Pre-Hybrid: 1979 Honda Civic CVCC


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When everyone went nuts for hybrid vehicles, I had to laugh. The amazement at the potential miles per gallon! The cost savings! All you had to do was fork over $25,000 for the privilege. Meanwhile, this 1979 Honda Civic CVCC found here on craigslist was pulling off 45 mpg.’s with ease. I’d take one of these over a Prius any day!


The CVCC engine was incredibly advanced for the time. It ran cleaner than the standard engine and could operate on both leaded and unleaded fuel. It met California’s aggressive emissions requirements, and all of those achievements combined to make the CVCC an appealing choice in an era defined by fuel rationing and changing emissions standards.


This particular car has only 113,000 miles, so there’s plenty of life left in its drivertrain. However, there is some body damage to the fender seen here, so you’ll have to source a replacement for that and repair the door (or replace it entirely). The seller did recently replace the carburetor though.


The other side of the car looks better, and this is a great color for a 70s era classic. The interior isn’t perfect, so some elbow grease is needed to bring this one back to new condition. For the price, it could be a cheap entry into classic ownership. Thanks goes to Barn Finds reader Mike F. for the find!

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  1. Scotty G

    I’m not super surprised to see another Prius-hating comment here, but it’s a bit disappointing seeing that this is supposedly a car-guy site. Everyone likes to knock Goliath out whenever possible.

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    • JamestownMike

      I didn’t hear any “Prius hating” in the statement above. It’s good to see older, inexpensive vehicles out there that meet or beat todays Hybrid mpg’s! As mentioned above, you don’t need to spend $25k to get great mpg’s, not to mention your doing one of the most eco-friendly things out there, RECYCLING!

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    • Al8apex

      No “car guy” likes a Prius


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      • hhaleblian

        or Prius drivers. Prius drivers took the “Worlds dumbest drivers” trophy from Buick a couple years ago. I had a Dumbf Prius driver pull a 180 in front of me Friday. Only thing missing was her digit searching for gold in her left nostril. Guess what I was doing with my middle digit?

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      • Scotty G

        Not to generalize or anything.. (cough)..

        Sorry to ruin your set-in-stone statements, Al8apex & hhaleblian, but I’m very much a car guy and I drive a Prius for my business in the summer. I make an extra $200-$300+ a month in mileage income just by driving it and charging per mile. Why wouldn’t I want to make that extra money? That literally makes zero sense to me. I can’t see a thing wrong with that, but what do I know, I’m a “Dumbf Prius driver”, we’re all alike, ya know, dirty hippy tree-huggers (zzzzzzzzzzz)..

        Real car guys do not generalize about cars, or about their drivers. Period.

        I apologize to the author for reading too much into the first paragraph, from the two comments above maybe 1% of folks will see why I’m just a little sensitive about being lumped together with all of the bonehead Prius drivers. Although, if I had a nickle for every bonehead driver who was in a pickup or another non-Prius, I would buy this website.

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    • Dougm

      speaking of Goliath, my parents had one LOL

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  2. Mark S

    Back in the early 80’s I went through 3 of these they were all starting to be rust buckets but great little cars I owned them consecutively so one became the parts car for the next. The gas mileage was as you said above 40 to 45 mpg. The only thing bad was getting over the feeling that a large truck would not see you and role you up into its fender well. You felt like you were driving in covered go cart. They were very agile and great fun to drive. I say replace the fender and door and have some fun they are better than a smart car. Cheers

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  3. JamestownMike

    You should REPLACE both the driver fender and door………good luck finding them!

    I’d much rather have my 1991 Honda CRX HF with 133,366 miles, it’s EPA rated at 40mpg City, 47mpg Hwy, 43mpg Combined. Most real world users report at least 50mpg Highway. Yes, this is a NON-HYBRID 1.5 liter GASOLINE engine. Not sure why they can’t duplicate or beat this using TODAY’S technology??

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  4. Dan

    The reason they can’t beat it with todays tech is because a gallon of gas only has so much energy. It can only move so much weight. That Honda was only about 1500 lbs. Find a new car that weighs less than 2500 lbs today. Plus today we have so many more power robbing accessories. Put todays engine in a light small car with no power robbing accessories and then you will have recreated the Honda, Sprite, Austin Mini, Fiat 850 etc.

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    • Hoos

      Also, today’s gas is full of energy robbing ethanol

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    • z1rider

      Exactly right.

      Cars today are also loaded with safety equipment and no doubt meeting the current crash standards and rollover standards has added weight to the basic body shell. The engine in the next generation Prius will approach or exceed 40% thermal efficiency. Put that engine in an old light chassis and who knows how many MPG’s you could generate, though since they employ the Atkinson cycle they might be a bit doggy.

