My Civic Wagons...

Hey doods!

My RT saga...(it really is a "saga")...

My Civic Wagon purchase started off as "just a car" to move my drums. I had previously owned an '82 Audi 4000s until the automatic transmission blew up (hate automatics). With a ridiculous repair cost of $2500, fixing the transmission became completely cost-ineffective. I do my own repairs 95% of the time, but fixing the Audi required over $1,000 worth of tools I wasn't willing to purchase for a 1-off repair. But I digress...

I looked on Craigslist and found a '91 RT for $1500. The car was in very good shape, but yet another automatic...this one a 4-speed...argh... About 3 months post-purchase, the tranny blew up. After shopping around I found a place that would fix it for $1500...argh.... I grit my teeth, and paid the money. I justified the cost by convincing myself that the repair would last for the remaining life of the car. In retrospect, this was foolish thinking, but I'll get to that.

One Christmas Eve I came home from a gig @ 2:00 AM. I needed to run into the house in grab something. I live in a middle-middle class neighborhood, which is remarkably devoid of crime. So I left the car running, ran in, grabbed what I needed, ran to the fridge, drank some juice out of the container, and ran out – 60 seconds total. The car was gone…<sigh>…

After 3 weeks, I decided that I wanted to replace the RT with another RT. At the time I was working on remote location film sets that bogged down 2WD cars. Plus I ski, so it was nice having a 4WD for ski trips. So I decided that I wanted another RT.

Again, I found another RT (1988) on Craigslist for $1500 with 160K on the odometer. I had sworn off automatics, so I was very happy that this was a 5-speed with a granny gear! Kewl!! The previous owner owned a shop, dubious in nature, so “trust” was an issue. The car ran good. Everything worked, including the AC. So I grit my teeth and purchased it.

In the years to follow I would find several annoyances – like non-matching front brake calipers; stripped brake line nuts that were obviously tightened with pliers (a “mechanic” who doesn’t own a line wrench????); radiator fans that were from some other vehicle, held in place with bailing wire (literally). Stuff like that. Other than these annoyances (which were all eventually PROPERLY repaired), the car has [mostly] run well.

Fast Forward 9 month, and I get a call from a police officer; “Mr. Frank, if you don’t pick up your Honda Civic Wagon from Brand-X towing, the car will be crushed this afternoon.” I was very confused??? “You found my car??” “Yes,” said the officer. “How long has it been impounded?” “About 8 months.” “WHAT?!?!?!??! Why didn’t you inform me?!?!” “We sent a certified letter.” “Oh….you mean the letter that arrives in the middle of the work day and must be signed for???!!! ARGH!!!!!!”

Long story short, I grabbed my spare key and headed down to the tow yard. There she was in all her glory. Note: The previous owner had painted the hood black with a rattle can, which had naturally partially worn off. So it kind of looked like there had been a fire under the hood. The tow guy says, “Looks like someone set it on fire.” Funny…it DID kind of look like that. I went over and inspected the car. There were kid’s toys and candy in the back seat. Apparently the thief was a family man. Nice going, dad!!” An expensive receiver I had written off was still under the driver seat. Bonus! Other than that, everything looked good. I turned the key, the battery was dead.

I went back inside and the guy says to me, “Storage fee is $800.” I laughed and said, “For a car that’s been on fire?? Keep it.” The guy asks, “What’s the car worth to you.” Me: “I replaced it a loooong time ago. I’ll give you 100 bucks.” The guy said, “Fair enough.”

So I got one of his employees to give me a jump. She fired right up! HA! I drove her home. I was now the proud owner of 2 running RT’s.

Long story short, the ’88 quit running, so I just sort of parked it. But then the tranny – the one I had paid $1500 to repair – blew up on the '91. ARGH!! I went in the back (where the spare tire is kept) to grab the receipt (kept all receipts with the spare tire), and they were all gone. The thief had decided to remove and throw away all receipts. The tranny repair was about 15 months old – out of warranty by 3 months – and I had no receipt, and therefore, no leg to stand on. It killed me, but I let it go.

Turns out the ’88 wasn’t getting spark, so I starting moving parts off the ’91. The distributor was the culprit. I’ve been driving the ’88 ever since.

The ’91 is now my parts donor. I can’t tell you how many parts I’ve taken off that car, including the correct caliper, driver-side window crank and on and on. Funny, the ’91 LOOKS good. So I keep it clean and keep the street around it clean, and the neighbors don’t complain. She’s been tagged a couple times. I just push her a few feet, clean her real good and all is good. The windows have a strong tint, so I can keep RT parts IN the car, as well.

I have to say that the RT has become my favorite, everyday driver. I own several purpose-specific vehicles (like a 1976 Ford F-150 long bed, super cab and a ’98 CRV), but I honestly like the RT the best. She consistently gets 32-36 mpg.

I honestly don’t have many photos of her, but I DO have a video or 2 that feature the beast. They are VLOGS, but my mechanic friends say they are good tutorials. They weren’t really meant to be tutorials, but I digress….

Here they are if you’re interested….

Story about my RT’s…

Timing belt, water pump, main seal, motor mounts...

Valve adjustment (FF to 8:35)

AC compressor (whole system, really), motor mounts, re-assembly of the pumps-n-belts, etc…

I look forward to learning more about the RT, and perhaps sharing some information, too.



  • Awesome story! I've had a few Hondas stolen so I feel your pain. I haven't had a wagon stolen but shortly after I sold one I got a letter from an impound lot letting me know they recovered my car so it was stolen before it was even registered. :(

    Would you say the 88 is in a finished state at the moment?
  • hii nice write up thanks for this i have one question, what is the towing capacity of this vehicle? And can i use this for car towing service, and how long can i tow with this?
  • hii nice write up thanks for this i have one question, what is the towing capacity of this vehicle? And can i use this for car towing service, and how long can i tow with this?

    I don't think there is any towing capacity with a wagon. There ARE plenty of people who tow with them but there is just not enough engine torque or braking to make it safe. If I had to put a number on it I would say 750lb or less. Very small trailer. Certainly not another vehicle.
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