Honda has a history of producing reliable, sturdy, and brilliant daily drivers. One car that seems to fly under the radar is the Honda Prelude. The Prelude was in production from the late 1970s up to the early 2000s, spanning five generations. Over that time, The Prelude earned a reputation as a comfortable, dependable daily driver, all while offering quite punchy performance. Its two-door sports coupe layout meant it absolutely had sports car credentials.
The Prelude was also packed with great innovation. Thanks mostly to its innovative four-wheel steering. Nowadays, the Prelude is quite a collectible JDM car. Particularly across the third, fourth, and fifth generations of the sports coupe. It is little wonder that some feel the Prelude should make a comeback within the current Honda range. Something we have explored in a Prelude digital render from our very own Rostislav Prokop. Maybe Propkop was on to something that Honda should take notice of!
Honda Prelude Sported Innovative Four-Wheel Steering
Perhaps the most eye-catching of all Prelude features was the four-wheel steering. This first appeared on the car in its third generation from 1987 to 1991. It marked the first time that a four-wheel steering system was available on a mass-production passenger car. It exceeded even Honda’s own expectations. Conservatively, they estimated some 30% of buyers would go for the system. But it was a huge runaway with success in the home market. Some 80% of buyers took up the revolutionary four-wheel steering in the first year alone.
The idea behind the four-wheel steering was that the rear wheels on the Prelude would steer by around five degrees, opposite the front ties. This took place in slow-speed maneuvering. This innovation helped reduce the car’s turning circle by 10%. At higher speeds, a 1.5-degree turn was available at the back in the same direction as the front tires. This would help reduce the yaw factor on wet surfaces when up to higher interstate-level speeds. Preludes with the system would sport a four-wheel steer logo on the steering wheel below the Honda badge.
The Prelude Featured A Fantastic Chassis For A Great Ride
The Prelude had an all-new chassis right from the very first model. The chassis was the brainchild of Honda chief engineer Hiroshi Kizawa. And it was exclusively developed for the Prelude. The chassis helped to make the Prelude such a joyous car to drive. It also backed up the sports car appearance that the car had. The handling would improve over the years. With the fifth generation in particular sporting superb handling. Handling so good that it would make drivers forget the Prelude wasn’t a rear-wheel drive sports car but a front-wheel drive coupe.
Not only that, but the comfort the Prelude offered drivers and passengers was almost unmatched. Independent front suspension was one factor behind the superb ride quality of the Prelude. A driving dynamic feature that again improved across the generations. Thanks to this great combination of ride, steering, and handling, the Prelude offered a great level of control. It was agile and nimble in the corners, meaning that as a daily driver, it was a ton of fun. Like many Hondas as well, the Prelude was ultra-reliable. With various engines ranging from a DOHC, EK CVCC, and even VTEC across the years. The Prelude was most famous for its various inline-four powertrains, an engine it had from the first generation.
Honda Prelude Is Quite A Collectible JDM Car Today
The Prelude has evolved into quite the collectible JDM legend. One that seems happy out of the limelight of other Hondas like the NSX and S2000. Some generations of the Prelude have pop-up headlights, a feature that is endearing to many, even if it is now more of a novelty than it once was. Thanks to its comfort, it’s a classic car that can easily become a daily driver. It is also practical, and power steering makes later models even better to drive.
Classic.com say that the most a Prelude has sold for is $40,086 on Bring a Trailer. This is for a very original 1986 Honda Prelude, with a five-speed manual transmission and just 29,800 miles. Clearly, there is plenty of demand for the Prelude.
The Honda Prelude Deserves More Recognition
It might not be as glamorous as the Acura/Honda NSX or as jaw-dropping to drive as an S2000. But the Honda Prelude, across all five generations, is a fantastic JDM car. Each one has something special to offer. All culminating in the quite spectacular fifth generation. As a daily driver, the Prelude is hugely underrated, making much more sense practicality-wise than many of its Japanese siblings.
In some ways, it's good that the Prelude lives out of the limelight. It means if you really appreciate it for the great car it is, you may one day pick up a bargain. And it’s a bargain that will bring you years of joy, fun, and great classic JDM daily driving.
Sources: Classic.com, Bring a Trailer, Honda