Home » Seldom-Seen Japanese Coupes: 1992 Nissan NX1600 vs 1998 Honda Prelude

Seldom-Seen Japanese Coupes: 1992 Nissan NX1600 vs 1998 Honda Prelude

Sbsd 6 13 2023
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Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! It’s another Two-Door Tuesday here as we take a look at a pair of sporty Japanese numbers that you don’t see too often any more. But first, let’s see who won yesterday’s reader-inspired battle:

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The Saab wins. Of course. Has that particular defunct Swedish brand lost one yet? I’d have to look, but I don’t think so. Not that the Camry gave it much of a fight; I would be curious to see how bad a car it would take to hand that thing a win. Probably any K-car would do it, actually, knowing you lot.

I didn’t see any new suggestions on Discord; some really good conversations, but no viable car listings. So I went poking around southern California and found two manual Japanese sports coupes. You guys like those, right? Let’s dive right in.

1992 Nissan NX1600 – $1,795

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Palmdale, CA

Odometer reading: 173,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep!

It’s a simple formula: Take the platform and running gear of a common small car, wrap it in pretty two-door bodywork, and sell it for more money. It’s not something you see very often any more, but for a long time, every automaker had a version of it. Ford’s Mustang popularized the idea (though as a Mopar fan I’m honor-bound to remind you that the Plymouth Barracuda was first, by a whole two weeks), but every other maker jumped on board in short order. This car is really just a Mustang-ized Nissan Sentra – in fact, you could call it a pony car, I suppose.

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Like the Pulsar that came before it, the NX features T-tops. Sadly, it did away with the removable/interchangeable rear hatch, but you can still get plenty of fresh air into the cabin. The NX came in two flavors: the NX2000, with all the performance goodies of Nissan’s brilliant Sentra SE-R, and this car, the NX1600, with the standard Sentra’s underpinnings. It’s not as quick or as sharp-handling, but it probably gets better mileage.

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This NX runs and drives well, according to the seller. They don’t give us much else to go on, so we’ll have to rely on the pictures. Inside it looks decent, if a little sun-faded (to be expected with so much glass). Outside it isn’t quite as nice; the plastic nose piece doesn’t quite match the rest of the car, and the rear bumper has a pretty good ding in it. I’m not sure where you’d find another bumper either; these aren’t exactly common cars, even in sunny California.

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So it’s not the more desirable version, and it’s kind of banged up. But it’s cheap, it’s rare, and it’s based on a good reliable little car. You could do a lot worse for under two grand.

1998 Honda Prelude – $4,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: West Covina, CA

Odometer reading: 175,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Sure does!

Honda’s Prelude sports coupe lasted for five generations over a span of twenty-three years. This is the final iteration, and as such, maybe it shouldn’t be called the Prelude. Honda Finale, maybe? Denouement? Anyway. It’s a car that didn’t sell nearly as well as its predecessors, so it’s not a common sight, especially these days.

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This fifth-generation Prelude is clearly no longer stock. It has been lowered, the wheels are not stock, the steering wheel has been replaced by a non-airbag wheel, and although we don’t get an underhood shot, the stock air box and intake runner sitting on the passenger’s seat tells me that it likely has a cold-air intake setup at the very least. And of course, out back, there is the requisite fart cannon. The seller says the front tires are shot, and I, for one, am not surprised.

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Oh, and on top of that, it has a salvage title for some undisclosed reason. As we’ve discussed before, this isn’t all that uncommon in California, nor is it a huge deal there, unless your insurance agent says it is. But it would be nice to know what happened to it.

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It does look all right, and the sticker from an owner’s forum is probably a good sign. You don’t join a forum for your car, and send them money for a sticker, unless you care about it to some degree. It’s no guarantee that it hasn’t been abused, or that the modifications were done correctly; anyone who has spent time on any of those forums know how rife they are with misinformation and bad ideas. But it does show the seller at least cares about it a little.

I really miss cars like these. Sporty two-door coupes based on small sedans were a brilliant idea, and I doubt we’ll ever see their like again. But at least we have a couple of survivors here to choose from. So what’ll it be – the jumped-up Sentra, or the amateur-tuner Honda?

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And remember: You can join our Discord and drop links to cars for me to check out any time!

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Voeltzwagen
Voeltzwagen
1 year ago

Lots of red flags with the Prelude, but for some dumb reason — I don’t give a fuck. Must be my early 20s self trying to fight through my logical, rationally thinking 40s self.

Last edited 1 year ago by Voeltzwagen
Vee
Vee
1 year ago

The rear bumper on the Prelude has been hit with spraypaint to make it black, it’s missing the license plate insert for the light, the bumper has no panel gap between it and the trunk, there’s two separate taillights, the trunk sticks out farther than it should, and there’s a dent around the trunk keyhole. Which all tells me this Prelude’s been rear-ended. I ain’t touchin’ that.