      For the record, I have no interest in owning a Prius, but I don’t hate them either. I do enjoy reading about the advanced engineering and technology they use, some of which does cascade down to the benefit of conventional vehicles.

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      • David Frank DavidMember

        I had an identical yellow Civic, my first new car, and it was a fun little car, but I would never own one now. Another approach these days is a car like my (ex?) daily driver, a C-MAX energi. I paid 11K for it and it doesn’t use any gas around town and gets about 40 MPG HWY. It’s not nearly as much fun as the Civic but it gets better mileage and is a lot more dependable. (95K and not a single repair) As to the safety stuff, I’d be a widower today without it. A couple of weeks ago my wife was in a freeway crash. Getting rear ended by a truck at freeway speed when stopped would have been messy in that Civic, but it was no big deal in the C_MAX. Wifey was a little sore for a few days, but it gave me one more reason to be thankful.

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      • grant

        Thank you z1! I consider myself a car guy, and while I think the prius is ugly, I love the advancing technology. Back in the day, I’m sure there were folks that thought the horse and buggy were the best thing ever…

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      • z1rider


        You’re welcome and your comment reminds me of a quote from Henry Ford. He supposedly once said ” If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said “Faster Horses”.”

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  5. Fred

    You could find reasonable parts pricing on parts for this at an ordinary parts yard (as opposed to a “vintage Honda” place). I found a door for $70 and fenders for $35- $95 at, which is a database of parts yards nationwide.

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  6. 64 bonneville

    I had an 86 Civic CRX with the fuel injection and 5 speed, and would steadily get 38 MPG running 80 with the air conditioner on. bought it used with 136K on it and 11 years later with 298Kon it sold it to my grandson. He drove it for a while then sold it to one of his friends for 2 1/2 times what his grandmother had told me to sell it to him for. Grandmas’ and grandbabies, always come out first in our family. Ces Le Vie, nes pa?

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  7. Mark 'cuda man

    I have a brand new NOS factory Honda hood for this car if anyone needs one. Let me know (229) 834-9440 asking $275.00

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    • JamestownMike

      WOW! Thats’s one hell of a find!!!! $275 seems like a STEAL for a 36 year old NOS HONDA hood!………where are you going to find another?? You could probably get more than $275 if you post that on ebay!……..of course, shipping would probably be pricey………and hope it doesn’t get damaged during shipment!

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      • Mark 'cuda man

        Ya….it is a steal! There’s a guy asking $450.00 for NOS lug nuts and one outside rearview mirror. This hood be worth $500.00 or more…….but I will take what I’m asking as long as the buyer picks it up or pays a shipper to box and ship it. My asking price of $275.00 leaves the buyer room for this……

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  8. Doug Towsley

    I knew several people who owned these back in the day and they were very much loved. A local car dealer who just passed away was one of the first dealers on the west coast to sell them (Bob Lamphere) and he has one of the first ones in the US on display on a ledge in his Beaverton Oregon showroom. I agree i dont care for Prius’s (Friends call them “Smug Cars”) in that while i appreciate the idea, they are not really that green either in manufacturing, or long term. (Not to mention the battery issue) Locally theres a new company going another direction that I am more enthused about here in Oregon called Arcimoto, They intend to have much better performance and the price point is much more attractive with a targeted price of the next gen coming out at $11,500 and perhaps as low as $7500 in a few years.

    In the interim, I think people are MUCH better off recycling and rebuilding a vintage Datsun, one of these Hondas or an older Toyota with optimized drivetrains and gearing. A Datsun 510 or 620 pickup with a L16 , 5 speed and the right gearing can get excellent mileage and you can do it at a fraction of the prices. My hybrid of a 79 and 72 Datsun 620 pickup is looking at high 30’s mpg and I have $1100 dollars into it.
    I am debating building another with a 6 speed and a small 3 cylinder diesel motor that could put me well over 50mpg or even better. Plus run on flex fuels.

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  9. jim s

    in just about 10 years the first of the prius and insight will able to get antique tags!

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  10. Woodie Man

    I had one of these CVCC’s in law school in 1979. Orange with black matte hood. Ran like a scalded bat out of hell. Lowered and tuned by the speed shop I bought it from I loved it. Only problem I had was the orange color and my lead foot attracted the Chippies on one of my many forays into LA. It was a tight wicked piece of work.

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  11. Corvair Jim

    The first car I ever (legally) drove on the street was a ’78 Civic. You should’a seen the expressions when this 6’3″, 230-lb. guy got out of the thing! To this day I love little cars, or at least cars that are smaller than a big guy like myself ought to like! I’ve owned over a dozen Corvairs (my first automotive love), and my daily driver is a bright red Cobalt SS. If I had the money available, I’d make an offer on this Civic. I have a 60 mile/day commute and my Cobalt SS’s 36 mpg could be better.

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