R.A-S.H: The Honda Civic Shuttle.


Welcome to Part Eleven of The Series That Refuses To Go Away.

Over the last few days I’ve been rather indulgently wallowing in nostalgia, and you  American guys are probably utterly fed up with it. Today I thought I’d throw it back open to a car that was familiar on both sides of that big wobbly wet mass that separates us.

It’s the Honda Civic Shuttle.


When I was little I had a strange love of engorged, enbiggened versions of familiar cars. There was the Toyota Tercel and it’s ugly mutant  four-wheel-drive derivative, then there was its later Corolla cousin, naturally Soichiro’s boys had to wade into battle with a jumbo-ized hatchback of their own. It’s raison d’etre:

“Whether you require a large amount of interior space or whether you need a vehicle that can take you virtually anywhere you want to go at any time, the Shuttle is the answer you’ve been looking for.”

I’m going to say this only warrants a hyperbole rating of about 5/10, because I totally dig what they’re getting at. You just have to have a pinch of salt handy for the “virtually anywhere” stuff. That bit was mostly directed at the all-wheels-driven variant.

The semi-egrigious “Real time 4wd” was one of my favourite bodywork decals, ever, and was prominent on the four-wheel-drive model, which in ’87 had gained an automatic viscous coupling, which, “automatically”:


“….Transfers torque to the rear wheels in “real time” whenever the front wheels begin to lose traction due to ice, snow and gravel etc.”

That’s getting pretty close to the crux of what the Shuttle 4WD was all about; traction in all weathers. Sure, it was an impressive little tool if you were trying to negotiate, for instance, a particularly muddy campsite or trying to haul a heavy boat up a greasy slipway. But this wasn’t about to follow any Jeeps into the Jungle.


“The instant you slip into the drivers seat you get an impression of complete control”

Again, this is hyperbole, but only of the low-level, “can’t think of anything better to say” grade used by estate agents, vacation booking firms, that kind of thing. What we had here was a bone-stock Honda Japanese small car interior, albeit quite a modern one and very well put together. Versatile, too, with rear seats that folded flat and all that space out back.

As a car, though, it had purpose and wasn’t afraid to wear its utilitarian heart on its sleeve. I dig the way these look, especially from the rear three quarters, where that kooky deep rear window proudly announces that this Civic has a bit extra to offer. I used to see these around every now and then, but can’t remember when I last saw one. But hey, At Least I Own The Brochure.

<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author on his bathroom floor and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, who sadly no longer write their car’s entire specifications down the sides in graphics>

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15 responses to “R.A-S.H: The Honda Civic Shuttle.”

  1. longrooffan Avatar

    I love the 4Wd version. My Dad owned one of them back in the day. I told him that when it was time for it to go, I wanted to be on the top of the list of interested buyers. Sadly, one of my older sisters talked him out of it, drove it for a short time and traded it for a Camry. Sad that all of my siblings are not as car centric as this olelongrooffan is. Still looking for one today though.

  2. Larry Forney Avatar
    Larry Forney

    Went on a long road trip in one of these when I was in High School (20 years ago). Totally used the 4wd to get to some good campsites in Moab, on some very loose desert sand. Also cool were the those funny rear windows that wrapped up onto the roof. There was a useless little 1 inch by 9 inch skylight up there. The flip-up center vent was pretty fly too.

  3. rennsport964 Avatar

    Our family had one in white, before the 4WD version came out. In the US, it was simply called the Civic Wagon. We called it the Four Door Toaster, because, well, duh. It looked like Honda supersized a household appliance, especially in white.
    It was carbureted and had hoses going everywhere. Made 75hp, I think, and ate carburetor plates for breakfast. No power steering. But it had great visibility and utility. I learned to drive on it. Also probably saved my life. For that, I will always look fondly upon it.

