By on May 2, 2013

16 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 1973-79 Civic was a very good car for its time (mostly because just about all the other subcompacts of the era were so bad and/or boring), but the second-generation Civic was the one that gave Honda its reputation for bang-for-buck performance and miraculous-for-the-price build quality that seemed unbeatable for nearly 15 years. The value of the 1980-83 Civics became so low by the late 1990s that it wasn’t worth fixing any problem that cost more than a couple hundred bucks to fix, and so nearly all of them were gone by the time the 21st century rolled around. Here’s a Civic wagon, painted in very Malaise-y beige, that managed to hang on for thirty years. More than a year has passed since the last second-gen Civic in this series.
05 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOnly 139,302 miles! The interior and body are in nice shape, which suggests an indoor parking space and very sparing use. Maybe the head gasket blew back in ’94 and it sat in a garage, or maybe it was an extra car that was well cared for but didn’t get driven much.
08 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow late into the 5-speed era did bragging rights last? I’ve seen early-90s Sentras and Tercels with 4-speeds, but 5-speeds weren’t particularly exotic in subcompacts by 1983.
10 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car’s early years were spent in Northern California.
07 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe first-gen Civics were just tiny, even by the standards of the time, so the added room in the second-gen cars was most welcome.
24 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBelieve it or not, this vacuum diagram was simple compared to what CVCC-equipped Hondas with computer carburetors had by 1985. Good luck getting this setup through a California smog check!
21 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin64 horsepower seemed adequate in these cars, amazingly enough.
14 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill these things ever be considered collectible? Hard to say— 20 years ago, very few thought that Country Squire wagons would be worth saving, and now we have legions of Malaise Era wagon fanciers.

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15 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Honda Civic Wagon...”

  • avatar

    Awesome! My family’s first car after moving to America in 1992 was a rusty brown 1982 Wagon (5speed like this one) that we bought for $750. After our Zaporozhets 966 back in Russia, this thing was a sports car! And it started my family’s love affair with Hondas. We took our frst American road trip in it, to Cape Cod. Wow, what awesome memories!

    After that 82, we had a gold ’85 sedan (5spd), then a metallic brown 1990 Wagon (automatic), then a 2007 Fit (base 5spd). Now I bought a 2012 LX Sedan (5spd, maroon).

  • avatar

    It was an ’82 Civic wagon that turned me Japanese. So much tiny goodness.
    Then went on to sample Nissan and Toyota, stuck with Toyota.

    Arigato, Civic-kun.

  • avatar

    I used to want of these. There was a new green one on Campus at Murray State U in western Ky.
    Then there was the third and fourth gens.
    Now this looks great again.

  • avatar

    I actually have a true story of the final days of one of these. It was a maroon 4-door sedan though. The experience is so burned into my brain, that I cannot come up with a fictional story for any of these. (Some names have been altered)

    Richie was a bad seed.

    The 81′ Honda skittered sideways in the sweeping curve. The front wheels pointed straight ahead while scrabbling for traction. Gravel flew in every direction, and ricocheted off the floorboards. The little Civic was being beaten mercilessly, but it seemed to take it in stride, much like an eager foxhound being run tired. Inside, the three youths: Richie, Crab, and Ben nonchalantly puffed on their “cigarette”. They had been on the gravel fire trail for at least 10 miles. There was a slight pause for concern as Richie shouted “Oh SHIT!” when the tiller was suddenly yanked out of his hand by a mysterious force. Just another rock in the open CV joint. No big deal. Crab went back to admiring the rooster tail of gravel in view of his mirror, as the majestic Washington pine forest blurred by.

    The fun was at times, quite perilous, but the teens had supreme confidence in the man at the helm. Rich was a veteran of almost daily activities such as this, putting an 81’Civic in places where it never belonged. There was no better man suited to the task, short of a professional rally/CORR/mud bog driver.

    Eazy-E’s Real Compton City G’s blared from the huge sub in the trunk. It worked seamlessly with the metronome of the sound of flung rocks hitting the sheetmetal. All of a sudden, Crab muted the stereo, and excitedly yelled “TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND!”. Rich stopped, engaged reverse, and pulled a Rockford. Off the road was a dirt 4×4 trail, partially hidden by trees. The trail climbed up the slope at an insane grade. Their jubilation was marked by many expletives as they dismounted to take in the full majesty of their discovery.

    “Let’s do this.”

    The trio got back into the car, and looked at each other as if saying in unison: “Are we really going to do this? Yes. Yes, we are.”

