1981 Honda Prelude

Manufactured by Honda, the Prelude was a front wheel drive I4-engined coupe that was introduced in 1978. The third main model in Honda's modern lineup, the styling of the vehicle was a mixture between the Accord and Civic.

Developed as a better-equipped and more stylish step up from the Accord, the first-generation Prelude featured a wealth of standard equipment that included a power glass ‘moon-roof' that eventually became a Prelude standard.

The Prelude used the floor-plan and the 1.8-liter CVCC with the upcoming second-generation Civic, and the SOHC engine from the first-generation Accord sedan. It also borrowed the strut suspension and brakes from the Civic, the only difference being in the location of the front anti-roll bar that was mounted behind the axles rather than in the front, where it doubled as a trailing arm. A rear sway bar was also fitted into this first generation Prelude.

The total of first-generation production for the US market was 171,829.

Spanning five generations of cars, it was eventually discontinued upon the release of the fourth-generation Honda Integra in 2001. In 1987 Wheels magazine featured the Honda Prelude as Car of the Year.

Equipped with a 1751 cc SOHC CVCC I4 engine, the Prelude was capable of producing 72 hp and had 94 lbf-ft of torque. It came with a 2-speed automatic called the HondaMatic, and was equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission and 68 hp.

In 1982, The second generation Prelude came available with a 12-valve carburated engine, and in 1985, fuel injection was introduced. The first to have pop-up headlights, allowing for a more aerodynamic front, the second generation Prelude was available with a DOHC 16-valve PGM-FI engine in Japan and Asia. This engine was released in Europe until 1986.

The total production for the second-generation Prelude for the US market was 336,599

Modifications to the hood were made to encompass the larger DOHC engine. The car was suprisingly dexturous despite its low weight of 1,025 kg and high power 16 –valve engine capable of producing 100 hp.

In 1983, the Prelude model was lower and wider than the earlier models. The 1.8 liter CVCC, SOHC engine was fed through two side-draft carburetors, the end result being a additional 25 more horsepower than the old Accord. The MacPherson strut front end with a double A-arm front suspension was replaced by Honda to accommodate the low hood line and improve camber control.

The 1984 Prelude model was declared the best sports coupe for under $12,000. Car and Driver rated the Prelude's handling second only to the Porsche 944.

The 1988 Prelude received recognition in the 1987 Road & Track for beating every car of that year including Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Porsches. Phenomenol for those days, the Prelude reached 65.5 mph compared to the 1988 Corvette that did the same in 64.9 mph.

Receiving a facelight in 1990, the Prelude now featured slightly larger tail lights with clear indicators rather than the previous yellow from before. Other updates included the front bumper changed to feature clear indicators along with park lamps, and different styling.

Production sales reached 160,909 for the third-generation Prelude in the US market.

The limited production line, Prelude SiStates was released in 1990 and featured 4WS (Four wheel Steering). The SiStates also featured a unique B21A engine only produced for this model. Only available in Japan for the Japanese Domestic Market, this model also came with Anti Lock Brakes, Limited Slip Differential, additional sound deadening on firewall, hood, rear wiper and washer, and leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift levers.

The fourth generation Prelude was released in 1991, (outside of Japan in 1992) and featured a major overhaul. The adaption of a electronic version of the four wheel steering system, and increase in engine size went from 2.1L to 2.2L for the base 'S' model. This new model mainted a close to perfect 58% front and 42% rear weight distribution.

In the UK, a 2.0i model was rated near 125 bhp (93kW). The Si-VTEC name was used for its final year in 1993 and in the following year was shortened to just VTEC and continued throughout the rest of the generation.

These fourth generation models marked the end of the era of pop-up headlights as well as other features that had earned the 'Prelude standard'. The glass sunroof no longer retracted intro the car but extended out and over it, the front fascia of the car became wider with fixed headlights. The rear end became wide, rounded and fairly high in comparison to the flat and wide design of earlier models.

A radical break from the standard Prelude was the new lower, wider fastback body rather than the rectangular notchback body from before. The fourth generation received a new 160 hp, 2.3 liter, fuel-injected, DOHC engine.

The interior of the vehicle was updated as well and featured a dashboard that was equal in heaight over the full length, and stretched from left to right in the vehicle. The third generation had introduced light blue blacklighting that continued on to this model. Also featured were translucent speedometer and tachometer needles.

Making Car and Driver's 10-best list for every year of its production, the fourth generation Prelude produced 98,627 in the US market.

A standard feature option available in Japanese models was an in-dash television set, along with power folding and heated side mirrors as well as a rear windscreen wiper.
New enhancements including new body styling and handling characteristics were updated to the fifth generation models from the fourth.

A return to the body style of the late 1980's, the fifth-generation predlude was an attempt to raise slumped sales from the fourth-generation body style.

Assembled and distributed to many parts of the world including Japan, Germany, the US and the UK. All models and trims carried either the H-series engine of F-series motor and stayed within the BB-chassis code. All preludes carried a fuel tank capacity of 600 L (15.9 US gal).

The Type S was a fifth-generation model only available in Japan. Featuring VTEC and equipped with the 2.2L H22A it produced 220 PS at 7200 rpm. The Type S had an active Control ABS system that differed from the standard ABS systems. The Type S model did not feature a sunroof.

First, second and fourth generation Preludes have been converted into Convertibles by several German companies through the years.

Tropic Design was a German company that modified a total of 47 first generation models, most of which were exported to Japan and the US. Around 100 second generation Preludes were modified by another German company and converted into convertibles. Only around 15 models were modified from the fourth generation by the German company Honda-Autohaus Manfred Ernst.

The Prelude had unfortunately tripled in price over the lifetime of the Honda vehicle, and reached $25,000 by the fifth generation. Competing with the new Accord coupe and the Acura Integra Type R, Prelude was no longer able to hold it's own as production had dropped to 10,000 units annually. At the end of the fifth generations production run, the Honda Prelude was discontinued in 2001 after a twenty-three production run.

By Jessica Donaldson

Concepts by Honda

Honda Monthly Sales Volume

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Additional Sales Volume Data

Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

1981 Prelude
1981 Honda Prelude Base Price : $6,600


91.30 in.
4 cyl., 106.85 CID., 72.00hp
$6,600 - $6,600
91.30 in.
$7,990 - $7,990

Industry Production

1986Chevrolet (1,368,837)Renault (1,305,191)Ford (1,253,525)405,399
1985Chevrolet (1,418,098)Renault (1,322,887)Oldsmobile (1,192,549)406,413
1984Chevrolet (1,655,151)Renault (1,429,138)Ford (1,180,708)374,819
1983Renault (1,491,853)Chevrolet (1,175,200)Toyota (1,068,321)356,670
1982Renault (1,491,853)Chevrolet (1,297,357)Toyota (1,068,321)365,865
1981Chevrolet (1,673,093)Renault (1,295,713)Toyota (1,068,321)852,177
1980Chevrolet (2,288,745)Renault (1,492,339)Ford (1,162,275)845,514
1979Chevrolet (2,284,749)Ford (1,835,937)Renault (1,405,330)706,375
1978Chevrolet (2,375,436)Ford (1,923,655)Renault (1,240,941)652,920
1977Chevrolet (2,543,153)Toyota (1,884,260)Ford (1,840,427)576,631
1976Chevrolet (2,103,862)Toyota (1,884,260)Ford (1,861,537)473,597

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