Alan Cesar
Alan Cesar SuperDork
12/13/13 11:16 a.m.

“You develop a lot of obscure muscles in your arms from that unassisted steering with 9- or 10-inch wheels and a Mugen differential. We call ’em ‘Honda muscles.’”

Driving his old C Street Prepared Honda CRX wasn’t just another day at the gym for Bret Norgaard, though. The abrupt nature of the car’s torque steer is a potential hazard in a slalom on a wet course. All of Bret’s CRX-driving colleagues have either badly sprained their wrists or fractured their thumbs due to their cars’ violent steering.

“We’ve all hurt our wrists driving these cars in the wet,” he cautions. “But the joy of getting it right offsets the fear of getting it wrong and getting hurt. With the right driver, not much can beat a small, front-wheel-drive car through a slalom.”

The CRX arrived for 1984, with the sporty Si following the next year–those swoopy aero headlamps became standard in 1986. Attendance is testament that the formula works. If you’ve gone to an autocross in the last two decades and so much as opened your eyeballs, you’ve seen a CRX. The sporty and efficient two-seater version of the Honda Civic can boast high fuel economy in HF trim or speedy autocross runs in Si form.

First-generation CRXs cemented Honda’s dominance in the autocross world, only to be supplanted by the second generation of the same car. Today, the CRX is still very popular in E Prepared and G Prepared. The second-gen cars often take the trophy, but the earlier ones still have their place in the mix.

The aforementioned HF trim, though valuable to hypermilers for its ability to hit Insight-level miles per gallon with decades-old technology, isn’t of much interest to enthusiasts as a package. Its engine makes the car a wheezy commuter, and its gear ratios are extremely far apart. That can make it a chore to drive around.

A CRX Si is properly entertaining. Though around 100 pounds heavier, it also comes with a more powerful, fuel injected engine and a suspension tuned for sportier driving. Bret tells of taking his car to a drag strip and, on Hoosiers and completely set up for autocross, putting down a 14.1-second quarter-mile.

“These are the quickest cars I’ve ever driven in 20 years of racing with regard to the amount of sensory overload and the attention needed to drive them,” Bret says. “My car was CSP-legal and weighed 1600 pounds. That makes for a great power-to-weight ratio.”

These cars are still in the bargain-basement price range–though they have been climbing a bit recently. Look to spend $900 to $1500 for a 200,000-mile car on its original engine; rebuilds fetch more money. Garage finds with low miles can approach $3000.

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Vigo PowerDork
12/13/13 1:34 p.m.

Front fenders "dont age like their steel counterparts". You win an award for understatement. How about "just TRY finding a 1g CRX with truly good front fenders on it". Or "in worse news, the lower door cladding is just as fragile but much harder to locate replacements for".

They're neat cars.

PubBurgers SuperDork
3/15/14 2:13 p.m.

Also of note, the mounts for the panhard bar are bad for rusting out. They definitely warrant a check when looking to buy a 1G.

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