By on March 15, 2021

1974 Honda Civic in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe first-generation Honda Civic sold very well in the United States, but it’s just about impossible to find early examples in junkyards these days; I’ve managed to photograph a few ’78s for this series and that’s it. Why? The cars in rust-prone areas dissolved quickly and those in low-corrosion regions got driven to death well before the beginning of our current century. Here’s the oldest discarded 1973-1979 Civic I’ve managed to find since at least the late 2000s.

1974 Honda Civic in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt got picked over thoroughly by the local Honda fanatics before I got to it, so nearly all of the interior had been ripped out.

While Honda USA offered a “Vinyl Roof Decor” option in 1974, this car appears to have some sort of aftermarket top. Perhaps a dealer installed it, or maybe the car’s original owner brought it to one of the many shops that installed custom vinyl roofs during the middle 1970s.

1974 Honda Civic in Colorado junkyard, vinyl roof - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn any case, the top encouraged some scary body rust over the decades.

1974 Honda Civic in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe CVCC engine wasn’t available on US-market Civics until 1975, so this is the ordinary 1.2-liter straight-four, rated at 52 horsepower. This car weighed only 1,536 pounds, so 52 horses made it reasonably fun to drive.

1974 Honda Civic in Colorado junkyard, rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe hatchback version cost $2,250, which was a full hundred bucks more than the goofy Civic sedan with its weird little “trunk” opening in back. That comes to $12,700 and $12,135, respectively, in 2021 dollars, making the 1974 Civic one of the best new-car deals of its era and maybe of all time.

1974 Honda Civic in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOf course, the Civic was a somewhat unknown quantity from a company best-known for motorcycles in the early 1970s; it wasn’t until a few years later that American car shoppers realized that Honda cars were good drivers that held together amazingly well (if you could keep them away from road salt).

1974 Honda Civic in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Hubert’s Lemonade bottle as a temporary fuel tank indicates that this car sat for many years before someone made an attempt to get it to move under its own power again. Most likely, that final drive was just down the driveway to a waiting tow truck from U-Pull-&-Pay.


The CVCC stratified-charge system made the Civic even better, though the system got frighteningly complicated by a decade later.


Back in the Civic’s homeland in 1974, the CVCC was the future.

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23 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1974 Honda Civic Hatchback...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Of course, the Civic was a somewhat unknown quantity from a company best-known for motorcycles in the early 1970s; it wasn’t until a few years later that American car shoppers realized that Honda cars were good drivers that held together amazingly well (if you could keep them away from road salt).”

    Absolutely true. And it was the Accord’s arrival that really launched Honda in the US.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Why do I think that the hood was damaged by some wrecking yard attendant who didn’t know it was front-hinged?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    That ‘weird little trunk’ reminds me of the one in our Mini.

    Not sure about the USA but in Canada, the Accord hatchback was the most commonly seen version until the 3rd generation. The 2nd generation Accord established Honda among ‘those in the know’ but the 3rd generation thrust it into the limelight.

    As for Civics, the 2nd generation was a revelation. For the era a well screwed together, dependable, fun to drive and relatively ‘roomy’ vehicle. The 1st generation was a trifle small and rusted very quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Can attest. Family had a 82 Civic HB and I later had a 83. Bought with 100k miles on it, which seemed slightly insane at the time. Got me through college and beyond, getting probably 41 mpg average. Sold it with 205k, which was a mistake, should have held on longer. Only issue was that it tended to eat mufflers quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I had an ’83 and it was basically a perfect car in hatchback form. I used it during high school and college, then finally sold it around 160k in mileage. My brother had one too. I only fixes required were a valve cover gasket, CV boots and a fan switch.

      Being a hatchback I folded the rear seats down and used it as a delivery vehicle for a printing company. Thus the car was often loaded way beyond its limits with cases of paper. It was slow and nearly bottomed out the suspension but just keep going. I wish I still had it, with no power steering and a 5 speed manual it was a very pure driving experience. I put aftermarket power windows in mine, then the only thing I wanted was cruise control… well and torque since those early Honda engines lost what felt like 50% power with the A/C running.

