1st Gen Honda Prelude

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First generation (1979–1982)

First generation

On November 24, 1978, the Prelude which used the second generation Civic as a base, was launched. The four wheel independent struts, brakes and floorpans were all borrowed from the second generation Civic. The Civic family resemblance can also be seen in the front fascia of the Prelude. Japanese Preludes were sold exclusively through Honda Verno stores in Japan and held the position worldwide as the flagship Honda sports coupe model until the arrival of the Honda/Acura NSX many years later. Though the drivetrain was shared with the Accord, the Prelude found its home as a two-door, FWD specialty vehicle. At 4090 mm (length) x 1635 mm (width) x 1290 mm (height), it had quite a low and wide profile. The wheelbase was 2320 mm, and was 60 mm shorter than that of the original Accord. The Prelude sold much better abroad than it did at home in Japan, with about 313,000 total units being built during its four year production run with about 80 percent being slated for export from Japan. The total first-generation production for the U.S. market was 171,829 vehicles.

As the Civic/Accord of the era used a sub-frame chassis structure with a monocoque body (unibody), the Prelude used a one-piece sub-frame chassis with monocoque body that is setup as a two-pillar structure to increase body and torsional rigidity. The front suspension employed a MacPherson strut with a conventional coil spring mounted offset of the central axis of the damper which was designed and intended to greatly smooth the travel of the suspension, and rear suspension consisted of the Lotus-designed Chapman strut. The front mounted anti-roll bar served two functions on this vehicle, number one, to reduce body roll during cornering and number two, to act as the radius rod for the front suspension, this vehicle also featured a rear anti-roll bar as well. This design minimizes the typical front engine front wheel drive understeer while cornering near the limit and also limits the rear sliding behavior of vehicles with this drivetrain layout. Riding on P175/70SR13 Bridgestone radials, the Prelude with its all-independent suspension provided both good grip and an excellent ride. The Prelude received many compliments on its ability to handle well being very well balanced and rivaling anything put out by the competition. "It is," wrote Brock Yates for Motor Trend, "by any sane measurement, a splendid automobile. The machine, like all Hondas, embodies fabrication that is, in my opinion, surpassed only by the narrowest of margins by Mercedes-Benz. It is a relatively powerful little automobile by anybody's standards."

The engine sourced from the Accord was the EK SOHC 8-valve 1750 cc CVCC inline four rated at 75 hp (56 kW) @ 4500 rpm and 96 ft·lb (130 N·m) @ 3000 rpm. The Accord-shared engine made use of an engine oil cooler and transistor-controlled ignition system. 1981 saw the introduction of the CVCC-II engine which employed the use of a catalytic converter and several other refinements that improved driveability, the Prelude also received a mild facelift in 1981. Transmission choices were either the standard 5-speed manual or initially a two speed "Hondamatic" semi-automatic which by October 1979, had been replaced by a 3-speed automatic that used the final gear as the overdrive. The Prelude was quick when compared to most of its competition with Motor Trend measuring an early Prelude completing the quarter-mile in a respectable 18.8 seconds at 70 mph. In addition to the standard fabrics offered in most models, an 'Executive' option was offered in some markets which added power steering and Connolly leather upholstery which is typically only used in high end luxury cars. The Prelude was the first Honda model to offer a power moonroof as standard equipment, which eventually became a Prelude trademark. Honda used a single central gauge cluster design in this car which housed the speedometer and tachometer in one combined unit where both instrument's needles swept along the same arc. They also placed the compact AM/FM radio unit up high next to the gauge cluster intending to enhance the ease of use but consumers found the layout to be confusing so in 1980 Honda moved to a conventional mid dash mounted AM/FM stereo with cassette being offered as a dealer installed option. The Prelude featured a wealth of other standard equipment, including intermittent wipers, tinted glass, and a remote trunk release. Honda added some electronic warning bells for 1982, but otherwise the first-generation Prelude remained very much the same throughout its production life.


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