Home » The Late 1990s Honda Prelude SiR S-Spec Is The Hot Coupe With Four-Wheel-Steering You Forgot Existed: Holy Grails

The Late 1990s Honda Prelude SiR S-Spec Is The Hot Coupe With Four-Wheel-Steering You Forgot Existed: Holy Grails

Honda Prelude Sir S Spec Hg Ts Copy
ADVERTISEMENT

Japanese cars from the 1990s and early 2000s are all the rage nowadays. You don’t have to look far to find sales of Acura Integra Type Rs for well over $60,000. Oh, and the Acura NSX? People will still pay $30,000 or more for an example with an automatic transmission and high mileage. If you, like me, grew up dreaming about these cars, you’re probably saddened by the fact that an old Nissan Skyline can easily be a six-figure car once it lands in America. There is one hot ’90s Japanese car that isn’t getting a ton of attention. For years, the fifth-generation Honda Prelude marked the end of a popular nameplate. America missed out on its two best versions, too. The Japan-only Prelude SiR S-Spec paired slightly better VTEC performance than what got in America with tight-turning four-wheel steering. Now, you can have this car in your driveway.

As I’ve noted many times in the past, the 1980s and the 1990s were a great time to be a fan of Japanese cars. Japan’s automakers introduced innovative technologies and paired them with attractive and affordable sporty cars. The list of epic cars from the era, which includes everything from the Mazda RX-7 to the Toyota Century, never seems to end and Americans missed out on so many of them. Now that the kids and teens who grew up with these cars in their movies and in their video games now have money, those cars are trickling across our borders. People are paying tons of money for old Japanese cars, even ones with rust holes, the better part of a half-million miles, and rough interiors.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Last year, I launched a search for the third JDM car to add to my fleet. I’ve been stuck on what to choose. At first, I wanted to get a posh Toyota Century V12, but more than one reader pointed out that it’s a far better car to be driven in than to drive. I could also get another kei car and bring home something like a Honda Life. A part of me also wants to do something silly and buy a Japanese bus or flatbed truck. Japan has so many cool vehicles that we didn’t get that what to import next is legitimately a tough choice.

Blobid0
My Next Car Via Pistonheads

One car we did get was the Honda Prelude. Many Honda fans covet the third and fourth generations of the Prelude, but the fifth generation Prelude, which started production in 1996, is still pretty awesome. The United States got the fifth-gen Prelude as a base model and as the Type SH. Both got the same H22A4 2.2-liter four with VTEC and 200 HP, but the Type SH (Super Handling) got Honda’s Active Torque Transfer System. What we didn’t get was the even hotter and sharper SiR S-Spec.

A Dignified Coupe

The Prelude wasn’t always known as a hot little coupe. According to Honda, the very first Prelude, which launched in 1978, was a car designed to make a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

Honda Prelude 3087 8

As Honda’s Japanese site writes, the Civic was Honda’s basic and versatile car while the Accord brought comfort to its occupants and harmony with the environment. The automaker decided for its next car, it would build a sporty car that made a statement. Honda observed the 1970s as an era when people cared about individuality. The automaker also noticed that values were changing and that car buyers sought out vehicles as unique as they were.

The Prelude was Honda’s answer to those observations. Honda called the 1978 Prelude “a dignified car that people can drive with pride, for people who value their personal lives and want to be intelligent and unique.” The Prelude took the common components from the Accord and slotted them into a bespoke chassis.

The original Prelude, which arrived in America in 1979, was given a wide, low body featuring a sporty style of a long hood and a short rear deck. Honda’s team also worked to keep the vehicle’s center of gravity low. Highlighted features included a power sunroof and a compact radio next to the instrument cluster. Unfortunately, the first Prelude was a good seller, but it reportedly didn’t live up to the promise of performance. At launch, America’s Prelude made just 72 HP.

