The Carchive: The Honda Prelude Mk3


We had a pause to get our breath back yesterday, but today we return, with a vengeance, to Honda Prelude Week in The Carchive, an event whose significance to Honda Coupe fanciers around the globe cannot ever be equalled. Until VW Scirocco week, which may happen soon. And possibly Mazda RX week. And Nissan Z week.

And Ford Transit week. WHOA!! Too far, there. Calm down.

Let’s take a look at the radically, er, reheated Third Generation Prelude.


“Aerodynamically styled for true high performance”

I wonder whether there was a conscious decision among the Prelude Development team to demonstrate to people that “look, we got it right last time”. The new car was so similar to the last one you could almost believe they had submitted the wrong set of drawings for build finalization.

So, a familiar shape to please the many who had grown to love the Prelude through the ’80s so far, again with pop-up headlamps and the same two-door coupe profile, low, lean and purposeful. But with some differences. Honda were proud that the hood was “Lower and sleeker than ever“, thanks to the engine being reclined to an angle of 18 degrees, rather than canted forward 15 like on the previous car. The difference in height was only 20mm, but it was apparently enough to celebrate, making for a “….classic example of form and function working beautifully together”


“When it comes to high performance, superiority lies under the bonnet”

This time around there were two engines to choose from, both based on the same 1958cc four-cylinder B20 castings. The entry level for the UK was EX, the trim name formerly found on the top-end model. It used a twelve-valve version of this engine, drinking via twin carburetors and forking out 114bhp.

As previewed by the later versions of the previous car, there was a high-performance alternative. Honda put a 16-valve head on the same engine, plumbed it up to a their proprietary PGM-FI injection system, employing a two-stage intake manifold to allow more fuel-air mix in at higher engine speeds. It could offer you 150hp and meant that the top-of-the-range machine was now a genuine 130mph, eight-to-sixty proposition.

Of course, it didn’t have only that to offer:



“The first production car in the world to be equipped with 4-wheel steering”

Remember when FWS was a thing? Enough to have graphics on the car that promoted it? Honda proudly boasted that their  Prelude was “the culmination of the latest advances in automotive technology.”

Today a great number of modern cars have some degree of rear-wheel-steering, but it’s usually a passive setup which responds to what the car is doing via inertia rather than by being directly instructed. The Honda system was fully active and was terrned Steer Angle Dependent. The mechanism called for two steering boxes, a rack and pinion setup to take your command up front, with a slender shaft running all the way back to a planetary gear system at the rear. And it was damned effective. It made the Prelude devastatingly effective in against-the-clock slalom tests.

Third Generation Prelude finally moved on from MacPherson struts completely, with double wishbones appearing at the back as well as the front. And ABS could be found on 4WS models. Yes, the mechanical package had evolved quite a long way from those Accord-like origins.


“A sports coupe which has been designed around the needs of the driver.”

The driving environment was genuinely sensible in layout and had some quite sporting design cues. The driving position was good for the majority of those who sat in one, though my personal experience found me wondering what to do with my knees. But most importantly the atmosphere was one of promised performance. If you squinted, like, really hard, you could see links with the NSX. No, really.

And that all stemmed from solid ergonomic study. Near total simplicity, no frippery, everything in its right place. Not terribly exciting or enthralling to look at, sure. But a very efficient workstation from which to extract maximum productivity from the machine itself.

“The New Honda Prelude. A unity between man and machine”

That’s what it was.  And coming soon would be the flash and panache to match the newfound dash.

(Disclaimer; All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials,  photographed by me. Copyright belongs to Honda. If I had four-wheel-steer I’d make sure my car had FOUR WHEEL STEER graphic’d all down the side, so everybody knows. I love the ’80s)

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