By on May 13, 2019

1989 Honda CRX in California wrecking yard, LH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Honda CRX is one of my very favorite 1980s cars, hailing from an era when Americans paid well over MSRP and/or waited for months for the privilege of getting a new Honda. Twenty years ago, I owned a few early CRXs (before giving up on the carbureted CVCC examples, which were impossible to get through California’s strict emissions tests due to the “Map of the Universe” tangle of vacuum lines), and I often thought of getting a fuel-injected late CRX.

Such cars were expensive back then, but values have plummeted to the point where I now see 1988-1991 CRXs at U-Wrench-type yards. Here’s one in the San Francisco Bay Area.

1989 Honda CRX in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOf course, the second-gen CRX is still worth enough that only the truly banged-up examples show up in self-service junkyards. This one received multiple layers of the fast-n-furious treatment, as interpreted by the Prophet Manny, the Seer Moe, and the Haruspex Jack.

1989 Honda CRX in California wrecking yard, decal - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMy guess is that this car’s nickname was THE WOLF.

1989 Honda CRX in California wrecking yard, speedometer - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis sort of odometer reading is typical of Hondas of the late 1980s, even those that spent much of their lives with engines howling at redline. Maybe this car was a sedate commuter for 25 years before it became THE WOLF; the CRX was that rare combination of penny-pinching economy car and fun enthusiast machine.

1989 Honda CRX in California wrecking yard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 1989 CRX Si got a 105-horsepower 1.6-liter engine, but this car has the regular 1.5-liter D15, rated at 92 hp. Curb weight was just barely over a ton, so fun could be had on double-digit power.


See you later, alligator.

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35 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Honda CRX...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    To be honest I haven’t seen a CRX of this era in a long time. I guess even Hondas eventually give it up and make their way to the junkyard, but not before being “ricified”

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I’ve seen one not that long ago. But look at this beauty! It looks restoreable to me. I can’t believe people let it rot.

    • 0 avatar
      David "Piston Slap Yo Mama" Sanborn

      Ten years ago I’d amuse myself searching Craigslist for CRX’s just to laugh derisively at the horrible and dorky mods kids were foisting on them. What I didn’t consider was that all too soon there wouldn’t be any nice CRX Si’s left …

      Rice indeed. Mods on these cars are the metaphorical red circus clown noses. Almost any mod that deviates from factory stock is a setback.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I am surprised that made it to the junkyard. Rust free, frame seems to be straight… someone can make a race car out of that thing.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    In the 80s I had a friend in HS who got a used CRX (HF? I do believe) as a car, replacing a Plymouth TC3 and, before that, a big ol’ Ford LTD that was leaking gas every time he took a turn. The CRX was so much fun and the gas mileage was terrific too.

    The Si was – of course – the one everyone wanted. In the same era I tried to keep up with one when I was driving a ’84 Nissan 2WD truck. I didn’t stand a chance!

  • avatar

    My brother has one of these. It is lovingly garaged, and pretty much a perfect example of a CRX Si. Mods are minor, and only a euro market spoiler is added to the outside.

    We go to car shows….surrounded by Lambos, all manner of Porsche, and other exotics…but there is ALWAYS a crowd around this car…and he gets offers to buy it. The fact that is is not riced-no bonehead mods, not slammed, etc is the most amazing part…but this attracts the gear heads in a way that the 911 owner could only dream….

    There’s a lot of love out there for the old Honda…..

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I can appreciate exotics, even the well played out 50-70’s Detroit iron I saw in the car shows of my youth. But now the cars of MY youth, the 80’s and 90’s are increasingly rare (and in some cases, increasing in value). Especially Japanese stuff from the 80’s, because many died from the Tinworm here in the rust belt before they could be appreciated.

      I’ll look at a mint 80’s econo-car survivor all day before another ’57 Chevy.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        70s-90s Asian models often get shipped (used or repairable) to the Third World to sell, also. Depending on the country, I’ve seen tons of them, and extremely few Big-3 models. The mechanics down there say the American models are too complicated to fix, which makes me laugh because in the 80s, that’s what the U.S. mechanics I spoke to said about the Japanese cars.

  • avatar

    When I bought my 84 Charger, this was one of two other vehicles I was attracted to. They were a common sight in my area. The appearance appealed to me and they looked like they would be great fun to drive.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    This. This is Peak Honda! Small, light, airy, low cowl, inexpensive, free-revving engine…perfection! The only thing that would make it even better is if a same-era Prelude Si was parked next to it.
    To those of a certain age (like yours truly), this was the Holy Grail of cheap, fun, light speed and fun. Proof that you didn’t need massive horsepower and a high price to have a blast. And the fact that you could drive it until you had to take it out back and shoot it, or the “Honda-Rot” rear fender rust took over, was icing on the cake.
    Find one, restore one, drive it like you stole it. They are just the best light, easy and cheap to run, fun commuter car that you can toss around.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I saw two ‘race’ CRXs of this vintage on the interstate this week. Both painted flat black. One had a tow hook on the back, the usual camber/wheel/stretched tire combo and loud exhaust, but appeared otherwise straight and stock. The other one had what appeared to be a full roll cage extending to the back of the hatch area with a fire extinguisher mounted to it, more subdued, but healthy sounding, exhaust, and more appropriate looking camber settings with sticky tires on reasonably sized rims. It would probably be a blast on a track somewhere.

