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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for July 2010

OBSESSED: Finding the Perfect 1992-1995 Honda Civic (End Game)

 

One cool spring night, amidst groggy stamps of the refresh button, a turquoise angel materialized from the dirty glow of Craigslist. Blood in the water. Young men go crazy for 1992-1995 Honda Civics with “ricer” potential. It’s not uncommon for the two door coupes to sell within 24 hours of being posted for sale if they’re in any kind of passable shape. 

This greenish diamond in the rough was no coupe. It was pure and simple a virgin example of possibly the most sought after ricer platform of all time:

“1995 HONDA CIVIC HATCHBACK - $3,000” 

My eyes scrambled desperately over the ad, knowing full well countless other millennial types would soon be discovering what I had stumbled upon. 

“Calm down,” I said to myself, “Go through your protocol. Use your training.” 

Deep breath, deep breath and instantly I was alarmed again by two more glaring pieces of ricer bait: 

“-Manual transmission
-Infiniti sound system with subwoofer and preamp”

Whoever got to Mountlake Terrace first with $3,000 was going to buy this car and promptly destroy its practical sportiness with a coffee can muffler and poor musical taste. I was the only one who could stop it, but already there was a seventy-five percent chance this little egg of a car would fail my criteria.

It was a DX, the base trim package for the Civic, meaning there would be no power options included. I didn’t care about that. The real issue was air-conditioning. Of the countless DX model Civics I had called on in the past months, not one was equipped with AC. This was a deal breaker, but everything else about the car was perfect: 

“-Original owner 
-120k miles
-Timing belt replaced at 90k miles
-All records of scheduled maintenance”

If it checked out you couldn’t have asked for a better-preserved specimen. The new timing belt and low mileage made it probable that the engine would be tight for at least several more years, especially if the current owner really did have proof of oil changes, recommended services, etc. If only it had, 

!

“AC”. 

No. It couldn’t be. This was a DX. I had already responded in person to no less than three LX model Civics, the upper-end trim level that was SUPPOSED to have air-conditioning, only to find a void behind the radiator where the assembly should have been…

The ad listed the owner’s phone number and first name. On Craigslist including such personal information in a car ad before checking out the prospective buyer made this guy either naïve, respectable or a complete monster…

It was 8:38pm on a Tuesday. The ad was roughly three minutes old. Chances were close to half a dozen people would soon be calling the same number I just had to come see the car the next day. By then it would be too late; she would go to the highest bidder. 

The owner sounded upstanding and sharp over the phone, assured me the Civic did indeed have AC and gave me directions to his apartment. In my sock drawer there was a bank envelope with $2,800 cash in it. It was time to end this. 

Stay tuned.
  

OBSESSED: Finding the Perfect 1992-1995 Civic (PURCHASE)

In most cases, when a guy has $2,800 cash burning a hole in the glove compartment of his 1991 Dodge Dynasty after dark he's about to do something illegal. All I wanted was to purchase a 1995 Honda Civic hatchback before the Craigslist vultures picked it to pieces in the morning. 

It was 8:52pm on a Tuesday, several miles outside of Mountlake Terrace where the little import, posted for sale only minutes prior lay waiting at the mercy of the first person to arrive and claim it. 

The owner’s voice sounded respectable over the phone, but also mentioned to take my time getting to his apartment as he’d be up all night. In a desperate hurry while scrambling out of my house, I hadn’t thought to ponder this, but now on the road to his place it made me wonder if this Craigslist socialite was waiting for a fresh slab of meat to chain to his bedroom radiator. 

His apartment complex appeared clean and respectable. In front of the building the teal hatchback sat parked smartly in a covered stall, barely visible under the soft glow of a street lamp. I phoned the owner (we’ll call him Jim) and told him I was outside by his car. 

Moments later Jim trotted spryly down the stairs, revealing himself as a young, reputable man with a firm handshake and a winning smile. 

On the test drive he explained he was an ex-firefighter training to become a nurse, hence working a graveyard shift at the hospital, sleeping days and trying to get rid of his reasonably priced Civic on his night off now that the hospital gig had given him the breathing room to purchase a Mazda 6.

The Civic had belonged to his father before him. From the looks of the swollen beige folder of service records dating back to ’95, Jim’s dad was a real by the book scheduled maintenance kind of guy when the car was under his care, to the point that he sounded as if he might have squeezed several diamonds into the crevasse of the driver’s seat in emergency braking situations. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my dad refused to spend more than $800 on a pickup truck but really knew how to pick ‘em. The Civic drove as good as any car of its age could be expected to, but with three grand at stake his final judgment was needed. Jim said he could wait. 

At my parents’ house, I roused dad from the couch, informed him of the situation and stressed that time was of the essence, as was a proper pair of non-pajama pants, preferably without a Twinkie the Kid pattern on them. Dad was a volatile mixture of excitement and annoyance of being awake.

Back at the Civic, Jim gave us the keys. Dad took the wheel and navigated to the nearest grocery store parking lot where he parked us under a street lamp.

“You should never buy a car at night,” he said, “It’ll never look that good in the daylight.” 

Wise words, but it was obvious the Civic’s body was 90% straight. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone with a teal paintjob. With that cleared up, Dad took the car out to the street. 

