hatchback

4

1977 Honda Civic at America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

This car features Honda’s “Hondamatic” 2-speed semi-automatic transmission coupled with a 50 horsepower (40 kW) 1500 cc engine (The 75 horsepower version was only available in Japan). 

With the manual transmission, the Civic was capable of reaching a speed of 60 miles-per-hour in 14.2 seconds according to zeroto60times.com.  This might not sound fast at first, but the comparable Chevy Vega reached 60 miles-per-hour in more than 18 seconds.  The AMC Gremlin did it in 17.7, the Ford Pinto in 14.4, and the Dodge Colt 1600 in 14.4 as well.  While it’s true that the 1973 oil crisis in the U.S. allowed Honda and other Japanese car companies to gain a significant share of the market, the fact that the Civic outperformed nearly all of its competitors while being more fuel efficient was a major factor as well.

3

My FIAT 500 Abarth.

This brutal little snarling monster provided me with some of the most fun I’ve ever had driving.  It has a turbocharged 160 horsepower (119 kW) 1.4 liter engine with a manual transmission, suspension that is quite a bit sportier than the base 500 (without being overly harsh), and a short wheelbase that makes it feel lively.

When I was in Texas, a woman in a pickup truck asked me “What’s with the FIAT?” with a confused look on her face. 

In an extremely rare clever moment, I said “I’m compensating.”

I know that’s a ridiculous thing to say, but at least I made her laugh.