Honda Prelude 3087 10

ADVERTISEMENT

For the next Prelude, Honda corrected the vehicle’s trajectory. The second-generation Prelude’s design is credited to Masahito Nakano, who also worked on the NSX. The new Prelude rode low from its hood to its beltline and, like the NSX, occupants of the second-gen Prelude sat in a bubble with lots of glass to see out of. The Prelude was larger, sleeker, and smoother, with flush trim, pop-up headlights, and a coefficient of drag of 0.36. It was a notable improvement over the first Prelude’s coefficient of drag of 0.44.

The second-generation Prelude began production in late 1982, reaching international markets in Spring 1983. These Preludes are the ones that directed the nameplate toward the sporty coupe most Honda enthusiasts know them to be. Honda didn’t just give the Prelude a hot body, but an improved engine with an aluminum-titanium alloy CVCC head and an output of 100 HP. The bones got better, too, as the Prelude got a double-wishbone front suspension, MacPherson struts, and an independent rear suspension. Honda kept improving the Prelude, too, and by 1984 the car was available with disc brakes on all four corners.

In 1985, the Prelude became even more of a sporty vehicle with the introduction of the Si, which splashed some color onto the Prelude’s bumpers, added some luxuries into the interior, and plopped a 2.0-liter four under the hood that produced 110 HP. Sure, an extra 10 ponies isn’t much, but the standard engine was carbureted while this one got Honda’s then-innovative fuel injection.

86prelude Si 2 1200x805 1 (x)

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Hemmings notes that the automotive press adored the second-generation Prelude, suggesting that Honda fixed what was wrong with the first Prelude. The sales suggest that, too. Reportedly, 826,082 Preludes were sold in the United States. That number represents all generations from 1979 to 2001. Of that number, an incredible 336,599 examples were just from the second generation.

How do you follow up on a fan favorite? For Honda, the third-generation Prelude was about dialing up the technology. The third generation Prelude hit our shores for the 1988 model year as the first car sold in America with an active four-wheel-steering system.

1990 Honda Prelude Si

It was the result of a decade of research and Honda called its four-wheel-steer the “Steer-Angle Dependent 4-Wheel Steering System.” Honda says that the 4WS system was the result of various studies. In theory, if a car could react to steering inputs quicker, it would be better at avoiding a crash. Honda figured the best way to achieve this would be to turn the rear wheels in addition to turning the front wheels. I’ll let Honda hold the mic for a moment:

02

ADVERTISEMENT

Honda 4WS is a mechanical system that steers the front and rear wheels in the same direction (in phase) or opposite directions (reverse phase) depending on the steering angle. At high speeds, steering angles are typically small, such as when changing lanes, so the rear wheels are turned in the same direction as the front wheels. When greater maneuverability is desired while driving at low speeds, such as on narrow roads or parking the vehicle in a garage, the steering angle would be large, so the rear wheels are turned in the opposite direction to the front wheels. This system achieves both agile and stable maneuvering characteristics and a small turning radius.

The development of Honda 4WS began with the goal of improving active safety. In the 1970s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S. proposed the Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESV) program. NHTSA’s goal was to address the issue of the continuing rise of traffic collisions from the perspectives of passive safety (collision mitigation and active safety (collision avoidance).

Honda decided to participate in this ESV program, but at the time, Honda was only producing mini-vehicles (Japanese kei-cars) and was in the process of planning and prototyping for the production of compact cars. It was obvious that implementing measures to improve passive safety in compact cars would lead to a significant increase in vehicle weight and a reduction in interior space, which would undermine the economical efficiency that is the strong point of compact cars. Therefore, Honda decided to focus on improving active safety and to pursue research on technologies to improve maneuverability, stability and dynamic performance.

04

Development of Honda’s 4WS started in 1977. Engineers concluded that the best application of 4WS would be to have the wheels turn with the front wheels at high speed and turn opposite of the front wheels at low speed. The team patented a design and by 1981, they built a test car by joining the front ends of an Accord together as one car. The Franken-Accord was then driven around Suzuka Circuit, where the theory was proven to work.

