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)