Digestible Collectible: 1997 Honda Prelude SH

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
digestible collectible 1997 honda prelude sh

It’s time for everybody’s favorite parlor game, “Remember When?” where the good old days are magnified and revered.

Today’s subject: Remember when Honda made fun, affordable cars? Nowadays, the Civic Si all the H-brand has to offer, though the Type R might restore some mojo. Back in the day, one could buy a CRX, a Civic Si, a del Sol, a Prelude, or an S2000 from your friendly Honda store — and the Integra across the street from Acura. They’re all gone, replaced by crossovers.

Yes, I left the CR-Z out, as my arbitrary criteria for this list requires actual fun.

I’ve looked at several hot Hondas in this series, but the Prelude has eluded my gaze until now. Today, I bring you a great example of the final generation, this 1997 Honda Prelude SH. The SH refers to “Super Handling” in Honda’s always-creative model nomenclature, which means this car received an “Active Torque Transfer System” and a slightly redesigned front suspension.

The ATTS system acted much like a complicated limited-slip differential, allowing power to be better applied in corners. It’s been some time since I’ve driven one, but my recollection is that it truly felt like an LSD. I’ve read that it’s not the best at handling higher power from a modified engine, though. This one seems cosmetically perfect, lacking the rear-quarter-panel rust so prevalent on cars north of the Mason-Dixon.

If I had to buy one used car to do everything — from commuting to back road jaunts to track fun — for the next 10 years or more, a Prelude would be near the top of my list simply because of its awesome reliability. For example, I found over a hundred Preludes for sale while looking for this one. A couple dozen had over 200,000 miles, and some had over 300,000. With around 80,000 on this one, it has plenty of life left, and $5,995 seems perfectly reasonable.

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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  • Reino Reino on Feb 06, 2016

    What I love about this gen Prelude is that you can totally tell that Honda was paying a homage to the 'long-hood/fastback' style of the Camaro and Mustang. This is one of the most beautiful cars of that era

  • Mr. Monte Mr. Monte on Feb 06, 2016

    A good friend of mine had one of these for a good while from 97 to 05, it was a fun car to drive. Handled great, loved the clutch feel and the sound once it went into VTEC was joyous. I recall the SH being the best handling car under 30k in a C/D comparo and gave more expensive great handling cars a run for their money! http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/honda-prelude-sh-page-10

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