Next, the engineers had to figure out how to implement the system. At first, the engineers tested a speed-sensitive system, where the rear wheels turned either with the front wheels or opposite the front wheels based on the vehicle’s speed. It was determined that this would be too complex for a production vehicle. Instead, Honda’s design team implemented a mechanical system that worked on steering angle. At shallow steering angles, such as the turning you’d do on a highway, the rear wheels turn with the front wheels. At sharper angles, the rear wheels then turn opposite of the front wheels. Honda continues:

031x

With 4WS, the rear wheels simultaneously turn in the same direction as the front wheels, generating cornering force in the rear tires with greater responsiveness than 2WS, which makes the vehicle’s turning motion smoother. Reducing the yaw moment to be generated while turning is also technically possible, leading to improved stability.

Honda announced the Honda 4WS technology in October 1986, and in the following year, launched the Prelude, with the steering angle sensing Honda 4WS as optional. This system consisted of two steering gearbox sub-systems (front and rear) mechanically connected by a center shaft. Initially, a single-crank mechanism was considered, but it would only allow steering of the front and rear wheels at the same angles (both in-phase and reverse-phase). If the steering angle is set for high speeds (smaller angles), the steering angle at low speeds (reverse phase) would also be smaller, reducing the effectiveness of the system.

36gk8yyp Rgpzgvwaiy
Cars & Bids Seller

In addition to giving the car sharper handling, Honda 4WS reduced the Prelude’s turning circle from 34.8 feet to 31.5 feet. Reportedly, when Road & Track put a Prelude 2.0 Si 4WS on its slalom test, it sped through at 65.5 mph, beating proper sports cars. For example, a Chevy Corvette C4 mustered 64.9 mph at the same test.

ADVERTISEMENT

While 4WS was the big news for the Prelude in the third generation, Honda made other improvements. At launch, the base model made 104 HP from a carbureted 2.0-liter four. By 1990, Honda left carburetors in the past. The base model Prelude was the 2.0 Si, which made 135 HP, while the Si made 140 HP with a slightly larger 2.1-liter engine.

95prelude Vtec 1200x803

In 1991, Honda began production on the fourth-generation Prelude. There were a number of changes here, with the most visible being the squared design getting traded in for curves. Honda 4WS made a return, but it became an electronic system. Under the hood, VTEC made its first appearance. Here in America, the hottest model was the VTEC, which got the H221 2.2-liter four rated at 187 HP. Yep, you were able to get that one with optional Honda 4WS, too.

Sadly, Honda changed the design of the Prelude’s glass sunroof to a steel sliding unit. The pop-up headlights also remained in the past, but the design was still striking. All of these Preludes are awesome, but none of them are today’s Grail.

One Final Effort

01 (1)

ADVERTISEMENT

Sadly, sales data suggests that despite exciting technological advancements, the Prelude peaked during that magical second generation. As noted earlier, the second generation sold 336,599 units. Despite the nifty 4WS, sales reduced to 160,909 units for the third generation. When the fourth generation came to a close in 1996, the sales number was down to 98,627 units.

For the fifth generation Prelude, which launched in 1997, Honda moved the needle on technology further while introducing a modern design that also felt like a throwback.

97prelude Interior 1200x789

In Honda’s press release, it mentioned how the then-new Prelude’s mission was to appeal to sophisticated adults while going back to a more traditional Honda design of a long and low hood with a high and stubby rear deck. This car was less curvy, too, but it looked thoroughly fresh.

While the body looked sleek, once again the highlight was under the metal. The fifth-generation Prelude introduced what Honda called the Active Torque Transfer System (ATTS) and I’ll let Honda explain:

ADVERTISEMENT

08x

A car typically turns by changing the direction of its tires through steering operation. The torque generated by the engine is used only for driving and is always equally distributed to the left and right tires. With ATTS, depending on the turning condition, less torque is distributed to the inner tire and more torque is distributed to the outer tire while turning. This uneven distribution of the torque creates an effect that facilitates turning by steering. This is the same principle as turning a rowboat by rowing the outside oar harder and increasing the force on the outside of the turn.

