By on December 18, 2010

Some folks will tell you that you need a big ol’ truck to haul a grimy cast-iron V8, but those folks are wrong! My beater ’92 Civic, which stood up well when compared to the Audi R8, not only sports a trailer hitch (no doubt suitable for hauling popcorn carts weighing up to several hundred pounds) but the cargo-area capacity to take a disassembled Chrysler LA engine.

When I pulled the rod-knockitty 318 out of my ’66 Dodge A100 Hell Project, I thought that I might rebuild it for later use in the ’49 Plymouth sedan project I keep threatening to do… but once I opened it up, I changed my mind. Crank bad. Block bad. Smog heads. Plan B: give the engine to my friend who makes regular scrap-metal-for-cash runs, so he can turn it into a few bucks for his ill-advised car projects.

The key to making large objects fit in your pre-Model-Bloat Civic (the current Civic has packed on the bulk like Ozzy Osbourne after his infamous motel-room whiskey-and-donut binge) is the tailgate. Even though the car is a total cheapo beater, I laid down an old sheet in the cargo area to keep the worst of the grunge off the interior. Block, heads, intake, exhaust manifolds, accessory brackets, everything. It all fits just fine, even with the back seats up!

The rear doesn’t sag too badly with all that extra weight, although the handling did get a little funky. As for the engine for the ’49 Plymouth project (which will use this car as a role model), I’m thinking supercharged Slant Six.

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35 Comments on “5th-Gen Civic: Cargo-Haulin’ Workhorse!...”

  • avatar

    Hatches are the best efficient haulers – the other day I hauled a 7 foot long cast marble vanity top (boxed) in my 2005 Prius – its astounding how much you can carry in a well designed hatch.

  • avatar

    I thought you were putting that engine back there to give it 50/50 weight distribution. Actually I wouldn’t recommend hauling that popcorn cart without it.

  • avatar

    Looks like something I’d do …
    Here is my old Neon with a live rear axle in the trunk
    and my minivan with a Lotus Seven replica frame in the rear

  • avatar

    While I’ve never hauled impressive automotive cargo in the xB, it’s never ceased to amaze me. On separate occasions, I’ve hauled a loveseat, an arm chair, a filing cabinet, 50 gallons of juice, and a stack of 40×48 pallets.
    In general, nothing beats a well-designed hatchback for hauling stuff.

  • avatar

    I’d hate to see where that engine goes during a hard or unexpected stop. 

  • avatar

    I don’t know why the US shuns hatchbacks. It is stories like this that make me miss my old 87′ Saab hatchback. As quirky as Saabs were, it was an awesome pickup truck in college. In fact it had more capacity than my friends’ pickup trucks. I hauled a big sofa in it’s turtle back hatch to prove it.  I had to donate it (it was still a runner after 300k miles), because it would cost too much to get it to pass emissions. Not the easiest engine to work on. I replaced it with an import sport wagon. It impressed my boss when I got a large flat panel TV in that little wagon. But the old Saab still had more hatch space, and I miss it on snow days. Your Civic hatch is awesome! Although, the new Civics got bloated to improve crash worthiness, the addition of the engine parts probably turned your Civic into a tank.

  • avatar

    Hatchbacks rule.

  • avatar

    You put it in the wrong end of the car! :-) j/k

  • avatar
    Sam P

    Hatchbacks are awesome. Too bad Americans don’t buy them in quantities large enough to justify their manufacture or importation by most automakers.

    • 0 avatar

      Too bad Europeans don’t buy trucks in quantities large enough to justify their manufacture or importation by most automakers.  Say what you will about hatches, nothing beats a small to midsize truck for hauling ‘normal’ everyday stuff.  Garden center runs for soil, Lowes runs for bricks, flat screen displays from best buy where you don’t even have to lift the tailgate to put it in the bed.  If more folks had baught Rangers (and even S-10s or Dakotas) we might still have a real-sized pickup instead of the gargantuan mega trucks sold today,

  • avatar

    I can beat that, though: I once helped my friend Andy haul home an old TR-4 bodyshell… strapped to the roof of a Volvo 145 wagon.

