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Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/19/14 10:59 p.m.

I've had a long-simmering desire for one of these for a long time. And they've stayed affordable, although mostly because they've not aged gracefully. I knew of one near my house and went to look at it - even for $500, I knew it would mean a massive amount of work to be a functional car and would never really be a nice car.

And then I came across this car. It looked too good to be true and it was 4 hours away, but I took the chance. It was in great shape and I got a good price. So now I have a 1985 CRX Si, the first of the breed. I wanted the sunken headlights and the contrasting body panels, as that's what my mental picture of these cars looks like.

This thread isn't a build. It's about living with one of these cars, with occasional updates on repairs, tweaks and whatever.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim UltimaDork
8/19/14 11:01 p.m.

If it's anything like mine, you'll mainly be using the thread to document your oil changes .

Good call on not modifying it, the stock ones are getting rare these days.

The0retical
The0retical HalfDork
8/19/14 11:03 p.m.

I like those cars. A couple guys here at work drive them through the desert daily. The only problem I've ever heard is an occasional flat tire. I'm not convinced you can kill them if you do regular maintenance.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/19/14 11:10 p.m.

I don't think any of my cars get through an oil change without something getting tweaked!

So, what sort of condition are we talking about?

The good: no rust, and no cracks. These things are notorious for cracking front plastic fenders and nose, which are no longer available. Mine has no cracks at all. It also has no rust. This is probably due to 1) replacement of some body parts in the past and 2) a car that's lived in GA its entire life.

The interior is in similar shape. Unmolested with just a fairly subtle head unit that has Bluetooth and a USB input.

Underneath, I've discovered Koni red rear shocks, KYB front shocks and a complete brake job. The front brakes are apparently off a later CRX, and they're pretty big. In fact, you could say they're about as big as will possibly fit.

Mechanically and aesthetically, this car is showing the signs of a series of careful owners.

The bad? Well, those new panels have a pretty poorly applied paint job. The rest of the car was given a good respray some time ago, you can only tell from the various bits of overspray. There's some detective work to be done here, but it certainly doesn't seem to be from an accident. The car appears straight.

You can see some of the color variation here - badly painted nose and front fender, oxidized hood. Also, note the missing nose emblem.

I lied. I did find one crack in the passenger's fender, along with evidence that it came off a red donor. I'll have to figure out how to stop this and reinforce it.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim UltimaDork
8/19/14 11:15 p.m.

Yay, no speaker holes cut into the door cards either. Interesting combo on the shocks.

BTW, someone just advertised a full set of yellow Konis on Red Pepper Racing. They sound like they need a rebuild, though. I'd be seriously tempted if I was planning to keep my car.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/19/14 11:20 p.m.

I registered the car today and proceeded to come up with lame excuses to drive it everywhere. With Van Halen's 1984 blasting away because, well, because.

Did I mention this is a car I really wanted in high school? I would have loved to find one in the driveway on my 16th birthday. Maybe I'll look up my high school girlfriend's address and go cruise by her house slowly, blasting "Jump".

Anyhow.

The car was hard to heel-toe. So I took a bunch of slack out of the throttle pedal. Car liked it.

It also didn't flow over the road the way I felt it should, so I checked the tire pressures and found them all north of 40 psi. The door jamb calls for 24, so I decided to put 32 in the front and 28 in the rear to see. Car liked it.

The coolant looked a bit mungy at the cap, so I drained and refilled. Car didn't seem to have an opinion, but I liked it.

So far, so good. The car's coming into focus - no big changes, but it's just getting a bit better.

Then I got home, and decided that oxidized hood needed attention. The PO had also used some sort of detailing product on the car that left the most indelible water marks I've ever seen. So I pulled out the wax and got at it. I should point out that I've had this particular can of carnauba wax since 1996, and it's about half gone. I don't wax cars.

But check out the difference. Wax on left, "before" on right.

Last time I was at a Miata event, I won a big thing of Mother's car care products. There were some clay bars in there so I tried them. The car liked it.

The result was the first picture in this thread, the clean car in the driveway. But there was still that missing emblem. So I dug around in my drawer of emblems (no, really). The Lotus one had a bolt spacing that was about 1/4" too big, darn it. The Chevy Nova one would fit, but was wrong. The Cadillac and Mini ones had the wrong spacing. But I found one that was perfect and slotted right in. Heh heh.

