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Weekly Craigslist Hidden Treasure: 1990 Honda CRX Si Turbo

Car Culture / 14 Comments

How does 400 hp for $4,500 sound to you?

Take one look at the Honda CRX and, honestly, it doesn't look like a whole hell of a lot. Launched in 1984, both the first and second generation CRX were three-door hatchback economy cars built in Japan and imported to the US and other global markets. But looks can be deceiving.

Despite its modest appearance, the CRX was one of the best all-around cars that combined solid handling, performance, and good fuel economy. Perhaps it wasn't until the soon-to-be-dead Ford Fiesta ST did America have such a fine all-around and affordable hot hatch. Wait!? A hot hatch? Indeed.

The Civic CRX previewed the CRX Si, which first launched in 1985. Si stands for 'Sports Injected', hence the more powerful 1.5-liter inline-four engine rated at a whopping 97 hp and paired to a five-speed manual transmission. Doesn't sound like all that much, but here's the thing: the CRX Si weighted only 1,953 pounds.

Combined with its incredible fuel economy, rated by the EPA at 42/51 mpg city/highway, the CRX Si was a one-of-a-kind. And then came the second generation for 1988, the era this week's Craigslist hidden treasure came from.

Although Honda retained the same body style, a number of improvements were made under the skin, specifically the suspension. Instead of the torsion bar in the front and beam axle and trailing link out back, Honda went with a four-wheel double wishbone suspension.

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The following year a new 1.6-liter VTEC inline-four with 108 hp arrived. Once again mated to a five-speed manual directing power to the front wheels, the second-gen CRX Si weighed just above 2,000 pounds, though by its final model year, 1991, this increased to 2,174 pounds. Relatively cheap to buy and run, fun to drive, and solid Japanese build quality is what attracted customers to the CRX Si, a car that Honda, in all honesty, didn't have to build, but did so anyway.

Many mainstream American sports car buyers at the time didn't fully recognize (or simply didn't want to) the appeal and possibilities of hot hatches. Sure, there was the Dodge Omni, notably the Shelby-enhanced Omni GLH, but Corvettes, Camaros, Firebirds, and Mustangs were still seen as the "real" sports cars.

Unfortunately, Honda did away with the CRX Si with the targa-topped del Sol for 1992. Yes, there was the del Sol Si but its character was different from that of its predecessors. It felt and drove more like a mainstream economy car rather than something with some attitude. Today, it's the CRX, most notably the CRX Si, that has achieved long-lasting fame, hence our interest in this JDM SIR CRX Si Turbo.

For $4,500, you can get your hands on this clearly modified hot hatch, now rated at 400 hp, according to the Los Angeles-based seller. What are some of those modifications? An engine swap and turbo addition occurred at some point in the past. Fortunately, that swap was for another VTEC engine, the JDM B20 2.0-liter inline-four, now paired to an also Honda-sourced LSD transmission. 'LSD.' Say what? Like the drug? Uh, no.

In this case 'LSD' stands for limited slip differential, the very same transmission that came with the 97-01 Integra Type R. What's cool is that the seller swapped the original engine and transmission for only Honda replacements. Nice. The guy also added a Garrett 10 psi turbocharger, SiR front end (SiR was a JDM trim only), and a camber kit, used to correct wheel alignment and provide camber adjustment for tracked vehicles.

Considering the seller claims over $10k has been invested here, the $4,500 ($4k without the rims) asking price sounds pretty fair. 400 hp in a three-door hatchback this small and relatively lightweight? Try not to have too much fun.