Rust Belt

Still holding it together...but just barely.

Still holding it together…but just barely.

Beaters this bad are a rarity these days – so much so that this corrosion conveyance merits its own blog post.

Yes, this is the sedan version of the 4th Generation Honda Civic (1987-1991), a popular compact that started life weighing 2,200 pounds, but in this case has probably shed weight since.

Badging on this rusting relic was non-existent, but judging by the bargain basement black bumpers, it’s a low end trim level – likely the DX or the unfortunately-named STD (an apt designation for a ‘stripper’ model).

The late-80s Civic had style to spare! (*cough*)

The late-80s Civic had style to spare! (*cough*)

Assuming that all cylinders are firing, the owner of this Bush, Sr. era econobox regularly enjoys either 70 or 92 horsepower from the car’s fuel-injected 1.5-litre engine.

But the age of the vehicle isn’t what made me stop, it was condition all the way.

Clearly a car that has seen much use in the salt-encrusted northern climes, the fact that this less-than-cared-for ride is still on the road is a testament to the Civic’s rock-solid drivetrain.

Though less common on the road nowadays, Civics of the late 80s and early 90s used to be a big deal. Affordable, easily customizable and with inherently good handling, old Civics possessed compact clout. Sedans weren’t as appealing as the two-door hatch, however.

As I marvelled over this car, nostalgia crept into me, along with some questions.

Once upon a time, rusty beaters held together with duct tape and chicken wire used to be a much more common sight, at least in my neck of Ontario.

Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, the roads seemed filled with aging Oldsmobiles covered in rust and Bondo, vinyl tops faded and peeling.

1972 Buick LeSabre Custom, spotted in Edmonton, Alberta.

Quintessential ‘beater’ (1972 Buick LeSabre Custom) spotted in Edmonton, Alberta.

What was it? Are newer cars just better built, and thus don’t rust so badly? Not according to the Pontiac Sunfire in my work parking lot.

Were interest rates so high back then that fewer people financed new cars? That could be partly true for the Eighties, when 20% was deemed low.

Maybe it’s just the haziness of memory, and the fact that back then, a ‘beater’ meant a landau-riffic road yacht from the Seventies. Plenty of contrast to be had between one of those square-rigged barges and your average modern hatchback.