Honda HR-V: drive, Forrest, drive!

1994’s feelgood hit film “Forrest Gump” made the line “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” one of the most popular movie quotes – one which proves itself true, with some trivia on the film’s IMDb page.

The idea of life being a “chocolate box” had been featured in a film nearly 20 years earlier: “The Likely Lads” movie spin-off of the 1960s BBC TV series.

Watch The Likely Lads movie clip here

However, the very first sentence in the 1986 adapted “Forrest Gump” novel is “Let me say this: bein’ an idiot is no box of chocolates”.

So, you never know what you’re going to get. I certainly discovered that, while watching an online car auction late in 2019.

HRV front edit

A 1999 Honda HR-V (the letters stand for High Riding Vehicle) was up for auction, and unloved: it had been through the auction lane a couple of times before, but its age, relative rarity on the roads and high kilometres (356,000) meant it wasn’t getting a sale.

I was interested in the HR-V when it was launched in 1999: 4WD on demand, a slab-sided 3-door body and a high riding position in a small car (a rare combination at the time) caught my interest. As usual, I couldn’t afford to buy one then. The public wasn’t all that interested: Honda was selling the more practical CR-V with the same 4WD system, so the original HR-V was taken off sale within a couple of years.

HRV rear edit

I would later see one in the foyer at Underwater World on the Sunshine Coast, with its doors welded shut and the cabin filled up with water and exotic fish, as a tourist attraction.

So I’d seen the white manual HR-V Sport on the auction list, was interested but hadn’t gone to inspect it. However, it looked OK in the photos and had a sunroof. Plus, it was rated a “2” by the auctioneers – just shy of the perfect “1” status. So how bad could it be then? “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

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The HR-V hit the auction lane again, and the auctioneer tried to talk it up as best he could, but couldn’t help chuckling at its odometer reading and popularity with buyers. He started the bidding at $200 and waited, saying “Really? No interest?”

I hit the button to bid $300, thinking that the Honda would be passed in at that price anyway. Then the auctioneer paused the “going once, going twice” commentary to say “You know what? It’s on sale. We’re selling at $300. Any further bids?” I froze for a few seconds until the hammer came down: “SOLD to the online bidder!”

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The fees were more than the final bid, so after paying just under $700 all up, I went to collect the HR-V. I drove it home on a permit – the air conditioning and radio worked fine, but its dusty and dirty interior would be a big job to clean. This was rated a “2”!?

There was a payoff to cleaning it: I found a butterfly pendant in the boot, which a jeweller confirmed was 9K gold, and worth probably $50. I also found a large sticker of Ronald McDonald’s face behind the sun visor. That gave me a laugh.

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On cleaning up, there was one thing I knew would have to be replaced: the steering wheel. It was rough and spongy, from years in the sun. A wrecker 4 hours’ drive away pulled a pristine steering wheel off an HR-V, and sent it to me in the post for around $60. YouTube videos showed me how to remove the airbags, and then the wheel in the car needed a very big nut taken off for removal – my mechanic was able to help with that and the wheel was swapped over, with the original (checked) airbag reinstated.

Some tappet cover, sump and driveshaft seals were replaced to stop oil leaks, along with an annoyingly-placed (and expensive) passenger side engine mount, before I was able to get the Safety Certificate and get it back on the road.

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It was fun to drive, with great visibility – although the high centre of gravity meant you didn’t take corners too fast. The 1.6 litre D16W1 engine certainly liked to rev, running at a buzzy 3,000rpm at 100km/h. I’m pretty sure the 4WD kicked in one wet day, as I took off fast from the lights, front wheels spinning. There was a clunk at the back of the car that was so loud, I thought I’d stalled it. However, the HR-V kept moving forward.

It was my first Honda, and I did notice that nearly everything (interior and engine bay) was put together with pure Japanese precision. I took the driver’s door panel off to tighten the side mirror mount, and it was so easy: loosen 2 screws, then pull off the panel.

Just when I thought I could drive it locally for some fun, my daughter’s Honda Integra was off the road with issues and she needed a car. So of course, the Honda owner would drive this other Honda! She ended up putting over 2,000 kms on the clock with her daily driving, before I had to get another RWC to be OK to sell it.

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A few buyers looked at it – one mum was all set to buy it for her son, but then stopped messaging. Another P-plater was interested enough to inspect, but didn’t go ahead. Then in late March 2020, a businessman looked at it for his female friend, who wanted to carry her dogs in it. The HR-V was dirty from sitting on the driveway for days, but I didn’t touch it or clean it so he could be confident there was no COVID-19 on it. Even the keys were in a plastic bag.

A day after inspecting it, he rang back to talk a deal – and even though I was probably $100 out of pocket, with the virus shutdown happening I took the cash (and took the money straight to the bank, then went home and washed my hands well!)

So between the car purchase, the gold pendant, the daughter’s car trouble and the star of Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks, being diagnosed with Coronavirus, Forrest’s Mama was right: you never know what you’re gonna get.

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