The ATTS concept came from the idea that new vehicle characteristics could be realized by replacing four-wheel-drive (4WD), which distributes driving torque between the front and rear tires, with torque vectoring to left and right tires. The principle of left-right driving torque distribution was reproduced by converting a 1987 4WD Civic Shuttle into a one-wheel-drive vehicle, with torque going only to the rear-right tire. The development team drove this car on a test course at the Tochigi R&D Center and confirmed the exhilarating turning feel resulting from the generation of a yaw moment.

97prelude Atts 1200x789 1 E1708649607904x Copy

By 1989, the technical viability of the system had been established, and development was underway to apply ATTS to 4WD vehicles. However, the opportunity for commercialization came first with front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicles. This was the 1996 Prelude. The commercialization of the ATTS unit was based on repeated studies, which led to a layout combining parallel twin-shaft and hydraulic CVT (concept), a parallel triple-shaft (concept), a parallel twin-shaft (prototype), a double pinion and double planetary (prototype), and finally to a triple pinion and triple planetary system.

In the Prelude, ATTS sent 80 percent of available torque to the wheel on the outside of a turn, resulting in that wheel spinning 15 percent faster than the wheel on the inside. In theory, this helps the car pull through a corner tighter, battling the front-wheel-drive car’s understeer. It’s also notable that the fifth-generation Prelude puts 63.1 percent of its weight on its front wheels.

Honda explains that ATTS, fitted to Type SH (Super Handling) Preludes in the United States, is the predecessor to its SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) systems that you likely know best from their use in Acuras. Said another way, ATTS is Honda’s early version of torque vectoring. Honda explains how the system works:

Main E1708649648996 X

ADVERTISEMENT

The Prelude was equipped with an ATTS unit that consisted of 1) a triple planetary gear assembly that distributes the driving torque from the differential gear, 2) left and right multi-disc wet clutches and 3) a hydraulic control unit. The torque distributed to the left and right from the differential gear is transmitted to the ATTS unit via two concentric overlapping shafts. The outer concentric circle is the rotational shaft of the right tire, and the torque is transmitted from right to left via the differential gear case. The inner concentric circle connects directly from the differential gear to the left tire. The carrier shaft of the planetary gear is connected to the right-turning clutch, and the leftmost gear of the triple pinion is connected to the left-turning clutch.

As with the principle of a rowboat turning, in order to control the yaw moment with the right-left distribution of the driving torque, the outer tires must turn faster than the inner tires. To achieve this, a speed-boosting mechanism is necessary. A speed-boosting mechanism using triple-pinion planetary gears is used to raise the speed of the inner tire above that of the outer tire, and by connecting the clutch, driving torque is generated in the outer tire and braking force is generated in the inner tire to make rotation of the outer tire greater than the inner tire.

04 (1)

ATTS was the headlining optional feature of the Prelude, but road testers found it made a negligible difference. Car and Driver tested a Prelude SH in a comparison against a BMW 318ti Sport, a Mazda MX-5 Miata, a Chevrolet Camaro Z28, a Ford Contour SVT, and an Eagle Talon TSi AWD around Willow Springs International Raceway. The Prelude’s ATTS gave up during the test, leaving the car without any fancy torque vectoring. Still, even without ATTS, the Prelude had a nifty four-wheel double wishbone suspension system and good manners. The Prelude finished the Car and Driver handling shootout in first place, broken ATTS and all.

Here’s a line from the Car and Driver review: “Unfortunately, the spiffy setup decided it had had enough after the racetrack laps and signaled its surrender with a warning light that refused to go out. We pressed on anyway and quickly discovered that whatever it was we were missing we weren’t missing much.”

