A few years ago I got a text from a friend with a link to a Craigslist post. He knew I had been looking for a cheap car for my girlfriend, and at that time I had a garage that was perfect for working on something that needed a little help.
The post was for a Honda of indeterminate model, but it was definitely a 70’s car and some shade of red. My wheelhouse. It was listed for $800, ran when parked. That phrase has been a long standing joke, because everything runs until it’s parked. Unless it’s still running, it ran when it was parked.
“For sale: 1982 Land Rover. Still running, hurry and come get it before the gas runs out.”
After nights and nights of texting, I was finally able to go and check out the car. It was on a dark street and I only brought a crummy flashlight. It was a pleasant 70’s orange rather than the reddish-maroon the pictures made it look like. It shared it’s year with my orange Chevy truck: 1975. I couldn’t tell if there was coolant in the oil, and when I tried to jump the 10 year old battery it turned over but didn’t even cough. I had my friend, my truck, and a tow strap. She said if she didn’t sell it it was on it’s way to the Pick n’ Pull. I had a feeling there was a breakup story with this car, and I felt bad for her. Not bad enough to drive it away that night for less than $300, though.
I’d later come to understand that this particular Honda CVCC was a unicorn — stuck between 1974 when there wasn’t strict emission standards, and 1976 when every car had to have cleaner exhaust. The CVCC has an amazing little 4-cylinder engine, outfitted with a 3rd valve in each cylinder so it can run cleaner than any other car at the time.
Even though the 1974 model of the Honda CVCC was running well-within the standards that the United States federal government had set, they decided to change the design of those auxiliary valves ever so slightly on the 1975. This wouldn’t be a problem if they hadn’t decided to do the same thing again the next year — marooning this car and it’s parts on a very lonely island. 1975 Island.
I eventually got this car running, with the help of a fantastic forum and a brand new Weber carb. I rebuilt the top-end and we put new tires on it, too. My girlfriend Julie drove this car everyday to Portland Community College and back, and halfway through a winter without heat in it. She’s moved on to something more dependable, but we still have the car and it’s my cheap, fun project now.
People like this car. They take pictures of it, and pull over just to talk to me about it. A lot of people had this car when they were growing up, or they learned to drive on it. It’s an easy, fun car, but it’s also over 40 years old so I have a long list of things to do to it.
This car, and every car I’ve owned, is why I started Last Vehicle. Cars with character, history, and utility left to them.
I’ll keep you updated on all the small things I do to this small car. Mostly, I drive it. But every once in a while I’ll get an itch and dig into it. Like the cassette deck I just put in it. More on that in a later post.