  • avatar

    Amateur. In a 1999 Subaru Impreza, I have fit the following into the hatch (Not all at the same time, of course):
    A full size pie safe
    20 10 foot pieces of re-bar
    30 gallons of paint, in 5 gallon buckets.
    25 cartons of laminate flooring
    35 15 foot long pieces of electrical conduit
    600 feet (6 100 foot coils) of flex conduit
    A washing machine
    A dryer
    A dishwasher
    An oven
    $750 worth of scrap copper
    A Subaru 4-EAT transmission
    The last one was probably the result of me using the poor thing as a work truck, but it still keeps going, 330k down the road. It’s even more useful when I hitch my trailer up to it.
    When this thing finally dies, I might get an older Volvo for even more wagon work truck madness, but I think at this point the Subaru is defiant in the face of death, and is determined to outlive me, simply out of spite.

  • avatar

    Not bad, but fastback-style hatches do a better job with bulky cargo that micro-wagons.
    To whit, my Fit does good work as a hauler, but my old 9-3 could manage nearly what my father’s Ranger could do.

  • avatar

    P.S.  It’s not really fair to call the Civic bloated.  I mean, yes, it’s a bigger car, but Honda still sells the Fit.
    I really think people need to get past their preconceptions of a given nameplate.  Honda still sells a small, versatile and efficient car that’s fun to drive, just as they always have.  What they do sell now, and didn’t sell back in 1980, is the large car that many Americans want.  Now tell me, if the Accord was called the “Inspire” or “Legend”, the current Civic called the Accord and the current Fit the Civic, would y’all have your panties in a bunch?

    • 0 avatar

      I really think people need to get past their preconceptions of a given nameplate.
      No way.  Car companies spent years successfully marketing/brainwashing me into connecting their nameplates with various needed characteristics.
      Now they want to change it?  Well nuts to them! They can either call it something else or listen to me bitch.
      Now tell me, if the Accord was called the “Inspire” or “Legend”, the current Civic called the Accord and the current Fit the Civic, would y’all have your panties in a bunch?
      No. So why doesn’t Honda do that?

    • 0 avatar

      People get very attached to nameplates, and most people seem content to buy the same car year over year.  The catch is that they expect improvements, or at least noticeable gains.  Hardly anyone wants to buy a 1977 Civic in 2007 for 2007 dollars.
      So the Civic and Accord (and Camry and Corolla) get a little larger, and a little more refined, year over year, to satisfy Civic and Accord repeat buyers—and there are a lot of those buyers than there are new customers, and certainly more than there are people who want the 2007 Civic to be exactly like the 1977 one.  Hence the Fit: the new entry-level Honda.
      You’ll note that vehicles that aren’t re-bought year over year don’t grow that much (the Sienna or Odyssey, for example) by comparison.  This is why: you might buy two, three or four Civics in your life, but you’ll only buy one Oddy, and it’ll be with you until your next lifestyle change, at which point you’ll go Civic (again), or perhaps Accord, TL, CRV or MDX.
      Unlike the domestics, which change car nameplates like underwear, Honda and Toyota have serious nameplate loyalty: people like their Corollas and Civics and will keep buying them as long as they’re nicer than the one they’re in now.  That’s why the Fit isn’t labelled the Civic: because Honda caters to the people who buy Civics, rather than to enthusiasts who want everything to be exactly as it was when they were 18.

    • 0 avatar

      People get very attached to nameplates
      That attachment and loyalty goes both ways.
      It might make better business sense to cater to the people that want more and more refinement in each subsequent generation.
      However, that means “the enthusiasts who want everything to be exactly as it was when they were 18” are going to get stiffed and complain. It might not be the most rational and mature way to react to things but it is what it is.

  • avatar

    I dig hatchbacks.  Once transported a large recliner ( fully reclined ) in the back of my 93 Probe, with the hatch shut.

  • avatar

    psarhj: It’s not really fair to call the Civic bloated.  I mean, yes, it’s a bigger car, but Honda still sells the Fit.
    except that Murilee’s ol’ Civic is a nice looking car, along with all it’s other virtues, and that damn Fit is plug ugly.