The Grail

Photos Honda Prelude 1998 1

ATTS wasn’t the only thing new about the fifth-generation Prelude. All fifth-generation Preludes in America came with the same engine, the 2.2-liter H22A4 four, which was rated at 195 HP (later 200 HP). This was good for a sprint to 60 mph in 7 seconds.

ADVERTISEMENT

Since buyers couldn’t choose an engine, they were left picking their type. The base Prelude was $23,595 in 1997 while the Type SH set you back $26,095. Paying the extra dough got you ATTS, a spoiler, a 15.61:1 steering ratio, firmer springs, firmer dampers, and firmer anti-roll bars. Other parts were shared between the two types, including tires, though, the Type SH was sold exclusively with a manual transmission while the normal Prelude had an optional automatic transmission.

Preview 928x522 (2)

The best fifth-generation Prelude you could buy in America is the Type SH, even with its sometimes finicky ATTS. Car and Driver notes that the fifth-generation Prelude was such a good car that it smashed the field of comparison tests when it was new and the car earned a spot on the magazine’s 10Best Cars list multiple times during its run.

You can do even better, but you’ll have to go to Japan or Europe to get the Grails of fifth-gen Preludes. Reader Aro from Poland points out that JDM car collectors are scooping up as many ’90s Japanese legends as they can, but international versions of the Prelude are sort of missing the boat, leading to lower prices than you might think.

Screenshot (821)
Car From Japan

The first Grail is similar to what we already have in America but gives you more. The fifth-generation Prelude did get Honda 4WS, but Americans couldn’t get it. The Prelude was available in Japan with 4WS so long as you optioned it with a Prelude Si or a Prelude SiR or SiR S-Spec. Europeans also got Honda 4WS in the Prelude 2.2 VTi.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Prelude SiR S-Spec was introduced in 1998 as a driver’s variant of the Prelude and sold through Honda Japan’s Verno stores. It differs from the start with its engine. The JDM car gets a 2.2-liter H22A four making 217 HP. It’s from the same engine family as the American market H22A4 and even has the same 10.6:1 compression ratio, but it isn’t exactly the same.

Pictures Honda Prelude 1998 1x

Honda Prelude 1998 Pictures 2

The SiR S-Spec also doesn’t get the option for ATTS. However, the Car and Driver review suggests that’s not really needed anyway. Instead, Honda 4WS was an option for the SiR S-Spec. Similar to the American Preludes was an optional leather interior and a sunroof. Standard features included a leather-wrapped wheel, carbon-style trim, and lightly tinted glass.

The 4WS wasn’t an afterthought, either. In the original iteration of Honda 4WS, the rear wheels had a maximum deflection of 5.3 degrees. In the fifth generation Prelude, deflection maxed out at 8 degrees. I couldn’t find any data from Honda on how sharper a fifth-gen Prelude with 4WS turns, but check out this video:

ADVERTISEMENT

In Honda’s marketing, the SiR S-Spec was marketed as having the equivalent of 100 HP per liter. If 4WS is not your speed, there’s also the Prelude Type S. The Prelude Type S gets the same turned-up engine, but it swaps 4WS with ATTS. Honda marketed the Type S as being loaded with driving technology, namely ATTS combined with ABS.

Aro points out that if you cannot find the inexpensive Prelude you want in Japan, you can also look for Preludes in Europe.

Wallpapers Honda Prelude 1998 1x

Over there, buyers had access to the Prelude 2.2 VTi, which was more or less similar to the Preludes we got in America and had engines making 197 HP. Of course, I’m sure there are small bits and pieces that are different between the cars in each market. However, the 2.2 VTis were available with 4WS. According to a review from JayEmm On Cars, if you want 4WS and ATTS, some owners have added limited-slip differentials to their 4WS cars to get something like ATTS.