    Ben braced himself in the center of the back seat and pre-screamed. Crab pushed himself deep into the cheap seat-covered bucket, and pulled all the slack out of the shoulder belt, locking it securely. Rich backed the Civic over the far side of the gravel road. Wheelin’ the Civic was all about entry speed. They would need a significant takeoff roll to clear this monster. Rich lit up the front tires. The approach in itself, was remarkable. The Civic flew into the air as it cleared the gravel road. Errant rocks flew up onto the faded hood and pelted the windshield. The boys laughed as the wipers were engaged for comedic effect. The mighty E-series engine blared, and then labored as the car pushed into the hill. The boys hung in their seatbacks as the Honda reached it’s traction-limited apogee, just a few feet shy of the crest. “Awwwwww!” Several more attempts were made. Each consecutive one falling shorter of the goal. Smoke and a sickly smell emanated from the clutch. The chariot was allowed a reprieve to cool down. The boys were both disappointed and amazed. Attempts to walk up the steep slope failed.

    The boys kicked rocks, and admired the illegal dump sites. Soon, a 2-stroke dirt bike could be heard approaching. Everyone was alert. Was it “the man”? The motorcycle approached, and the 14 year old rider was flagged down. Rich engaged the young rider in a forceful “That’s a nice bike.” sort of conversation. In a matter of minutes, Rich was off on the motorcycle, with the helmeted rider standing there wondering what the hell just happened.

    After ten minutes of waiting, the kid had become somewhat concerned, and boredom had set in for Ben and Crab. Ben theorized that the Civic could crest the hill with the lack of an extra 200lb person.

    Crab threw up the horns to the kid as they blasted past. The sedan peeled out on the face of the summit, but now had just the right amount of momentum to crest the huge hill. The Civic spun it’s wheels and bottomed out as it rolled over the top. The top, as it turned out, was nothing more than a space barely able to fit the car. A wood fence appeared just in front of the bumper to great their arrival. The champions admired the view from top. There was an endless expanse of trees and middle-of-nowhere nothingness.

    The two returned to the car, and started the terrifying reversal down the slope. “Careful, you’re gonna lose it all of a sudden.” said Crab.
    Immediately, Crab’s fears were realized. The little Honda shed it’s automotive billygoat-like prowess and locked up all 4 wheels as the earth gave way. The car slid backwards off the right of the trail into the treeline. A 6″ tree snapped off and the Honda rode up over the ruined timber. The boys’ heads bounced off the headrests as they slammed trunk first into 3 more pines.

    The Civic was impossibly wedged and high-centered on timber that resembled a hastily-constructed raft. Our heros climbed out the wreckage and surveyed the scene. Due to the incline and the terrain, it would be accurate to say they got the car stuck in a tree. Ben panicked, and hyperventilated at the thought of the tremendous ass-beating that would most likely be dealt to him by Rich. Crab looked for options on how to extricate the car. Using the axle shafts as a winch was an idea, only there was no rope. The situation was desperate. The expression on Rich’s face when he returned could best be described as horror. The dirt bike kid claimed his cycle and promptly rode off, along with any chance of outside rescue.

    The boys got to work. Rich angrily ripped out the rear seat back with his bare hands to gain access to the trunk. There, they retrieved the tools necessary to free the 81′ Honda. A claw hammer was used to “chop” down the trees along the left side. The jack was employed to force the back of the car to the left. Ben pulled logs from under the chassis and felt fortunate as Richie used his aggression to beat tree trunks into pulp mercilessly. Crab was faced with the crisis of running out of items to shore up the jack. It was hot, mosquitoes were out in full force, and the boys were covered in sap, sweat, and jack grease. Crab returned with a kitchen sink, scavenged from a trash heap 1/8th of a mile away, and remarked that it was getting dark.

    Tail lights illuminated the crash site into the night as the gang worked. Finally, a combination of caveman techniques and front wheel drive extricated the car.

    Not a word was spoken on the quiet ride home. That was the last I saw of Rich and that Civic. He was later arrested on an unrelated felony evasion charge, and the car was probably impounded permanently. In closing, I’ll just say this.

    May god keep you trusty Honda, and may your bones form the prow of a great ship.

