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No Reserve Low-Mile 1996 Honda del Sol

Honda developed a reputation of marching to the beat of a different drummer, producing some of the more interesting small cars to grace showrooms and our roads. Nowhere is that better demonstrated than with this 1996 del Sol. This two-seat sports car features a relatively small powerplant, but its performance makes it a giant killer. This Honda has a genuine 69,000 miles on the clock, presenting well for a survivor. The seller has listed the del Sol here on eBay in White Marsh, Maryland. Bidding has raced to $7,100 in a No Reserve auction.

Honda introduced the Civic del Sol to the American market for the 1993 model year but dropped the “Civic” reference in its sales literature in 1995. It featured distinctive styling, a two-seat interior, and a removable targa top. Some cars from this era haven’t aged well, but the del Sol’s styling remains surprisingly crisp and modern. This 1996 example is a one-owner vehicle that was ordered in Flamenco Black Pearl. It presents pretty well for an original and unrestored survivor, with no significant flaws in its panels or paint. Some photos show what appear to be runs on the rockers, but I believe this is from someone making merry with detailing spray rather than a sign of substandard paint touch-ups. Honda focused heavily on rust-prevention strategies during the 1980s and 1990s, making this car’s rust-free status unsurprising. The lack of interior moisture damage confirms the top seals are in good order, and the distinctive 14″ alloy wheels are free from stains and curb strike damage. The glass is in good order, and the plastic shows no signs of UV damage.

One of the acknowledged weaknesses of Hondas from this era is interior trim and upholstery prone to deterioration and wear. This del Sol has avoided the worst of those problems, with only slight stretching and wear on the outer edge of the driver’s seat revealing its active life. The remaining upholstered surfaces are excellent, with the dash and carpet above average for a car of this vintage. Hiding behind the little door forward of the shifter is an aftermarket Pioneer CD player. That appears to be the only addition or modification to an interior that features dual airbags, air conditioning, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, and cruise control.

Lifting the hood reveals what makes the del Sol stand apart from mere mortals. The thought of a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine sending its power to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission doesn’t sound like a recipe for excitement. However, Honda’s VTEC engines broke new ground in performance, with this one churning out 158hp and 111 ft/lbs of torque. Those figures are modest by modern standards, when many similar cars place over 200hp at the driver’s disposal. Considering an entry-level Civic delivered 106hp and 103 ft/lbs, the del Sol promised an entertaining driving experience. The ¼-mile journey should take 16.1 seconds, while the VTEC will transport occupants to a top speed of 131mph. The seller indicates this del Sol has a genuine 69,100 miles on the clock, and they appear to hold documentary evidence. They don’t supply specific information about how the Honda runs or drives, but the odometer reading and comprehensive service history suggest the news should be positive.

Japanese cars from the 1990s don’t typically generate much excitement when they hit the market, although there are exceptions to every rule. This 1996 Honda del Sol graphically demonstrates that, attracting an impressive twenty-nine bids at the time of writing. Its overall condition and odometer reading suggest it could top $10,000 before the hammer falls, although a higher figure is possible. It won’t appeal to everyone, but that is true of any vehicle. However, if an engaging driving experience in a small car with a peppy engine sounds irresistible, it could be worth submitting a bid. It is guaranteed to find a new home in a few days, and yours could be ideal.

Comments

  1. Avatar photo Troy

    Nice little car, its right at the mileage to do the timing belt and water pump but taken care of this will last a long time, however it does have the easy to steal it ignition so I would recommend a kill switch.

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      The good news is, it’s a stick shift, so fewer thieves know how to work a clutch, LOL!

      Like 7
  2. Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

    I cross-shopped these against both the Toyota MR2 and the Mazda Miata before finally selecting a Miata, for three (3) reasons. First, like the Toyota MR2, Honda dealers were marking these up at $3k above list price with a “Additional Dealer Markup” (ADM) or “Availability Charges” at the time, and I had never paid list price for a new car, let alone over list price, and I wasn’t going to start then. Second, the targa roof is a pain, and unless you’re over six (6) feet tall, requires two (2) people to remove. I was 59.75 inches tall and driving solo mot of the time, so the roof would be staying on the car most of the time, which defeats the purpose of buying an open-roof car! You could get a power retractable roof in Europe and Japan, but not here in the North America. If I could have gotten the power roof, that would have solved that problem. Finally, I always felt that the driving wheels were at the wrong end of the car. If Honda had mounted the engine behind the rear seats, like a Fiat X1/9, I would have been more open to buying one. As it turned out, Honda copied the formula for the Miata with the S2000, but that came later, and by then, the Del Sol was history!

    Like 2
  3. Avatar photo George Poppenwimer

    I’m 5’4″, 112 pounds and 75 years old and I remove mine by myself all the time. Unlatch it, tip it up, lean forward and slide hand to middle and lift off towards you. Of course I’ve had a lot of practice, bought my 94 Si new in December of 1993 and have 198,000 miles on it.