    Those were fun cars when they were young. It’s hard for me to compare them to modern cars because frequently when I revisit things that were fun 30 years ago, they lose their luster.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Amazing how many of these used to be everywhere but no longer .

    I wanted a first generation Si in blue but couldn’t find one I could afford .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    One of the few Hondas I actually liked, though I never owned one. To me, the Pontiac Aztek was an inflated version of this in so many ways… especially with the lower glass panel letting you have a clearer view of what lay behind you.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The lower glass panel on the hatchback apparently was inspired by Lamborghini Espada.
      A friend of mine owned a first generation CRX HF. The only options were AC and a stereo. It got 50 MPG highway which was the highest fuel economy car of its time, roughly the same as a Rabbit Diesel or Chevette Diesel.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        For visibility and safety it’s still a good idea. But the different manufacturers keep raising the shoulder as though it really helps to protect the passengers while making it ever more difficult for the driver to see well enough to avoid collisions.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve S.

        The overall shape was influenced by, or a direct ripoff of, the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato.

        https://mfpclassiccars.com/img/f/1/1970-alfa-romeo-13-junior-zagato-with-2-liter-motor/1970-alfa-romeo-13-junior-zagato-with-2-liter-motor-4.jpg

  • avatar
    Mnemic

    A guy at our late 1990’s car hangout had one just like that, the same orange (that he had done) and everything. It had an H22 motor swap out of an accord and ran in the 14’s back then which was right what 5.0L mustangs also ran, so it was a force to reckon with. This was all pre import craze / fast and furious.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      FWIW the H22 would have been out of a Prelude, it’s the hi-po version of the lesser F22 found in the Accords (stateside anyway, Accord Type R may have had the H22 overseas).

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Love these things, but a 4ws Prelude would be more to my liking for the +2 seats. Ideally, white over light blue velour, a true JDM classic color scheme.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      Having owned several 88-91 CRXs and Preludes, the back seat in the Prelude is barely more useful thatn the optional backseat in the non-usdm CRX.

      I had a white over blue 88 4ws, and it was nice, but my current white over black 91 4ws is far nicer. The black over baby poop tan of the 88-89 cars was peak late 80s IMHO.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    My wife really wanted a CRX. MT of course. Instead we had a child and traded her Civic hatch for a AWD Civic Wagon (6 speed).

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      I’ll never understand this ~ I hauled my newborn son ’round in a 1950’s VW Beetle and never had any problems, why do folks think they _need_ a bigger car ? .

      I must say a 6 speed Civic wagon sounds nice….

      I had a Civic Wagovan for a few weeks, gifted to me , SWMBO lobbied hard to get me to keep it as a shop truck…

      A *very* nice car but not my cuppa tea .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Height of the Civic Wagon/Wagovan. It was ‘tall boy style’. Meant that leaning in to put a kid (eventually kids) in the infant seat in the back was much easier and therefore less stressful.

        And I was an ‘outlier’ buying in early to the marketing ‘claptrap’ about AWD/4Wd. Something that we still read frequently even on this site. As per today’s Ace of Base, good winter tires are far more useful.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          Not a whole lot of snow here in So. Cal., it’s been a _long_ time since I drove on any .

          As far as the PC crowd, screw ’em, right ? .

          =8-) .

          -Nate

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Ha, so did mine. To the point she always points them out in traffic and will mention if she see’s one when I wasn’t in the car with her.Same with the Acura CL she used to own , which incidentally seems just as rare as CRXs to see out and about.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I was recently perusing the ads for Acura CL’s particularly the Type S version. A sporty luxury Accord.
      There are some nice ones but with high 150-200k miles though they can run infinitely.

  • avatar
    Big Wheel

    Definitely peak Honda as noted earlier. I loved these cars back in the day.

    Fortunately, I was able to get the next best thing – a string of three Honda Preludes (86 Si, 91 Si, & 97 base). All were reliable – ran the first two up to 195,000+ miles, & the 97 to 175,000 miles. What a joy to drive. All were still running well when I was finished with them. Sold the first two to Honda dealership mechanics, & gave the third to my brother-in-law.

  • avatar
    Safeblonde

    Darn, I bet the politically correct crowd would never stand for a commercial like this now.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      I can’t imagine bit tits being a reason to buy a new car….

      I tried that with beer once and my Lady friend still looked the same no matter how many I drank .

      I think those T.V. adverts were fake .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    mickmc

    I had 2 CRXs- the first was the last year of the initial model-1986? It was an SI and a car dealer sold it to me in 1990 with 100K miles for $2900. The low price (I think it was low) may have been because it was the era when 100K was a psychological marker of a worn out car, a perception that has changed a lot. The other was an 89 base model about 7 years later. Put it up for sale before going overseas and someone smashed the passenger window in an attempt to steal it. Both were reliable and fun to drive. Apparently they weren’t all that safe in accidents. I also owned an MR2 Spider later on, which I liked a lot better than the CRXs, although the CRXs could transport a surprising amount of stuff inside, which the MR2 could not.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    “I had a white over blue 88 4ws” You mean these came in other colors besides red and white?


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