Rare AWD Wagon: 1989 Honda Civic RT4WD

When Honda makes special models, more often than not, they stand alone in the marketplace. Take, for instance, the sports cars – the S2000 and the Acura NSX. They are top-flight performance cars in every sense of the word, built with Honda reliability so that even mere mortals can own and maintain them. But there are less heralded models that have achieved similar levels of novelty for their engineering and packaging, the four-wheel-drive Honda Civic RT4WD is a terrific example of this. These compact wagons with mountain goat tendencies were years ahead of the curve and hard to find today. Check out this low mileage example here on craigslist in Maryland for $4,995.

The Civic RT4WD came equipped with the same motor as found in the spunky CRX Si, and could be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission. That was the hot set up, as first gear was designated “ultra low” to help out with low traction situations. I’m less informed about how the automatic gearbox was set up to compliment the all-wheel-drive system, but it shouldn’t diminish what the road test editors at the time deemed as being very respectable capabilities when the going got tough. The interior of this Civic is in excellent shape and seems to support the low mileage claims.

The Rio Red paint over white-painted steel wheels was perhaps the most recognizable configuration for picking an RT4WD model out of the crowd. The body shows evidence of gray primer in places, specifically above the inner fender arches on both sides. These spots were rust-prone on 80s and 90s Hondas, so I’d want to ask whether the primer is due to a proper fix of a rust issue or if it’s simply masking a problem that will eventually have to be addressed. The body otherwise appears to be in very good condition, but given most of these Civics 4WDs were used in snowy climates, I’d want to poke underneath to see if there’s evidence of spending a few years up north.

The Civic retains its stock dual-outlet muffler and OEM taillights. While it has some rough edges cosmetically, just finding one of that that hasn’t been modified or turned into a parts car due to prolific rust makes this one a stand-out for anyone who’s been hunting these elusive 4WD wagons. The automatic may kill off some interest, but given this is the most recognizable color combo for a 4WD model, I suspect it will strike some nostalgic cords with at least a few potential buyers.

Comments

  1. Ralph

    Listing on Craigs says ad pulled by owner.

    • Cooter914 Cooter914 Member

      Must have been a good price. 🤣

  2. Bo

    Already gone. These were really cool when they were new.
    It’s hard to think of these as classics but I’ve thought of early CRX and SI’s as classics for while. Late 70’s and 80’s Honda’s are cool in the same way that 1980’s Japanese high end electronics were pretty cool.

  3. CJinSD

    I worked for a new car dealer during the summer of 1989. We had new car franchises ranging from Chrysler and Oldsmobile through Saab and Subaru. The best cars we sold were Hondas though. They heady years of being able to treat aspiring Honda customers horribly were fresh in the memories of our management. By 1989, there were secret rebates to dealers on Preludes even if Civics and Accords still flew off the lot.

    One of the more interesting Hondas was the Real-Time Wagon, which had the high-performance Si engine and was available with a 6-speed manual, even if the 6th gear was a super-low granny for off roading. We didn’t have any on the lot while I worked there. I asked about it, because I’d have loved to throw my dealer tag on one and drive it around for a couple of days.

    The manager lit up and said: “It’s great! We only get two or three a year, right at the beginning of snow season! We can charge whatever we want!” That’s when I realized that the dealership would rather rip off two or three customers than sell a dozen cars for a reasonable price. This was not too long before Honda’s US distributors started getting indicted for manipulating allocations. When I wanted a new Honda, I drove to a distant city and bought it from a salesman who sold more cars than the entire dealership where I’d worked.

    Like 1
  4. Frog Man

    I had this same year Honda waggy in the less desirable combo 2wd auto picked it up on craigslist, i had been looking for 6spd awd, i ended up flipping it with a reasonable profit to a guy who ended up buying it then giving me a 87 Dodge Raider that is still chugging along almost always locked in 4wd. Wish i still had that Honda.

  5. JoeNYWF64

    I wonder how far those side windows roll down.

  6. Big C

    Do not use the word ” spunky” and CRX in the same sentence.

  7. Emel

    Good example of: there’s a collector out there for everything.

  8. chrlsful@aol.com

    looked hard when in the market. Few’n far but OK prices.
    Whats up w/auto, still 6 speed and a ‘granny’?

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