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Hagerty Employee

Hiroko’s Honda

Sometimes, the most ordinary cars have the most extraordinary stories. Five years ago I spotted the golden-brown flash of an original first-generation Civic turning down a side street, and I gave chase. Good thing I did, too, because that one little Honda unraveled a hopeful tale that continues surprise me.


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New Driver

My father bought a 1976 Civic similar to this one, but red and with the manual rather than the Hondamatic.  Mechanically, it was dead reliable.  The body, however, fell apart within 4 years (we live in NS, right on the ocean).  He had to get bodywork done to it to make it safe to drive.  Honda had a recall on it for that reason, but because Dad sold the car before the recall, they wouldn't reimburse him for the bodywork.

That being said, it was a fun, zippy little car that was great for commuter duty.  So much so that Dad replaced it with a 1980 Civic.

Intermediate Driver

Most people aren't un-young enough to recall that the reason rust didn't completely kill the reputation of Japanese cars in the USA and Canada when they were newly introduced, is because American and Canadian and other imported cars rotted before your very eyes, if you lived where roads were salted or cheek by jowl of the sea.  

New Driver

I guess that qualifies me as un-young. 😉
Advanced Driver

American and Canadian cars still rot before your eyes!!

There's a difference between rust that looks ugly and rust causes a structural collapse to the point that the doors won't open. That was my uncle's Civic within 4 years. I guess I'm un-young enough to remember.

This is more than a car story and for that I am grateful.  Welcome to Canada, Hiroko.  It's a better country for having people like you in it.

Pit Crew

The very first car I bought as an US immigrant back in 87 was a silver 1980 Civic. As a self-supporting college student, I used that car to do pizza delivery during the day on weekdays and all day on the weekends, while I went to college at night. Despite all that mileage and the abuse I put that car through, I never had a problem with it and had to gas  it up only once a week. I truly loved that car. It was a zippy fun little car that got me almost thru 4 years of college. Even though I have a little Fiat X 1/9 now, maybe one day if I can find a decent one, I'll buy it to re-live my college years. 🙂


Ditch the FIAT and get another old Civic... You'll be glad you did 


That was a great story of Hiroko, Kinjiro, people and life! 

I cried while reading it. 


In 1975 I bought a used 1973 Honda Civic hatchback, navy blue, with a black vinyl top and a 4- speed manual. It was dead reliable and got great gas mileage.  I have owned five Corvettes, from a 1967 big-block to a 2005, and none of them were more fun to drive than the 1973 Civic. As the common lament goes, I wish I still had it.

New Driver

Quite lovely, well preserved. A true classic in every sense of the word. Simply beautiful....and, dare I say it...cute?


Oh, the Honda is not too shabby either.



I couldn't agree more with Flashman; we are grateful for your decision to choose Canada as your new home Hiroko. I'm also impressed that you decided to buy a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side and drive it in a country which was new to you.  When my daughter went to Japan in 2006 to teach English to Japanese high school students she did the same and it made it so much easier to see the country and meet new people. I even had a chance to drive her second car, a Nissan March, when i visited her in Japan in 2008 and it was great!


Now that you have experienced two of the three coats of Canada, I hope you will take the opportunity to see the rest of it; hopefully by car as it is almost a right of passage in Canada to travel the Trans-Canada to see every province and then the territories. Maybe once covid has passed. 


Again, we appreciate your commitment to your chosen career and thank you for your service, particularly at this time. Stay safe.


Thanks as well to the author for the great article. I too love to chase cars when I see something unusual; it's  great way yo meet fellow car nuts like myself!

New Driver

Its a shame that Honda can't build simple cars as they once did.   It was also the most successful Automobile marketing campaigns "We make it Simple".

What happens when the government intervenes and does not allow engineering a free pen to build what they desire.

Beautiful little Civic and a great story as well!



Sad that she had to sell it.

Pit Crew

Back in 1986 I bought a (very) used 1976 Civic 4-spd manual on the cheap. Original colour was yellow, but it had been painted red by a previous owner. Body was decent with no rust (this was in Medicine Hat, Alberta, a smaller city of <100,000 and located three hours east of Calgary), but high mileage.  The odometer showed around 90,000 miles, but I suspect it had been spun and that actual mileage was somewhere north of 120,000. This would explain why it was using about a quart of oil every second tank of fuel, and why it threw a valve on a highway trip in the middle of nowhere. I limped into the town where I was to work for the next week and left the car for repairs at the only service shop in the entire village of Wainwright, Alberta - an Esso station with a garage and two shop personnel. Big mistake. Woulda been cheaper to have but it on a flat deck and shipped it to Edmonton for service. These guys replaced the valve, but they re-installed the upper belt pulley backwards, which mis-aligned the belt and caused the water pump to come apart on my return trip. Did I mention that this was the middle of March? In Canada? At night? At -20C (around -3F) with a wind chill around minus-Christ-Almighty? Within one hour of home (after three hours of driving) everything came unglued. First, engine temp rising. Then no heat (that's what happens when there is no longer sufficient coolant to cool the engine and warm the cabin). Then the charging light came on. (That's what happens when a cratered water pump loosens the same belt that drives the alternator). With no other traffic and the extreme cold (while not dressed for the part) stopping was not an option because, well, death by exposure. But within 20 miles of home the car died along with the battery, which was no longer being charged by the alternator. Engine bay smelled like burned oil and coolant, because that's what happens when you cook the cylinder head. I started jogging toward town. Just when I was really beginning to freeze up a vehicle approached, also heading into town. Apparently they saw the abandoned Civic with the hood up, then saw me with my thumb out and, realizing my predicament, gave me a ride. (thank you again, members of the Medicine Hat, Alberta karate club, who were on their way home from a tournament). But other than that, the car was fun to drive, revved willingly and handled like a go-kart. Wish I'd owned a newer example than the one I did.