At least with the NX I can just heat the bumper up with a hair dryer and fix it since it’s just plastic.

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
1 year ago

We had a ’97 Prelude, one of the first to arrive in the US and it handled sublimely. It was a terrific car and I’d buy another one.

Edited to add: Salvage title? I’ll take the NX, thanks.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dudeoutwest
Theotherotter
Theotherotter
1 year ago

The Prelude is the better of the two examples, but I’d buy the NX1600, find a 32V transaxle, and swap in my spare SR20DE.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

They ought to give out salvage titles when the owner buys combo cold air intake and fart buster tailpipe. Or any dreamboy racer cache of parts.

Myk El
Myk El
1 year ago

My mother had that generation of Prelude. I never really did enjoy driving it, certainly nowhere near as fun as my MINI which I got a couple of years after. But her Prelude was an auto, so that definitely makes a difference. Anyway, I generally tend to vote for the car I haven’t driven when given an otherwise close decision, so Nissan NX for me.

JDE
JDE
1 year ago

This is tough, the Lewd Lude still has the date rape lever on the passengers seat by this time I think, but the car looks to be a bit more road ready and perhaps rode a bit less hard. Except of course why would anyone post a picture of the car with the intake tract in the passenger foot well.

I am no fan of the Pulsar, and it certainly looks worse for wear, but at least the bottom is not scraping and the engine is perhaps a bit less sketchy.

Last edited 1 year ago by JDE
Millermatic
Millermatic
1 year ago

The bumper on that Prelude looks like it was painted with a rattle can. The gloss doesn’t match the adjacent body panels.

I’m guessing the steering wheel was replaced because the airbag went off. It looks like the passenger airbag might have gone off and they just “closed the flaps.”

Those look like butts in the ashtray. And those wires from the dash? Are they related to that sketchy looking box between the seat and the ashtray?

Nope.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 year ago

Sorry but these two examples show me just one thing.
People want too much money for their trashed out pieces of shit. Crack pipe…

Old Fart Parts Guy
Old Fart Parts Guy
1 year ago

Nx1600 for me. I was going Prelude until i saw the words salvage title.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

Agree. Salvage titles are not acceptable.

Brian Laczko
Brian Laczko
1 year ago

There may be something going on with the passenger side airbag cover on the Prelude.

I went NX, I much prefer the Prelude, but this one has too many red flags…

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 year ago

Was gonna vote for the Prelude… until I saw the stupid airbag delete. That swayed me to the Nissan.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 year ago

Prelude. The NX is a nightmare to find parts for, and at the age that if you find one in a salvage yard, it is either already picked over or has all the same broken parts the car you are trying to fix already has – and that goes double or triple for the digital dash. As much as the Prelude has red flags, the car is more desirable, has parts availability, and didn’t start life looking like a jellybean someone stepped on.

Jonee Eisen
Jonee Eisen
1 year ago

I had an NX1600 and absolutely loved it. Not speedy, but it actually handled like a champ. Plus, t-tops and a digital dash which the NX2000 didn’t get for some reason. The looks are controversial, but I like it. Looks like nothing else. This one is a bit rough, but there aren’t many left to choose from.

John Beef
John Beef
1 year ago

I read the headline and thought, “No contest, I’ll scroll to the bottom and pick the Prelude”, but then I saw the scary first Prelude photo, and went back and read the descriptions, and changed my mind.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 year ago
Reply to  John Beef

You are not alone in that.

Unclesam
Unclesam
1 year ago

The condition makes it a tough call, but I ultimately think the prelude is a bit cooler, despite the lack of t-tops.

I had a friend who’s dad drove an NX1600 when I was young, and he liked to joke that “the NX stood for Not eXactly a sports car”

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

I gotta go Prelude here. You’re not likely to find many examples that still look this good (body and interior at least) for this type of money anymore.
It seems worthy of saving.
As for the NX, I’d rather hold out and look for an MX3.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 year ago

Prelude! (Surprised it’s not winning)

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
1 year ago

Damnit. This one’s hard.

So first of all: you have two relatively stout engines. Both have timing belts and a 16 valve head. The Prelude has an F22A1 (the only 2.2 that isn’t the 93-96 VTEC) which makes a meager 133HP. The NX1600 has the GA16DE offering an impressive for the time 115HP and 105ft/lbs. (You want the NX2000 but we don’t have one here.)

Neither is a hot ticket in SCCA. (The NX2000 is in ITA with the SE-R. But this isn’t the NX2000!) But it has a limited slip up front, no joke. Was cheaper to include it than not, apparently. And this NX1600 despite all that heavy glass, tips in at under 2400lbs! So, yeah. 115HP ain’t no slouch with that kind of curb weight.