Happy car. Let's look at that cute butt again.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/19/14 11:47 p.m.

So, what's it like driving a performance icon from 1985 in 2014?

The first thing you notice is the visibility. Holy cow. Low sills, thin pillars and glass everywhere. You can see everything.

The second is the space. This is a small car, but you've got loads of room. Some of that is thin doors, some of it is a lack of airbags and infotainment screens and all the stuff that fills up a new car. Just check out that interior (again).

The seats are broad and surprisingly flat between the big bolsters. The wheel's got a relatively thin rim. In fact, everything just feels delicate. Not fragile, but minimal. All the controls feel light before you start to move. When you start the car, you can start it without depressing the clutch. Haven't been able to do that for some time in new cars. The controls are also very simple and can be used without looking at them. I have a big beef with touch screens in this regard. That radio's a long ways away, though.

The speedo has a clear marking at 55 mph. Now that dates things.

The car starts fairly easily, but not immediately. Fuel injection has come a long way. Still, it settles down quickly. Moving off, the clutch is light and the exhaust makes a yummy little growl. It's immediately obvious that this is a non-assisted rack, and that it's not a very fast ratio. Takes a bit of recalibration.

It's a light car (under 2000 lbs) and combined with those light controls you find yourself scooting ahead of traffic quickly. Second gear is fun - even when you're not trying hard - and you pop up to 40 mph with some alacrity and without effort.

It's small. Other traffic is big. Now, I'm used to Miatas and I own a classic Mini. But somehow the delicate feel of this car makes it feel smaller. It could be the visibility and familiarity as well, of course.

It's not a fast car these days. It's nimble and, like the Mini, it likes to scoot. But 75 mph feels like you're going somewhere quickly. In fact, you always feel a sense of speed that's missing in a new car. Acceleration requires revs, this is not a torquey creature. That's accompanied by a nice throaty induction noise through the stock airbox. The gearshift is very precise, with a spring detent going into 5th. 5th is surprisingly far to the right, too. It's like Honda wants to you show real intent before slotting the big gear.

Cornering - I'll learn more about that. The high tire pressures had it understeering pretty badly. But with the pressures changed, it's happier. Still wants to understeer a bit on steady state, but I was able to have some fun with a double roundabout. Left a modern Civic wondering which way I went.

I'm not sure it's as ridiculously entertaining as the Mini. That car is overflowing with character and you're wrestling with it all the time as it snorts and growls and fights the wheel and laughs at your need to use the brake. Nothing else immerses you in the business of driving like a Mini. But unlike the Mini, the CRX can also double as a real car. It's going to work well as a daily commuter - entertaining without being all-consuming, makes fun noises but isn't overt about it. Sure, it won't fare well in a head-on with an Excursion or F350, but it should have decent active safety and you can't complain about the visibility.

I'm looking forward to driving this every day.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/19/14 11:48 p.m.

I think the shock combo is a reflection of what was available at the time. Those Koni yellows do have me tempted, but maybe I should take more time to adjust to what I have.

