By on June 3, 2014

09 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince we started out this week with a relatively late-model Junkyard Find, I’m going to jump into the 21st century and share the first Honda Insight I’ve ever found in a high-inventory-turnover, self-service wrecking yard. I’ve seen a few thoroughly stripped early Priuses and didn’t think they were worth photographing, but the tiny two-seater first-gen Insight made the Prius look like a fuel-swilling pig and that makes it a much more interesting car to me. 61 highway miles per gallon, all sorts of advanced aluminum components, and a coefficient of drag of just 0.25… and yet this one couldn’t stay clear of The Crusher.

The Insight has started to catch on with the top-speed guys at Speed Week at Bonneville, but the fastest one of all wrecked in spectacular fashion at El Mirage last November (the driver survived, thanks to a serious roll cage). We’ll be sure to see more such LSR Insights in the future, which might push up the value of the handful of Insights that get scrapped.
03 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has been picked over pretty well. The battery packs in these cars have become old enough to need replacing in many cases, and that’s not a cheap repair.
01 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis Denver yard gets a lot of its merchandise from local police auctions, and it’s possible that this car was a DUI or unpaid-parking-tickets impound.
05 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou can pick up a running first-gen Insight in decent condition for $4000-$7000 these days, and we can expect that price to drop as fewer Americans become willing to drive a cramped, goofy-looking two-seater in the name of extreme fuel economy.

Here’s a JDM promotional film for the ’99 Insight.

Teach those polluting hippies with their ill-adjusted valves and 25-mpg VW Transporters a thing or two about saving the planet! Walk the walk, longhair!

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32 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2001 Honda Insight...”

  • avatar

    OK…now I’m really looking forward to what Crabspirits can come up with for this car…

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Somewhere, Steve Lang just let out a primal scream.

    • 0 avatar

      It just needed one quart of oil and a paper clip!

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        LOL!!! Nice vacation read here.

        I wrote a lot of articles about this vehicle back in the day.You can still drive these vehicles without the IMA battery. But you better do a lot of flat highway driving or the MPG will sink like a stone.

  • avatar

    It looks better up on blocks.

  • avatar

    A Japanese Beetle

  • avatar

    There’s a 96-2000 Civic up on blocks right next to it. So long front double wishbone sweet prince…

    If it’s an EX, I want the front knuckles and distributor.

  • avatar

    It sure seems like the thoughtful, insightful, intelligent, and dignified commentaries that got me hooked on this website are increasingly rare.

  • avatar

    I can always count on Junkyard Finds to make me feel as rusty as an old ship rail. Thanks!!

  • avatar

    Jim couldn’t hold his liquor.

    He stumbled up to the car and caught his breath while leaning on the door to one side. His doctor warned him about his weight and excessive drinking but the siren song of Johnnie Walker was too strong. He felt his heart rate slowly subside as he took deep breaths. Maloney’s bar was only a few hundred yards away and yet it seemed like miles. The Scotch helped though, made his whole body feel warm in the unusually cold spring air.

    “Where’s the damn key?” he muttered to himself as he fumbled through the key ring.

    The parking lot was oddly empty on a Tuesday night he thought, although he observed a family heading over from a nearby movie theatre. He couldn’t quite tell which key was which in his intoxicated state, but he was able to feel them until he found the one which felt like an “H”. The driver’s door opened and he quickly reached for the Kleenex box situated on the passenger seat. He blew his nose into it and wiped it off of his mustache as his hand crinkled it up, carelessly tossing it out of the open door. He then shut the door and took another deep breath as he turned they key into the ignition to start the hybrid automobile.

    The little red car cautiously putted along toward the exit although it slightly swerved pulling onto the road while the radio played “We built this city”. Jim burped and then accelerated as he ran the stop sign. In his drunken stupor Jim did not notice the pedestrians ahead of him leaving the theater. A little girl ran forward of her parents and stepped out onto the roadway. The speeding Insight drew nearer as Jim swerved right toward the curb. Seconds before the unthinkable Jim awoke from his stupor and pulled the wheel left away from the curb right as the girl’s father grabbed hold of her shoulder and pulled her back onto the sidewalk.

    “Watch where yer goin! Can’t ya hear the car comin’?” Jim yelled out to himself.

    The Insight sped along the long stretch of dark highway out of town and Jim attempted to focus on the illuminated road in front of him. He’d driven home from Maloney’s dozens, no, hundreds of times. Why should tonight be any different? The windows began to slowly fog up and Jim fiddled with the HVAC controls until the defroster and blower were set to the highest levels. Jim suddenly felt very uncomfortable. The seat belt alarm began to sound as he fiddled around in his seat and he suddenly felt the urge to relieve himself. He slowed down and pulled the little car onto the shoulder. Unbuckling his belt he clicked the door handle and lurched out of the car. Standing on the side of the road he relieved himself partially on his pants and felt the cool air caress what little hair remain on his mostly bald head. He stumbled back into the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut. The radio began to play “Kokomo” and Jim instinctively began to sing along as his eyes closed and mind drifted away.

