Ask Jack: CRX No Longer In Effect?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask jack crx no longer in effect

It’s the return of Ask Jack, one of [s]my[/s] your favorite sections! You can now ask me questions about nearly anything, as long as there’s a kinda-sorta automotive aspect to it. Kinda-sorta. In the meantime, check out today’s question:

Hey Jack,

I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I’m a self-employed delivery driver (delivering restaurant meals, not pizza) and until recently I’ve been using a 1989 Honda CRX HF for that duty. I was averaging about 48mpg in 80% city driving and it was good for parking in downtown Portland, OR (as good as it can in a city where cars are practically banned). And the A/C actually worked!

About a week ago, a Range Rover cut in front of me and we came together, with predictable results. The mechanical components all survived, but the body damage is just on the bad side of drivable. Currently, the body shop and insurance company are arguing about whether to repair the car or total it. Assuming they do total it, I’m going to need a replacement. Right now I’m doing my deliveries in a 1999 Dodge Dakota 5.9 R/T, which eats more fuel than a burning oil refinery.

At this point, I don’t know how much money I would be getting in that situation. I paid $1800 for the car just a few months ago. A quick search of Craigslist reveals that the Countach LP400 is much more common than a stock-engine CRX HF. As one Honda enthusiast put it: “I didn’t know they made ’em stock.” Assuming a budget of $2500, and with a top priority on gas mileage, park-ability, and not sucking, what would you recommend to replace the HF?

You bought a decent-condition CRX HF for eighteen hundred bucks? Don’t bother playing the lottery for the rest of the year – that’s all the good luck you’re going to have, in one single transaction. As you’ve discovered in your initial searches, lightning is unlikely to strike twice for you. The second-generation CRX is now firmly established in the pantheon of all-time great Hondas, and prices reflect that. I’ve seen a couple solid examples for sale between four and six grand. That’s big money for quarter-century-old cars that often have nearly 200,000 miles on them.

As fate would have it, you’re not the first person I know who’s had to replace a CRX due to a crash. My friend Sam, who’d been racing Hondas in NASA as a team owner and manager for over a decade, started off with two second-gen Si rollerskates. One of them hit the wall several times during a particularly difficult race year, forcing him to contemplate a replacement. His answer? The 1989 Civic DX. Fortified with an 8000-rpm handbuilt motor, it was fast enough for me to lose a major endurance race by approximately the amount of a fuel-spill penalty. He’s been running a pair of them for more than five years, with tremendous success.

Even without the race prep, however, the 1988-1991 Civic DX is a brilliant replacement for the CRX. It has virtually all of the two-seater’s virtues with the further advantages of cargo and people space behind the front chairs. It’s also just as fast around a racetrack, assuming you have the same engine in both cars. Don’t tell anyone.

Of course, Civics of that generation aren’t much cheaper than CRXes. If you’re willing to consider a left-field alternative, you might want to think about a Breadvan Colt. These cars were basically Mitsubishi copies of the Civic. They’re not nearly as good, but they’re not bad. More importantly, they don’t have that remarkable Honda resale value.

If you’re looking for a genuinely courageous choice, how about this Geo Metro XfI on eBay? When you’re done using it for delivery duties, you can put a junkyard Hayabusa engine in it and rule the backroads. A motorcycle engine, in a Geo Metro, complete with chain drive and definitely not complete with reverse gear? It’s been done!

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3 of 141 comments
  • CAMeyer CAMeyer on Apr 30, 2015

    While we're discussing Civics, etc, behold this example: My first car was one of these, in orange, also with a Hondamatic. I had it for about 3 years in the early 1980s, before it rusted away. The last time I saw one like it was in the Smithsonian!

    • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Apr 30, 2015

      If thats something youre into, you can find early Hondas (even the Z600 and N600 kei cars, the first Honda cars sold in the USA) all the time on the western half of the country, especiall California, Oregon and Washington. I find 70s Accords and Civics in running/driving condition for less than two grand all the time. I wouldnt exactly trust a $1000 1979 Honda to drive back to New Jersey (without a good mechanical inspection/reconditioning), but shipping by rail is very reasonable. Shipping accross country by truck usually runs around a grand, more or less. They do rust, but nothing like they do back East. Is usually minor surface rust, very repairable.

  • Davefromcalgary Davefromcalgary on Apr 30, 2015

    Jack, how do we contact you?

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