I wasn't always a Honda guy, in fact, my first car was a 1988 Mazda 323 with a 4 speed manual that was passed down to me by my uncle. It was my first taste of lightweight, 4 cylinder fun, however I did not appreciate it enough, because a year or so later I decided to upgrade (or at least in my mind it was) to a 1989 Pontiac Firebird. The ladies had to be attracted somehow, and the little 323 wasn't cutting it. I really did enjoy the old F-body, as well as the few babes I was able to attract in it, but when I moved away to college, my priorities changed. The Firebird wasn't the most reliable mode of transportation, and since I was driving back home every two weeks (which was twelve hours round trip) to see one of those aforementioned babes that I had attracted, I needed something that would last. Nope, this isn't where my Honda story starts. Although it would have made sense to have started there, I still had not learned my lesson. Impressing the ladies was still a top priority, so I needed something snazzy. I couldn't afford a whole lot being a college student, so while still being a Pontiac fan, I ended up getting a 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix Coupe. The car was a good car, for what it was, and since I had invested a decent amount of money into it over the next couple years, it was pretty 'cool'. I also put a lot of hard work into keeping it in good condition, which meant cleaning sessions that lasted up to 4 hours long. I was happy with what I had, and wasn't interested in anything else, until one day...
It all happened rather unexpectedly, on a beautiful summer day (which is something special, for there are very few that occur in northern Illinois) at my best friends house. His house was situated on a large, open, corner lot that was set back from the road. His driveway was a long, black strip of asphalt that led up to a three car garage where he and I spent much of our summer days working on our vintage Kawasakis. This day was no different. We were both standing in the center bay, tinkering on his KZ750, when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye, coming up the main road of the quiet neighborhood. It was a car I really hadn't noticed before. I say that, because I'm sure I had seen one before, but had never really taken any notice. This time however, I was transfixed. Watching the car as it came up the road, turning onto my friends street, and then up the driveway until it stopped right in front of me. I stood there starring for a moment, and the first thing I uttered to the young gentleman who got out was, "What is THAT?!" He looked at me with a confused expression. I had never met the man before, so I'm sure he wasn't expecting a greeting quite like that. I shook his hand and quickly proceeded to do several laps around the car, pestering him with questions and comments. "This thing is tiny! Is it fast? What kind of gas mileage does it get? It's a two seater! It looks great!" The first thing that grabbed me was the shape of the car. The design proportions for a car that size were fantastic. The two tone paint scheme really pulled me in as well. Then seeing a 6 foot 2 inch man step out of it, I became really interested. "Is it comfortable for you... I-I mean, the car is so small, and you're not?!" He insisted that the car felt bigger than you'd expect inside and was very comfortable, even on long trips. I wasn't immediately convinced until I actually sat in the car, and when he mentioned that he had just driven 6.5 hours straight from Tennessee without getting out, I was sold. The picture below was actually taken that day, when I 'discovered' the first generation CRX. The car is shown with its owner at the time.
For the remainder of the time that I was there, I took the time to inquire more about the car, while trying not to annoy him. I learned that the car had been in his family since it was purchased new in the San Francisco area. It had been past down through the younger folks in the family that needed a reliable commuter car. All the members of the family that had owned it lived in the south, so it was rust free. Before he left that weekend, I insisted that if he EVER wanted to get rid of it, that he would call me first. He agreed.
Fast forward five years, and I get the much anticipated phone call.
"Hey, I just bought an older Jetta TDI, and I need to get rid of the CRX. Are you still interested?"
That weekend I was on the road heading for Tennessee. I was so excited to get the car, I barely looked at the photos he had sent me of its current condition, and to be honest, I didn't care. I tried to pose a logical explanation for the purchase to my wife, but even she knew that logic was neither a factor or the driving force behind my decision. The six or so hours it took to get there felt like days. When I arrived and turned into the parking lot, there it was after all those years, and in largely the same condition, albeit the new wheels, and some damage to the lower right rocker panel. We exchanged money for title, and I was soon back on the road, and in classic Honda fashion, I drove straight home without an issue, stopping only once to top off the tank. What a car!
Over the next few years of ownership, it took me everywhere, and it never let me down. I went to college in Chicago, and had an hour long commute. Public transportation was my usual choice, but when I had to carry a large design project or supplies to campus, the CRX got the job. It even handled many Northern Midwest winters in style, starting every morning, even in sub zero temperatures. That being said, there were some scary times sliding down the road sideways and praying for traction, but having no ABS will do that some times. After college, it became my daily transportation to work, and when I took a job 700 miles from home, it took me and my belongings on a torturous 13 hour journey through two thunder storms, all on shot wheel bearings.
There wasn't one particular thing about the car that really stuck with me, it was really everything in its entirety. It had looks, style, ergonomics, efficiency, reliability, functionality... it was the whole package. I like to describe these cars as 'surprising'. The exterior is a humble suggestion of its function, but when you get to own and drive one, it doesn't just perform its suggested function, it performs it well, and much more. It surprises you and tosses your expectations out onto the road, all the while leaving a huge smile on your face. I have never had a similar experience with a car, and in return for its many rewards, I will forever be a fan.