  • avatar

    I have the same exact engine hoist! Used it to rebuild the EJ25 in my Subaru last summer. The big block Chrysler engine that the Subaru engine was sitting next to while I rebuilt it nearly looked small in comparison, seeing how the boxer engine was so wide.

  • avatar

    I like the slant-6 idea, but I’d replace super by turbo.
    You should see how much stuff fits in a Fiat Siena.

  • avatar

    I have a ’49 Plymouth business coupe, and I’ve been debating for years what engine swap would make me most happy. Slant Six? New Hemi? Cheap 360 from a truck? But I like driving the car slowly and I like the manual steering and I like the industrial feeling of the thing. My current candidates are the 4.0 Jeep straight six or the drivetrain from a 2.7L Toyota truck. Easy swap, lotsa room, 5 speed O.D. trans, new rear end…maybe even drop the body on the Toyota frame and keep the torsion bars up front! My mechanic thinks I’m nuts.

  • avatar

    The 92 Civic Si is one of the most beautifully proportioned volume and well engineered vehicles of the last 40 years in my opinion.

  • avatar

    You can fit 86 bowling balls and a passenger into a Renault Le Car. Handling gets a bit squirrley though.

  • avatar

    My cousin had a Civic like that when we were in high school.  Rich uncle, so they got new cars at 16.  I loved those Civics.  I was very disappointed with the 1996 refresh, when they made the hatch more angular and sharpened both ends of the car.

  • avatar

    I can definitely attest to the basic hatchback versatility as I had one once, the second gen Civic that dated from 1983 and I was amazed at how much one can stuff into one of them buggers and still zip down the road at 70, never mind it took a little longer to get there but still… However, I bought mine second hand, came with A/C and the factory AM/FM radio and was the 1500DX grade 3 door hatch w/ 5spd. Great little car and drove it 6 years and put around 70K on it with nary any major issues in that whole time.
    I love this 5th gen Civic with the split tailgate and wanted to get one once, but the opportunity never arose, not even second hand, and it all had to do with that ingenious tailgate design, being able to keep the lower tailgate up, stick something very long out the back and leave the glass up to do this, most one piece tailgates don’t allow for this bit of flexibility, unless the rear glass opens on its own, like the older Bronco II’s or the earlier Explorers but the overall design of this variant was very well executed IMO.
    I still see these every so often plying the roads around Seattle and hatchbacks are fairly popular out this way, unlike many parts of the country where they I think get frowned upon by those who have never owned one and can’t appreciate their versatility.
    While I’ve not hauled a 318 V8m I’ve hauled much of my household good in mine however when I moved back home from Seattle and later loaded up going to and from Medford oregon to Tacoma where my parents lived and the little car never complained.

  • avatar

    Hauled a fully dressed out VW Type IV engine (dual carbs, 911 replica cooling, custom exhaust) in my ’83 CR-X. Hauled a complete VW Type I engine on the roof rack of my Beetle and it just wasn’t as easy as a hatchback. Center of gravity was a mess, hard to lift up there and the oil leaked onto the roof was a mess… GRIN! Another reason for a hatch…
    Our “little” 1st gen CR-V can fit a stove inside with the hatch closed believe it or not. On it’s side.
    Had a hitch on my CR-X. Could pull my Beetle on a towbar even with the 1.3L. Never patient enough to tow it far. Used it to move my Beetle from a storage unit to the shop where I could work on it.
    Yeah count me a big fan of hatchbacks and small wagons. Too bad my fellow Americans think you need a fullsized vehicle to do lightduty chores. We might have more choices on the dealer lots.

  • avatar

    My 93 vx picked up it’s current motor, trans and turbo kit up in one shot. Fantastic, versatile, fun to drive cars even in stock trim. High 40’s without fail and nothing ever broke for the year the stock 250k+ drivetrain was in the car.

  • avatar

    @Evan Reif
    You have a wagon, not a hatch, and that’s a plus IMHO. The pre-MY2006 Impreza wagons have a much larger cargo capacity than the current hot hatch Impreza.

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