By on October 27, 2012

The Honda Prelude became bigger, faster, and sportier as the 1980s progressed, so we often forget that the first-generation version was such a little car.
330,201 miles. That’s 11,000 miles per year for 30 years. There’s no telling how many head gaskets it has been through, but an impressive achievement by any measure.
I’m sure that some 1979-82 Preludes came with interiors in colors other than French Cathouse Red, but I can’t remember seeing any.

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35 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Honda Prelude...”

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    For its age, it sure was in good shape before it croaked.

  • avatar

    Kind of early to have service interval type lights that way!

    The other thing I noticed is how boring this car looks. Though in those days I guess it wasn’t supposed to have sporting pretensions, even with the fake vent in the hood.

    You could cut up those back seats and make a keen Power Ranger costume for next week.

  • avatar

    Incredibly clean exterior for its age. There are much worse cars still on the road.

    Thanks for reminder of the vacuum hose horror that defined this era of Hondas. The Honda cult members want the rest of us to forget that. On the other hand, 330k is great for any vehicle; this one must have had quite a mechanic looking after it.

    The recent Boston Marathon sticker tells me the owner either travelled to the marathon to participate, or was a local who moved and then traded this car after getting a promotion.

    Great find!

    • 0 avatar

      It’s most likely the former – he traveled. A 30 year old Honda in New England would’ve been full of rust with this mileage whether garaged or not.

    • 0 avatar

      No “horror” to the vacuum controls on early Honda’s. With a service manual and a little common sense they were no big deal. The fact is that system rarely had issues and that the cars ran so well (at least compared to all the other “smog choked” cars sold in Cali at the time) was the reason the Honda “cult” loved/loves them.

      …..just don’t monkey with them if you don’t know what you’re doing and the car will be just fine.

      • 0 avatar

        These couldn’t have been as bad as some claim here. When I was car shopping in 1987, I wrote off getting a 1st generation Prelude partly because they were commanding more money as used cars than the cheap new cars I was looking at. IIRC, I paid $7K out the door for a Festiva L with A/C and an AM/FM stereo at a Ford dealer that wanted $7,695 for a 1982 Prelude. A girl at my high school paid full ask for it too. I didn’t think the 1st-gen Prelude was very exciting, but I looked at a couple because I thought they’d be cheap used cars. I was wrong.

        I knew a Volvo fan that traded a high mileage 240 for a 2nd generation Civic. The salesman said that the Civic was a good car, but don’t expect it to make it to 200,000 miles like his Volvo did before becoming a liability. The Civic had almost 300,000 miles when he told me the story. Another friend had a rusty 1st generation Accord that was going strong on the mean streets of Long Island when the struts came through the hood at 280,000 miles.

        Honda didn’t build their market by selling cars that weren’t mechanically hardy, at least the ones that didn’t have automatic transmissions anyway. That being said, there is a clean silver Prelude like the one above in my neighborhood with an automatic. It’s driven regularly too.

      • 0 avatar

        From personal experience, they were as bad as advertised. Head gaskets, fragile transmissions and in rust country, plenty of it. Flappy, saggy interiors, which were small and cramped (and I was really skinny at the time) and dealers who had no problems fleecing people for all kinds of money, as if these things were made of some otherworldly materials.

        The Ford products I owned at the time were no great shakes by any means, but some of the crap my GF at the time was subjected to was just awful.

      • 0 avatar

        Geo, my friend’s older brother bought one of these new…I believe it was a 84. IIRC, the odometer had yellow/orangeish digits. We called it the Quualude because it was so slow. It did take a head gasket but that seemed to be caused by the fact that it started running hot at only 70K or so. But other than that is was certainly one of the better cars of the era. That myriad of vacuum hoses was daunting, but the saving grace was the quality of the tubing. It held up well, resisting the cracking and rot that seemed typical of Malaise era machines. Buy, yeah, if you did not know what you were doing it was best to leave them alone.

        ….mean streets of Long Island….you’re kidding (I hope)…

      • 0 avatar

        They stopped making slow Preludes in 1982, at least relative to other 4 cylinder cars of the day. The 1983 Prelude was a revelation and put an end to the Quaalude jokes that the magazines made about the first generation car. When I finally drove an ’83 Prelude, it made my Audi 4000S quattro seem like an antique.

        Long Island isn’t homogeneous. Where my friend grew up it was pretty seedy. He also had the Accord through all his years at Carnegie Melon in Pittsburgh and then when he moved to Manhattan after graduation. None of these places have cars in nice shape that are more than a few months old.

  • avatar

    I had an uncle who had a Honda Prelude when I was a kid, I think it was a 1980 model. I remember thinking it had the coolest instrument cluster I had ever seen! It was different from the one in this Prelude, it had a single big circle, with both the speedometer and tachometer in it. IIRC this picture shows the same instrument cluster my uncle’s Prelude had:

    • 0 avatar

      For some reason Fiat thinks the illegible instrument setup that Honda had to redesign almost immediately over thirty years ago was such a good idea that they put an even less readable version of it in the 500.

    • 0 avatar

      I like that, looks cool! And I remember James May commenting about how the speedo on the Fiat 500 chased the tach around as you changed gear. It’s a cool design.

