Super Low Gear: 1987 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon

A lot of folks would question the wisdom of showing a car like this 1987 Honda Civic Wagon – a 4WD 6-speed cross between a van and a station wagon – here at Barn Finds, but I think it’s fantastic. The seller has this rare 4×4 wagon listed here on eBay and it’s located right where you thought it would be, in the Pacific Northwest corner of the US, in Aberdeen, Washington. The bid is just over $3,000 and there is no reserve.

The 1980s were a funny time and I’m not sure if I mean ha-ha funny or not, but it was that, too. You already know that I’m a wicked huge fan of vintage Japanese vehicles, and especially these boxy 4WD minivan-looking vehicles. A few years ago, I bought an even more rare 1986 Nissan Stanza 4WD 5-speed wagon, and to say that it looks different from every vehicle around it is a huge understatement. A Honda like this 4WD Wagon was also on my list and I almost had one, but a friend… well, let’s just say that he sort of bought it out from under me and that was the last time I was on track to add one to the collection.

They won’t appeal to those folks who think that all Japanese vehicles are made of tinfoil and they rusted on the showroom floor and they’re junk and whatever else sometimes comes up in the comments section. But, for those of us who are aficionados or just plain lovers of these unusual vehicles from this unusual time in the 1980s, they’re hard to beat.

This beautifully preserved 4×4 has only had one owner since it was new which is amazing. I know, that’s only 33 years of ownership and some of you have owned a vehicle that you bought brand new for longer than that, but I think that it’s pretty impressive. My 4WD Stanza wagon had a 5-speed with a 4WD activation button on the shift knob but this Honda has a 6-speed, with one of those being SL, or super-low gear.

The interior looks as perfect as the exterior does, and although small, the rear cargo area will hold a lot of camping gear or whatever, especially if the rear seats are folded down. Honda made more than one level of 4WD wagon. These wagons are more often than not referred to as “Wagovans” which, I believe, is an incorrect term for the majority of these wagons. The Wagovan is more of a base model with vinyl seats and just overall fewer niceties inside. This wagon, like most of them, has cloth seats and rear split-folding seats which the Wagovan didn’t have. For the Japanese market, there was also a van without rear seats called the Pro.

For the 1987 model year, Honda upgraded the 4WD system from a push-button switchable system to an automatic system which is what this wagon has. A telltale sign of that system would be the black wheel covers and, of course, the decals. The engine should be Honda’s 1.5L inline-four with 76 hp and it runs great and was towed behind an RV a lot and still has the front tow bar attached. An odd thing with this listing is that a couple of the photos appear to be exactly the same as a similar wagon that sold on another auction site two years ago, but that one had a different VIN and different mileage. Any thoughts on this Honda 4WD wagon?

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  1. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    I thought these ugly as sin as a kid when they were new. Time has changed my perspective now, great and useful little car. They all but disappeared from the Massachusetts roads a lifetime ago. ie find and nice Stanza wagon also.

    Like 5
    • bry593

      This is the predecessor to the CR-V. Essentially, take this civic and make it a bit taller, round the edges and voila – CR-V….

      Like 4
      • Erik

        I am with you exactly! This was Honda learning lessons that later allowed it to dominate the small crossover market. How many American manufacturers did not do the same and later floundered when the buying public switched tastes and desires with vehicles? My college roommate back in the late 1980’s drove one of these and back then I never thought of it as a cool car but man was it a practical and dependable (we tended to get walloped with snow at college from late October through early April) and hindsight 20/20 it a perfect college student car.

  2. Oldog4tz Member

    Thanks Scotty, I’m currently bidding

    Like 2
  3. Howard A Member

    No faking it here, Scotty knows his Asian cars. I think this is just what was needed for rural travel in winter. The “super low ” gear is all fluff, not sure where you’d use that, it would make a poor rock climber, and with those tires, any mountain pass, or significant snowfall would be tense, but for slippery city conditions, and not guzzle the gas ( 4×4’s usually get terrible mileage in the snow) be great. Asian car shortcomings aside ( poor heaters, terrible seats, tissue paper head gaskets and the possibility of no parts) it’s a nice find. Again, one winter in the salt, the very environment these were made for, they began to dissolve. The only place you’ll find them is west or south, and then why would you need 4 wheel drive anyway?

