An accountant, an engineer, and a marketing professional walk into a bar. Well it doesn’t really start out that way, but it does start with three friends in San Francisco, and unlike everyone else in the Bay Area developing iOS applications, they wanted to bring back the nostalgic feeling of their highschool years by rebuilding a 1991 Honda CRX Si. These three guys have been childhood friends for many years, and went to high school together drooling over the “hot” Honda’s of the 90s. It was that lust and longing to feel like teens again, that motivated the three best friends to buy a red 1991 Honda CRX Si with 205,000 miles off of Craigslist. So here’s the story of three kids with a dream, reliving the good ol’ days, and creating a CRX fanboy website called www.RestorationCRX.com.
Do you remember the 1991 Honda CRX Si? If not, don’t worry because most people don’t – and that’s ok with Alan Wu (head of marketing for RestorationCRX.com). Alan tells me that this is a self-indulgent project, and he isn’t shy about that. He feels like the CRX doesn’t get much automotive media coverage and he’d like to change that by fully restoring a 1991 CRX Si to its original showroom condition. He is solely targeting people just like him and his buddies (who are in their 30s) who want to feel young again when buying a used car.
The 1991 CRX Si was a special car. Car and Driver (C&D) named it the “Best Buy: Sports Car” in 1990, beating out the first generation Miata, which at the time was on the cover of every car magazine. C&D even went as far as to call it a “thin-wallet Ferrari.” If you think about it, it was a bargain at the time, you had to only fork over $12,784 and that gave you a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 2 passenger sports coupe, that could hit sixty mph in 8.6 seconds, blast through the quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds and would pull almost 0.8 g’s on the skidpad. The engine in the CRX Si was a modest 1.6-liter single-overhead-cam 16-valve in-line four-cylinder engine, with an aluminum block and head that produced 108 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Those aren’t exactly the most impressive numbers, because most minivans of today can now crush the CRX Si in all aspects, but what Restoration CRX, C&D, and other enthusiasts fell in love with wasn’t the numbers, but brilliant engineering that Honda put into the CRX that made it feel like a budget Ferrari with a trunk. The CRX engineering recipe for success took a lightweight car, (it tipped the scales at just over 2,000 pounds), a sophisticated suspension, and a peppy engine that always wanted to party, and produced one hell-of-a-car.
RestorationCRX.com started about half-year ago when Alan and his two best buddies (Denny and Ray) got together and wanted to work on a project together that would make them feel young again, and highlight a moment in their lives that they enjoyed so much. Perhaps you can go back? They decided on restoring a classic car. The car they were going to restore would be a second generation CRX Si produced from 1988-1991. Alan never owned a CRX, but his two best friends each had one. They decided to search Craigslist to find their “golden” CRX. That’s where it gets hard. If you do a quick search of Craigslist you’ll find every CRX for sale has been modified in some way: different wheels, different engine, missing fenders, fender rust, carbon fiber hoods, missing body pieces, missing wheels, you name it and Alan and his friend encountered it during their three month search. They were meticulous in their search, and would inspect the car for rust, body damage, and making sure all parts were original. When they did find a nice CRX, owners were asking $6-7 thousand dollars, which was out of their budget, and ruined part of the fun of restoring the car.
Finding an unmodified CRX on Craigslist is near impossible, and somehow they did it.
After three months of searching the Restoration CRX team landed on a 1991 red CRX Si with over 200,000 miles that they found on Craigslist in the Bay area. After a little negotiating the team paid $2,600 dollars and were now owners of a 1991 CRX Si. They choose this CRX out of the hundreds of CRXs that they looked at because after three months of searching, they were a bit tired, and bad cars started looking better. They made a rookie mistake of buying the car at night and a couple minutes into their drive it overheated going up a steep hill of San Francisco (they added some water and eventually made it home). When they are able to inspect the engine bay in the light they found tons of oil leaks from the engine. Just like every great car restoration project, it always starts out with lots of oil on your garage floor.
But the Restoration CRX guys aren’t going to cry over some spilt oil, because they are having the time of their lives restoring a 1991 CRX Si on the weekends. The team has even named the car Nancy, after the cars original owner, whose name and address is still in the owner’s manual. Alan said they are even thinking about taking to to the “original Nancy’s” house and letting her see the finished project.
Alan and his team want the CRX to look like it came fresh from the factory in 1991. In order to do this they have hit some obstacles. The second generation CRX wasn’t the best selling car so parts are very hard to come by, and they have to search eBay everyday to get some of the more rare trim pieces. And the team is going to restore it to 100 percent stock form, so for those of you who put b16, b18, b20 Honda VTEC engines in your 1992 Honda Civic HX, you might as well stop here (unless you are from Japan, where the CRX did come with a b16a 158 horsepower VTEC engine).
If you do appreciate original cars you can follow team’s progress on their blog http://www.restorationcrx.com/project-blog. They have great pictures, and write-ups for all the work they have done so far – replacing oil pans, gutting the interior, searching junkyards for parts, cleaning the engine block and photos from the day they bought it.
I came across Restoration CRX’s website during a Craigslist search of my own looking for a CRX in the Washington D.C. area. Alan, a marketing professional in San Francisco, decided that the best marketing for their car would be to post Craigslist ads all over the country and it’s free. Did it work? Of course, Alan told me that the response from the CRX community has been overwhelming. People from all around the country message him, and tell him how much they miss their CRX.
Future plans? Alan was pretty closed lip about what the future of Restoration CRX has in store. He told me the original plan was to restore the CRX Si and sell it – rinse and repeat, but during this whole process something changed. The team has really fallen for this car, and have also realized how much work it is to restore a car (especially since all of them work full-time jobs). This is just their weekend passion project, and they are taking it step-by-step for now.
In 1990 Car and Driver said “The secret of its (CRX) success is that it is one part economy sedan and two parts hell-bent-for-traffic-court sports machine.” Well I think – The secret to Restoration CRX’s success will be one part passion and two parts working-every-weekend-spending-way-too-much-money-on-a-26-year-old-car.
To check in on the teams project make sure to go to www.restorationCRX.com to follow their every move.