ADVERTISEMENT

Speaking of that review, check out JayEmm hooning a Prelude 2.2 VTi and listen to that exhaust sing:

Fifth-generation Prelude production ended in 2001 after 58,118 copies were sold. For those of you keeping count, that makes the fifth generation Prelude the worst-selling Prelude. JayEmm concludes his review by saying that he believes part of the fifth-generation Prelude’s failure was the fact that it was old news. Some sporty coupes were already being phased out as buyers shifted towards cars with larger interiors and easier ingress. Honda also didn’t do the Prelude any favors by selling coupe versions of the Accord and Civic. Either way, the sales suggested the world had moved on from the Prelude.

So, that leaves us with rarity. According to Honda, just 5,000 Prelude SiR S-Specs were slated for production, and some enthusiasts believe as few as 3,000 were ever built. Perhaps to illustrate how rare these cars seem to be, I haven’t found any currently for sale at popular dealers like The Import Guys or Duncan Imports. So, finding one may take some time.

Re68 Ipteyynytfqk121icehsserce28

ADVERTISEMENT
30004 282
Toprank

I do not even have sales data for a Prelude SiR S-Spec 4WS. One Prelude Type S in decent condition recently sold in Japanese auctions for $8,575. Another Type S is currently for sale at Goonet Exchange for $13,453. I also found a Prelude SiR 4WS that sold for $4,085 in auctions. Prelude S-Spec 4WS examples do sometimes roll across the block, but I’ve found no sales data for them. There is a Prelude SiR 4WS for sale in America right now for $16,800, but it has an automatic transmission. Another SiR 4WS automatic for sale in America is $13,995. A quick check of listings in Europe suggests you can get your hands on a Prelude 2.2 VTi 4WS for under $10,000 before importation fees.

If you decide to look for one of these Preludes yourself, something you should know is that fifth-generation Preludes with a chassis code of BB8 will net you a car with 4WS.

00m0m 84arkym1xhf 0jm0cu 1200x90
Craigslist Seller

There’s a lot of hype around the new Honda Prelude right now, and I bet that car is going awesome. But you can still have a lot of fun looking back a little over 20 years into the past. If you’re looking to import a JDM car, you don’t have to sell an arm and a leg to buy a Skyline. Instead, pay a lot less money and get your kicks in a Prelude with four-wheel-steering.

Do you know of or own a car, bus, motorcycle, or something else worthy of being called a ‘holy grail’? Send me an email at mercedes@theautopian.com or drop it down in the comments!

(Images: Honda, unless otherwise noted.)

ADVERTISEMENT

Popular Stories

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
28 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mortalcombatant
Mortalcombatant
1 month ago

Hey, I suggested it in an email! Yay!

Also, such a great article from my short little email. Thanks for the read.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mortalcombatant
Thirdmort
Thirdmort
1 month ago

I had a 4th gen Si in high school. Absolutely loved it. It was bullet proof. I sold it to buy back my dad’s z3, but before that, I had driven it nearly 40k miles. The only issues I had were the AC needed to be recharged once and I popped 2 tires (1 from a screw driver, and the other a tire sized pothole). Sold it for what we paid minus the cost of new struts, which it needed. Great first car. Fun, sporty, but not fast (especially vs my friends with Mustangs). Good memories…

Piston Slap Yo Mama
Piston Slap Yo Mama
1 month ago

I bought an ’88 Si 4WS with 112k miles on it then put another 100k miles on it and never did anything beyond replacing the timing belt and brake pads. Absolutely phenomenal reliability other than a rare tendency to not restart for a few minutes if still hot. I shoehorned some 225 width Falken tires onto the 14″ rims and owned all the twisty roads and off and on ramps.

