By on May 4, 2012

The four-wheel-drive Honda Civic “Wagovan” was very popular in Colorado, and you still see them on the street around here. The front-wheel-drive version, however, is quite rare throughout North America. It was a very sensible family hauler, with its high-30s highway fuel economy and big-for-its-size cargo space, but it couldn’t compete with Chrysler’s minivans. Here’s a rare example that I spotted last week in a Denver self-service yard.
In fact, Honda didn’t come up with any sort of Suburbia Main Battle Tank until the Passport, a decade later, and that was really an Isuzu (the first-gen Odyssey was a genuine Honda and ideally suited for the growing family with a lot of accessories… in Japan).
So, what we have here is a tall Civic with a squared-off cargo area. You could fit four adults and the results of a serious big-box-retail shopping spree inside, and then you could drive it for 250,000 miles (provided you never overheated it and blew the head gasket).
Here’s why I will never own one of these cars. You couldn’t get the Wagovan with the Si fuel-injected engine, and there’s no way to make a 25-year-old nightmare tangle of vacuum lines, solenoids, sensors, and black boxes work correctly. Look, this one has multiple layers on the vacuum-hose diagram. It’s had versioning!

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Honda Civic Wagovan...”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I like the second-gen wagons better. Even then, I’m sure you could swap in a newer engine without a pile of effort.

    I’ve always thought the original CR-V was basically a 3rd-gen Civic wagon with a lift kit.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    You couldn’t get the 3rd gen ‘wagovan’ with the Si engine, but you could with the 4th gen 1988 – 1991 (at least in the US). Those were sweet little machines! I really miss the great designs of late 80s early 90s Hondas.

  • avatar

    The Wagovan definitely resembles the prototypical CR-V, born in an age when most SUVs were 2-door trucks. The four-door JDM Odyssey is a bigger, pricier proposition, but to these eyes it cuts a comelier profile than the dowdy Crosstour, which is only attractive from two or three deceptive angles, tops.

  • avatar

    I’ve always loved these for what they are, practical haulers that are also fun to drive.

    Here in Seattle, seems I see more of the FWD variants of these and the Tercels though the 4WD variants were sold too. I think it was 2 yeas ago now that I spotted an ’87 4WD one of these in the light metallic blue.

    Speaking of Hondas, last weekend, spoted an unmolested ’84, I think Civic S in pretty decent shape, though in a dimly lit parking garage, hard to tell but I did spot the front bumper was every so slightly skew but otherwise, nothing wrong, at least from the outside, even had the flat plastic wheel covers and was in that red/silver paint scheme, no sunroof either. Don’t see those too often anymore either.

    • 0 avatar

      Red / Silver ’84 S 1500 Hatchback Civic was my high school / college car. The front end and dash layout were pretty much the same as the Wagovan pictured here.

  • avatar

    Looks like a useful car. In Texas at least, if they are 25 years old they don’t need the sniffer test. If it runs good like most old Hondas you could use it for years.

  • avatar

    Holy crap, the actual picture of the engine compartment looks even scarier than the diagram. It’s amazing they worked so well.

  • avatar

    My sister’s boyfriend had one of these in silver. It was a good car even if it was slow. It got vandalized one time and he brought it to dad and I to see what we could do to clean it up, cheap spray paint all over it, we compounded it and discovered it was really a light metallic blue.

    You could squeeze 5 in in a pinch, or being HS kids, 10. I’d buy one and put in the later model B series in it and toss the diabolical 3 barrel carb and funky 12 valve SOHC setup – yes, it has 3 valves per cylinder.

  • avatar

    Pep Boys fog lights. Back then people still installed their own $15 fog lights. Now, they are so lazy/know so little about cars they pay $400 for factory installed fog lights.

  • avatar

    Looking at that vacuum hose diagram I was about to say, we’ve come a long way, but then realized that vehicle is 28 years old. 28 years previous of 1984 is 1956. As a kid who was hauled around in the back of many a wagovans back in the early 80’s I’m wondering if kids today look at those cars like I do 1950’s vehicles…scratching head and wondering why people are so nostalgic for those things.

    • 0 avatar

      I got my license in the mid-’80s. I thought cars of the ’50s were amazing. Their bold styling, pre-accountant detailing, and mechanical diversity compared to the domestic garbage of the ’70s and ’80s all had me convinced that Detroit was occupied by a zombie army. It was the people that remembered the cars of the ’50s that hated them. The folks I talked to were not nostalgic for instant rust-through and engines that wouldn’t start on humid days.

      • 0 avatar

        I got my license in 1986 and at the time thought 50s cars were crap. I couldn’t figure out why anyone was nostalgic for those things.

        Even worse was the NASCAR Legends series, which to my eyes, were big go-karts for old men. Who would be nostalgic for an old jalopy for the 1930s?

  • avatar

    Wow, the 80s-ness of the speedo is breathtaking.

