Hondamatic Hooligan: 1978 Honda Civic

Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion would have been a heck of a badge on the grille of this 1978 Honda Civic. Instead, the company wisely made it a simple to remember CVCC; that rolls off of the tongue much easier. This white survivor Civic is listed on eBay in Campbell, California with fairly heavy bidding and a current bid price of just over $1,500.

This car looks almost perfect, but the seller does mention a couple of areas that have been fixed and repainted, including the “back driver side” and the “passenger side fender does have paint work do to a dent when parking in garage.” If that’s the worst of it, that’s not bad for what is now a 40-year old car, most of which that haven’t spent those 40 years on the west coast have rusted back into the earth by now.

D’oh! Yes, this car has a somewhat rare Hondamatic automatic transmission. It would make it pretty easy to commute with in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but in almost any other situation a 4 or 5-speed manual would be much more fun to use. Sometimes, though, I have to admit that it’s nice to just put a car into D and go. Not to mention those times when a person sprains an ankle or something like that and then you’re stuck, sometimes literally. You can see some damage under the right side of the rear bumper and a peeling bumper. This car isn’t perfect but it looks pretty nice for being four decades old now.

The seats look fantastic but they’ve been recovered in a different pattern and they’re more of an aqua/teal color than the light blue of the original-color door panels. And, the driver’s seat looks like it could have used a new pad under the new vinyl, but that could be fixed and they could be dyed to match the door panels if the new owner cared enough to do that. I would try to track down some NOS fabric to match the perfect-looking rear seats. The seller has included a few underside photos which is always nice. It sure looks solid under there, as does the spare tire area under the rear hatchback floor.

Here’s that tongue-twister of an engine, Honda’s famous CVCC 1.5L inline-four which in 1978 had 60 hp. The seller says that this car “starts and drives amazing” and that it’s a “2 owner California car with all service records going back to new.” I have never driven a car with a Hondamatic transmission, what have I been missing?


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  1. Steve M

    Nothing…….you missed nothing….my 4 speed was kinda cool when I was 15 years old, but the automatic would be absolutely anemic.

  2. Andy

    I NEVER see these in the Northeast anymore, haven’t in a long, long time. 60 HP might even be reasonable considering this car has to weigh under a ton, but I agree that a third pedal would be welcome especially with such a small herd of horses. I really hope the Hondamatic isn’t closely related to the transmission of the same name that went into a few CB750s and 400s around this same time; there’s a reason it never took off in the bikes.

  3. Blueprint

    There’s no D in a Hondamatic. It looks like a regular automatic shifter, but the driver has to upshift and downshift manually. In my parent’s ‘81 Civic, Hondamatic had 1st and 2nd gears plus an Overdrive, so three speeds to shift. No clutch of course.

  4. That AMC Guy

    I’m pretty sure for 1978 this would have been a 2-speed semiautomatic transmission. You could just leave it in 2nd gear but acceleration (if you wanted to call it that) would be truly glacial.

    As noted, these cars have long since returned to the earth as iron oxide anyplace that has salted roads in winter,

  5. JimmyJ

    Great car terrible transmission

  6. Suttree

    Iconic enough for Quintin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction & Jackie Brown.
    Iconic enough for me.

    • Alex

      If your talking movies another example is from Police Academy. Hightower learning how to drive in one of these & ripping out the front seats to fit lol. Great little cars.

  7. Frank

    These are nice…owned an orange 1976 with a 4 speed when I was 19. Drove it hard for a long time and finally had a rod knock. I understand the carbs on the CVCC were really hard to get right. I believe you can take off the CVCC head and put a 2 valve head on it. Then just change the carb out to a weber and it will probably run with a little better. Probably not worth the hassle because of the automatic and the engine producing 60 HP.

  8. Rodney

    Interesting that at one time everyone had one of these Civics or Accords. Now you never, or very rarely see one on the road. Once a big part of many lives, now an automotive memory. And when one, like this, appears, everyone smiles and is transported back to a much simpler time.
    (And yes, it is true, never touch the carburetor on these if you want to keep the car running.)

  9. George

    Many years ago I fabricated a trike for a friend using this drivetrain. Modified a kit that was supposed to use a VW motor/trans.Added a girder front end , usually used on old skool choppers,and fiberglass body.He had a bad leg so appreciated not having to use a clutch to shift.One wild machine.

  10. Mr Firth

    the brake pedal on these things runs under the dash to the passenger side then through the firewall , a girlfriend of mine had one and I would hold the brake down hard while sitting at red lights when she tried to drive away the car would just sit there and shed freak out I’d jump in the drivers seat and drive off , this went on for a few weeks finally she had me over for dinner with her folks and her dad owned a garage and she going on about the car saying ask him if you dont believe me apparently shed had her dad check it several times , well when I told him he laughed and said he loved it and lets see how long it takes her to clue in . .

  11. Dave

    Rust and a horribly unreliable and overly complicated engine. Had a 76 with a 4 speed, decent enough little car until the head gasket failed, then a CVCC valve broke. I swear they were designed to fail at 60k miles back then.

  12. Rube Goldberg Member

    This is the car that changed everything, for Honda and America. Unlike the 600, it was a real car. I heard the trans was a problem, but most I had seen were manuals, and I’d be leery of this one, as well. At one time, Civic’s like this, were everywhere,,,for a while. Like all Asian cars, this is what happened to most while still running great.

  13. Metoo

    Fairly heavy bidding and it’s only at 1500? It is either day one of listing or cheapskates are bidding it up a buck at a time. But it’s a very nice car with only minor flaws.

  14. fish56

    Nice, little Honda.
    I’d rather have the other car this seller has listed on ebay…a 62 Studebaker GT Hawk.

    • KSwheatfarmer

      You meet the nicest people IN a Honda?

  15. Mark S. Member

    I’ve had three of these in succession a 75, 76, and 77 they all were great little cars, solid reliable fun to drive cars. They all ran well and rusted out prematurely. This brings back fond memories.

  16. Chris Londish Member

    My wife owned a 1980 Accord with the semi automatic Hondamatic great little car and very easy to work on and quite economical, replaced the front struts with gas filled ones and it handled pretty well to although it had a few issues with rust in the A pillars and blew a head but easy to replace to but a little exy

  17. David V Morris

    I had a new CVCC wagon, yes, five doors, with the semi-automatic transmission. Very spacious cargo area and ease of working on them. Good memories!

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