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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


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. 


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