, but I’ve never really driven it. Sure, I’ve moved it around the property, and made sure it had fuel or jump-started it when the battery went flat from sitting, but I didn’t know much about the car, dynamically. I wanted to test my camera out and give people pride in their rusty-ass pride and joy, so I took the CRX out on a city spin, in search of a good photography spot.
Andreas’s CRX Si comes with Honda’s D16 engine, specifically the D16A6. When it was new, this car claimed about 108 horsepower and was mated to one of Honda’s divine cable-shifted five-speed manuals. No VTEC, U.S. cars didn’t get any VTEC option back then.
Compared to any modern car, the CRX is low slung, even hard to get into. I think I’m getting old, I’m no longer that 13-year-old internet know-it-all, able to bound in and out of any car with ease.
The interior is straightforward, with clear, easy-to-read, stylish black-faced gauges that show speed and RPM. The pillars are thin, and even with the rakish roofline, visibility remains excellent, both in front and behind.
After I ungracefully flopped down in the seat, I inserted the key, and the D16 under the hood hummed to life. I slipped the shifter into first; the feeling was unfamiliar compared to almost any manual transmission I’ve driven in recent years. The throws were kind of long, but the engagement felt more mechanical as if my forearm and hand were the actual clutch fork.
Despite the CRX’s 207,000 miles, the engine sings happily up to redline, and the car feels much quicker than the roughly 100 horsepower suggests.
The car is low to the ground, easy to see out of, and the completely manual steering has precision and feedback that a lot of modern sports cars can’t touch. Even in this rusty, dilapidated state, the CRX without fail will make you smile. The engine enjoys being revved, the gearbox enjoys being used, and the car likes going around corners. The car is basic, and honest, rewarding for drivers of any skill set or level of auto enthusiasm. Not a lot of cars do that these days. Even my very enjoyable Fiat 500 Abarth, feels less special than the CRX.
Our thirteen-year-old selves didn’t know what the hell we were talking about knocking front-drive in fun cars. The CRX, and cars like it, drive wheels and armchair stat racing doesn’t mean shit in real life. It’s about the drive, the enjoyment, the experience. Even in ratted-out, rusty specification, the CRX has that in spades.
Also, it’s a much sharper drive than a similar Miata.