Junkyard Find: 1986 Honda CRX

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Honda CRX is one of my all-time favorite cars, especially the first-generation 1984-87 models. I have owned quite a few of them and found that the CRX’s combination of reliability (if you didn’t overheat and blow the head gasket), driving enjoyment, fuel economy, and cheap purchase price was impossible to beat for a daily driver in the 1990s. CRXs are rare in self-service junkyards now, most of them having been used up and discarded decades ago, and the few that I see get stripped to nothingness within days of hitting the yard.

Here’s an unusually complete ’86 that I found in a Denver yard last week.

Just 151,903.8 miles on the clock; no rust that I could find.

The interior is a bit worn, but this is mint condition by the standards of 30-year-old cars in U-Wrench-It junkyards.

Of course, the Powerade bottle full of what I fear is crank piss reminds us that this is the wrecking yard.

Just 76 factory horsepower lay in wait under the CRX’s hood — but this was a fun 76 horsepower!

The “map of the universe” Vacuum Hose Routing Diagram, shows why 1984-1987 Civics and CRXs fell out of favor in states with strict emissions testing by the early 2000s. In California, where I owned all my CRXs, if any one of those hundreds of hoses, solenoids, sensors, switches, or relays failed, you’d probably fail the tailpipe test. Attempting to chase down the flaw was a certain one-way ticket to Crazy Town (though I managed the feat a couple of times, thanks to endless hours of work and love of my CRXs).

I managed 50 highway miles per gallon in my (non- HF) CRXs without even trying very hard. The cargo area was surprisingly capacious and you could haul 8-foot 2x4s inside (left rear to right front, between the seats) with nothing sticking out of a window. The driver’s seat offered plenty of leg and headroom. Yes, it was noisy and bouncy and slow by 21st-century standards, but I still consider the early CRX to be one of the greatest cars ever sold in the United States. And this one is getting crushed before its time.

It was known as the “Ballade Sports CR-X” in its homeland.


In the United States, advertising for the first-year CRX focused on the nutso gas mileage.

The Prius is an Earth-destroying pig compared to the CRX HF!

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.
  • Kat Laneaux I get the point that Musk is making. I wouldn't want everyone to know my secrets. If they did, they could or would shout it out to the world. But then, if Musk certified certain folks and had them sign Confidentiality agreements, which would allow them to work on cars that Musk had made, that could allow others to work on his cars and not confine vehicle owners to be charged an arm and a leg for the service. It's a catch 22. People are greedy little buggers. If they can find a way to make money, they will even if it wrong. People...sad.
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  • Slavuta "The fuel-economy numbers are solid, especially the 32 mpg on the highway"My v6 Highlander did 31 over 10 hour highway trip
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