A year ago I sold the second car I owned, a 1996 Honda Civic. A second child was on the way, and the thought of having two car seats and a double stroller in a Honda Civic was like being told I had to build my own space shuttle – theoretically possible, but it was never going to happen. I’d owned that car for six years and 130,000km. It had seen me graduate college, get married, and brought home my first-born daughter.
So I wrote it a touching Craiglist ad (which was promptly taken down):
For over a millennia, the car has been the driving force behind all mankind’s achievements in engineering and discovery. From Issac Newton’s first 0-60 time, to pioneers driving Fords through rivers on the Oregon Trail, to me using the Dodge tool in Photoshop; cars are woven into the lanes of the human condition. But despite all this, one question has stood out and challenged the greatest minds throughout history: what is the meaning of car?
Today, we have that answer: The 1996 Honda Civic LX four-door sedan (with manual transmission).
What car says ‘car’ more than this car?
It has an even number of wheels, attached to axles. Yet another wheel controls its bearing. Foot levers determine its velocity. Dual-purpose transparent windows allow the user to view the world around him or her whilst also providing protection from the elements. Door mounted hinges allow ingress and egress. It has everything you come to expect from a car WITHOUT distracting frivolities, like power locks, power windows, power mirrors, power seats, heated seats, leather seats, cruise control, traction control, dual zone climate control, air conditioning, a sunroof, cigarette lighters, foglights. Satellite navigation? Why not gaze upon the stars, like the great Christopher Columbus did when he set sail for Indianapolis.
The 1996 Honda Civic LX goes forward, backwards, and around bends. Do you need anything else? I hope not! But if you’re worried about the four horseman of the apocalypse, have no fear. This car has the power of at least several more horses. Put your foot down and you will, eventually, be rewarded with all those horses grunting and buzzing and gnashing and stumbling and farting almost in unison. Impressive as that may be, these are not thirsty horses (about 7.2 L/100km city/hwy combined). Double wishful suspension and four astoundingly adequate tires provide give you the confidence to go around many corners at a reasonable speed.
You may turn corners, but you won’t turn heads. The 1996 Honda Civic LX was designed to never, ever attract anyone’s attention, ever. Are you a suspicious character who does suspicious things? Are you a teenager? Did I just ask the same question twice? Then this is the car for you. It is quite possibly the most boring item on the face of the planet. Babies fall asleep looking at it. Police officers cannot see it. Animals occasionally run into it because they cannot sense it as a physical object. Welcome to the invisible car.
Now, what’s life like inside the 1996 Honda Civic LX? Have you always wanted to live in a bowl of porridge? Well, you’re weird. But this may be the car for you. Never before has so much brown and beige been condensed into one space. Also it has dual cupholders and a 12V power outlet.
This then is truly an car. It moves humans and their cargo from destination to destination in a moderately competent manner. It can be controlled by limbs and a brain! It provides faster-than-walking transportation! It provides a view of the road and traffic within its immediate vicinity! It has an MP3 CD player! There is literally nothing else to distract you.
Here now is a list of distractions.
- Mystery! Danger! Moral quandaries! Live life like Jason Bourne on the way to the Safeway to pickup milk. Because the transmission may fail at an indeterminate date in the future. At any time. It might have failed whilst you read this sentence. It might fail during the Justin Bieber’s tenure as Prime Minister. But much like the idea of print media as a sustainable business model, it is on the way out. Two different mechanical assessments are available for further review.
- The SRS (Secondary Restraint System) light has been on since 2007. This most likely means that the airbag system needs maintenance. But instead of worrying about this, try this top tip: don’t crash. Not only do you save money on maintenance, you save money on insurance, on medicine, and… on life.
- The ‘little click-y thing that turns off the turn signal when you’re done turning’ (which is the scientific term) does not work between October and May.
- The clips that hold the sun-visors in place above your head have ceased to exist.
- Do you enjoy dubstep, but wish it lasted less than a second and only occurred once in awhile? Then enjoy the weird thumping noise from the rear suspension trailing bushings, which may (but not necessarily) need to be replaced.
- It once got in a fist fight. Someone punched the front right fender. I don’t know what the 1996 Honda Civic LX said to deserve it, but be advised that this car may have unpopular political opinions. Regardless, the fender is merely dented. It’s simply a cosmetic issue. And maybe a slightly aerodynamic one too.
So it needs work. Who among us doesn’t? Look at this car as a symbol of human existence. In that: it exists.
Panache. Power. Pantomime. Prestige. The 1996 Honda Civic LX has none of these. What it does offer though is a chance to go back to the basics. Back to the heart of the automotive experience. Back to… the car.
So ask yourself, ‘what is car?’
This car. Is car.
And it can be your car.
tl;dr Honda Civic. Runs. Good on gas. Needs work. Boring.