Fun Mustang anecdote: I was exiting Interstate 4 in Orlando at a somewhat challenging velocity on a decreasing radius 270 degree roundabout with a jackass Mustang GT hot on my bumper for no justified reason. About 180 degrees into the turn I watched in my rear view mirror as he slid off the road in a truly epic wave of mud, launching sideways into the rain-drenched grassy median. Funny thing was, that’s how I always drove my Prelude whether or not someone was trying to push my buttons. I’ve owned a lot of great sports cars before and after but none ever had the same level of intimate feedback for the road. Why I sold it eludes me …

Ricardo
Ricardo
1 month ago

I worked at a Honda Dealer for 4 months in 2000 in Melbourne Australia and almost got to drive them all (Sadly not the NSX) in some way or another. Integra VTi Manual was my favourite.

Anyway I did get to drive a few 4WS Prelude a few times. It felt so strange to be rolling at low speed around the carpark and turn the wheel and feel the back end of the car seeming slide sideways but my lord was a breeze to swing into a parking spot like a boss.

Suspension set up on these cars was very advanced and sensitive for the time. Adjusting toe was a multi step process beyond the capability or interest of time pressured tyre fitters.

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
1 month ago

Definitely not forgotten by those of us whom were around back then. Granted some of the technology were more complicated than necessary, and answered questions no one was asking. But the Prelude was a sweet car. One we need more of in today’s world.

Mercedes, you seem the type that can be a conduit to bring these types of cars back. We don’t need reviewers whining about the size of the dashboard screen, and other tech that has absorbed nothing to do with the FTD factor (Fun To Drive).

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
1 month ago

I remember seeing a pack of these ripping through the hills of Santa Barbara and being blown away as a really young kid. Probably my first glimpse of tuner culture – burned in my brain.

I never understood why the Prelude was a Honda and the Integra was a Acura though. Usually leads my down the rabbit hole of all the various Japanese dealership chains – you guys should do an article on that.

Pappa P
Pappa P
1 month ago

One thing I liked about the 2nd gen was the cool dual-carb setup. It reminded me of a hopped up British sports car.
I looked at several of these for my first car, mainly out of coincidence. All of them were rotted well beyond repair at about 11 or 12 years old.
Of course, if I had had more than a few nickels to rub together, I could have found a decent example.

Pappa P
Pappa P
1 month ago

BB-8 = 4WS

First Last
First Last
1 month ago

You mentioned the Accord and Civic coupes, but I always thought it was the Integra that really killed the Prelude. They seemed to be aimed at the exact same market segment.

Pappa P
Pappa P
1 month ago
Reply to  First Last

I kept thinking while reading this, how superior the ITR was than this, in every measure except luxury, with no ATTS or 4WS.
The Prelude was a really neat and memorable car, and ATTS was an exciting technology when this car launched. After a while, I convinced myself that ATTS was just an early version of ESC, so it’s very interesting to realize that they actually used this convoluted mini-transmission thing. It’s easy to see why the Integra lived on, but I feel like that final Prelude was a stunning tribute to the Japanese tech wave that started in the 80s.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 month ago

When these first came out I was turned off by the styling. I thought that the 4th gen was the better of the two. Then as the years went by I started to warm to it. Now, I think they are just gorgeous. Smooth, clean lines. Nothing unnecessary. All business.
Funny thing, I owned one once. I was doing a job at a client’s house and they had one sitting in the yard looking neglected. When I asked her what the deal was, she said her loser son that still lived with her had it just sitting there because something was wrong with the clutch or transmission or whatever, and it had a leaking windshield. I offered her $500 and she bullied her bum ass son to take it since she was sick of looking at it. I got it home, paid $300 to have the windshield replaced. I took the entire musty interior out and cleaned everything. I put it all back together and had a pearl with black interior 5 sp on the CHEAP. The clutch was fine. It drove perfect. It was a brilliant driving car.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

I had a similar reaction. I loved the fourth generation, and when the fifth gen debuted I didn’t think it was much of an improvement. However, by the time they killed the Prelude off I absolutely loved the fifth gen and still think it is a fantastic design that has aged far better than most late-90s cars.

