1979 Honda Civic Found Rotting on the Roadside in Malaysia

Honda built the second generation Honda Civic from summer 1979 till fall 1983. In 1980, it was upgraded with a more angular styling to be ready for the 80ies. I’ve found this rusty pre-facelift model on a vacation in Penang, Malaysia, in 2020. Parked on the roadside next to a small business, this classic looks beyond saving.

Note how the corrosion eats this car from the top to bottom. The bottom third still look pretty good. In Europe, the winter road salt causes corrosion at the bottom. The rocker panels and wheel arches are eaten away first. When the European Civic brothers started to failed inspections, the bonnets and roofs of these siblings usually still looked great.

In Malaysia, the opposite happens: the year-round scorching sun ruins the paint first. First, the clear coat peels, followed by the color paint, and at some point by the base paint. This sun-kissed Civic serves as an example to reconstruct this aging process. Once the paint is burned away, the high humidity of South East Asia does the rest, and eats the metal away at an alarming rate. Cars age from the top to bottom here.

Years ago, someone “repaired” this trunk lid with a thick layer of body filler. Corrosion underneath caused it to crack again. In German, we have a name for that: we respectfully call it a Spachtelkunstwerk, i.e. an art piece made out of bondo. I have to admit that the combination of patches of rust, cracked headlights, peeling paint and body filler looks quite artistic.

The pre-facelift model can be distinguished by the round headlights. This Civic must have left the assembly line in 1979 or 1980.

Honda used the design language of these early Civics with the friendly round headlights as the basis for the Urban EV concept, which eventually became the Honda e.

The Volvo 240 GL parked in front of the Civic was Volvo’s mass volume model. Volvo built the 200 series for almost twenty years, from 1974 to 1993, and it was a frequent road sight when I was in primary school. As a young boy, I didn’t know much about cars, but these characteristic tail lights feel strangely familiar today.

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