  4. Vavon Avatar

    I never understood the design-language behind those strange looking rear-windows.
    The Japanese were apparently really fond of those as the Toyota Tercel had them too!
    <img src="http://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2010/09/06/15/16/1986_toyota_tercel-pic-7156898367507254428.jpeg"&gt;

  5. Preludacris Avatar

    I'll take one!
    As an aside, don't Google image search "I'll take one!" at work.

  6. Slow_Joe_Crow Avatar

    The US market model was called the Wagovan, perhaps in reference to the contemporary VW Vanagon. They had a decent reputation and a family friend who owned one was very happy with it, although I suspect they had tinworm issues when exposed to road salt and were not as unkillable as the Tercel since I haven't seen a "Curbside Classic" feature on it yet.

  7. Alff Avatar

    In my previous life as a ski school instructor in Washington state my peers highly overindexed for ownership of these … two hours from town, frenquent super-heavy wet snows, tree huggers who embraced car pooling decades ago and a state that wisely refused to salt the roads (they prefer sand, the real man's answer to moisture-based traction challenges) made for the perfect market. Meanwhile, I lumbered along with a Fox-body 'Stang with air shocks to accommodate the 80-series snow and ice radials I got from Grampa's old Buick.

  8. RustyCSX Avatar

    I very briefly had a non-4WD one of these, an '85. Mine was gold with a gold interior, with upholstery that was the same as that gold, brown, and orange plaid couch that everyone in the early 80's had. If it was a 4WD one, I would have hung onto it longer.

  9. krazykarguy Avatar

    As a self-confessed Honda fanboi, I would take a mint-condition Civic wagon any day of the week.
    However, the last of these dissolved into the New England roads around me at least a decade ago. Too bad, because they are so reliably bulletproof that had they not been so susceptible to rotting out that most of them will still be on the road today.

    1. Stephen Hood Avatar
      Stephen Hood

      "…had they not been so susceptible to rotting out that most of them will still be on the road today." Huh?

      1. krazykarguy Avatar

        What I meant is that if they hadn't all dissolved, they'd almost all still be toodling around New England roads with 500k miles on them.

  10. cheapthrills Avatar

    During high school (late 90's/early 2000's), while at the bus stop, I used to see two of these driving together every morning. One was gold-beige, and the other was baby blue. They both started as stock, but I watched them get slowly ghetto-modded with loud exhausts, poor tint, super blue headlights, Pep Boys wheels, and Si-R badges aplenty. It always brought a smile to my face. I find it especially adorable that two buddies with the same car would follow each other to work every day.

  11. KevinKiley Avatar

    Nice use of the word embiggen. and remember, "A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man"

  12. Wrecksdart Avatar

    Had one of these myself, The Blue Wedge, a hand-me-down on its third/fourth? owner that I used to get myself from South Florida to Delaware (empty) and then Delaware to Cali (very, very full). Blew a tire in Nebraska somewhere and had to unload the whole damned car to get the spare while my GF of the time captured my joy in pictures (and didn't lift an ounce). Going over the mountains was an interesting and at times death-defying endeavor, but the car made it without any hiccups.
    The Wedge ran strong for another few years but developed a head gasket leak shortly after a beer/substance/mania run through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Got another $75 for it from the local NPR station and bought myself a pair of pants and a Twelve-pack. Great freakin car.

  13. marmer01 Avatar

    The first car I ever bought new and paid for with my own money was a white '86 Civic Wagon. For an econobox, it had a lot of cool features:
    Flip-up or down center vent and under-windshield vent which could allow indirect A/C
    Parcel shelf under the glove box and storage drawer under the passenger seat.
    Fold-flat front and rear seats
    Reclining rear seats.
    Rear skylights (really)
    Cute little change drawer under the drivers side dash
    And…. better interior materials than even mid-price cars today.
    It was geared for load-carrying and 55 mph, which meant on the highway you shouldn't really count on talking to anyone.
    If I had the room I'd still have it today, but the tinworm got it and the carburetor outstripped my mechanic's ability to tweak it to pass emissions inspection. Sold it for $200 and bought a headlight shell for the Audi.

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