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Thread: Honda CVCC

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Honda CVCC

    In 1970, Datsun began selling the car that would make its reputation in the U.S. -- the 240Z. Amid the lumbering behemoths that ruled American highways, the agile little sports car was a real stand-out. Long hood, raked windshield and compact passenger cocoon ending in a tight little rear end. A Japanese Ferrari GTO. As GM stylist Bill Mitchell once quipped, "If you're going to commit robbery, rob a bank -- not a convenience store."

    In its initial form, the 240Z was a two-seater; the only American car fitting that description was the Chevy Corvette (and some might argue the American Motors AMX; but that was just a shortened Javelin, so it's really not fair to count it).

    The 240X's in-line six cylinder engine wasn't the equal of the big V-8s in Detroit muscle cars like the Corvette -- which in 1970 could still be ordered with a 450-hp 454 V-8 (7.4 gas-hogging liters), but the Z's nimble suspension and light weight made it a better balanced, superior handling car. It was also well-built (though the bodies were exceptionally rust-prone) and an absolute blast to drive.

    The Z is no longer with us -- its distant cousin, the 300ZX, having been retired a few years ago -- but Nissan would not be the company it grew to be had the 240 never been born. Today, the 240Z (and even the later 260Z models) is regarded as a classic and Nissan even sells factory reconditioned Zs to enthusiasts (not cheap!)

    The other car I wanted to mention is a landmark vehicle as well -- but for entirely different reasons. Anyone old enough to remember the automotive scene in the mid-to-late 1970s, when godawful Mercury Zephyrs, loathsome Dodge Aspens and other, similar atrocities were being offered by Detroit, will likely remember the scrunchy little Honda Civic of that era. The ugly little beast proliferated across America like fire ants over a Vietnam POW smeared with honey. It made Honda into a multinational juggernaut.

    But the Civic was so good it sold despite its cockroach countenance. Most of the cars, foreign and domestic, built after 1974, were uglier than 20-year-old leisure suit. But unlike most of the cars of its time, the Civic was superbly engineered. The 1975 model equipped with the Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion engine was the first car to meet the strict exhaust emissions requirements of the 1970 Clean Air Act -- without a catalytic converter.

    While Detroit's Big Three were frantically band-aiding engines designed in the 1950s to meet 1970s air quality regs, Honda began with a clean sheet of paper and developed an entirely new engine that ran so efficiently it didn't need chemical exhaust scrubbers (which is what catalytic converters are). It also ran better, having been designed with low octane, unleaded gas in mind.

    The CVCC engine was a real achievement and impressed many U.S. buyers -- who never looked back and have bought Honda products ever since. GM, meanwhile, tried to sell Vegas with leaking cylinder heads and diesel-converted Oldsmobiles that needed new engines every six months. Chrysler developed the "lean-burn" 318 V-8, which had the operating characteristics of an emphysematic West Virginia coal miner. Ford gave us the pinto-based Mustang King Cobra. Remember?

    My point in mentoning these things is to admit to myself and hopefully get you, the reader, to consider that the Japanese automakers did a lot to earn their current place in the American market. They built good cars and people responded.

    The Big Three have a legitimate beef about changes in federal law (specifically, federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, requirements) that gave an edge to foreign competitors who specialized in small cars. But the fact is Detroit was content to enjoy the dominant position it had attained by the late 1960s and didn't begin to seriously address the foreign competition until Honda, Datsun and the others had already established themselves in the U.S. marketplace.

    What's ironic is that at least one of the Big Three (General Motors) had designed, built and sold an exceptionally good small car with state of the art features (all-independent suspension, unitized body, rear-mounted engine and transaxle) back in the 1960s. But because of cost-cutting (GM saved an estimated $5 per car by not installing a critically important rear suspension component on the early models), this car got a bad reputation for dangerous handling and ended up being discontinued after the 1969 model year.

    The car? The Chevrolet Corvair. It was Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" in 1960.

  2. #2
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    Re: Honda CVCC

    Eric,

    Well said, the poor Corvair did get shafted. And the pity is that the later Corvairs had very good rear suspensions and had the complete package - peppy acceleration, great bodystyle, good weight distribution, reliability, etc. Chevy/GM should have stayed with this platform and updated it for the 1970s. But instead went to the Vega which was at first a sales success, and then later on became a really big flop due to all the mechanical issues.

    My Uncle had one of the early CVCC Honda Accords. It was neat little car that proved to be a great commuter car for him for many years. Do you remember that the CVCC when it was first released it ran so clean (on the emissions front) that it was not required to have a catalytic converter (which of corse helped performance).

    This is a CVCC Accord that I found on the Internet:


  3. #3
    mrblanche
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    Re: Honda CVCC

    However, one really big point here. At the time, Honda's ads said, "Honda--We make it simple."

    Of course, that was a blatant lie. Front wheel drive actually made cars a good deal more complicated and harder to work on, beginning the slide for the home mechanic's popularity.