wbjones
wbjones UltimaDork
8/20/14 6:10 a.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: So, what's it like driving a performance icon from 1985 in 2014? The first thing you notice is the visibility. Holy cow. Low sills, thin pillars and glass everywhere. You can see everything. The second is the space. This is a small car, but you've got loads of room. Some of that is thin doors, some of it is a lack of airbags and infotainment screens and all the stuff that fills up a new car. Just check out that interior (again). The seats are broad and surprisingly flat between the big bolsters. The wheel's got a relatively thin rim. In fact, everything just feels delicate. Not fragile, but minimal. All the controls feel light before you start to move. When you start the car, you can start it without depressing the clutch. Haven't been able to do that for some time in new cars. The controls are also very simple and can be used without looking at them. I have a big beef with touch screens in this regard. That radio's a long ways away, though. The speedo has a clear marking at 55 mph. Now that dates things. The car starts fairly easily, but not immediately. Fuel injection has come a long way. Still, it settles down quickly. Moving off, the clutch is light and the exhaust makes a yummy little growl. It's immediately obvious that this is a non-assisted rack, and that it's not a very fast ratio. Takes a bit of recalibration. It's a light car (under 2000 lbs) and combined with those light controls you find yourself scooting ahead of traffic quickly. Second gear is fun - even when you're not trying hard - and you pop up to 40 mph with some alacrity and without effort. It's small. Other traffic is big. Now, I'm used to Miatas and I own a classic Mini. But somehow the delicate feel of this car makes it feel smaller. It could be the visibility and familiarity as well, of course. It's not a fast car these days. It's nimble and, like the Mini, it likes to scoot. But 75 mph feels like you're going somewhere quickly. In fact, you always feel a sense of speed that's missing in a new car. Acceleration requires revs, this is not a torquey creature. That's accompanied by a nice throaty induction noise through the stock gearbox. The gearshift is very precise, with a spring detent going into 5th. 5th is surprisingly far to the right, too. It's like Honda wants to you show real intent before slotting the big gear. Cornering - I'll learn more about that. The high tire pressures had it understeering pretty badly. But with the pressures changed, it's happier. Still wants to understeer a bit on steady state, but I was able to have some fun with a double roundabout. Left a modern Civic wondering which way I went. I'm not sure it's as ridiculously entertaining as the Mini. That car is overflowing with character and you're wrestling with it all the time as it snorts and growls and fights the wheel and laughs at your need to use the brake. Nothing else immerses you in the business of driving like a Mini. But unlike the Mini, the CRX can also double as a real car. It's going to work well as a daily commuter - entertaining without being all-consuming, makes fun noises but isn't overt about it. Sure, it won't fare well in a head-on with an Excursion or F350, but it should have decent active safety and you can't complain about the visibility. I'm looking forward to driving this every day.

as to the understeer … I drive a '91 CRX (STS build) so it's a bit different (coil overs for one) … but depending on the tires and what they actually like, you might be able to dial some of the understeer out by raising the rear pressures a bit higher than the fronts … you'll find that everything you know (well most everything) from rear drive Miata's doesn't translate to the world of front drive (which I'm sure you've been learning with the Mini) … but you might try the higher pressures in the rear, and if the shocks are adjustable, you might try going towards full soft up front and towards full stiff in the rear

you said you're going to keep this OEM for the most part, so a stiffer rear bar is probably out

Woody
Woody MegaDork
8/20/14 6:40 a.m.

Those headlights make me feel good.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
8/20/14 6:49 a.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: But check out the difference. Wax on left, "before" on right.

That photo gave me some serious flashbacks!

 photo CRX005_zps174d5a4f.jpg

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/20/14 8:48 a.m.

wbjones, a stiffer rear bar is definitely still possible. I'll tweak it, but I'm not looking to do anything crazy with the car. About 20% of people seem to think I need to gut an Integra and stuff as much of it as possible in this little guy - and that's not something I'm interested in right now. But sway bars? That's not even a modification

The tire pressures I used are based on weight distribution. They're not exactly great tires, but such is the life of a car with 13" wheels these days.

bravenrace
bravenrace MegaDork
8/20/14 8:58 a.m.

Eyes Jellyous. Seriously, I had 3 first gen CRX's, an '85 si like yours only black, an 85 dx, and a 87 si. I also have had a 89 si, 91 si (bought new) and now an 88 si, along with 3 or four civic si's. The 85 si is kind of like the 65 Shelby GT350. Its the rawest, purest form of this car as far as I'm concerned, and a blast to drive. Around here they are all but gone, and the ones that are still around are about to split in half due to rust. Man, I can still here the growl of that engine!

Opti
Opti Reader
8/20/14 9:03 a.m.

So if a panel breaks how do you repair it? Epoxy and body work? So are there no replacements or just no good ones?

wbjones
wbjones UltimaDork
8/20/14 9:12 a.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: wbjones, a stiffer rear bar is definitely still possible. I'll tweak it, but I'm not looking to do anything crazy with the car. About 20% of people seem to think I need to gut an Integra and stuff as much of it as possible in this little guy - and that's not something I'm interested in right now. But sway bars? That's not even a modification The tire pressures I used are based on weight distribution. They're not exactly great tires, but such is the life of a car with 13" wheels these days.

if you do go with a stiffer rear bar, be sure to add the rear cross member bracing … otherwise (assuming it's like other Hondas … it'll tear the rear cross member out …) and at the same time, putting a smaller front bar tends to help also … mine has a HF front bar with a 22mm rear bar

and re. the tires, the higher rear pressures tend to do the stiffer rear bar thing without the stiffer rear bar YMMV

Harvey
Harvey Reader
8/20/14 10:11 a.m.
Woody wrote:
Keith Tanner wrote: But check out the difference. Wax on left, "before" on right.

