on the run: 1989 Honda Prelude 2.0i4WS

PreludeSometimes them’s the breaks. On the hottest day of last year – when the temperature hit 37 degrees centigrade sometime towards the end of August, my ‘new’ ultra low mileage, one previous owner Seattle Silver Honda Prelude 3rd generation emerged from Performance Autoworks complete with a new cambelt, new oil and coolant. After a couple of months of grannying it around on its original cambelt (and tyres, for that matter), it finally got its first full service.

I was in a hurry, with an appointment to keep. It was 5.30pm, I was in the Cotswolds and had to be in Aberystwyth by 9pm. No problem I thought – what better bolide than my freshly reinvigorated, mint condition motor to do the job? And off I went, pressing on hard and running right up to the legal speed limit! Despite being well extended, the engine ran fine, with one of its cooling fans spooling into action throughout the rush hour traffic on the M6 through Birmingham to keep the temperature gauge under the halfway mark. It proved amazingly comfy to drive such a long distance, despite the oppressive heat and the aircon not working – at least there was that large electric sunroof to keep me cool.

Off I went home to Marlborough the next morning. When I got back, the car was idling a little erratically, so I let things cool down then had a quick look to see if a plug lead had come off, or some such other obvious thing – this machine had only been driven 24,000 miles in twenty four years after all, so there was bound to be some teething troubles. Sadly, it was worse than that. I took the radiator cap off, only to find a few little globules of oil in the coolant. Bugger, head gasket failure!

Actually, the car drove around happily for several months in this fragile state, running smoothly and reliably, without the merest hint of overheating – even in sickness classic Hondas seem to go well. All I could discern was a slight loss of performance, marginally lower and lumpier idling and some steam from the exhaust pipe. As autumn came, the Prelude went into hibernation, and was started periodically and driven a few yards to keep things freed up.

As spring sprung, out came the ‘Lude. It got a new exhaust system, some fresh rear suspension bushes, a new battery plus refurbed alloys and four new Continental PremiumContact 2 tyres, then trundled off to the local garage for its long-postponed head job. A few weeks later it was running smooth as silk again, head gasket restored. The car has just received a deep clean, some engine bay detailing and a few minor tweaks and is now – a year after I bought it – where I’d expected it to be by around July 2013! Which is to say it’s driving beautifully, sweetly and serenely.

There are still a few things to do – the original Honda radio/cassette player needs fixing, the tracking needs a precautionary four-wheel alignment, the lambda sensor needs replacing and the bumpers need some cosmetic spraying work. Still, these are mere trifles – at last I have a near-mint, ultra low mileage eighties Prelude that’s working as Soichiro Honda intended. On the road it’s turning heads, not least because in the UK third gen Preludes are extremely rare now. I regularly drive a 1996 Prelude and people don’t bat an eyelid, but with this previous generation example, I often come back to where I parked it to see people taking pictures. In this world of ungainly modern cars, looks like its pert, angular lines and long, low bonnet are causing a stir!

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