Junkyard Gem: 1997 Acura 1.6 EL

Junkyard Gem: 1997 Acura 1.6 EL

Drivers from Mexico or Canada who take their cars across the border into the United States may drive them legally here for one year, after which they must drive back home or go through a registration process that ranges from arduous to impossible, depending on the state. As a result, quite a few Canadian- and Mexican-market cars end up marooned and un-registerable here, and I find some of them during my junkyard travels. Today, we’ve got a Canada-only Acura that showed up in a Northern California boneyard recently.

I’m always looking for junkyard odometers with very high final readings (right now a 631k-mile Volvo 240 holds the record), and at first glance I though I had come across a Civic sedan with nearly 450,000 miles. Then I noticed the metric speedometer and realized that I was looking at a non-US-market car. 448,538 kilometers is 278,709 miles, by the way.

A look at the build tag and emissions stickers showed that this car was built and sold in Canada. I’d found a second-generation Acura EL in a Colorado junkyard a few years back, so I knew that I’d just found a first-generation EL.

Like its Acura Integra contemporary, the Acura EL was based on the Honda Civic. It replaced the Integra in Canada for 1997 and production continued through 2005. It differed somewhat in appearance from the Civic and had a nicer interior but was mechanically nearly identical to the US-market Civic EX sedan.

A version for the Japanese market was built in Canada and exported across the Pacific as the second-generation Honda Domani.

The engine is a 1.6-liter SOHC four-banger with VTEC, rated at 127 horsepower and 107 pound-feet.

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This one appears to be a loaded EL Premium, with the optional four-speed automatic. List price would have been C$22,000, or about $30,676 in 2023 United States dollars (using the exchange rate for June of 1997).

The decklid had an EL-only spoiler, so a local Honda expert must have bought it for a Civic sedan. Since this car was old enough to be federally legal under the 25-year rule, it could have been registered legally in some US states… but California’s strict emissions regulations would have made the process too difficult to be worth undertaking on a near-300k-mile machine that isn’t particularly exotic.

We’ll add this car to the list including other non-US-market vehicles I’ve documented in car graveyards over the years (not counting the many gray-market 1980s Mercedes-Benzes), including a Canadian 1991 Honda Civic, a Canadian 2004 Acura EL, a Canadian Peugeot 505 Turbo, a Japanese 1979 Nissan Fairlady Z, a Mexican 2009 Chevrolet Chevy (Opel Corsa), a Mexican 2008 Nissan Aprio (Dacia Logan), a Mexican 2015 Nissan Tsuru, a Mexican 2006 Peugeot 407 and a Mexican 2017 Renault (Dacia) Duster.

Designed with purpose. Driven by passion.

Makes a great fake-getaway car.

Meanwhile, in Japan.