The Dude
The Dude
1 month ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

I feel like the 5th gen looks much better in person than in pictures.

The inside of the 4th gen looks way cooler than the 5th gen though.

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
1 month ago

As an engineer, I see things like this 4WS and think, “wouldn’t RWD just have been easier at that point?”

Pappa P
Pappa P
1 month ago
Reply to  TheHairyNug

As a dumbass mechanic, 4WS was somewhat common in Japanese sports cars in the 80s and early 90s, with Nissan using it on the 300ZX, Skyline, and 240SX.
Those systems were designed to apply steering angle in the same way the Prelude did. I know that in hard-core performance and racing applications, these systems were generally deleted.
Also, I’m pretty sure Honda thought the same thing as you, because this was kinda sorta replaced by the S2000 in ’99.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  Pappa P

How well did the 4WS hold up? Asking because, while I was impressed with the nimbleness of an example I rode in, I was still early in my ‘cars are complex’ learning curve and stuck to air-cooled VWs as wrenchable by me. I of course heard horror stories about costly repairs from that one guy at Advance, but always wondered what an actual mechanic on the ground at the time thought

Pappa P
Pappa P
1 month ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I was a kid when these were new, so I don’t have much experience with them.
I would have been weary of the complexity as well, but surprisingly, they don’t seem to have a reputation for needing costly repairs.

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
1 month ago
Reply to  Pappa P

Don’t some new Chevy trucks have 4ws?

Pappa P
Pappa P
1 month ago

Yes, not sure which ones.
It makes good sense for a full size pickup so they can maneuver safely around their natural habitat of school and grocery store parking lots lol.

OttosPhotos
OttosPhotos
1 month ago

Totally forgot that Honda did release a 4WS version of the 5th gen. Thanks for the detailed article. I miss my 1998 BB6.

CatMan
CatMan
1 month ago

I had a new 1st Gen and traded that in on a new 2nd Gen Si <—– Loved that car. That was during my Young Single Guy Out On the Town era so it earns a special place in my nostalgia addled memories

First Last
First Last
1 month ago
Reply to  CatMan

A good friend in high school had a 2nd gen Prelude (red, with rear window louvers) and we painted the town red in that thing. I lost track of him after college but recently learned he passed away pretty young. I always thought it was weird when “old dudes” bought cars from their youth out of nostalgia, but I’ve been seriously thinking of trying to pick up a 2nd gen Prelude just for kicks.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
1 month ago

I will die on this hill, 5th gen is the best looking Prelude.

Also Euro spec Accord SiR with the siq wing and kit just hit 25 years. Would be the only one on the block with one of those.

NebraskaStig
NebraskaStig
1 month ago

Shhhhh about the EuroR!!!!!

AceRimmer
AceRimmer
1 month ago

100%. The proportions and clean styling is just perfect.

Dan Parker
Dan Parker
1 month ago

I had a base 5th gen for a while, I always found it to be kind of disappointing. Loved the look of it, and it was fairly comfy, but the gearing was way too tall for the way it made power and it was kind of wallow-y. Could have probably addressed most of my issues with it, but I just never really fell in love with it. Was a bummer for me, I’d always wanted one.

Noahwayout
Noahwayout
1 month ago

I had a 1990 SI 4WS for several years and it’s one of the very few cars I regret selling. I think I replaced it with an e30 convertible. The mechanical 4ws was fantastic and reliable as was the rest of the car and It handled backroads or long stints on the highway equally well.

I suspect the reason they didn’t sell as well as earlier ‘Ludes was because they started to become quite expensive cars. A decked out Prelude SI 4WS in 1990 was ~$18,450 which roughly translates to a mid $40k car today. Keep in mind that Honda’s inexpensive sports car offering at the time was the CR-X.

Last edited 1 month ago by Noahwayout
Huja Shaw
Huja Shaw
1 month ago

My cousin had a yellow one – it was 1988.5 model or something goofy like that.

28
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x