“When I’m test driving a car, I mash the s*** out of it,” he said, “If it drives the same after I do that I know its probably going to be okay.”

Before I could question the accepted method of test-driving a car circa 1976 Yakima, Washington, he dropped from third to second gear and redlined the little engine until I thought it was going to explode. It didn’t. Dad shoved it into third without touching the clutch, then dropped back to redline in second, letting the revs slowly descend to a reasonable level while glaring intensely out the rearview mirror. 

“I don’ see any smoke,” he said. “It’s tight.” 

Oh good. The Civic passed Dad’s test. I slapped $3,000 cash in Jim’s hand, put two new tires on it and haven’t had a problem since…

Well, the muffler leaks like a kazoo with emphysema, the brakes pulse like a clothes dryer with an uneven load, the Air Conditioning sucks more than it blows, road noise makes my girlfriend wonder why I’ve been yelling at her, my friends would rather hang out in the Dynasty than drive anywhere in the Civic, but none of these things cost me a dime. 

30mpg combined. 

Mission accomplished. 
  

Fiesta Movement Grand Finale!

 

No, Team Seattle did not win. Team Houston did. But before the final vote was cast the guys from the Emerald City put up several impressive missions that were perhaps too real for the mainstream Internet browser to handle. For starters, they teamed up with Roxy to:

“.. Design a T-shirt, Hat, and Tote trifecta that speaks to bold, confident women everywhere. Born out of a sense of excitement and passion, the Tiffany Ta x SOTA design evokes the basic, raw emotions that fuel action and adventure. Our colors bleed a sense of life into every piece, simple, and effective. Designer Tiffany Ta and Roxy athlete Amy Murphree inspired the designs.” 

(http://tiny.cc/5a5w0)

Fashionable? Yes. But the final mission called for State of the Artist (Team Seattle) to produce a short film. Not the half-baked acid-trip kind I shoot for MotorSpaceNW with a digital camera, but a professionally done piece to be shown before a screening of Iron Man 2 in Seattle. From the press release:

“SEATTLE, Wash., May 25, 2010 – To their extensive list of creative credentials, Seattle hip-hop artists Parker Reddington and Nate Fihn will be able to add a new title: Filmmaker.
The Capitol Hill residents have created a short film, “Monday Thru Saturday,” which will
premiere Wednesday, June 2, at the Pacific Place 11 theaters, 600 Pine St., in Seattle. It hits the big screen just prior to the 8 p.m. showing of “Iron Man 2.”

In the film, five roommates take turns driving the Fiesta for their individual jobs throughout the week. Peculiar situations and interesting characters arise, making for a truly quirky adventure.” 

Map Quest screwed me over and I wound up at the wrong theater on the night of the release, but you can still see the film composed by Stephan Gray at SOTA’s YouTube channel:

http://tiny.cc/sbyln

Sadly, the film, complete with clown bashing, weeping brides and a Fiesta fiesta, was the final mission of the Fiesta Movement Chapter 2. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a refresher from Ford on SOTA’s aforementioned titillating missions: 

“Previous missions for the team included the following activities:

-Partnering with local artists to create a wallscape mural that doubled as a functional guide
to their 10 favorite places and activities that make Seattle buzz. For three weeks, it was
featured outside of Mama’s Mexican Kitchen, 2234 2nd Ave. in Belltown, and featured a
unique SMS code, which fans and followers could text for more information;

-Working with fashion athletes and designers from the brand Roxy to create a design that
may go on hats, tote bags and T-shirts; 

-And showcasing SOTA’s new album, SeattleCaliFragilisticExtraHellaDopeness, during an 
album release party in Capitol Hill, an event that was promoted through their Fiesta
Movement Web page…” 

Speaking of which, Seattlecalifragilisticextrahelladopeness, a collection of collaborations with some of the biggest names in the Seattle hip-hop scene is already seeing play on KEXP and other major Seattle stations while attracting enough attention to warrant a review from The Seattle Times’ spectacled wonder, “Matson on Music”:

http://tiny.cc/2boyo

Be sure to check the comments left below the review. Matson can get a little preachy. 

As for the Fiesta Movement itself, SOTA couldn’t quite muster the votes to take top honors for Chapter 2. Here’s the big news from Ford:

“…When the book was closed on the last mission in Ford’s social media adventure, it was a team from Houston that emerged as winners of Fiesta Movement Chapter 2.

As winners of the second chapter of the Fiesta Movement, agents Mark and Amber from Houston will each receive a new 2011 Ford Fiesta. The two agents, however, decided to do something unique with one of their Fiestas – they are donating it to a local Houston charity, Noah’s Kitchen, which helps to serve the less fortunate with meals. Fiesta will serve as the first fleet car for Noah’s Kitchen and help them achieve their goals.”

In terms of raw numbers, Ford is reporting that overall agent postings throughout the Fiesta Movement garnered:

-Nearly 500,000 YouTube views
-More than 70,000 Flickr views
-More than 10.7 million Twitter impressions

Not too shabby for experimental grassroots marketing. To see what all the hype was/is about, check out the main Fiesta Movement page at:

http://www.fiestamovement2.com/


Catch up with Team Seattle on their movement page:

http://tiny.cc/rg63r


Get into State of the Artist and the Seattle hip-hop scene at:

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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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