Home » From The ‘Where Are They Now?’ File: 1990 Honda Prelude vs 1991 Chevy Beretta

From The ‘Where Are They Now?’ File: 1990 Honda Prelude vs 1991 Chevy Beretta

Sbsd 7 24 2023
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Good morning! It’s a new week full of crappy old cars, and today we’ve got a couple of coupes that used to be everywhere, but have all but vanished. But before we get into that unsolved mystery, let’s take a look at Friday’s results:

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Toyota takes the win, even with three hundred thousand miles on the clock. Honestly, I could flip a coin on this one and not be unhappy with either outcome, but I lean slightly in favor of the MR2, mainly because owning a mid-engined sports car is still on my gearhead bucket list.

“Things fall apart,” the poet once said; “the center cannot hold.” This is no less true of automobiles than anything else. We lose cars all the time to rust, mechanical failures, accidents, or just being left to rot. But there are certain cars that are just gone, even though they were common in their day. And then, once in a while, one surfaces, like a prehistoric fish being caught in a fisherman’s net, and you can’t help but be impressed, even if it’s not a particularly impressive car. Today, for your consideration, I have a pair of such ancient creatures. Let’s check them out.

1990 Honda Prelude 2.0Si – $3,950

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Round Rock, TX

Odometer reading: 198,000 miles (but it’s broken)

Runs/drives? Yep

This is the car I think of when someone says “Honda Prelude,” the third-generation model. It’s the one I remember reading about in car magazines in high school, the one with four-wheel steering (though I don’t think this car has that option) and that great, open, airy cabin with those lovely slender roof pillars. It’s such a clean, simple design, and it has aged really well. It’s a shame it’s such a hard car to find these days.

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This one, unfortunately, has an automatic transmission. The Prelude never really was a high-performance machine, but it is far more entertaining to drive with a manual gearbox. It ever-so-slightly makes up for the lack of a clutch pedal with its pistol-grip shift lever. It’s cool, but not as cool as a manual shifter in that spot would be. Powering this mild disappointment is a two-liter twincam B20A engine with electronic fuel injection.

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This Prelude is up for sale after 22 years with the same owner. It runs and drives, but it needs a few things fixed: it idles rough and the check engine light is on, as is the ABS light. The air conditioning conked out. The valve cover gasket leaks, and pretty badly, based on the photo above. And large sections of the instrument panel don’t work, including the odometer; the actual mileage is estimated to be about 230,000.

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So clearly, there is some work to be done. It’s a cool old car, even with the automatic, and it’s worth saving. Is it worth almost four grand for the buy-in? You tell me.

1991 Chevrolet Beretta – $3,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.1 liter overhead valve V6, three-speed automatic, FWD

Location: outside Kyle, TX

Odometer reading: 23,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Sure does

Chevy sold almost a million Berettas. When was the last time you saw one? These slightly nicer and a hair bigger than a Cavalier coupes sold like hotcakes for a couple of years, occupying a spot in the market somewhere between sports coupes and personal luxury coupes. It’s not sporty, and it’s certainly not luxurious, but it struck enough of a chord with buyers to stick around for nine model years. I always liked the looks of them, and my mom used to have a Beretta almost exactly like this that I drove quite a bit, and didn’t hate. (High praise, I know.)

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The Beretta didn’t break any new technological ground under its flashy modern (for the late ’80s) sheetmetal. It’s standard-issue GM front wheel drive fare, sturdy but not exciting. It shared its engine choices with the J-body Cavalier: a 2.2 liter four, or GM’s corporate 60-degree V6, both nearly always paired with a TH125C three-speed automatic. Manual Berettas did exist, but strangely I’ve seen more stickshift examples of its four-door sister model, the Corsica.