    Like 3
    • John

      Super low gear is for very steep driveways and going very slowly in bad conditions. My son has an ‘85 and it’s great in WNC.

      Like 1
    • Miguel

      You can use the super low gear to pull out really little rocks or stumps that have already been pulled out by a big truck.

  4. Mitchell Gildea Member

    It’s so ugly yet so cool I want it

    Like 2
  5. misterlou Member

    0 feed back seller + Scotty’s eagle eye about the other auction = buyer beware

    “Based in United States, aleck_90 has been an eBay member since Sep 05, 2020”

    Like 6
  6. Engident

    I am a little concerned about how well a 33-year-old AWD system fared being flat-towed behind a motorhome. That’s a lot of complicated hardware being continually back-driven downstream of the clutch. Are we sure this sytem is still fully intact and installed? Buyer needs to take the hint and ask the right questions. Don’t let internet noise fool you, flat-towing is rough as hell on a car and anyone who says otherwise is either inexperienced or selling something. The condition of the drivetrain, brakes, tires, steering, and vehicle signal lights (if a flat-4 and diodes were hacked into it) should all be considered suspect until inspected. Is it using a breakaway cable system or proportional brake controller? If cable, I do not consider these systems safe. Remove it NOW before it effs up and kills by randomly locking down your brake pedal on the interstate. And that’s not internet BS, that’s me nearly a family member to such an event.

    Like 1
  7. Dave

    Hum. – wonder how this Honda stacks up in comparison to same era Toyota Tercel 4wd wagon. Which I know First hand is a dependable, and repairable in yard kinda car. It also had what we referred to as a low”granny gear”. Nice read.

    Like 1
  8. Steve

    Towing an automatic transmission car around must be hard on a transmission? Especially a 4wd car. Neutral is not the same as in a manual transmission.

    Like 1
    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      This is a 5-speed manual, Steve, if you were referring to the one for sale here?

    • Howard A Member

      A manual in neutral isn’t near as bad as an automatic in neutral. The auto requires oil to be pumped to the parts when running. You have 2 options, a tow dolly, or “wheels down”, which requires some fancy hardware. I know someone, who I will call an idiot, just spent $7,000 dollars to be able to pull his minivan behind his motorhome. It’s an extensive hunk of junk that acts as a disengaging device and also applies the brakes, somehow. I thought, why not just have some sort lockout on the front wheels, like a 4×4. In the RV industry, a sucker is served every minute.

      Like 1
  9. Puhnto

    Always loved these! Never thought they were ugly. But then I have an affinity for odd little cars. They’re fun to drive. Used to see them everywhere, but haven’t seen one in years now. (I’m also in Mass.) This is a nice little car.

    Like 1
  10. michael kelly

    195k miles according to the VIN, 40,000 listed and no photos of the odometer.

    Like 1
  11. Scott

    Too many eBay red flags on this one. New seller with ZERO feedback and no photos of the mileage. Being towed with the wheels on the ground will run up the odometer on this one, I believe. Great little cars, but only if I saw it in person before handing over $$$$.

    Like 1
  12. Oldog4tz Member

    And I’m out at $4500

    Like 1
  13. michael kelly

    Seller hasn’t responded to my question about Carfax reporting 195,000 miles on the odometer.

    I’d stay away from this.

    Like 1
  14. chrlsful

    yep, been toutin these here for awhile, Eagle Summit, Mitsu MPV, the 2 mentioned above. The pre mini-van mrkt. Killed by the minivan. Went for an ’80s Mitsu that was 5 yrs old. Looked under hood to find oil leak @ head gasket. Almost bought it anyway… Still lookin for one (or the ’83/6 LTD/Marquis).

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