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These are the best features of the 1979 Honda Prelude

1979Honda_Prelude

The Honda Prelude coupe, which debuted in 1979, added a touch of sport to Honda’s otherwise practical but conservative lineup. The Prelude, which was somewhere between the Civic and the Accord in size, came with the same 72 hp 1,751 cc four-cylinder engine as the Accord, mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission. This provided reasonable, if not brisk, acceleration, especially by today’s standards.

According to a 1979 Motor Trend magazine comparison, this placed it near the top of the pile in the sporty coupe category. The magazines all seemed to love the Prelude as it offered a level of sophistication and luxury that was unusual in its class and price range, despite often being more expensive than most of its competitors. That would also remain a Prelude property, backed by an above-average trade-in value.

Related: Here’s What a 1979 Honda Prelude Is Worth Today

The Road to the Very Beginning: An Overview of the 1979 Honda Prelude

The story of Honda’s Prelude begins with the introduction of a rather unattractive little coupe in 1978. It was small and underpowered by today’s standards, but it was light and cheap. Its small size was due to it being based on the second generation Civic. It also borrowed parts from the Civic, such as the independent strut suspension and brakes. Compared to similar sporty Japanese cars like the Toyota Celicathe Prelude seemed tame, but its low and wide profile suggested performance without screaming, while others would resort to the occasional use of loud disco-esque graphics to grab attention (Mustang, Celica, Sunbird etc).


As the 1970s drew to a close, Honda’s arsenal of two-door cars began to expand. Initially, the lineup caused some confusion as to which model Honda’s sports car was. The longer Accord was also available in a coupé body style. With its formal case, it looked as sleek as the hatchback Prelude. The engine from the heavier Accord would be used in the lighter Prelude, effectively transforming it into a Pony car under the loose definition.

The SOHC 1.8 liter four-cylinder 12-valve didn’t look like a Ford or Chevy V8, but at 75 horsepower, it had a better power-to-weight ratio than the traditional rear-wheel drive pony cars of the time. In fact, a typical 1980 Mustang with a manual transmission was faster than a 2.3 liter Mustang from the same year. Engines that were smaller but more powerful were only available in Canada and Australia.


Honda had clearly carved out a niche with a small sporty coupe that provided efficiency, fun and a touch of luxury. Power and sophistication grew along with sales. Over the years, the Prelude would eventually join the Accord on Car & Driver’s annual 10 Best List. Production of Prelude ended in 2001 after more than 30 years and five generations due to changes in the coupe market that favored the two-door Accord (whose popularity was significantly greater than the Prelude).

Related: What Everyone Has Forgotten About the Honda Prelude

An interior, comfort and reliability: Honda Prelude from 1979

Preludes were well equipped, with standard features such as four-wheel independent suspension, an electric moonroof, an AM/FM stereo radio, a service reminder light, and an instrument panel with a tachometer integrated into the speedometer. The Prelude would become a popular model for Honda, but few early owners thought about keeping it.

The interiors were mostly straight-forward affairs with simple, easy-to-read controls. The attractive arrangement of switches, vents and gauges would also become a Honda trademark that others would covet. The interior was mostly upholstered in fabric, with Connelly leather on the highest trim level. While most cars of the era had separate dials for the tachometer and speedometer, Honda was trying something new. The two dials were arranged in a concentric pattern. The inner circle housed the tachometer, while the outer circle housed the speedometer. There was a small space in the center for warning lights.


Related: 10 Things Everyone Forgot About the Honda Prelude

The best feature of the 1979 Honda Prelude remains the powertrain

With fairly ordinary MacPherson struts on either end, a carbureted 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces a modest 80 horsepower and a top speed of 148 mph, the 1979 Honda Preludes aren’t the technological powerhouses they became in later years. The styling, on the other hand, laid the foundation for later Preludes, with a distinct three-box silhouette and passenger layout more resembling a 2+2 than a full four-seater, while the only concession to styling flair was an instrument package. that placed the tachometer concentrically in the speedometer.

The Prelude, like the Accord and the first generation Civic, had round headlamps in square housings. From the edge of the hood to the chrome plastic bumper, a chrome surround surrounded the front. The space between the headlights was filled with a black grille with horizontal slats. The slanted windshield started with the short greenhouse lines and a short deck lid added to the car’s sporty appearance.

It could seat two, but also had a few seats in the back with limited leg and headroom. The Prelude was available with two engine variants: a 1.6-liter four-cylinder for the base model and a more powerful 1.8-liter four-cylinder for the top level. Initially, transmission options were a standard five-speed manual or an unusual semi-automatic 2-speed “Hondamatic” first seen in the Civic. In 1979 it was replaced by a more conventional 3-speed automatic transmission. Both transmissions shifted smoothly, which became a trademark for future Hondas. A 1979 Prelude Si reached 60 mph in 10.8 seconds, which was faster than average.

Sources: Autopolis–WordPress, Evo, AutoEvolution, Hemmings



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