    Daylight broke over the empty highway and Jim suddenly awoke to a tapping on his left side. Through the window his observed a darkly clad figure.

    “License and registration, sir”.

  • avatar

    Murilee, you mention the car’s light weight components and low Cd and those two things were the major reasons for these cars’ extraordinary efficiency; there were also many other unusual touches to reduce drag and friction. Some of the touches worked out while others were worth a shot on a low-volume, niche market car but not suited to mass market. Some were obvious but some were not obvious at all.

    The rear fender skirts seem to be missing- probably because they not only reduced wind resistance but they also worked well as snow collectors.

    Underbody- too bad you didn’t get a good shot of the flat pans on the bottom of the car. (All cars should have them!)

    The special skinny, high pressure, low rolling resistance tires are bound to ignite passionate debate- I’ve already said too much!

    I’m pretty sure the engines used needle bearings for either the mains and/or connecting rod big-end bearings (instead of journal bearings). That is normal for motorcycle engines but very unusual for passenger car engines. Those probably yielded in a <1% improvement in real world mileage, but still…

    Some of the most hardcore Insight nerds, er, aficionados, modified their battery-motor-generator controls with a manual override- do a websearch for 99mpg. There is some really ingenious stuff they came up with and it will strike a chord with TTAC B&B- especially the gearheads, the compulsive tinkerers, and the diehard manual transmission fans around here.

    I never owned an Insight and frankly, nor would I want to ;)

    • 0 avatar

      The steering feel and handling on these is amazing, and not at all what you might expect for the paragon of Greenitude. I’ve also heard that they are amazing if you get rid of the batteries and the 3 banger, and put a 2 liter Toyota power plant in instead.

      I would get one if I weren’t afraid to ride around in a 2,000 lb car.

    • 0 avatar

      “The rear fender skirts seem to be missing- probably because they not only reduced wind resistance but they also worked well as snow collectors.”

      They always had them in SoCal. I’ve only seen one up here, and it also still had them.

      I think this one is missing them because they had to be removed when they took the wheels off.

      Probably the weirdest vehicle I’ve ever been in and the weird shape was disconcerting. The second gen Insight is junk in every respect in comparison to the first (interior, ride, and handling, just to name a few) aside from practicality.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I’m somewhat amazed that this car made it to the junkyard, without being snapped up for a homemade electric car conversion or a K20 swap.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what I was thinking. I’ve heard these cars with an engine swap are what the CR-Z should have been. I think they look great, well minus the tiny, narrow wheels. They are very “Honda”, minimal outside but maximized where it counted.

  • avatar

    Why do the wheel-wells seem to be packed with cut grass?


    • 0 avatar

      Nice observation, and now I think I can definetively answer why that car is in the junkyard. We had some major flooding in September 2013 in nearby Boulder and Larimer counties. Upon further inspections of the photos there is no doubt in my mind that the Insight is a flood car, most likely from Boulder as it is the hybrid capital of the region.

  • avatar

    I almost got hit by one of these yesterday walking in a parking lot. They are super quite with the battery power and low resistance tires. Really a neat car though.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Poor Suzuki. Nobody gives a crap about the SX4 next to it, except for whoever grabbed the glass and tail lights.

  • avatar

    Somewhere a tree-hugger is crying profusely.


  • avatar

    What an odd car. A hybrid, but originally available only with a manual transmission, and with rear drum brakes.

    • 0 avatar

      Drum brakes help fuel efficiency, as they have less drag than disc brakes.

    • 0 avatar

      Most compacts have rear drums.

      Drums are plenty good enough in the rear for a car that size, and that way you don’t need a secondary brake unit for the parking brake, as I understand it.

      (The Civic, Corolla, and Focus, for instance, have rear drums in most or all configurations, and it’s just not problematic.

      I’m not sure about larry’s drag claim, but given that drums are enclosed and discs are a funny-shaped caliper-and-rotor arrangement, there might well be a little less aerodynamic drag on a drum setup, too.)

  • avatar

    I saw one of these in a self-service yard in Fredericksburg, VA in December 2012. It was in about the same condition as this one when I spotted it – pricey hybrid components gone but otherwise complete. I can’t imagine the body and trim pieces of an Insight are in all that high demand.

  • avatar

    …brilliant technical exercise in its time; kind of staggering to see one reduced to junkyard fodder…

  • avatar

    60 mpg at ~$1.50 a gallon (when new) made for some pretty inexpensive driving.

  • avatar

    A few years ago I pulled a year-long stint as a lot bitch at a local Honda dealer. These things almost always came in with the inside trashed, occasionally smelling of pot and about a third were missing the rear wheel aprons, an absence generally combined with a VERY neglected exterior. However the funniest part about these cars was the fact that when they came in with a single-cylinder misfire, they lacked sufficient power to make it over the three inch lip to get onto the lift and would require several of us to give it a push.

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