  4. #4
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    Re: Honda CVCC

    Our family had one of those Accord hatchbacks when I was growing up. Dad had just had a disasterous Audi 100LS (nearly bankrupted Audi!) and was impressed with the Honda's engineering and thoughtful interior features like the maintenance reminder in the instrument cluster, and the numerous places to stash things.

    He eventually gave it to my sister. In the salty Charleston ocean air, it soon develops a bad case of surface rust. No worries -- she would drive it home every now and again, and some sandpaper plus some Krylon silver paint would fix it right up. Eventually, the roof rusted all the way through, and she had to get rid of it, with 140,000 miles on the odometer in a era when domestic cars were lucky to break 100k.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

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    Re: Honda CVCC

    chiph,

    One really bad downside to the early Japanese cars was the Japanese steal would rust so very quickly. It was not of as good of quality back then as the steal used on American cars.

    mrblanche,

    Have to agree with you, the introduction of FWD/transverse engine mouting, working on cars would never be easy again. Most people can't even change a lightbulb on their cars these days. I knew plenty of people who gave up working on their cars because of these FWD platforms and the computer chip controlled engines/transmissions.


  6. #6
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    Re: Honda CVCC

    Even the steel used on American cars wasn't that good back then. The difference was that the US makers had better paint application, so as long as you didn't get a scratch that penetrated all the way through the paint, you were OK. In the case of the Japanese makes (Honda, Datsun, Toyota) the paint was really thin and so allowed moisture to penetrate fairly quickly.

    The introduction of hot-dip galvanizing really revolutionized the car business. Cars no longer had body-cancer after only 4 years.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

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    Re: Honda CVCC

    chiph,

    There was a difference in the steel. The Japanese steel purification process was not as good as the steel made in the US in the 1970s and most of the 1980s, there were more impurities in Japanese steel. Having more impurities in it made it easier to be corrupted by the elements. By the late 1980s Japanese steel had improved and was on par with US steel.

  8. #8
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    Re: Honda CVCC

    This article (Honda CVCC) has been posted on the main page - to see this article with pictures go to the below link:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...6&Itemid=10814





  9. #9

    Re: Honda CVCC

    My oldest brother acquired himself a wrapper brown 1977 Honda Civic with the "Hondamatic" transmission back in 1988. The price? $50. A friend's neighbor was about to haul it away for scrap when my brother leapt at the chance of owning it. He named it "The Pug" as he thought it was an ugly little car. He used it whenever his daily driver was in the shop (a 5.0 L Mustang at first - then a used Corvette afterwards). He kept it for 3 years and it ran flawlessly (yet it was still ponderously slow). He gave the Pug to my second oldest brother, who in turn used it for 2 years of high school without giving him any trouble. He got into a University that was approximately 3 hours driving distance away. I expected the car to be handed down to me as the "Hondamatics" were NEVER meant for excessive highway use.

    He insisted on taking the Pug with him for his first semester. I knew the car would never make it there. To the Pug's credit, the engine blew just when he reached the city limits of his Alma Matter. He pulled over walked 15 minutes to the nearest scrap yard. They gave him $40 scrap value for it AND they gave him a lift to campus. Now that's value for your money. I'll miss that car.

    I've been looking for one of that vintage lately today (obviously a stick shift version) ..... it's a lot harder than you think.

  10. #10
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    Re: Honda CVCC

    Those old Hondas are extremely hard to come by. I checked Autotrader and Cars.com and only found like 10 or so.

    I loved the 1976-1981 models the best. They had a nice smooth engine with decent pep. I drove a couple of them back in the early to late 1980s. They belonged to friends. (I preferred the 4 door model since it had more room.) They were capable of about 105 mph.

    My brother had a 1987 Accord which I drove from Texas to Alabama and back. I had it up to 110 mph for an extended stretch in western Alabama in 1995, the year before the speed limit was increased to 70 mph. It felt better at 110 than it did at 75. It was a very competent automobile. Unfortunately, it had the carburettor. I would have hated to work on that. EFI was actually a lot easier.

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Honda CVCC

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry
    Those old Hondas are extremely hard to come by. I checked Autotrader and Cars.com and only found like 10 or so.

    I loved the 1976-1981 models the best. They had a nice smooth engine with decent pep. I drove a couple of them back in the early to late 1980s. They belonged to friends. (I preferred the 4 door model since it had more room.) They were capable of about 105 mph.

    My brother had a 1987 Accord which I drove from Texas to Alabama and back. I had it up to 110 mph for an extended stretch in western Alabama in 1995, the year before the speed limit was increased to 70 mph. It felt better at 110 than it did at 75. It was a very competent automobile. Unfortunately, it had the carburettor. I would have hated to work on that. EFI was actually a lot easier.
    The reason for that is rust, I think...

    While they had tough drivetrains, thin gauge metal and poor rust-protection combined to Swiss cheese the panels within a few years of purchase. After 30 years, most have returned to the iron oxides from whence they came!

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