The Prelude is a ’98. The F22A1’s a fine engine for a grocery getter, but there’s a reason the Si used the H22. And it’s exceedingly clear that this one been riced hard and put away wet for it’s entire life with only the cheapest mods the hondatunerzz forums recommend. And insult to injury, that additional 20HP comes with an additional 600+lbs of weight attached!

Even setting aside that the Honda has been in abusive homes it’s whole life, look.
NX1600, over 0.048HP/lb (weight ranges 2100-2400 by options.)
Prelude, 0.047HP/lb (but actually less due to glow over go crap)
NX1600 will gleefully eat an SR18DE or SR20DE, which you can find by throwing a stick. Not DET; DE. They’re less than a grand from your local boneyard full of Sentras. Which gives you 150HP.
The Prelude requires a complete electronics swap in addition to an H23A1 to get 158HP. Expect to pay at least $3000 for an H23A1 without electronics. Plus the cost of undoing all of the bad mods. Sure, you can get a couple bucks for the Volks, but you’ll need that for wheels and tires anyway. And you’re not going to daily that thing without undoing all the stupid “mods.”

Hop in and daily today? NX1600. Mod potential? NX1600. (NX2000’s are a very hot ticket in ITA and better than the SE-Rs.) Fun factor out of the box? NX1600.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Counterpoint: NX1600 looks like dorky AF, and that one needs like 3-5k of paint/body to look respectable, and even then it won’t be worth more than 3-5k. Good luck pulling any tail in that thing either.

Prelude on the otherside, despite being slow, still has great lines, the paint and bodywork look solid, and I don’t see any ‘questionable’ mods. Sure, fart cannon I guess but the wheels are okay, and cooler than boring stock wheels. And because it looks good, it’s not embarrassing to be seen in. You can laugh about it with your tinder date while the NX1600 guy brags about his superior hp/lb metrics.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

On the gripping hand, 1) I’m long past the point of using a vehicle to ‘pull tail’. 1) a: my cars serve to give me the view & chortles from the fun seat
2) I long ago found that potential busy-time partners attracted by a vehicle were also the ones with which I not only wanted a raincoat, but also craved the equivalent of RainX-and, frankly, a full-on dry-suit.

perhaps your mileage has varied

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Ha, wrong euphemism, I guess. Point still stands tho; in general, most people find the prelude an attractive design. And also, in general, most people think the NX is odd/strange/bizarre/ugly. Rather have the prelude, it’s a more desirable car end of the day.

JDE
JDE
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

LS swap FWD?

Jonas Gagnon
Jonas Gagnon
1 year ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Pretty sure the fifth generation had the H22 (according to my memory and a quick review of wikipedia) which means it put out 200 hp new.

Slack00
Slack00
1 year ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

According to Wikipedia (which is never wrong!), the US versions only got one engine: the H22A4, which was 200hp. I think that makes a bit of a difference, no?

Last edited 1 year ago by Slack00
Whatawookiee
Whatawookiee
1 year ago
Reply to  Slack00

It is correct in the this case. That generation Prelude only had the H22 in the US. In the first couple of years like this one, it had 195hp. Later years had 200hp. It only had the other engines in Japan, or in the previous generation car in the US.
Also the GA16DE uses a timing chain, not a belt.

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
1 year ago

The NX takes it for me… I have a soft spot for Nissans from around this time even if this is wrong-wheel-drive, plus the rarity, goofy face, and cheaper price seal the deal. The Prelude is nice and I like the look/wheels/stance, but it just doesn’t quite tug the heart strings the same way.

Cyko9
Cyko9
1 year ago

If I just needed a driver, the Nissan is all right. Might even like it enough to start fixing it up. I was ready to pay more for the Honda, but I’ve got a feeling that car is beat. For less, it’d probably be the better long-term investment, but that’s a bit steep for starting a project.

CatMan
CatMan
1 year ago

My first new car after graduating from college was a 1st Gen Prelude, after that one I bought a 2nd Gen (might still be my favorite vehicle). But just can’t vote for this one regrettably

Whatawookiee
Whatawookiee
1 year ago

NX. This one has the cool digital dash, that you couldn’t get on the NX2000 for some reason. The GA16DE did give up 25hp, but it got great gas mileage and was extremely reliable. It still revved to 7K, so it wasn’t all bad.
That Prelude was a bit of disappointment. It was noticeably slower than the previous generation with the same H22. It wasn’t very efficient and had a fairly small trunk. I always thought it felt bigger and heavier than it really was.
If they were the same price, I’d probably still go for the Prelude. At more less than half the money with a slightly less questionable past, I’d go for the NX and use the extra money to fix its cosmetics.

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