Classic Cool: Honda CRX

courtesy honda

 

Story by David S. Wallens, Photography as Credited

You could say that this one comes right from the Lotus playbook: It’s simple, lightweight and sports a very effective suspension. But this creation didn’t come from a small, bespoke manufacturer; it’s a Honda. Meet the CRX.

Specifically we’re talking about the second-generation CRX, the one sold stateside for the 1988-’91 model years. Like the original, this CRX followed a familiar formula: Lop off the back of a standard Civic to create something a bit sporty.

And also like the first CRX, this one was available in tunes ranging from miserly to rather racy. The fuel-efficient HF model boasted 56 mpg on the highway, while the CRX Si became a world beater.

Road & Track included this redesigned CRX Si on their list of the 10 best cars available for 1988, where it joined legends like the Ferrari Testarossa, Porsche 911 Carrera and Chevy Corvette. The magazine’s initial road test ended on an equally high note: “Taken piece by piece or synthesized as a whole, the new CRX Si is a really good thing even better.”

Our own track test backed up that sentiment. “It’s relatively neutral, not twitchy–a difficult combination to engineer into a suspension,” said Randy Pobst, one of our test drivers. “This is an excellent FWD chassis with good response, controllable four-wheel breakaway.”

The redrawn CRX would soon prove that it could dominate in nearly any venue, from autocross to ice racing. One of the drivers who helped establish that legacy? Randy Pobst, who ran one to a 1990 IMSA driver championship— his first of many professional road racing titles.

 

WHY YOU WANT ONE

  • No matter the trim level, the second-generation CRX received a double-wishbone suspension front and rear. It responds very well to lowering while also keeping the tire perpendicular to the ground during cornering.
  • The CRX Si’s singlecam, four-cylinder engine produced 105 horsepower along with 98 lb.-ft. of torque. Curb weight was just 2115 pounds, yielding a zero-to-60 time of about 8.5 seconds–quick for the day.
  • Along with the more powerful engine, the Si also came standard with a moonroof, sport seats, firmer suspension, five-speed gearbox and 14-inch alloy wheels.
  • Despite the diminutive dimensions, the CRX offers lots of interior room.
  • Thirty years later, it’s still a champ: Adam Barber and Katie Crawford recently drove CRXs to the SCCA’s Street Touring Sport autocross titles.

 

PRACTICAL GUIDANCE

None

our expert: Alan Wu 
Restoration CRX 
restorationcrx.com

 

If you’re repairing or maintaining a CRX for daily driver use, aftermarket parts like coil-overs, clutches and radiators are abundant. Aftermarket glass and body panels are also available. You can’t go wrong with well-established, proven, and OE-quality brands such as Koni and Exedy.

Regular maintenance parts such as oil pan gaskets, valve cover gaskets, timing belts, water pumps, seals, brake pads and miscellaneous washers, nuts and bolts are still available at Honda dealerships, although inventory gets lower each year.

Unfortunately, companies haven’t yet gone mainstream with aftermarket CRX replacement parts as they have for domestic muscle cars, but we think it’s about to happen.

Common discontinued parts, like tie rods, can still be found at local auto parts stores.

If you’re a stickler for OEM, some parts are extremely hard to come by and very expensive. For example, our body shop literally purchased the last pair of front door window trim pieces in the U.S Likewise, finding a new OEM sunroof is nearly impossible, and the seal itself has a market price of over $300.

Trying to locate CRX parts in the junkyard is nearly impossible here in the Bay Area.

Common problems are seats, window trim pieces (after 30 years they’re all faded and weathered), floor mats, carpets, cargo covers, door panels, mufflers, etc.

The climate controls will also break, and replacements are $250-plus on eBay. Be careful, as many climate controls on eBay are cracked; the sellers put on a faceplate to cover the cracks and ask a premium. To prevent cracking, reinforce the back area between the temperature knob and the vent selector.

During our search, every CRX had varying degrees of rust. Rust is the same with any used car, and we definitely advise locating a vehicle in dryer states that have little to no snow.

Obviously a good stock CRX will hold value more than a modified one, but don’t be afraid to add tasteful modifications.

 

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Comments
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Adrian_Thompson
Adrian_Thompson MegaDork
4/25/19 10:08 a.m.

Hmm, just like the Zetec MGB post I'm getting 404's on your hyperlinks.