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This Beretta is damn near a time capsule, having covered only 23,000 miles in the past thirty-two years. And before you ask, yes, it’s a six-digit odometer; it hasn’t rolled over. It’s a base model, with manual windows and locks, but it does have the optional V6. As you’d expect from the mileage, it’s very clean, but it does show some signs of sun damage, making me wonder if it was parked outside or in a carport all these years. And of course, no mention is given of how the car came by those miles; was it a “little old lady who only drove to church and the drugstore” arrangement, or did it sit for decades?

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The seller only says it “runs good” but “needs a little more loving.” I guess you’d have to inspect it to find out what exactly that means. All I know is that this is the nicest base-model Beretta I’ve seen in probably ten years or more. People save the GTs and GTUs, but a steel-wheel crank-window one? I get the feeling you’d be a hero at Radwood with this one.

Once again, neither of these cars is as cheap as I’d like, and I expect you all to feel the same. But cars are expensive right now, as we all keep hearing. If you are willing to accept the fact that what you got for $2,000 a few years ago will now set you back twice that, these prices seem… well, not reasonable, but more typical. With that in mind, which one of these strikes your fancy?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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That Guy with the Sunbird
That Guy with the Sunbird
9 months ago

Beretta. I already have one low-mileage old GM crapcan, so what’s another?

My first car in 2006 was a 1992 Beretta base model. Mine unfortunately didn’t have the 3.1 V6, though. It had the 2.2 four-cylinder and a dying 3-speed automatic. It was ungodly slow (dangerously so on the highway). I loved it anyway, though.

Side note: this Beretta has the updated 1991+ interior IN BLACK! Black was a 1991-only color for this interior. Yes, I know entirely too much about these cars.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
7 months ago

Bitch

Chris D
Chris D
9 months ago

The Prelude looks great, but the automatic and its other problems devalue it quite a bit. The interiors last forever, and its design is classic.
The odometer lasted eight times longer than the Beretta’s did.

Is Travis
Is Travis
9 months ago

My first car was my Mom’s old ’89 Beretta GT with the 5 speed manual.
I never truly appreciated that car.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
9 months ago

Get the Beretta and track down some Z26 wheels. You’ll be the coolest kid in the late 90’s high school parking lot.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
9 months ago

Just to flag for everyone the Torch-fetish angle that we’re not seeing here – the taillights on the Beretta are absolutely fantastic. Hell, the entire rear end is perhaps the car’s best angle.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
9 months ago

Certainly in this Prelude’s day, and to some extent still, getting an automatic on a Honda is like ordering chicken at a seafood restaurant.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
9 months ago

I opened this article expecting to vote for the Prelude, even though it’s not my favorite (that would be the final-generation one) … but an automatic with a bunch of death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts issues? Oof.

And the Beretta’s shape has aged very well indeed. Plus, it’s got the updated interior with airbag (no “auto” belts) and the preferred drivetrain.

To my great surprise, I’ll take the Chevy.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
9 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

Cool thing about the Beretta – Chevy never redesigned or even freshened the body design. So it remained unchanged its entire run.

But the updated interior is indeed better. Mine sadly had the “auto” seatbelts…I think I tried them in that mode exactly once, and then just buckled/unbuckled b/c wow what a terrible design.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago

Even at todays prices that Prelude needs a bunch fixed to hit $4,000. So chevy

Ricki
Ricki
9 months ago

Taking the Prelude, but only because the Beretta doesn’t have the Radwood Jazz Coffee Cup-style Indy graphics package.

It’s not my favorite Prelude (that’d be the 4th gen), but there’s just something about that layout that I love.

Jambles Hamblepants
Jambles Hamblepants
9 months ago

You’re omitting the most important piece of info about the Prelude. Look at the b-pillar. It’s got the 4ws option.
This car could run through the slalom faster than Lotus, faster than Ferrari. Faster than literally any other production car that year.
What could that Beretta do? Go get groceries?

Elhigh
Elhigh
9 months ago

As I recall the Beretta/Corsica twins are what supplanted the maligned X-body models. I appreciate a stripper, wind-up windows appeal. Too bad about the automatic, but you can’t have everything.

