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1973-1979 Honda Civic
When Honda introduced the first generation Civic to the U.S. market the U.S. was struggling to deal with the height of the 1973 oil crisis.
With a simple advertising campaign -- “Honda, we make it simple” -- and a level of build quality that most Americans yearned for, the Honda Civic became one of the mainstays of fuel efficient driving.
Achieving a fuel economy of 40 mpg on the highway, the two-door coupe, 3-door hatchback and -- eventually -- 4-door sedan became a hit with those wanting to a reliable and fuel-efficient engine.
For the highest fuel economy, chose a Civic made after 1975 with the Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion (CVCC) engine. So clean it didn’t need catalytic converters or unleaded fuel to meet tough emissions laws, it has to be on our list for fuel-efficient classics.
But there’s a down-side to the first-generation civic: Rust. During its early years, the Civic had such poor corrosion protection that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had to issue a safety recall after winter salt in some states caused the majority of Civics to suffer from dangerous levels of rust on major suspension, body and transmission parts.
1974-1983 Volkswagen Rabbit
Meant as a replacement for the original Volkswagen Beetle, the Volkswagen Rabbit -- or Golf, as it was known in Europe -- is still one of the best economy classics you can buy.
Available as a three-door or five-door hatchback and spawning the Jetta notchback saloon in 1979, the VW Rabbit combined a lightweight unitary construction with a sure-footed front-wheel drivetrain.
While all VW Rabbits were high on fuel economy, the dizzying array of engine choices mean that there’s a great deal of variance between the higher powered gasoline Rabbits and their more frugal Diesel sibling.
For the best economy, go for a four-speed manual with the 1.6 liter Diesel engine, which the EPA rates at an impressive 38 mpg. For more environmental kudos, convert your it to run on biofuels like used cooking oil.
We know our readers love classics as much as we do, so what other classic cars would you chose as having the best fuel economy?
Let us know in the Comments below.