  • avatar

    Emissions killed some of these that lasted over 20 years — that vacuum diagram, perhaps. I have a family member who got rid of a 2nd gen Civic only a few years ago for emissions reasons alone. I’m pretty sure it had around 250K miles, but would have to ask to be sure. Might have still bee on the first clutch, actually.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t be afraid of the vacuum hose setup(this, after all, has CA emissions according to the hose chart)so much as making sure the fuel system is as free as possible from any rust or dirt, for the carburetors sake. Clean, the carburetors on these 1980-1989 Civic and Accords are very efficient and economical, but if the slightest bit of junk gets in the carb, it’s virtually impossible to remove. I went through this with an otherwise fine ’83 Accord. I had a customer with constant dirt/rust in the system, and after six visits in the period of a month to clean out the carb and install new gas filters, they returned with the title, and declared I could own this car for One Dollar. They had had it. I periodically installed new gas filters for two months, then found a buyer willing to take it over for $850.

      Who knows what this Civic needs, who knows why it ended up in the boneyard. Who knows how much of it is still there. But, I would try a quick jump start, and if successful, clean out the fuel system before doing anything else.

      And as for considering it too small to compete with land yachts, these days it just has to compete with Mazda3’s, Cruze’s, Golf’s, newer Civic’s, Accent’s and a few million Accords and Camrys. It’s up to the task.

  • avatar

    I’m sure as people who grew up in them turn 40 and fall into money there will be a certain amount saved. The real problem is that they’re disturbingly tiny, I vaguely remember them on the road by 1990 and compared to my parents 1984 olds delta 88 my door was about as big as their hood. It was a car I could have driven at 6 I felt…

  • avatar

    As has been said so many times about other cars…
    A shame to see such a nice car in a junkyard.

  • avatar

    I inherited an 82 Civic sedan 5 speed, in light blue with a dark blue interior. It was a good car overall, but the rust was an issue in Michigan. The car came from Nebraska originally, so it was pretty good for a while. Mine did seem to consume alternators, so much so that I bought them at Murray’s with a guarantee and kept the box in the car. It was so easy to change out, it was a 10 min job.

    Also, the fuel filler was wrapped in plastic and exposed in the rear wheel opening. Needless to say, it rusted and deposited rust in the fuel system which then clogged the tiny passages in the 3 bbl carb.

    I cobbled up a filler using exhaust flex pipe (yes I know not the best idea) and it worked, after I added std fuel filters down the line. One thing was strange, the fuel tank was held on by bolts and not straps, and this one had a drain installed, maybe by a previous owner.

    Also, the taillight included an extra bulb, which stunned me – no way would that be done today!

    Lots of good memories from that car. Great in the snow, cheap tires to replace (4/99 bucks), no oil leaks after well over 200K miles.

  • avatar

    The really cheap tires were the 12-inchers used on the base 1300, which came only as a three-door with a four-speed. I inherited an ’83 1300 from a sibling at 90K miles/4 years. The car didn’t even have armrests. But it was a great car nonetheless, and I could fit easily behind the wheel (I’m 6’1″, or was then) despite its overall size.

  • avatar

    That’s beige? It looks like Ford’s late 1960s “Sea Foam Green”, which everybody thought was yellow. I had a Mercury in that color and that’s what the SDPD always wrote on the ticket (intermittent taillight!).

  • avatar

    I think these will be very collectible. Lots of early 80’s normal Japanese stuff is showing up at Japanese Collector Car Shows these days. This one looks very nice and the color is classic Honda for the era.

  • avatar


    I just wanted to drop by and say that I really enjoy reading your Junkyard Find articles, and this is one of the better ones lately. When you started the series the articles were generally longer and with detailed writing of the vehicles’ historical significance and what made each example interesting. As time progressed it seemed that the writing got progressively more brief, and consequently less interesting. It was probably in the interest of time; you were cranking them out at a pretty quick rate for a while there, and I agree that not every rust pile on four wheels deserves a pulitzer-worthy essay. But I want to let you know that I enjoy these articles, especially for their well-written stories of the otherwise-forgotten cars of yesteryear.

    Thanks and keep on writing,


  • avatar

    I had one of these my first year in school. It was a surprisingly fun car. Not much on power (it’s engine really is the size of a sewing machine), but it was a smooth little runner. Mine was never happier than cruising the West Texas highways in fifth gear all day long between 75 & 85 mph. It was also a better CRV than the CRV. It didn’t have the ground clearance, but you’d be amazed at some of the soft-roading and off-roading I could get that thing to do to get to a fishing hole. It was a scrappy thing. And the mpg was a major step up from the Detroit V8 it replaced.

  • avatar

    Oh deja vu! I passed my test in my Dad’s saloon (sedan).
    This was locally assembled as a “Triumph Acclaim” here in the UK (I know, sad right?). There was no “wagon” option though.

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