- Freshly polished headlights - 5th Gen 1999 UKDM Honda Prelude, 2.2i VTEC, Motegi Edition.

Prelude Addiction 2

1y ago


After years of ownership a car can have that lived in feel. There comes a point where you either invest or part company. Why I chose restoration....

Not long ago I started taking my Prelude to various Japanese car shows. As a 'freshman' I wasn't sure what level of 'geekery' there might be. That said, I was always rewarded by the enthusiasm and the friendliness of people I met - plus there was some stunning shiny metal on show.

@JAE, 2017 - LudeGeneration

However, there was one common theme that kept cropping up as spectators came and went, taking their time to pass by.....

@Beaulieu, Simply Japanese, 2017

.... a sense of regret.

@Stoneleigh, Japanese Performance Show, 2017

That they had once owned a Prelude, or indeed many other 2 door impracticalities, MR2, CRX, Celica, Supra, Corrado, Nissans..... the list goes on, and on, and that they had moved on to more sombre fair.

Where you are in life frequently dictates your choice of transportation.

Gradually lives have changed, such that many now inhabit SUVs, where once they drove hot hatches and brazen coupes. Now they appreciate low tax banding, or the aloof isolation of the luxury SUV.

For some reason, and I digress here, the SUV has come to dominate our roads. It seems to be the default family vehicle. That's not to say that there isn't a variety of power on the road - after all, every model range has to feature a hot version.

Back in the day when SUVs didn't exist - Father and Son Preludes overpower the Golf GTi

The SUV Experience.

Once you drive something that excites the senses you understand the compromise of the more sensible rides. On occasion I drive a Honda CRV. In the spec my Dad has, it displays, well, rather good looking, nice lines.....

Honestly, I think in this spec and that colour it's a handsome thing - 2016 Honda CRV 1.6 iDTEC Twin Turbo - 160BHP

I'll confess, I enjoy the ride of that CRV. It's an easy car, comfortable if a little fidgety at times. Being a manual stalwart I'm surprised at how good the nine speed auto box is.

It's a different driving experience, more day to day workmanlike?

Cruising through the traffic with some good tunes, does the job.

Blimey, that's a bit full on, though I can see the new Civic in this mouth? The new Honda trademark mouth

On modern roads comfort is a priority as you sit in traffic going nowhere, so the SUV just ticks that box nicely, especially with that elevated view. In the coupe you'd be cursing the SUV in front of you completely obscuring all forward vision. It is, undeniably, a more relaxed 'traffic jam' experience.

What the SUV isn't however, is a driving occasion.

Step into your coupe, hot hatch, M badge, Type R, Jap Rotary, exotic Italian V12, Norfolk cheese, American V8 muscle, etc, etc, and straight away it is an occasion.

@Stoneleigh, Japanese Performance Show, 2017 - as occasions go this one ranks high

I might add a caveat to my comment regarding the SUV being workmanlike:

@Stoneleigh, Japanese Performance Show, 2017, large dose of steroids and this 1st Gen Honda CRV is barely recognisable

Motoring is at a funny point right now. After being persuaded that diesel was the solid environmental choice, we now see it in decline. Petrol still hangs in there, and hybrid continues to make advances. As for electric, still got a way to go before I'm convinced it's suitable for anything beyond the short commute. It takes minutes to fill the fuel tank of a car to extend its range, and you can frequently queue at a petrol station. So how long do you expect queues to be at a fast charging station with, say, a minimum 30min charge time? For EVs to become mainstream, there's problems to be overcome.

With those things in mind I'm loath to change the Prelude for anything really. But, I was momentarily tempted by a hybrid:

@JAE, 2017 - Honda CRZ 1.5l Hybrid - with Mugen kit

What about a Toyota GT86?

@Stoneleigh, Japanese Performance Show, 2017

To be honest, if I were to be tempted by another car I'd probably look again at an old Japanese sports car.

@Stoneleigh, Japanese Performance Show, 2017 - The Beautiful Supra

@Stoneleigh, Japanese Performance Show, 2017 - can the new Supra be as beautiful as this?

In every car history there is the one you wished you'd kept, not just for the nostalgia evoked, but, for the way it made you feel as you drove.

@Stoneleigh, Japanese Performance Show, 2017 - Evo or GT3000?

Of cars that you have owned which ones caused you to headturn after parking up?

@Stoneleigh, Japanese Performance Show, 2017 - the older the better, the more the head turns.

This old Japanese sports car continues to put a smile on my face.

Aesthetics matter. Was the car you drove 20 years ago better looking than your current drive? Has current design become too busy and obsessed with function over beauty?

@JAE, 2017 - You do appreciate driving something uniquely shaped, and no less comfortable than a modern car.

Staying with the Lude.

Originally the plan was to keep the Prelude for a while before moving on to an S2000. Couldn't do it. I'm afraid I'd become too attached to the Prelude and any thought of an upgrade was easily discarded. Driving such a car was the occasion I couldn't give up.

The problem however was age - it was taking it's toll. Cosmetically the car needed a good tidy. More than that it needed new rear arches. To bring back to spec and rejuvenate the car required money. Why not just cut ties with the Prelude and find the next drive - something far newer?

Old vs. New.

So why stick with a car from your youth?

@JAE, 2017 - Japans best muscle

Why invest the money?

Cars of today are technically better than those of 20 years ago, that's just fact isn't it?

@Donnington, JapFest, 2017 - Do too many modern performance cars trade beauty for aggressive purpose?

But does modernity equate to a better sensory experience, a richer drive? I'm not sure that it always does, certainly not within the context of real world driving. The technical performance of a TypeR will always see me off, although I'd still have a hell of a lot of fun trying to stay with it. And that's why driving is not always about the raw numbers - it's more the feeling of a personal connection with the vehicle. Own it long enough and it talks to you.

