Crapwagon Outtake: 1988 Honda CRX Si

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

I needed a car. Any car. My dad and I were limping my dying ’85 Nissan Maxima around town to multiple car dealers, looking for an appropriate replacement. I was 19, I think, and since I commuted thirty miles a day to college (when I went to class) I needed reliable, efficient transport.

A second-generation CRX, much like this one, caught my eye and we climbed in. One problem arose, however, as both my dad and I were well north of 300 pounds each, and the stock springs were sagging a bit. Oh, and the streets near the dealer had rough, rutted cobblestones. We were lucky to return with an intact exhaust, and I reluctantly moved on to a roomier Accord coupe.

This 1988 Honda CRX Si looks nearly showroom fresh, especially to a guy from the salt-encrusted Midwest – those rear wheel wells would be perforated up here. Black on black looks quite good, though the supposedly-cursed Y-49 Barbados Yellow is my preferred shade. Most of these have seen the darkest aisles of Pep Boys, so an unmodified car is refreshing.

$6,800 seems steep for a twenty-seven year old Honda, but the CRX is a truly special car, and we may see the really good ones fetch serious money someday soon.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

More by Chris Tonn

Join the conversation
8 of 29 comments
  • Turf3 Turf3 on May 21, 2015

    I think this car is an example of the most recent peak in automotive design and manufacturing - the period from roughly 1986 to 1996. When small cars were small and fuel-efficient, even the sporty variants. When they didn't look like they were styled by 9 year olds with a Transformers obsession. When people didn't think they need 350 HP to merge onto a freeway. To me, there have been two recent peaks: the first one in the mid to late 60s when cars looked good and before the first gas crisis and the introduction of analog mechanical emission controls; and the mid-late 80s to mid-late 90s, when computer controls had been applied to engine control, but had not polluted everything else on the car (I'm looking at you, unnecessary touchscreens!).

    • Veee8 Veee8 on May 21, 2015

      Well stated and I agree with your comments - this isn't just token sentimentalism as I've heard some say but passion and that is what is in real drivers and the cars they own, three pedals, real engine noise, simplicity, character...on and on. I also owned a 1967 Mustang (289, factory GT) fastback, not fast but thrills and real presence abound in that car, the entire 60's car era had something about it. The style of that 67' was cool (not just because of Steve), it had mystic, something that's not been captured in the techno laden appliances of the last 20 years...we've lost something and seem headed toward a world of mush.

  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on May 21, 2015

    This thing is a collectors item. It's a smart buy. Buy it, restore it, sit on it. My generation is super nostalgic about these cars and the few of us with the means are already paying big $$$ for them. ITRs are trading hands for cheap NSX money.

  • Jco Jco on May 21, 2015

    right now in my garage sits a 1989 Civic Si, which is the same car but with a back seat. i really do not want to get rid of it but I guess I'm going to have to (i want a different rare honda eventually) what I love about it is that it's a rare find for a few reasons. no rust. white (most seem to be red or black, have never been able to find numbers). it's an 89, which is the first year for the hatchback and they made a lot of changes for the '90 versions including added weight, and they moved the seatbelts to the doors instead of the B pillar. but the cool thing, at least to me, is that it was made in Japan. during the '89 model year, they switched production of these over to Canada (for NA-destined models at least). and it was done somewhat early in the run so there aren't very many JHM-vin copies out there. when they did that, they used different steel or stamping for the unibody (again, very tough to find accurate info), resulting in a slightly lighter curb weight. i've heard it's around 75lbs difference. it's refreshing to jump in and drive it around after driving modern cars. it's light, has manual steering, and despite having about 100hp it never feels slow. can you tell I'm a Honda nerd? i'm really going to miss this car when it's gone.

    • See 2 previous
    • Dangls Dangls on Aug 03, 2018

      I am very interested in your 89 Si. Always been my favorite model I'm trying to find a good one I can hold onto. Til death do us part

  • Don1967 Don1967 on May 26, 2015

    Sixty eight... cough cough... hundred... cough cough... dollars. Rear fenders are not the only thing that rust after 27 years (or make that 10 years where I live). There's also fuel lines, brake lines, subframes, etc. And that's on a car that was no stronger than a tin can to begin with. I carry fond memories of my old Civic Si, but there's no way I'd want it back now at any price, let alone $6,800.