Junkyard Gem: 1993 Honda Civic del Sol

Junkyard Gem: 1993 Honda Civic del Sol

For the 1984 model year, Honda began selling a two-seat version of the third-generation Civic known as the Civic CRX. Perhaps this was in emulation of Ford’s two-seaterization of the Escort, known as the EXP and LN7, which first hit American showrooms as a 1982 model, but the copycat ended up being far more successful than the original here. The CRX was fun to drive while getting shockingly good fuel economy, and its final model year was 1991. Its successor first appeared here as a 1993 model: the Civic del Sol. Here’s an example of a first-year del Sol, found in a boneyard near Denver, Colorado.

I daily-drove CRXs for years and loved them very much (other than the nightmarishly complex “Map of the Universe” tangle of vacuum lines on the CVCC versions, especially when trying to pass California emissions tests). Like many CRX aficionados, I never could warm up to the del Sol.

It seemed to be trying too hard to be lovable, while its predecessor earned love by just being a better car than any of its rivals. By the time the del Sol hit our shores, Soichiro Honda was dead, the competition had caught up and Americans no longer had to pay well over MSRP to buy a new Accord or Civic.

The fifth-generation Civic (the basis of the del Sol) was a masterpiece of engineering, my personal favorite of all the Civic generations. The del Sol was built just as well as its hatchback, sedan and coupe siblings (and its first cousin, the 1993-2001 Acura Integra), but perhaps those car shoppers who might once have considered a two-seater were moving on to more truckish cute machinery by 1993. In any case, the rare CRXs I find in junkyards nowadays get picked clean right away, while most del Sols go the the crusher’s cold steel jaws with most (non-mechanical) parts still present.

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For 1993, the base del Sol got the very reliable but not-so-powerful 1.5-liter engine, rated at 102 horsepower and 98 pound feet. That’s what we have here, and it’s very unlikely that any junkyard shopper will be buying such a commonplace plant. The 1993 del Sol Si got a VTEC-equipped 1.6 with 125 horsepower and 106 pound-feet, and that engine remains fairly desirable in the eyes of Honda builders.

An automatic was available, but this car has the five-speed manual.

Someone yanked the instrument cluster before I got here (the tachometers on these cars often go bad once they hit age 25 or so, so junkyard clusters are worth money), so we can’t know how many miles were on it. I find plenty of discarded members of the fifth-generation Civic family with better than 300,000 miles, and this car might well have been a member of that not-so-exclusive club.

It appears to have been in good shape prior to the crash that did it in.

Interestingly, the extremely low sequence number in this car’s VIN (plus the June 1992 build date) shows that it was one of the very first U.S.-market del Sols ever built. There’s a good chance that it was in the first shipment of del Sols brought across the Pacific. 

In fact, there’s a chance that I drove this car when it was fresh off the boat and still covered with protective plastic. The early 1990s were grim economic times in California, where I was living at the time, and at some point during the summer of 1992 I took a temp job driving brand-new Hondas and Acuras between a storage yard at the Port of Richmond and a trainyard a few miles away where they would be loaded onto a train for shipment east. The drivers would pile into a doorless Econoline van and get dropped off in an endless lot filled with new cars, where we would each jump into a Prelude or Vigor or whatever.

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There would be just enough time to extract the owner’s manual from the glovebox, get the radio security code off the back cover, enter it into the radio, find a good station and have music to blast on the five-minute drive to the train docks (I tried my best to get a Legend if possible, because the Legend’s audio system had enough bass to do justice to the proper North Bay music of the era). Then it was back to the Econoline, repeat, repeat, repeat. I can’t recall whether I had this job for weeks or months, but I drove a lot of del Sols with clear plastic seat covers on that gig. If I didn’t drive this exact car, I probably saw it.

Drive it with the roof off at 130 mph!

Take the roof off 912 times during a 30-month lease.

In its homeland, the del Sol was still a CR-X… and it gave you 2Way Paradise!