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        I had the 83 1300FE and it had aftermarket cruise, dealer-installed A/C, and a 4 speaker stereo with cassette. The original nylon upholstery was in bad shape when I got, so a local shop redid it in a quilted medium blue velour. The car was rather posh for it’s type, the 1300FE was the high-mpg model. I think the 1500GL was the fancy model with the bigger engine, nicer seats, rear wiper/washer, etc.

  • avatar
    merfk

    Wow. We should get all of our cars running on lemonade instead of batteries.

  • avatar
    redapple

    OUTSTANDING VEHICLES THEN
    Outstanding vehicles now.

    Surprising number of 1st gen Accords running around GMI in the early 80’s.
    15 years later i parked my Civic SI in the GMAD Doraville parking lot every morning. It was unmolested for 2 years until i moved on.

    • 0 avatar
      tomLU86

      Why should your Civic Si be harassed? There are many Detroit three employees, including engineers and also UAW factory workers who appreciate “good cars”, even as their employers have not always produced good cars. Some of these employees actually drive competitors makes–just drive around in a Detroit Three plant parking lot.

      The decisions concerning what to make are made by a handful of people and approved by the CEOs. For example, while I think the 95 Buick Skylark was a pathetically mediocre car with an ugly interior and even uglier exterior, the senior leaders felt it would meet their various targets, and Jack Smith and/or Rick Wagoner bought off on it. Real people actually bought Skylarks. Just not enough of them.

      On the other hand, in Honda in 1974, I suspect Mr. Honda challenged his engineers and staff to come up with an inexpensive, but not cheap, car that could hold four grocery bags in the back. They had simpler, cleared direction, and were not burdened by decades of knowledge (some good, some outdated, some mis-applied), and a huge, sprawling overhead, not to mention a big bureaucracy with powerful egos.

      Still, I’m with Arthur. In 1977, the Civic was my third pick–after a 1.6 liter fuel-injected Rabbit, or a Fiesta. But the 2nd gen Civic–5-10% bigger, but vastly better in every aspect, while still very small–THAT I’d put at the top of my econobox list.

      • 0 avatar
        Johnster

        The Rabbit was a step up in size and prize and probably less reliable than the Fiesta or the Civic, although it was quieter and rode and handled better. I recall a road test from the time, maybe in Motor Trend, where they compared a 1st gen Ford Fiesta against a 1st gen Honda Civic. They titled it, “Sexy Face vs. the Gutter Snipe,” with the Fiesta being “Sexy Face” with great European style and handling, and the Civic being “The Gutter Snipe” with its great performance and 5-speed manual. (The Fiesta only came with a 4-speed.)

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @tom:

        The “trash the Japanese cars” thing was for real back then, particularly in D3 company towns.

        I had a job back in the ’80s selling advertising, and I got sent to Kokomo, Indiana. My ride at the time was an ’85 Civic. I pulled up to a Chevy dealership, hoping to pitch them, and the dealer principal greeted me with “get that piece of (insert pejorative for Japanese folks here) s**t off my lot before I take a bat to it.” He meant it.

        Of course, he could have just been chasing off a pain-in-the-a** salesman, and he was selling any number of “Japanese pieces of s**t” as Geos, but whatever. The animosity was real.

        • 0 avatar

          He probably fought in WWII. Otherwise I cannot explain such an aggression.

        • 0 avatar
          wolfwagen

          That attitude was also in the steel towns. I grew up in the Lehigh Valley in PA. In the ’70s and ’80s, you didn’t work for the steel and drive a Japanese car unless you didn’t mind getting harassed. German and Swedish cars were ok, but not the Japanese since they were killing the US steel industry (along with the unions & a little bad management) at the time

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          When I was in the Navy 1971, one sailor bought a Honda 600. His room was in the same building as several sailors from Operations and Maintenance – metal workers, pipe fitters, welders, all rather burly guys.