Just 23,000 miles, that’s not even 800 miles per year. That’s amazing. I…hmm, I might actually be willing to consider that.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago
Reply to  Elhigh

Unless it got those miles 1/4 mile at a time! Not likely though.

Chris D
Chris D
9 months ago
Reply to  Elhigh

It could have been because it spent most of its life getting repaired… we don’t know the answer to that. The owner didn’t care to drive it much, apparently.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
9 months ago

Prelude! It’s in the same town as me…when I saw pic I knew where it was because I’ve seen it online before and thought about getting it. One of my dream cars actually! I’ve had 2 Accords w/ flip-up lights. Berettas are cool but still prefer Prelude

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
9 months ago

If you feed and water that Beretta, maybe it will grow into a Lumina.

Both choices are overpriced. Damn, this market sucks!

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
9 months ago
Reply to  SlowCarFast

Or not, Lumina is worse

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
9 months ago
Reply to  SlowCarFast

“If you feed and water that Beretta, maybe it will grow into a Lumina.”

It won’t turn into a Lumina. It will turn into a Gremlin.

Data
Data
9 months ago

But only if you fuel it after midnight.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
9 months ago

That’s what I figured they were going for

Cyko9
Cyko9
9 months ago

For the price, it has to be the Beretta. I wanted to go for the Prelude, but it’s going to take some money to get right.

DDayJ
DDayJ
9 months ago

Gimme the Chevy and the B pillar door handles.

Gubbin
Gubbin
9 months ago

This particular pair of cars makes me firmly consider how many bus passes and Lyft rides $3,500 would buy.

SuperNova
SuperNova
9 months ago

everytime you’re going to look at that Baretta sideways it’s going to need brakes. GM garbage

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
9 months ago

I guess I’ll go with the Beretta if I have to make a choice. That Prelude is worth $2,000 on a good day, and it might require another $2,000 just to get it sorted out. The Beretta also has the irony factor in that a car that was meant to be used and abused before going to the scrap yard after 8 years is in such great shape after 32 years. I have no idea why someone would take such good care of a disposable car; but I respect that they did.

Kurt Korfmacher
Kurt Korfmacher
9 months ago

If I’m going to set $3500+ on fire, I’d much rather do it in the comfort of that rather nice looking Beretta than the moldy sweatbox of a Prelude (no working AC? ugh). I love the looks of this gen Prelude, but this choice isn’t a choice. Beretta all the way.

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
9 months ago

The Beretta is a better choice in this case, but I still went for the Prelude. One just like this used to come in regularly to the gas station that I worked at back in the day. It was new at the time and driven by a striking tall blonde woman in her mid/late 20s. She was always immaculately dressed and seemed to be a professional of some sort (sales, management, possibly legal). She’d bring the Prelude in for oil changes and stuff, and the car was similarly immaculate (the kind you would clean yourself up for before bringing it into the bays). As an undergrad with dirty hands and the smell of gas kickback on my jeans, she was obviously waaaaay out of my league at the time, but…yeah.

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
9 months ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

Welp, maybe she cleaned herSELF up a bit before bringing it in…hoping for an invite for coffee. Ya nevah know.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
9 months ago

I was all in on the Prelude before I read the descriptions. The Prelude just has too many problems for the asking price (and why does the exterior paint look moldy). I can’t believe I voted for the Chevy, but it seems like the much better value proposition here.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore
9 months ago

I mean, damn…Prelude vs Beretta and I voted GM? I mean yes I am usually going to vote GM but the miles on the Prelude and what it likely needs versus what that 3.1 needs to run are in different zip codes. Ideally you’d do both. Daily the Beretta and fix up the Prelude. To have one though, get the Beretta and call it good.

Elhigh
Elhigh
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Moore

You can cross your eyes and poke the 3.1 with a screwdriver and sort out half of whatever’s ailing it. It ain’t complex.

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