      On another note, I always did like the French word for gasoline – ESSENCE. “Excuse me, I seem to be running low on essence.”

  • avatar

    Honda’s first attempt at a sports coupe was pretty tepid…a true chick car…In 1980 I bought a VW Scirocco…better in every way.
    The 2nd generation Prelude was incredible. Sleek, with its double wishbone suspension, low hood and belt line and great 100hp engine…It really became a sports coupe

  • avatar

    Someone must of did more than just head gaskets; this is the exact Prelude (exact color and everything) that my friend owned that ran flawlessly up to 70,000 miles, then everything started to fall apart; as I mentioned in a previous installment. His friend’s Civics did the same the thing; he got married and went to work for GM, and an Astro van to replace it.

  • avatar

    We had an ’81. The interior was white. The exterior was dark blue.

    When our first child was born we found it wasn’t easy to get the car seat in. To do so the passenger seat needed to be as far forward and possible and folded forward. Then the car seat needed to be lowered through the sunroof. The kid needed to be put in from the other side

    A real backbreaker. We replaced it with a minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m curious how long you put up with that whole song-and-dance before you reached the day when you decided you simply couldn’t do it one more time.

      That will be a good story to tell your grandchildren someday when they are complaining. “…back in my day we had to load the carseat blah blah blah in the snow blah blah blah up hill both ways blah blah dial-up Internet blah blah blah…”

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I bought a blue 82 5speed w/grey interior in decent shape back in the early 90’s for a mere $600 since I was in-between cars and needed cheep fun wheels. It was a decent ride but a bit tight for my 6’2″ frame so I sold it for what I paid for it after normal maintenance and replacing a broken door lock. The buyer got several years out of it till family needs dictated something larger.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    When these first came out in 1979 they immediately created an incredible demand , at least in places like Houston ,( ” Boomtown USA” then due to the oil economy ) which were still prosperous in the Carter malaise era . People were paying a $ 1500 extra dealer fee , on top of mandatory clearcoat and rustproofing and fabric sealant and all that other crap – on a car that listed for like $ 6500 back then . And yeah IIRC it seemed 90 % of them were that silver / bordello red color combo , at least in 1979 .

  • avatar

    In 1992, when I was eighteen, a friend took me to Peace Arch Toyota in Surrey BC, where he knew the manager. He came out of the office and told what a great deal he got me on a 1982 Prelude. It had 160,000 kms on it, looked great, and had a power sunroof. It was mine for 1200 bucks. The icing on the cake was that there was an insurance claim for new paint on one side, where I had noticed some minor scratches.

    I adored that car, the smoothness, the cool (at the time) interior, and how easy it was to drive. I still regret reselling it (for $1800) a few months later.

  • avatar

    Well…. MY 1975 Civic CVCC had a manual choke on the dash.

    All it needed was a three-on-the-tree and I would have been ready to rumble.

  • avatar

    Interesting that the first Prelude appear to be based off the Civic, while the later version seem to be Accord-size.

  • avatar

    Currently driving an ’82 Prelude that I picked up for about $2K here in Minnesota. No, it was not a Minnesota car all its life — it lived in CA for most of its life and then never saw snow once it arrived. Its absolutely clean and amazing for a 30 year old car. Except for a little punkiness when the carb warms up, the car needed nothing. Amazing for a 30 year old vehicle. I drive it on nice days and plan to garage it once the snow falls. Lots of comments from folks who remember the car back in the day and younger Honda fanboys who can’t believe its still on the road.

    It’s not the fastest car ever built, but, even with an automatic, it manages to scoot along at highway speeds just fine. I really love the spunky personality of Hondas from this era. Something that seems to have been bred out of the genes of more recent Hondas. Absolutely one of the best vintage type car buys going.

  • avatar

    I still have one of these! A black one, with the red interior. Bought new by my father. Given to me around 86. I drove it til around 90. Bought an 84 Accord then. Kept the Prelude around as a backup car. And passed around to relatives when they needed a car. It always comes back to me. I used it a few weeks ago to teach a friends daughter to drive a stick. She is driving it to school this week. I have replaced the clutch a few times in its 700000 miles, but the engine is still happy.

  • avatar

    Vacuum hose menagerie! I never could believe these cars ran as long as they did with so many rubber hoses laced around the engine compartment. I get that they wouldn’t be hard to troubleshoot (for the sake of argument anyway), but the quantity of them is daunting. At least the fuel injection systems later reduced the number of lines.

    700000 miles seanx37?!! That’s awesome. I have to say I always had the impression, false or otherwise, that the Preludes and Civics didn’t last as long as their Accord brethren. Maybe that’s a misperception.

    I’m assuming the ’83 models’s speedometer went up to 130 like the ’83 Accords did.

    I agree with other comments here. Honda, where’s the spunk gone?

  • avatar

    Hi Murilee Martin,
    I’m looking for parts from your Honda prelude 82.
    Do you still have this car ?

  • avatar

    This is Honduh’s mutant version that shows that Ford wasn’t the only clueless company to sell ugly front drive coupes.

    FYI, EVERY Honduh sold now is a bloated version of its former self from the 1980’s. Honduh has forgotten how to build great products – there used to be something about their low belt and hoodlines – now everything is chunky and flabby and UGLY.

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