Home » Stick Out Like A Sore Thumb: 1997 Honda Civic vs 1993 Mazda Miata

Stick Out Like A Sore Thumb: 1997 Honda Civic vs 1993 Mazda Miata

Sbsd 6 13 2024
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Welcome to another Shitbox Showdown! If you’re a fan of subtlety or understated elegance, I’m afraid today’s choices might not be your favorite. These things are about as subtle as a bouncy castle. But if you like to stand out in a crowd, they might be just the ticket.

Yesterday’s long and short ads for long and short cars was a fairly close vote, but in the end the Mercury Manifesto won the day. I think a lot of us who have bought or sold things online, no matter the platform, can relate to the Mercury seller’s frustration. I know I got a chuckle out of that ad, and it sounds like a lot of you did, too.

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But for me, as far as the cars go, I have to go with the Hillmans. Neither of these projects is ever going to be a perfect show car, but the shiny blue Minx looks like a path of lesser resistance to something presentable, and that’s all I’m after. I’m a big fan of the “twenty-footer.”

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You’ll see (and most likely hear) today’s contestants from a lot further away than twenty feet. They’re both little Japanese “tuner” cars, both far more garish than they were when they left the showroom, but you’ll be happy to hear that they both run and drive. Let’s see which flavor of crazy suits you better.

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1997 Honda Civic – $4,990

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6-liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Miami, FL

Odometer reading: 96,000 miles

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Operational status: Runs and drives great

Right up front, I have to admit that I’m a fan of this car’s paint job. It looks well-thought-out and well-done, and I like the style. It reminds me of one of the old “cel-shaded” Jet Set Radio games, which I was a huge fan of. We’ve seen this style before if you remember correctly, and I liked it then as well.

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I have no idea what trim level of Civic this is, since that badging didn’t come along on the trip to Toon Town, but I’d guess it’s a garden-variety DX or LX. And I’d be surprised if the mechanical modifications go beyond bolt-on stuff. These Civics are more or less LEGO sets at this point, with all the interchangeable parts, so it’s hard to tell. The seller does say that it runs and drives well and that everything works, so whatever modifications were done were seemingly done properly.

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The alterations continue inside as well, and I’m impressed that whoever built this car went to the trouble of replacing the back seats as well as the front. Of course, it has the requisite short-throw shifter and quick-release steering wheel. The door panel puzzles me; why remove the stock Civic panels? I admit I don’t know this scene very well, but is there a reason to ditch perfectly nice interior panels and replace them with whatever the hell that is?

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I could do without the basket-handle rear spoiler and fart-cannon exhaust, but I guess they come with the territory. I can forgive it, though, for that unique and striking paint job. Some of you are going to hate it, I know, and that’s fine; we’re all friends here, even if you’re wrong.

1993 Mazda MX-5 Miata – $5,000

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Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 1.6-liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD

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Location: West Hollywood, CA

Odometer reading: 219,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives fine, but can’t be registered in California

Now this is a car I know well. I owned a 1991 Miata for eight years and took it apart so many times that I don’t think there was a single part I didn’t touch except the engine internals. That little 1.6-liter engine is just such a trooper – as long as you are careful to avoid the cracked crankshaft nose problem – that I never had to touch it. 237,000 miles and it ran like a top. But for some, the little 1.6 is just not enough power. Enter the aftermarket turbocharger.

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These turbo kits have been around nearly as long as the Miata has, and everyone who has ever owned one, including me, has thought about it at some point. This seller actually did it, however, and didn’t stop there: it has an even bigger turbo, an aftermarket ECU to take advantage of it, an intercooler, and a host of other modifications. They also upgraded the brakes and suspension, and then, to top it all off, painted the whole thing bright purple.

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Unfortunately, though the car wears Texas plates, it now resides in Los Angeles, and some of the modifications don’t have the all-important CARB seal of approval, so the car can’t be registered in California. It does run and drive well, and the seller says he drives it once in a while to keep the juices flowing. He suggests it might make a good track toy, but that really limits its appeal. To me, the two options are either take it back out of California or dial back the mods.

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Cosmetically, it’s only okay. It has a body kit that’s not in great shape, and the interior looks more or less stock, and a bit grubby. It does, however, include the coveted factory hard top, finished in the same Grimace hue as the rest of the car. With NA Miata values now approaching truly ridiculous levels, I guess a modified but not trashed example like this isn’t a terrible buy.

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As much as we all say “we want colorful cars,” there is a place and time for subdued vehicles. You probably don’t want to be the parent rolling up to the school pickup line in something that gives off the same vibe as Dooby’s Taxiola. But small, fun, cheap cars should be canvases for self-expression, and bright paint jobs are a great way to start. You’re not going to blend in, but you’ll definitely be remembered. Which one of these colorful characters does it for you?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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MEK
MEK
28 days ago

The Miata is a steal, assuming the hardtop in included in the price. Hardtops alone are going to $2k plus in my neighborhood right now. Buy it, drive the hell out of it for a year or so and when it finally gives up, part it out and sell off the hardtop.

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
28 days ago

I’m not 12 years old anymore, so the Miata it is. It can get decent enough for not much money, I guess.

Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
28 days ago

Paint the Honda, and have a car that’s less than half the miles of the hard-driven Miata.

Motorhead Mike
Motorhead Mike
28 days ago

I can’t resist a purple car (other than a Mercury Topaz, but that’s another story).

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
28 days ago
Reply to  Motorhead Mike

Please, elaborate?

Motorhead Mike
Motorhead Mike
27 days ago
Reply to  Argentine Utop

The condensed version is: The UPS van stopped, my Yugo stopped. I stopped just in time to look in the rearview mirror and realize that the purple Topaz coming up behind wasn’t going to stop. It didn’t.

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
24 days ago
Reply to  Motorhead Mike

“Rear-ended by a purple Topaz” will be the name of my next indie-rock band. Glad you made it ok.

Myk El
Myk El
28 days ago

I love purple, but I know I don’t fit well in the Miata. Therefore it’s Honda. Assuming I have to actually pick one. Nothing would be my real choice.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
28 days ago

Honest newbie question. Do you really need those add on a-pillar gauges to tell you your engine just grenaded?

Also, that Civic paint job looks like it was applied with a caulking gun.

You just know these started out as already spent vehicles and while I am a fan of recover, reuse and recycle, the indignities inflicted here just break my soul.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
28 days ago

Either would be fine, but I chose the civic due to lower miles. Both of these have been ragged out, so I would avoid both like the plague IRL, but with internet money, the Civic is the way to go. Also budgeting internet money for a paint job. Even primer would be an improvement.

Last edited 28 days ago by Farty McSprinkles
Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
28 days ago

I’ll take the Honda- I just like those better and I do like the paint and interior scheme…also lower miles. The Miata is still good too though

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
28 days ago

I’m in Northwest Oregon, outside the DEQ zone. The first thing anybody around here does when they buy an old car if it’s for transportation is send a drift through the catalytic converter and remove the smog pump. I’ll take that Miata.

Angular Banjoes
Angular Banjoes
28 days ago

I love purple. I love Miatas. Easy choice for me, although I’d immediately replace the body kit with OEM parts, or at least aftermarket parts that don’t look terrible.

Dan Parker
Dan Parker
28 days ago

I’ve already had a couple of Miatas andI love that generation Civic, so I’d go with it. Paint is kinda cool, sub 100k miles is nuts if true, and it wouldn’t be too hard or expensive to return the interior to stock-ish.

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