However, technical prowess means that the modern coupe likely has an orchestra of 'electonic assists' and gadgets that never existed in the time of the Preludes - although it must be pointed out that the Prelude was an early adopter of the now fashionable 4WS.

No traction control on this model, (they never fitted to the UK models), ohh and have a look at this....

Look closely, you'll see a bar, blue at one end and red at the other with a slidey thing, it controls temperature!

Note the antique heating controls, honestly though, it's a breeze to operate. It should be pointed out that JDM Preludes had digital climate control.

JDM Envy.

On the subject of JDM it should also be pointed out that, like other Japanese cars, the JDM version meant more toys, with the TypeS gaining, amongst other things, 20BHP over the Motegi, revised suspension and ABS, plus cutting edge cornering tech with the acronym ATTS, (Active Torque Transfer System). The TypeS deserves far more recognition and is a rare find.

@JAE, 2017 - A beautiful JDM TypeS - Prelude Royalty.

As a Prelude nut I slightly regret never taking the plunge and importing a 217BHP TypeS Prelude. That would be my favourite Prelude.

There are differences across the markets, multiple variants of the Prelude, but, they are all made in Japan.

Most are minor differences in spec or cosmetic trim, e.g. heated door mirror on a UKDM, electric folding door mirror on JDM. There are additional differences in the variant of the H22 engine used and gearbox, e.g. the JDM Type SiR S Spec had an LSD gearbox, something the UK market never saw.

You have an actual handbrake.

A cabin of the 90s was a lot less cluttered, no messy media mouse button things, a no to the complexity of multiple driving modes or the flappy paddle, and no electronic handbrake.

Remember when you used to have a real handbrake and manual gears.

And a manual shift, ahhhh nice.

Modern dashboards are multimedia digital creations, all network connected, blinky and beepy, the cars even want to park and drive themselves.

The high tec GTR dash

All this modern gimmickry, does it make for a more enjoyable experience? I am aware that when rain strikes the windscreen I need to engage the wipers. The car doesn't really need to do that for me.

I have though cheated with the Prelude. The original tape deck was history a long time ago. Now in its place a spot of modernity. Old cars can easily, and discretely, be equipped with additional 'toys', bells and whistles - so the cabin doesn't have to feel so dated with you missing the reverse cam of your Audi TT.

All bluetoothed up.

Compared to a modern coupe the Prelude does miss a lot of gimmicks, but it doesn't seem to rob me of that sense of occasion when I drive. That somehow I am not missing out by keeping this old Japanese car.

Even accounting for the differences in power, given that a modern equivalent would be looking at least 250BHP, if not 300, the 197BHP on offer still gives respectable, by today's standards, performance figures:

2.2i H22A8 DOHC VTEC - 197BHP: 0-60 in 6.5sec onto 142mph.

The 5th gen has aged well - 2.2i VTEC, Ficus Green Motegi

The drawbacks

The H22 engine within the Honda seems to be as strong as ever, it's the bodywork that poses the greatest threat to its longevity. So if you where to find that elusive car, time or money invested in rustproofing is essential.

Freshly rust proofed

What looked like a small patch of rust in the corner of both rear arches, nothing of major concern, turned out to be more, with inner arches in need of cutting out.

New rear arches, and rust proofed.

Know a mechanic that understands your engine, and a trusted bodyshop.

For the non technical - you fix by taking it to the garage and giving the car to a man that wont break it and will make the car better - such as myself, an older engine can be an issue. Many garage mechanics will never have worked on your 20+ year old design of engine. In addition, some parts may be getting thin on the ground if you're looking to stay stock. Usually though, a quality AEM can be found - as I discovered when needing a new radiator that Honda no longer stock.

Back to the Honda care home - note the 4WS in action.

There is one further drawback. A silly little thing if I'm honest, but, you can no longer park in a supermarket car park without breaking into a cold sweat. Walking away from the car knowing some form of pin dent awaits your return.

For the eagle eyed, bit of a bouncing bomb stone chip with three neatly lined up dents - oh joy.

No matter how far away you park from the entrance, how deserted the car park might be, someone will be drawn to the spot adjacent to you. So knowing a good pin dent operative is a necessity.

Maybe it's maddness.

As I write the car is in for a further bout of cosmetic tinkering. The alloys are in need of a refurb; the engine bay needs tidying; plus lots of little stuff and sorting out the usual wear and tear. I sometimes wonder if I'm being silly, a complete clot. After all, a 5th gen Prelude is a relatively cheap pick up right now athough the manual VTEC seems to be in short supply. Whilst prices for Honda Integra go sky high the Lude is overlooked. So why spend all this money, knowing you'll not see a return?

Cars aren't rational

@Donnington, Japfest, 2017 - I'll go out on a limb, ugly as hell, but I love it. On the road it looks properly mean.

If you want rational then ditch the Prelude and look to the likes of the TypeR. Cast off this ridiculous notion that somehow cars of the nineties and early 2000s are more worthy than their contemporaries.

@JAE, 2017 - this classic is hard to beat, the Maxda RX-7

It's hard to argue that in terms of looks some 90s early 2000 cars just caught the eye. More so than todays crop.

Beautiful profile.

Perhaps it boils down to this:

"I can't get over the looks of the car, it's the right balance of performance and beauty, technically superceded, but, i don't care"


There's an elegance to the design that modern cars frequently lack. They can be works of art.

The eyes have it, the Prelude stays.

@Beaulieu, Simply Japanese, 2017 - LudeGeneration 5th gens.

I guess I'm on a mission now and hopefully I'll continue to bore you senseless with images of a green Prelude for a good while yet.

Thanks for reading this rather long story - or rant.



With contributions from Ray Norcliffe

For more Prelude musings see 'Addiction 1':


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