Missing the Old Civic Motor Pool… But Not CVCC Smog-Check Hell

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

There was a time in the late 1990s and early 2000s when I had two 1985 Civic hatchbacks and an ’85 CRX, all at the same time. They were fun to drive, sipped gas, rarely malfunctioned, and Pick-Your-Part in Hayward always had at least a half-dozen compatible parts donors on the yard. Truly, it was Civic Utopia.

Well, no, it really wasn’t. Much as I loved my cars (two of which are shown here), the emission-control system needed to make the CVCC engine comply with ever-stricter California smog standards had become absurdly complex by the mid-1980s. CVCC was a very advanced and effective system in the 1970s, but the dual-circuit carburetor and dozens of solenoids, sensors, vacuum switches, and hundreds of yards of hose made it a nightmare to get a CVCC car through the California emissions test. If any one of those components leaked or malfunctioned, the car might still run fine… but it would fail the tailpipe test. Tracing the problem was enough to make you want to stuff the car into The Crusher’s jaws and push the START button yourself. The EFI-equipped Civic and CRX Si cars didn’t have that problem, but they were much more expensive at the time. Still, sometimes I miss those multi-Civic days.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Crabspirits Crabspirits on Sep 15, 2011

    I was at a junkyard today across from the old Joliet prison and found a 4WD civic wagovan of this vintage. The last time I saw one, it was laying on it's side on a soccer field 18 years ago. Wondered why no love from the Honda fans for this thing for a second, then remembered the diagram above. Most kids these days would pass on something that complicated for sure and pick a 240sx. (MM-You should hit up this yard when you're in town for Lemons. Some of the cars are inside a REALLY old factory building. Pretty neat.)

  • Forty2 Forty2 on Sep 15, 2011

    I had the exact charcoal gray Civic S (84 or 85, I forget, but the last year before fuel injection) as in the photo up there. Bought new. In the first six months I had it, it was at the dealer for about three of them. Even after that it'd stall for no reason and would not restart until it'd sat for a good 20 minutes. Honda finally gave up and replaced the entire fuel system -- tank, pump, lines, 842 vacuum lines, and that fiendish carburetor, and it ran fine after that. That was my last Honda. I sold it to some other kid after a few years.

  • Moris Nice cars .my nissan 1988 beautiful I own one
  • CKNSLS Sierra SLT I am thankful for those who have served/and serve this country to protect our freedoms.The "usual suspects" are quiet.......
  • KevinB Hemmings ran an article on the 1960 Cadillac Series 62 grille and its complexity. It took a lot of work.https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/1960-cadillac-series-62
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Now going for $7000.
  • SCE to AUX Working on a deck project. Also replaced the A/C compressor in a Subaru.