Rare Rides: Honda Civic CVCC - Conserving Various Carbons, Circa 1977

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides honda civic cvcc conserving various carbons circa 1977

Way back in the polyester era, there was a little thing called the Oil Crisis (circa 1973). And right about the time giant American barges were coughing and wheezing their way to the (empty) fuel station while managing eight miles per gallon, Honda had a little idea.

Say hello to the “Civic.”

Still a fledgling car company in North America, Honda just happened to have a small and fuel-efficient car available for the desperate public. Released in Japan just before the oil crisis, the Civic was that efficient car. The CVCC version we have here was the most fuel efficient of them all.

Introduced in July 1972 for the Japanese domestic market, Honda shipped the Civic to North American shores in 1973. Several inline-four engines were available, and the CVCC version came along in 1975.

Originally, a four-speed manual or two-speed semi-automatic (a manual without the clutch pedal) were available, but this one has the five-speed introduced in 1974. In case you were wondering, this little 1.4-liter engine generates all of 52 horsepower.

Combined with the power sap of the dealer-installed air conditioning, this Civic is most assuredly not quick. But the slow pace of travel does have a benefit: about 40 miles per gallon. For the final two years of the first-generation Civic (1978 and 1979), there were some exterior revisions and a bump in power for the CVCC engine. It now generated a whopping 60 hp.

The dash design on this first-gen Civic looks oddly pleasing for the time period. Clarity in gauges and [s]realistic[/s] some wood panel add an air of luxury.

The plaid seats also please me, though they don’t match. The ad indicates a recovering happened to the soft front buckets.

But the Civic’s tale was not all sunshine and rainbows. Buyers of first-gen models in areas with salt-crusted winter roads were displeased, as their Hondas often started to rust — quite rapidly, too. The problem was so pervasive that American Honda agreed to a recall with the FTC. All owners of 1975 to 1978 Civics with rusty fenders could receive replacements or a cash reimbursement for the damage, or about 1 million Honda owners all told. This amounted to about 10 percent of all Civics sold. Dealers conducted inspections and performed replacements of rusted-out fenders.

The NHTSA issued its own recall for the Civic’s suspension corrosion, covering over 900,000 vehicles built from 1972 to 1979. Suspension components were replaced under the recall, and in some instances Honda bought back the entire car if corrosion proved too extensive.

In any event, this little Civic is in spectacular condition, had only one owner in the past 40 years, and sold to its second one recently on eBay. This one sold for $5,700, surely to a Honda enthusiast who will take care of it and keep the rust worm at bay for years to come.

[Images via eBay]

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  • CincyDavid CincyDavid on Dec 06, 2017

    I recall visiting my uncle's Oldsmobile dealership in beautiful Newport KY some time in the early-mid 70s with my dad. Tucked in the corner of the showroom surrounded by 88s and 98s was this little yellow car. My dad and his uncle were snickering about it, but he figured he might sell a few here and there. The little yellow car was a Honda, don't recall which model. By the time the family sold out to the local Jeff Wyler Auto Group in the late 90s, the Honda store was their money maker, the Olds, GMC Truck and Mitsubishi stores were afterthoughts.

    • See 3 previous
    • CincyDavid CincyDavid on Dec 08, 2017

      @Corey Lewis Corey, that's an interesting point. You sure don't hear about any organized crime in N KY so either they old guys died off and their kids went legit, or they're still skulking around out there somewhere. The RICO statutes really hammered the big mob families since the 80s.

  • Mjg82 Mjg82 on Dec 07, 2017

    I don't know if anyone here fell in the demographic of the show, but I like that True Blood featured a yellow 70's Civic, driven by the main character. Had some good action scenes, even a curse placed on it.

  • Dawn Maple They haven't even fixed the airbag issues and recalls completely, so why waste more time and money on another "safety feature" that removes choices from the driver? We would be safer getting in a car driven by Helen Keller. Oh wait with driver assist, all she has to do is find her car and turn it on.
  • Lorenzo I'm out. I'd never find it in the dark.
  • VoGhost Minivans don't sell well, and the market has been declining. And while the entire 'range anxiety' myth is mostly a big oil propaganda designed to scare the weak minded, minivans are often how families travel to grandma's house, so that will be a concern, unless VW can gain access to the Supercharger network. I could see 50K units at peak, declining to 25K/year after a couple of years, unless VW can price competitively with Tesla.
  • VoGhost Glad you're healthy, Tim
  • VoGhost 20 years ago, Sportage was the bottom of the barrel, a joke. Kia's come a long way.