Steve Rogers steps back in time to drive a classic from the seventies


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WHAT were you doing in the seventies?

I was driving a Renault 5, wearing bell bottoms, tank tops and shirts with wide collars and platform heel shoes which, much to my embarrassment, I fell off and twisted my ankle.

We were glued to the tele watching The Good Life, Fawlty Towers and The Sweeney and bopping along to music from T-Rex, Slade, Gilbert O’Sullivan and a new band, the Electric Light Orchestra.

It was a big decade for Honda with the launch in 1972 of its ground breaking Civic supermini with the slogan ‘a car for all people, a car for the world’.

And it had a pretty revolutionary engine with a pretty long name – Controlled Vortex Combustion Chamber fortunately shortened to CVCC. Revolutionary because it didn’t need a catalytic converter or unleaded fuel to meet the strict US emissions standards.

Back then the little Civic was said to be ahead of its time bringing new levels of luxury to a small family car. I didn’t even have a built in radio in my Renault but the Civic did along with a hideaway roof aerial, heated rear window, tinted windows, wood grain effect finishing on the dashboard and, for the pièce de résistance, a two speed fan which was bigged up in the brochure for the 1975 Civic.

The brochure featured a bright yellow Civic and I have been for a quick – well not too quick – spin in the very same car brought to North Wales by Honda for the Welsh Motoring Writers Awards along with a few other gems from the Honda heritage fleet, in particular a 1990 NSX, the supercar of its day, still feeling as good now as any modern day sports car.

Back to the yellow Civic, MLA 993P, a diminutive little thing, and all but a metre, a little over a yard in old money, shorter than the Civic of 2018.

It clearly did not take much to impress us 40 odd years ago. There was nothing much in the way of creature comforts on the family wheels. First job is to pull out the roof mounted telescopic aerial and open the door with a key, one of those metal things!

Right, what’s next? A bit of choke to get the cold engine going, wind down a window for some fresh sea air, and away to go.

Gently does it with the engine, the old girl deserves a bit of TLC, and this steering, not power assisted, is a bit on the loose side, at least a couple of inches of play before feeling a connection with the front wheels. Fair bit of play in the gear lever gate too but four decades ago we wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

The steering wheel rim is so thin and there is nothing but a couple of equally thin stalks for lights and wipers, a far cry from today’s chunky, button ladened offerings.

I have to use the wipers but it takes me an age to stop them on rest, there were no self cancelling wipers on basic cars in those days.

Due respect is given to the Civic, no more than 50mph, but for the record it has a decent top speed of 90mph from its 50bhp engine which needs 15 seconds to reach 60mph and should have been good for 45 to the gallon.

Contrast that with today’s ultimate Civic, the brutal Type R which needs a mere five and a half seconds to hit 60mph, drives as if it’s on rails, and turns heads because of the Billy Wiz styling. It is the hottest and most capable Type R ever but what a pity its front drive wheels are still plagued by torque steer.

That said trying to keep any performance car with 300bhp thundering through its front wheels is never going to be easy. This Typre R is better than before but not quite perfect.

On the SUV front the new CR-V is already in the showrooms but without a diesel engine option, and it is not going to get one. Honda is concentrating on cleaner, more frugal petrol engines so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

The world’s best selling SUV is aiming for the premium end of the market with a more luxurious interior and for the first time is offered as a seven seater. Under the bonnet is a newly configured version of the excellent 1.5 litre VTEC turbo mated to a six speed manual or an upgraded CVT automatic. Price range: £27,855-£36,455.

* Honda UK received the Terry Davies Automotive Award recognising its reliance on component suppliers in Wales for production at its Swindon plant where the Civic is built.

The Tom Pryce Memorial trophy went to Dayinsure Wales Rally GB which organises the UK round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

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