The 1950s were an economic boom time, as millions of GIs returned home to create a new market for everything from cars to televisions, and consumers around the nation flexed their muscles for the first time since before the Great Depression. Up until the 1970s Americans wanted everything, but especially their cars, to be bigger and faster. Then the Oil Crisis hit, and gasoline became prohibitively expensive, when it was available at all, and suddenly the 9 mpg Trans-Am “Screaming Chickens” no longer looked that appealing. Honda saw an opportunity to introduce a new, smaller and much more economical car. The Civic model became an instant bestseller, and its focus on fuel economy kept it a perennial bestseller to this day.
On this day, July 23, 2007, the sixth million Honda Civic rolled off the line in the United States. Although nominally a Japanese import, by that time Honda operated twelve manufacturing plants employing more than 30,000 people in North America.
Honda’s 1973 model set the tone: a tiny thing, just 140 inches in length, with 86.6 inches of wheelbase, it was powered by an 1169cc motor (about twice the size of that used on their motorcycles) that produced an impressive for its size 50 horsepower. The Screaming Chicken it wasn’t, but at 40 miles to the gallon and a starting price of $2,200, the economical consumer was all over it.