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The Carchive: The Honda Prelude MkII

Chris Haining February 4, 2014 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 14 Comments


 It’s Honda Prelude week here in The Carchive, for no other reason than that It Can Be.

In some ways the Prelude, with its comparatively small, naturally aspirated engines, front-wheel-drive and subtle looks, lived in the shadow of a great many of the Coupes of Japan. While it’ll never have the same OMG DRIFT!!!11!1 credibility as the rear-drive brigade, I think it should be afforded a little bit of celebration on these here electronic pages.


Today, Prelude MK2.



“Driving enjoyment blended with sophisticated precision in a luxurious setting”


The actual brief for the Prelude hadn’t really changed. It was a 2+2 with only really marginal accommodation in the back. Luxury was very much a state of mind, too. Buyers of the entry level “Deluxe” (DX) model had to wind their own windows and missed out on a way to play cassettes or listen to FM radio. They also needed more physical strength than those who spent more to drive away in an Executive (EX), coming as that did with power steering.


Executive status also brought with it that electric sliding sunroof, which first appeared on the old one.




“At rest or in motion, the Honda Prelude is eye-catching whichever way you look at it”


Towards the end of the first Prelude’s production run, the styling and identity was beginning to look rather behind the times. There had been rather a lot of visual references to cars of mid-70s vintage, and that bone-shaped Honda grille and headlamp surround was starting to look a bit irrelevant. Consider that, by 1984, Honda had released such sharp looking machines as the Today and City, and it was obvious that the Prelude was overdue reincarnation.


The new car was an expression of exactly what was state-of-the-art in 1983. Gone was any real curviness and in came straight flanks and sharp edges. A lot of the frivolity of the previous model was eliminated, both inside and out, but the lean, squat profile remained, while a set of pop-up-headlamps lent a hint of exoticism and a sense of being cutting edge. A sliver of brightwork surrounded the new, futuristic visage, and acted as a subtle link with the past.




“The Honda Prelude is, quite simply, a driver’s car”


In common with the outgoing car, the Prelude didn’t exactly have an extraordinary surplus of power. The engine was a four cylinder 1829cc engine, whirring out 106hp at 5,500rpm and sucking fuel through two carburetors. There were three valves per cylinder with a view to improving combustion and therefore, efficiency, but no other headline-grabbing technology for us to be impressed by.


However, once again all those 106 horsepower were ready for deployment at absolutely any stage. Good, immediate, useable, controllable power. The suspension had developed, changing to double wishbone suspension at the front and retaining MacPherson struts at the back. There was the option of an anti-lock braking system, all the better for keeping the 160 rampant stallions that would eventually become available, in check.




“Technically, the Honda Prelude is at the forefront of design”


It was a clever trick to perform, really. Though the Prelude was bang-up-to-date, it was nothing more than that. There was little in the way of absolute innovation, just plenty of good, effective and necessary engineering. And everything worked in such symbiosis that it made you think that you were behind the wheel of something a lot more advanced than it actually was.


Aside, perhaps, from a slight lack of brio such as one might experience from a Capri or GTV, or one of the other European coupes that showed endearing quirks and flaws, few who tried one had anything really negative to say about the Prelude.


The Prelude journey was off to a good start. The next stage of evolution would bring with it a lot more than met the eye.


(Disclaimer. All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Honda, who need to reintroduce pop-up headlamps across the range with immediate effect)

  • dukeisduke

    Now this one I like.

  • My mother had an '86 Prelude Si when I was a kid and I loved it. It was a nimble little car and I was sad to see it go when she traded it for a '94 Ford Explorer. Yes, the backseat area in the Explorer was much roomier for my brother to fit in, but the cornering fun was gone. I think that little Si is the reason I grew to love small, lightweight cars that focused on good handling over raw power.

  • JayP2112

    I spotted an '88 or '89 Prelude in traffic yesterday. Yellow and had the factory wheels.

  • Metric Wrench

    I had an '86 Si – oh what fun. Huge glass roof, decent handling, baby blue and fairly efficient too. But – the car was cursed. I don't know what the deal was, but once a week someone would deliberately cut me off and use sign language – and I drove it no different than the other small, light cars in me stable. This was before big stereos and fart cans. Just plain cursed, I tell you. After I got run off the road for the third time in a month, I sold the thing. Never had that kind of trouble again.

  • Ate Up With Motor

    In the home market, the second-generation Prelude had 125 PS (gross) with five-speed, although I don't know that that was really that much more in net terms than the 106 PS DIN they claimed in Europe (particularly since the European cars didn't have catalytic converters at that point).

    Of some significance is that I believe this was the first modern Honda with double wishbone front suspension instead of struts, the first with antilock brakes (which weren't terribly common on Japanese cars at that point and weren't introduced on U.S.-market Hondas until much later), and possibly the first with a four-speed automatic, although the Accord got the latter around the same time. So, it was a preview in a number of respects of subsequent Honda developments, as the name suggested.

    What is a little surprising in that light is that it didn't initially have fuel injection, which Honda had already used on the City Turbo a few months earlier. I don't think the JDM Prelude got injection until after the Civic and Ballade, in fact.

    • Yep. All the above is mentioned in the text. PGM-FI came in the next gen, in the UK, anyway.

      • Ate Up With Motor

        Didn't the U.K. get the 2.0 Si late in the run of the second-generation car? I could have sworn I've seen British road tests of it. (For once, we got injection here at about the same time as the Japanese market, although U.S. cars had 110 net bhp rather than 160 PS gross.)

        • Yeah, the next gen had injection from the start over here, this '83 brochure is carb only but you could opt for fuel being thrust into the combustion chamber under pressure in late models of this gen.

  • tonyola

    Nice cars. If I had been a little more flush with money in 1983, I would have sprung for a Prelude instead of the (much cheaper) CRX 1.5 I eventually bought. Much as I dearly loved the CRX, the 'Lude would have been a more luxurious ride with little or no fun penalty.

  • Preludacris

    I'm quivering in anticipation of today's 3rd gen post.

    • Um, tomorrow, I'm afraid. Tonight's post will disappoint you to the very core.

      • Preludacris

        Interested to see what will disappoint me to the very core. Carchive rarely does.

  • Salvador

    I love this car.I got my first Prelude a few years Back.First car I ever Bought. Its a 1997 Honda Prelude type SH.with 72k Bone stock original.I never loved a car so much.good power good sound system. Thers something about this car that I cannot part with it.I was rearended I few months ago.An the insurance called an saide she was just to old to fix.I felt like cryin.Like a saide,I don’t know what is it about this car that I love it so much.

  • Scott

    Had a beater mkII '87 Prelude 2.0Si a few years back, fun little car. Tried my best to kill it but she just wouldn't die. Not a bad looking car either! Ended up selling it for $400.