The Honda Prelude is a sports car that was manufactured by Honda, a Japanese car manufacturer, from 1978 until 2001 when its manufacture was discontinued following the release of Honda Integra in 2001. Throughout the twenty three years it was in production, the car spanned five generations. Here is a look at its evolution across these five generations.
It was released in 1978 formed part of the then Honda’s modern line up that also include Accord and Civic. In fact, its styling was a combination of Accord and Civic. At first it used a 1751 cc engine and a 2-speed automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual transmission. Beginning in 1980 the company replaced the 2-speed automatic transmission with a 4-speed model. In 1982 Honda ceased production of the first generation Honda Prelude and started production of the second generation Honda Prelude the following year.
Honda Prelude’s second generation was produced in 1983 and remained in production until 1987. It had A18 1.8 litre-engine when it was released. In Asia and Europe, it had an optional 2.0 double overhead engine. The first generation had relatively poor aerodynamics. To improve the aerodynamics the company introduced pop-up lights in the second generation. Another improvement from first generation was modification of the bonnet so that a bigger engine could be fitted in the engine bay. The second generation also made available new colour paint options. For European models, there was restyling of rear lights and introduction of new rear and front bumpers.
The production of third generation started in 1987 and ceased in 1992. There were very few significant differences between the third and second generation. Some of the changes that were made include introduction of four wheel steering. This change was, however, only on a few models. Another change was the introduction of a new engine line-up and minor body modifications. To improve fuel efficiency and aerodynamics the hood line was significantly lowered. In addition, the pillars were made even narrower thus allowing users to have a visibility of 326 degrees.
The fourth generation lasted between 1992 and 1996. It saw an improvement on the 4 wheel steering system by making it wholly electronically controlled. The engine capacity was also increased on both the base and Si models. On the base model the engine capacity was increased from 2.1 to 2.2 and on the Si model it was increased from 2.1 to 2.3. Compared to previous versions, its breaks were much larger. The car also saw the removal of pop-up lights that had been introduced in the second generation. Another change was making of the rear end more heightened and rounded than it had been the case in previous versions. The front end was also made wider. Of all the changes made, the most conspicuous was the dashboard which was made flat from side to side. It was also fitted with gauges and had back lighting that was light blue. Despite these changes and improvements or perhaps because of them, sales for fourth generation Honda Prelude were not as strong as those of the 80s series.
The fifth generation, lasting from 1996 to 2001, was the last of the Honda Prelude series. Some of its features included 16 inch aluminium wheels and an independent front suspension. Another feature was the fitting of automatic transmission with SportShift technology. The 1997 model of the car saw a change in its design that made it longer than previous versions. It was also styled as a sport compact car rather than personal luxury car as previous versions had been. Its 1998 model had air conditioning four-wheel disk brakes, cruise control and CD player. The 1999 model had room for four people and produced 200 hp. The 2000 version of the car was modified from a seating of four to one of five. It was powered by a four-cylinder engine of 2.2 L which generated 195 hp. It was anticipated that these changes would lead to a resumption of sales that had dropped with the fourth generation Honda Prelude. When the anticipated increase in sales didn’t materialize the company ceased production of the series.
For over two decades of its existence, Honda Prelude exemplified the company’s peak performance technology not just in Japan but in the whole world. When it entered the market in the late 1970s it presented the biggest challenge yet to the dominance of cars such as Toyota Celica and Ford Mustang. The fact that the car appeared on the annual ten best cars of Car and Driver magazine for ten times is testament of the car’s admirable performance. Thanks to intense competition and the car’s inability to adjust to consumer tastes of the 1990’s its sales began dropping in the 90s and in 2001 production of the series was stopped.