That photo gave me some serious flashbacks!

 photo CRX005_zps174d5a4f.jpg

Use a little polish and it gets even better.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/20/14 10:12 a.m.

I'm going to play with the balance a bit more. It's not tragic peel the tires off the rims understeer. It's just a bit more front biased than my usual rides. Which isn't surprising, even Miata guys think my setup is widowmaker loose - at least, the ones that live online playing with spreadsheets instead of driving. I'd rather get my handling balance from roll stiffness than handicapping traction at one end :)

I forgot, I dropped the front end very slightly yesterday. Less weight transfer, more grip, the car liked it. It was sitting just a little nose-high before.

The car has no cupholders. Janel forgot her coffee today so I dropped it off on the way to work. That was difficult to accomplish.

I love this part. Learning a new car, trying different things to see what it likes, diagnosing what's going on. I'm still trying to decide what the rear needs - and if the rear shocks are even adjustable. I think I need to check out the bump stops at least.

I also need to fix the sunroof. After about halfway, it starts to grind and skip. Something's worn or maladjusted, so I'll dig in there and find it.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim UltimaDork
8/20/14 10:13 a.m.
Opti wrote: So if a panel breaks how do you repair it? Epoxy and body work? So are there no replacements or just no good ones?

There are essentially no replacements available right now. You used to be able to get some aftermarket panels that had the usual aftermarket fit, but the supply has dried up, too. OEM, fuggedaboutit. You may get lucky and bump into someone who's got a couple stashed away.

SkinnyG
SkinnyG Dork
8/20/14 10:25 a.m.

I had a Lightspeed rear bar on the back of my '86 Civic 1500S. It attached with basically muffler clamps and mounts replacing the rear tie downs. I don't think you need to reinforce a crossmember on this generation. The bar made a world of difference.

Prior to the Lightspeed bar, I had adapted the front sway bar from a Turbo Chevy Sprint to the back axle. It didn't seem all that different than the Lightspeed one. A rear sway bar alone will totally liven up this car fantastically. Good shocks, rear bar, bam! Drop-throttle goodness right there!

Woody
Woody MegaDork
8/20/14 10:37 a.m.

Try to contact Jinx Jordan and see if he has an old sway bar laying around.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/20/14 10:56 a.m.

I'm going to start with our sway bar manufacturer, see if they have something.

BTW, I threw the little guy on the scales yesterday. Because, you know. 1961 lbs with a full tank of fuel, 61:39 weight distribution. More than legend would claim, but the scales don't lie.

Desmond
Desmond Reader
8/20/14 12:22 p.m.
bravenrace wrote: Eyes Jellyous. Seriously, I had 3 first gen CRX's, an '85 si like yours only black, an 85 dx, and a 87 si. I also have had a 89 si, 91 si (bought new) and now an 88 si, along with 3 or four civic si's. The 85 si is kind of like the 65 Shelby GT350. Its the rawest, purest form of this car as far as I'm concerned, and a blast to drive. Around here they are all but gone, and the ones that are still around are about to split in half due to rust. Man, I can still here the growl of that engine!

I dunno, pretty much any CRX is a very pure car to drive IMO. Extremely light, no power steering, driver-oriented dashboard, wonderful gearbox, cable clutch...its always a very visceral experience driving one of these things!

Also Keith, that dashboard looks absolutely fantastic! Love the blue.

spin_out
spin_out Reader
8/20/14 12:30 p.m.

Keith, thanks for the posts.
I absolutely loved these cars when they came out, but I was still in college and poor. Luckily I had a friend whose brother lent him his brand new HF, and I got to drive it.
My first full throttle drive onto a highway entry ramp cured my desire for ownership. I felt like we would never hit 55 mph .... but that was the HF.

Desmond
Desmond Reader
8/20/14 12:40 p.m.

Hahaha, yes I hear the HFs are pretty sluggish. The '89 Si D16 I had was great fun tho. Not FAST by any means, but on the freeway, the car was always in its powerband since you had to be at 4k RPMs just to keep the speed limit, so when you needed to pass, the car would go quite nicely. That car was the ultimate traffic-hopper.

bravenrace
bravenrace MegaDork
8/20/14 12:51 p.m.

In reply to Desmond:

I didn't say they weren't all pure to drive.

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