New Driver

In 1977, I purchased my first brand new car...a sky blue Honda Civic Wagon.  On it's first ride in a rain storm the drivers side wiper flew off and the wiper motor failed.  I thought that odd for a new car.  That was only the beginning.  Within four years it had gone through 3 water pumps.  The dealer would not replace the recalled head gasket until blown.  It then blew in a cloud of white smoke, damaged pistons, rings, valves and rods.  The repaired motor was worse than ever.  The paint faded and the front fenders rusted (yet again another recall item).  In '82, the Honda dealer generously offered $500 for a trade-in.  That pushed me into purchasing a reliable Subaru.  In 1990, I bought a new, top of the line, Honda Accord EX.  After slowly sliding threw another red light, on dry pavement, it was traded for a new fun '92 Miata.  I will never ever purchase another Honda.  Fooled me once same on you, fooled me twice... same dang thing.




Wonderful first car was a 1975 Civic CVCC four speed in metallic brown, a  hand-me-down from my father; we called her the Spitfire (though perhaps the Zero would have been more appropriate).  I took her to university and kept her for commuting in my first job.  The New England winters (more specifically the salted roads) were not kind to my car, and filling in rust perforations became frequent, though she never failed to run.  When I moved to New York, I sold her onward.  I've had many cars since then, but none have resonated with me the way my first Civic did.


Brendan, your photos are brilliant! What camera and lense did you use to capture such detail?

Intermediate Driver

Thanks so much! Believe it or not, these photos were shot with my old Canon T3i Rebel and the 18-55 kit lens. I am currently moving to mirrorless with a Sony A7 and a 24-105 for flexibility. Over the past few years, I used a Sigma 18-55 on a Canon body. The most important thing for any car photography, I find, is a good circular polarizer.

Pit Crew

As I was reading the story and got to the part of her application being accepted and the local Honda community being involved with the car, I hoped they would have stepped up to help her keep it. It was disappointing to read she still had to sell it. 😞

Intermediate Driver

Years ago, (1979) I answered an ad in the newspaper to deliver cars across Canada.I was told I'd be delivering cars for owners that didn't want to drive themselves. As it turned out, I was really a "Repo Man..." It did seem odd that we'd be sent to someone's house at 3:00 in the morning to pick up a car in the driveway.
One of the cars we drove from Toronto to Vancouver was a 1978 Honda Civic. It was a blast to drive.
This one had a manual transmission and it was like driving an elegant go kart.
My co pilot, who I'd never met before and I had a few adventures along the way but I'll save those for another day.
Intermediate Driver

Lovely lady, lovely car, and lovely story.
You meet the nicest people in Honda’s.

Enjoy your new home Hiroko. Canada is lucky to have you.
New Driver

Spent a lot of time in the late 70's in a blue civic just like this only 5 speed. Fantastic little cars and amazing on fuel. I would love to get one now and restore it...such fun little bud destroyed 2 of them, a 76 and 77
New Driver

Very heart warming.Welcome to Canada, Hiroko.
New Driver

My best friend and 4 year roommate in University, way back when, (76 to 81) in a Waterloo Ontario owned a brand new 1976 Civic. I owned a 70 Firebird Esprit. We would always be trash talking each other about our taste in cars. Both were really reliable though. We had a lot of fun in that Civic. Pub nights and other University events. Great vehicle. His was the exact same colour. What a memory rush. Thanks for the article.

What a very nice story. Yes a car was part of it but it was only a part. So much more to tell on a hard-working immigrant's story about finding home in their new country all sparked by the love of a car. I hope she will get to do another old classic Japanese car again.

I’m curious what she is driving today, since she has such good taste.
Intermediate Driver

The only first generation Civic I've ever driven was a school mate's 77 or so with Hondamatic in the early 80s. I remember it was tiny, sounded almost exactly like a VW Beetle and was nowhere near as much fun to drive as our 77 Accord 5 speed. I suppose this explains why the Accord sold like hot cakes.
There's actually a first gen Civic in my neighborhood because in Oregon they don't rust. It's modified with a vinyl top and round taillights and is a daily.