For a brief stint in the 1990s, the Honda Civic was cool. It spoke to a different demographic as the Civic Del Sol, with its two-seater sporty style and unusual shape. Underneath it was all Civic. It came with a standard 1.5-liter D-series engine with 106 horsepower, double-wishbone suspension on all four corners, and front disc brakes. It wasn’t going to set any records, but it offered a reliable, efficient, and sporty-looking car.
Sitting inside of one feels like being crammed into a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe. If you can get past the head clearance and poor visibility issues, the car is a joy. Understeer isn’t overwhelming, and it feels light and nimble. Honda offered these with v-tec engines as well, producing 160 horsepower spinning four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. The Civic Del Sol is definitely a fun car, and if you can find one on the cheap, then rebuilding one shouldn’t be too much of a pain for the wallet or the wrench.
Give the Honda Civic Del Sol a tune-up
Rebuilding a Civic Del Sol may require directing some attention toward the engine. Luckily neither replacing it nor giving it a tune-up is particularly expensive, depending on what engine you have. eBay sells the base non-v-tec engine for around $800. If you don’t need a replacement engine, then look into a tune-up. It should cost roughly $170 for oil, an oil filter, spark plugs, spark plug wires, and a distributor cap and rotor. It costs pennies just to tune up the engine.
Address the aging, sagging suspension
Honda stopped selling the Civic Del Sol to U.S. markets in 1997, which means whichever one you find will be pretty old. Depending on its condition, you may want to consider overhauling the suspension. A comprehensive replacement kit only costs around $300, and that’s for shocks, struts, and springs for all four corners. For a more responsive setup, KYB sells the same pieces for roughly $100 per corner. Coilover suspension can cost anywhere from $800 or $3,000 for a complete kit. It might sound expensive at first, but a coilover suspension setup can allow full adjustability. Don’t forget to replace all the bushings along the way.
Replace the Honda Civic Del Sol’s rear drums with discs
The brakes might pose a particular problem on the Civic. A pad and rotor kit for all four corners should run about $400. However, you may want to replace your rear drums with discs, which is more involved. User CerealWars has a detailed write-up with pictures on the Honda-Tech forum. A rear disc conversion kit from PCE runs about $400.
Is there any way to make the Civic Del Sol faster?
Once you’re all done making it safe enough for the road, it’s time to see if there’s anything you can do to make it more powerful. Unfortunately, there isn’t, without swapping the engine. You can look into a B-series swap if you have the money, but it can be expensive. Until you get the money for the K-swap, invest in some tires, which shouldn’t be costly thanks to the tiny size, and enjoy the ride.