On the Road: 1979 Honda Civic


HomeHome / Blog / On the Road: 1979 Honda Civic

Jul 30, 2023

On the Road: 1979 Honda Civic

Restored hatchback has upgraded running gear, a 1200cc crate engine and as many RS parts as the owner could find Hondas are Dave Pereira’s vehicle of choice and have been since the day he started

Restored hatchback has upgraded running gear, a 1200cc crate engine and as many RS parts as the owner could find

Hondas are Dave Pereira’s vehicle of choice and have been since the day he started driving. “The first car I bought was an Acura Integra,” the St. Thomas, Ontario resident says. “Since then, I’ve owned upwards of 15 Acura or Honda models.” Collectible Hondas such as a S2000, CRX and Del Sol have passed through his garage.

However, Pereira does have a favourite model, and that is the endearingly small and simple first generation Civic that launched in Canada in 1973 and ran until 1979. “I bought a first generation 1979 Civic back in 2002,” Pereira explains. “I did a full restoration on it, and that involved a lot of metal work because it was a Canadian car and there was plenty of rust repair.”

His restoration of the ’79 Civic was not to stock specifications. He modified the body shell with second generation Civic wheel arches and quarter panel flares to widen the body and installed the running gear from a fuel injected 1992 Civic. “I had that Civic at a car show and an older gentleman made me an offer for it that I couldn’t refuse,” Pereira says, “so I sold it to him.” That led to an online search for a non-Canadian Civic, one that was not subjected to corrosive road salt.

“Being a 1976 model myself, I wanted to find a 1976 Civic, too,” Pereira says. “I looked for a little while and found this ‘76 in California on Autotrader.com. I bought it, and had it shipped up here.” As delivered, his new-to-him ’76 Civic was a running, driving car, but it burned a lot of oil. There were only a couple of small rust spots starting in the front valance and front fender, the result of rock chips. “Overall, it was a very solid car, but I was living in a condo at the time and wound up losing my storage where I had the Civic. In 2014, I had to sell it to a local guy, and he simply kept it in his garage and never drove it.”

Pereira kept in touch with the buyer, and often messaged him about the Civic. And once Pereira bought himself a house with a large garage, in 2020 he was finally able to buy back the Civic and this time, he doesn’t plan on letting it go. He’s now completely refreshed the Civic to his tastes, having stripped the car down to a bare shell. Although the car was originally grey, with the body ready for paint, Pereira finished it in Honda’s Sunset Orange.

“I wanted to add as many of Honda’s sporty RS parts as possible,” he says. Only sold in the Japanese home market, the Civic RS featured a more powerful 1200cc engine and a five-speed manual transmission. There were several other sporty elements, including front bucket seats with a unique series of grommets. “I found an RS steering wheel and shift knob and I had the seat upholstery duplicated exactly with the grommets,” Pereira says. “Under the hood, I installed dual Keihin carburetors and replaced the four-speed with a five-speed manual transmission. For the exterior, I sourced Japanese taillights, fender mirrors, marker lights and RS emblems. “Everything that went back on the car was brand new, including the black headliner.”

1 of 5

You may use a different browser or device to view this in full screen.

Pereira says he worked a series of his Civic contacts to source the parts, with many of them coming from here in Canada, or the U.S. and Japan. “I wanted the car to look factory fresh, and even found new Honda glass for it.”

One of the most frustrating aspects of the build has been the engine. Pereira had it rebuilt twice, and each time it continues to burn oil. A little more than a month ago, however, he located and purchased a brand new. old stock in the crate 1200cc Honda engine. A trained truck and trailer mechanic by trade who now drives transport trucks, Pereira took delivery of the crate engine on a Thursday, and with help from his son, Joshua, had the new motor installed and running by Sunday.

Now, he says he’ll pull the original 1200cc engine apart himself and inspect all components – that’ll be a winter project. Follow along on Instagram @orangina_76. With a two-inch drop at all four corners of the Civic thanks to BC Racing coil overs and its Watanabe 14 x 5-inch wheels, Pereira’s Civic has a terrific stance. And he says the Civic drives as good as it looks.

“I have it out as often as I can and cruise. I’ve always got a smile on my face when I’m behind the wheel,” he says, and concludes, “it’s just like driving a street legal go-kart.”

Greg Williams is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Have a column tip? Contact him at 403-287-1067 or [email protected]

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

To contribute to the conversation, you need to be logged in. If you are not yet registered, create your account now - it's FREE.

5 Affordable EVs

Small trucks

Popular Crossover SUVs

Practical 3-row SUVs

Minivans for the whole family

Compact Cars

Luxury SUVs

Affordable AWD SUVs

All things automotive: breaking news, reviews and more. Wednesdays and Saturdays.

A welcome email is on its way. If you don't see it, please check your junk folder.

The next issue of Driving.ca's Blind-Spot Monitor will soon be in your inbox.

We encountered an issue signing you up. Please try again