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 HalfDork
4/25/19 10:49 a.m.

Make that 808, me too.

BigLou
BigLou New Reader
4/25/19 10:52 a.m.

"This is our 404 page..."

pcorad01
pcorad01 New Reader
4/25/19 12:32 p.m.

I purchased a nearly new 89 SI in 1999. I put about 150,000 miles on that car. Tons of autox and track days at Lime Rock, NH international, Watkins Glenn, Bridgehampton! Pocono. 

At LRP The 911s could not figure out how I could get a run out of the downhill and pass them on the front straight. 

Great memories. 

bobtms
bobtms New Reader
4/25/19 1:13 p.m.

CRX's are delightful.  Early 2nd gen are the best.  They should have worn teeth in front of the radiator, rather than horizontal slats.

A new F12 couldn't figure out how I exited the Buttonwillow's Bus Stop about 12mph faster in my 1989 CRX SI last week.  Poor guy got rattled -- swerved left while appearing to point-by a pass on the left.  Admittedly, it helped having ~500 more laps around the course than he did.  ;)

USGUYS
USGUYS New Reader
4/25/19 1:24 p.m.

I have been racing a Gen 2 in SCCA Club racing since 1989.  I have gone through a few chassis tubs in that time.  Walls are just too hard. 
I do have Chassis # 000025.  Needs a bunch of work, but that is going to happen soon.
You forgot to mention the 5 National Championships in H-Production in HF trim.
This my Hotrod. 
 

Donatello
Donatello New Reader
4/25/19 2:55 p.m.

Dammit GRM - stop telling people how good these cars are. At least until I squirrel away a few more for myself while the prices are still low, lol. The standard civic is worth considering too. Very little weight difference but way more space for tires and tools. And cheaper / easier to buy. I don't know why the recent sale you mentioned cost $15K, but there are still currently cars out there for a fraction of that price that are good enough to enjoy and receive compliments on. Check out vendors like Rock Auto to see how cheap the prices are for parts too.

Donatello
Donatello New Reader
4/25/19 2:55 p.m.

Cheap, reliable, entertaining - I wish my ex could hav been more like my CRX.

kevlarcorolla
kevlarcorolla Dork
4/25/19 3:37 p.m.

Just finishing up a K20 swap into one for luckydog endurance series.

 

 2 other crx's in the team,B16 and B18 powered.

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
4/25/19 10:47 p.m.

It does not have "double-wishbone suspension front and rear".

I understand why marketing people use terms that they think will sell, as long as most readers won't catch their lies, but why do automotive journalists repeat them?

This generation Honda Civic (the 4th) - along with next two - does have double-wishbone front suspension, but the rear suspension is not double-wishbone. It is multi-link, with each side having the hub carried on a trailing arm with upper and lower lateral links plus a toe compensation link. It's a good and compact design, one of many designs (from several different manufacturers) with trailing arms and lateral links; the distinction between them is the toe correction feature, and Honda has an unusual approach with the compensator ahead of the main trailing arm bushing. The frustrating thing here is that while people think "double wishbone" sounds like it would be better, these non-wishbone multi-link designs are great.

As for the CRX specifically... my wife and I like them, and had both generations. I wouldn't buy one now, mostly because they're all rotting away and parts will be rare - a later but still double-wishbone (in front) Civic would make more sense. I would also prefer the Civic for track use, as the longer wheelbase would likely only improve the car. The first-generation was fun but not fast on our local track, and the second generation was better-behaved and faster; I never tried my same-generation (as a 2nd gen CRX) Civic  sedan on the track, but I think I would rather go with it (or the hatchback, more likely). The hatchback Civics were the basis of the Honda Michelin race series.

CyberEric
CyberEric HalfDork
4/29/19 5:02 p.m.

Thank you Brian for clarifying that. People get so excited about "double wishbones" they start throwing them everywhere.

Multi-link? Struts? Torsion beam? Crap I tell you! My double-wishbone car ate 10 Porsches and a Ferrari cause it has double-wishbones. How many wishbones? DOUBLE. 

Back to the C-Arrrrr-X as we used to call it. My best friend had a first gen in high-school and I thought it was just about the coolest thing ever. Fast-ish, fun, and we could fit 5 people in it! Tough to find them now, sad to say.

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