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      That extra 4.25″ of height makes a big difference, both in arm length and leverage. I weighed 95 pounds, soaking wet when I looked at those, so when you find a girlfriend who’s my size and ask her to do it, see what happens, then we’ll talk!

      Like 0
  4. Avatar photo Dan

    For a pre-Y2K Honda from MD this is remarkably solid and well-presented. But the thing about the Del Sol is that the body flex was notorious, plus these were easy to steal. In 1992 this was the spiritual 2-seat successor to the CRX and I think Honda would have been better off rolling out a redesigned CRX instead. But this looks like a good one with the desirable VTEC and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one eventually top $14K.

    Like 0
  5. Avatar photo Otterdog Member

    I’d be interested if it were not on the wrong coast. Always loved these little cars, and a manual! Win. Friend is not impressed, calls them del slow

    Like 1
  6. Avatar photo Michelle P

    I worked in the service department of a Honda dealer from 89 until 94. I remember when the Del Sol came out in 93. Very cool little car. The 2 common customer complaints both had to do with the roof. Most of them either leaked or rattled, leading us in the dealership to nickname the car “Del Soak”. Since I left the dealer in 1994, I wonder if Honda got the roof issues sorted out by the time the 96 model came out?

    Like 1
  7. Avatar photo PRA4SNW Member

    I’ve always been curious as to the sportiness of this car, compared to its contemporary 2 seaters: Miata, MR2, Capri, Fiero (well, that was dead by this time).

    Any opinions would be welcome. A link to a review from that time would be nice.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      I test drove all of those cars when new, and the two best examples were the MR2 and the Miata. The MR2 was probably the best handling example, but only available with either a sunroof or T-Tops in the first generation, you couldn’t get a true convertible until the third generation cars, and servicing the mid-engine mechanical bits (engine, transaxle) will always be a challenge. My previous comments about the Del Sol still apply, so there’s that. The two (2) American examples, the Capri and Fiero could’ve been contenders, but their inferior execution of the concept left me cold.

      The Fiero’s shortcomings have been well documented (Iron Duke engine in early cars, overheating, plasticy, cheap looking interior and subpar build quality), so I’ll not repeat them here. The fourth-generation Capri was actually a captive import, based on a Ford of Australia product that shared underpinnings with a Mazda 323. The high dash and cowl forced a high, upright seating position, and the convertible top mechanism was harder to raise and lower than the class leading Miata’s. Like the Del Sol, the engine and transaxle were driving the wrong pair of wheels, since the bits were shared with the front-wheel-drive 323. More of a sporty car, aimed squarely at drivers of the VW Rabbit/Golf Convertible instead of a true sports car, a pretender to the throne in every respect.

      GM’s second attempt at an entry level sports car, the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky/Opel GT triplets, was better than the Fiero, but still was inferior to the Asian competition, the Miata and Honda S2000. Again, the engine and transmission were buzzy & harsh, and the top was also difficult to raise & lower, far inferior to the Miata’s one-handed operation. They were better than the Fiero, but still fell short of the mark.

      Speaking of the Honda S2000, it was perhaps the purest example of the breed, but was about $3k more expensive than the Miata. Featuring a 9000 rpm redline, with razor sharp handling, that screaming engine and razor sharp handling came at a price, and the price was a harsh ride and a constant need to row the gearshift to keep the peaky, noisy engine in the power band. The LCD instrument cluster, with a “hockey stick” tachometer and digital speedometer, was hard to read, with a “Tokyo-by-night” vibe that I found irritating. A great track day car that was tough to live with during a daily commute.

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo 370zpp Member

        The S2000. You said “the purest example of the breed”. I couldn’t agree more. I had an 03 and then an 04. The 04 had more shoulder room inside, but still tight. No, not a daily driver, but definitely had batsh*t crazy acceleration. Nothing like it on 4 wheels.

        Like 0
  8. Avatar photo 370zpp Member

    My opinion:
    Miata, MR2 – True sports cars.

    Del Sol, Capri, Fiero – sporty cars.

    Like 4
  9. Avatar photo jwaltb

    It’s not one owner, as a dealer now owns it. The dealer also has a pretty poor EBay seller rating, so caution is the byword here…

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo JDB

    I was lucky enough to get to drive one of these around in the early 2000’s. The lucky part is it was an undercover car for the local PD I worked for. It was red with gray interior and a manual transmission. Boy, did I enjoy “work” in that car.

    Like 1
  11. Avatar photo Big C

    I was always waiting for Honda to come out with the Vegetable del sol version, for those ecology folks

    Like 0
  12. Avatar photo RobbyME

    Hi, had a 94′ Del sol, black no vtec. drive train solid! I live in maine. got the car in 97′ just before the ice storm! this car was a champ in winter! there was a squall type area for 10mi. from Portland to Lewiston on the pike. w/snow tires could drive through a snow bank…small car could park in snow mound! put lots of mi. high 160k, messed up front end…bags popped…radiator fine! drove it home!

    Like 0

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