          One night four of them picked up the Honda and carried it up the concrete steps to the second floor landing. The base Master Chief knew what was up, and made them take it back down the steps.

          I shared a room with three guys in the same building, and one roomie returned from leave with a 1968 Ford Cortina. A couple O&M guys were looking it over, and I told them it was a Ford from the same factory in England that had built the Model T. They left it alone.

          Yes, there was a strong preference for Detroit iron back then, and animosity toward all imports except British sports cars. The O&M boys only laughed at Fiats – the term “fix it again Tony” goes back a long way.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    My mom bought one of these new in 1973. She needed an automatic which left only the B-210 or the Subaru as the other choices. The 210 was slow as molasses and the Subie was downright buzzy and had “constipated” styling as one of the car mags described it at the time.

    Given Honda’s motorcycle heritage, it was no surprise this car loved to rev. Even with the 2 speed Hondamatic it was a very fun car to drive. She had it until the early 90s and it hardly gave her a lick of trouble. Definitely a game changer considering the Pintos and Vegas of the era.

    2 quirks..you might notice the master cylinder (removed in the pix in this article) was on the passenger side, probably for the RHD market it was designed for. there was a funky transverse rod going to the brake pedal that was used for LHD markets.

    So under the dash the radio speaker lived on the left side, and it seemed louder on the outside of the car than the inside!

    She loved it and never bought an American car again.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    My grandma had a ’79 CVCC hatch with the 2-speed Hondamatic, in Kermit green. It was a cantankerous little thing that absolutely hated to keep running until the engine warmed up, but it just kept on going. After she passed away in 1993, I sold it to some Russians for $400, and they seemed overjoyed to have it.

  • avatar
    IanGTCS

    My mom had a 78 for a couple of years to replace her 78 corolla. She got it from friend who didn’t drive much so it had much lower KMs. Corolla went to one of my uncle’s until my other uncle put his feet through the floor. I think mechanically it was ok, when through a muffler a year and once in the car wash all the paint came off the roof. She replaced it in 1988 with an 85 civic hatch with the 3 speed hondamatic.

    Now I’m curious if she has any pictures of it.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    My uncle had a mid 70s Civic with the CVCC engine. It was brown and had the 2 speed auto. He was looking for cheqp transportation back in the early 90s and that one being a CA car, was rust free.
    Too bad he didn’t stick with it for long, it got stolen shortly after

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    My uncle had a mid 70s Civic with the CVCC engine. It was brown and had the 2 speed auto. He was looking for cheqp transportation back in the early 90s and that one being a CA car, was rust free.
    Too bad he didn’t stick with it for long, it got stolen shortly after

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Of course the Big 3 didn’t take Honda seriously at that. For normal people; never ever the B&B, it was (usually) their first car that went 10 years/250,000 miles with maintenance consisting of oil changes, brake service, new tires. Pay for it for four years, drive it for 10 years and feel kinda sad when the next owner takes off in it. Normal people started taking Honda, Toyota, and Datsun seriously at that time.

  • avatar
    Joebaldheadedgranny

    My dad served in WWII in the Pacific Theater island hopping and was in the first Marine detachment in Nagasaki. He became a Honda devotee in the late 70’s and eventually most of my family had one. These cars were markedly better than other budget cars. I was involved in two rollovers, one an Accord EX that my mom flipped into a creek after being blinded by a semi, the other a Civic my sister-in-law flipped over a mailbox after hitting black ice. We were able to flip over the Civic and drive it away. No injuries in spite of no seat belts which were not in fashion yet.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Learned to drive in one of these with an auto.

  • avatar
    Safeblonde

    Had a light blue ’75. Ran it dry of oil and Motorwerks (reluctantly) rebuild the engine. Ran it some more. Rear-ended a cherry ’70 GTO, twisting the frontend. Ran it some more after headlights replaced running with that twisted frontend. Painted roof in my college colors (no vinyl on mine). Got sick of it and sold it to junkyard. Junkyard covered my roof with a rack and resold it. It was still running into the mid-80s.

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