  • avatar

    my brother picked up a 2nd generation wagovan last year. manual transmission, AWD. yes, these were the predecessor to the CRV, as the real-time system is essentially the same one that made it to the CRV. i don’t know about the legalities in various states, especially california, but it is not very difficult to swap in various other Honda motors. I know there are D (easiest), B, F, even K series swap’d wagons out there.

    parts are becoming incredibly scarce. he had trouble finding stuff for it, and he works a parts counter for a Honda store. some CRX suspension stuff fits, but the rear stuff is unique to the wagovan. the cool thing is that there is a rather large following for these, so there are people keeping them alive.

    the 1984-1987 and 1988-1991 series Hondas are some of the best Hondas ever made. 85 accord. 88 accord with the pop-up headlights. 86-era prelude.

  • avatar

    The Fit is really the spiritual sucessor to this car: same dorkbox body, same function-over-form packaging, same moderate fun-to-driveness despite the microvan chic. Heck, in Japan they even make an AWD Fit.

    I should see if I can get Wagovan badges for mine…

    • 0 avatar

      You totally nailed it… As much as I hate the way the Fit looks, it’s not a good reason to get rid of it. It’s frugal on gas yet peppy to drive and cuts corners like a razor, it has a cavernous hatch, four doors and trick back seats, cup holders on the DASH… The function side of me has the form side in a vice-like head lock.

  • avatar

    That vacuum line diagram is a dead ringer for the map of the Tokyo central train station.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    That looks good enough to drive off, just fix that rust a bit and you’re off. I’ve seen much worse looking cars running about.

  • avatar

    I think the vacuum line picture is prime fodder for the, “caption the photo contest.”

    Use to see these ALL the time growing up in the northeast. I would speculate they were AWD versions, not this front driver. Certainly looks like it was driven to the boneyard – I’m going to guess something that has to do with that tangle of vacuum lines, sensors, solenoids, primitive black boxes, and age, rot, and corrosion has a big part of why it’s in the scrapper.

  • avatar

    I’m still convinced those vacuum hose diagrams are influenced less by engineers than by m.c. Escher.

  • avatar

    I bought one of these on January 21, 1984. My wife and I and my son drove it for fifteen years. My son finally killed it, but it took a lot of abuse and came back for more. One thing I remember was the clutch pedal gradually getting higher. I had to adjust the cable once or twice a year. A good car as have been all the Hondas I have owned.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I always wanted one even back when they were new . In the eighties I was living in the Denver area and saw quite a lot of these and the boxy Tercel wagons , which I wanted also . I was always a bit of a small wagon type as I’ve owned 6 or 7 if you call the ’06 x-B a wagon . the engine compartment on this one makes me glad I never got one -maybe the next generation Wagovan ( always thought that was a stupid name ) or the Corolla All-Trac would be even cooler .

  • avatar

    Again, the Honda [Isuzu] Passport was not an ‘answer to the minivan’, it was to go against the Ford Explorer SUV.

    Honda’s four non sliding door Odyssey was available as a ‘family wagon’, and the Acord station wagon. It wasn’t until the sliding door Ody came out that Honda was a player in people haulers.

  • avatar

    Okay, really, I don’t wish to impugne anyone’s opinion, but we are talking about a malaise-era vehicle that could probably single-handedly prevent ANYONE from wanting to got back to the ’80s! EVER.
    I mean, I am embarrassed to admit that I bought a (new) ’82 Dodge Rampage in May of ’83, probably got the hosings of hosings because it was nearly a full year old and I still paid $250 a month, plus it blew head gaskets faster than my friend Su…er, never mind, but it was maybe, kinda cute – in a 3 beers drunk kinda way.
    But the Civic hatchback? My God – no wonder the Magic Wagons were such a smash hit: look at what they had to compete with!

    • 0 avatar

      The 1984 Civic line – hatchback, sedan, shuttle and CR-X – was and is widely recognized as a tour de force with few equals in automotive history. Simply, absolutely brilliant.

      And many many would love to have a 1984.

      Rampage? Not even on the same planet.

  • avatar

    We have a Mazda 5, which I think is close to what the Wagovan and it’s Colt Vista competitor would be today. It’s been a great car and quite fun to drive for a tall, boxy vehicle. The power is only adequate, which was also true for the Wagovan and it’s competitors. Mileage is OK, we average 20 mpg with lots of hills, which considering the Wagovan probably did the same or better, isn’t much improvement. The new Skyactiv engine will allow the 5 to do much better.

    I remember seeing these on the road as a kid too. Not much nostalgia for them, but as an adult with kids, I can see why they were so popular. Ultimately, not as popular as the Chrysler minis though.

  • avatar

    My mom bought one of these new in 1984. I hated the thing, I called it the mouse because it looked and ran like one, all that was missing is the tail. There was nothing good about this car, It was flimsy by comparison to the Ford we had prior to it, small winds blew it all over the road. Sorry but Honda’s of the 1980’s didn’t last 200k miles because they rusted to pieces after 5 years if in a climate that used road salt. Hers had the automatic that only ran about 70k miles before it was full of rust holes with the tranny going to hell and my mom got rid of it.

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