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S Package Survivor: 1983 Honda Civic

When gas mileage was king but the Big 3 were still cranking seriously heavy iron, Honda surveyed the situation and gave the people a reason to enjoy being thrifty: the 1983 Honda Civic “S” package, like this example seen here. Although the sheer horsepower number may seem laughable, the ability to drive the wheels off of this blacked-out hatchback quickly put naysayers in their place. This original Civic S here on eBay is a seemingly rust-free survivor, and bidding is just over $1K with no reserve. 

S package Civics received a few special treatments, most notably the S badges on the grill and rear hatch (thankfully, not lost here after a previous owner performed a repaint) and firmer suspension underneath. Slightly upsized rubber was incorporated, along with a red pinstripe inserted into the bumper line and lower beltline trim. The wheels were unique to S cars as well, incorporating a tasty bit of dish on the 13 inch rollers. This one appears to have all those upgrades preserved, although there’s no telling if the suspension has been updated.

The interior looks quite nice, with red inserts in the factory bucket seats and Honda’s trademark buttery-smooth manual gearbox. The floormats are from a later model, and while I appreciate the attempt at keeping it OEM, I’d source a period-correct set of OEM carpets. The seller claims this car has been well-maintained, and the only reason for the sale is an attempted downsizing due to a pending relocation. There’s over 230,000 miles on this car, so the repaint likely helped correct years of dings and cosmetic damage – but it’d be nice to know what maintenance was performed in that time as well.

Original books and manuals are always a good sign that a car has had loving owners along the way, and this Civic S seems to check all of the boxes for being a fun classic to own on the cheap. Parts are affordable, though it is getting harder to find good, clean sheetmetal as these cars have disappeared from American roads with the exception of places like the Pacific Northwest. Check to see if the timing belt has been replaced and if the carb’s been rebuilt, then go from there with forming a reasonable purchase price.

Comments

  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Wow, that’s a great find, Jeff! I haven’t been so tempted since.. well, since yesterday.. I need help. This is a rare car and no reserve?

  2. Rich

    Why does a1983 car have a 1982 owner’s manual?

    Like 1
    • Adam T45 Staff

      Rich, that may be dependent on what month the car was built. If it was built in the last few months of 1982, for registration purposes it may have been classed as an 83 model. However, Honda would’ve classed it as an 82 and in that case it would receive an 82 Owner’s Manual.

  3. RoughDiamond

    Love the car, but never buy a vehicle with a trailer hitch. Should bring good money though.

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Interesting comment, RD. Both my ’64 Buick Wildcat and ’84 Ford Sierra wagon had trailer hitches installed by the dealer before delivery to their original owners and I have had no issues with either. The previous owner of the wagon used to tow a travel trailer (caravan in these parts) or his wife’s boat around the South Island of NZ.

      I’d be probably more concerned knowing if the Honda has structural rust issues or rust repairs in the floorpan and/or rocker panels. In this country, these Civics were serious rusters, along with everything else that was locally assembled in those halcyon days of the 1980s.

      Other than that, these ’80s Civics offer great reliability and fuel economy, along with a reasonable degree of comfort and practicality. I can see why you’d be tempted, Scotty.

  4. Mr. TKD

    Now there’s a remnant of my high school years. I bet it will still work wonders with a gallon of petrol.

  5. SebastianX1/9

    230,000 miles on that engine – fantastic! I had a 1979 Accord, boring tan/tan, that burned oil after 150,000, and the hatch thoroughly rusted in Miami – but was still running great when I donated it to a charity. These had no resale value in the late 1990s. Epic torque steering – not a performance car, not even slightly. Super reliable though.

  6. Brad

    Great shape – if the underbody is in similar condition to the interior & exterior, this should be a fun little car to own. Had a look at the eBay auction – underhood pictures show this car has air conditioning, too. I’ve seen a lot of Civics from the early 80s, and don’t ever recall one with a/c. It’s a basic economy car, but at least it can be enjoyed during the summer without being uncomfortable.

  7. jason

    obviously the seats were very poorly and cheaply redone with Chinese vinyl and some crappy red inserts. looks horrible. anyway paying over 1200$ for this will be totally unknowledgeable and incapable of repairing the items it without a doubt needs much overdue maintenance. I’d bet my eyesight there’s a significant amount of crappy bodywork ,rot and body filler under the cheap black paint someone laid down

  8. rbtempe

    I had one when new. Bought it right off the showroom floor. Loved it.

  9. DayDreamBeliever Alan (Michigan)

    Seeing that hitch bar sticking out the back tells me that the car may have been used for autocross back in the day. It was (and still is) common practice to have a small trailer to carry the competition-only tires along, instead of stuffing them into the interior.
    I looked at one of these when it was new, with the specific purposes of DD/Weekend autocross in mind. Opted for a Plymouth Colt GTS instead, as I felt that it handled better on a test drive. That car got me to the top slot at the 1985 National Championships event, no regrets!
    Oh, and the Colt got a hitch, and it easily pulled a little clamshell trailer for tires and tools.

  10. Steve

    I owned two of these, and SebastianX1/9 is right. The torque steer was unbelievable. After driving mine, a friend said he didn’t feel so much he’d driven the car… rather he was “dragged along behind it!”

  11. Tigger

    The 3 I owned were badged 1500S, but no trailer hitches. lol
    I’m tempted, for nostalgia purposes.
    I was picking these up in the early 90’s for 500 a pop and drove them a year before converting them into ice racers. Good (cramped) times.
    All 3 of mine went well over 300K before they were re-purposed for winter weekend fun.
    For reliability, I would consider upgrading the carb to a weber.

  12. Maestro1

    Good advice Jeff, well done.

  13. Mike R.

    I was a technical at the local Honda dealer from March ’83 till March ’14. I got to prep and drive these when bran new. Loads of fun to drive. We did mods to some of the salesman cars. Mugen had an awesome catalog of go fast and handling package. Seat centers were black corduroy when new. Torque steer was never a problem, just know it’s coming and roll with it.

  14. PAW

    Ah! Blast from the past

    Drove well over 200tkm (from ~120tkm to ~350tkm) with one over 7 year period while studying.

    Ended up dismantling and rebuilding the car E2E two times during the ownership. This car taught me to sandblast, weld and apply lead on welds and to paint. Also to do mechanical work like changed gearbox twice as they seemed to be a weak link with my driving. Engine was dead reliable and did not burn a bit of oil when i sold it @ ~350tkm.

    By far the biggest issue was rust: sills, rear schock mounts and hatch bottom and corners of the rear window

    Torque steer? Not present at all in my car even if I was running larger and wider rubber part of the time. Your suspension must have been off from their correct settings

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