How Hard Can It Be? 1985 Honda Prelude


Honda Prelude DX Honda Prelude DX

Nostalgia is a funny thing. I’ve said it before and I say it now. The rose-tinted memories of high school love turn into a really uncomfortable lunch date with someone you have nothing in common with ten years on. Chef Boyardee and White Castle are never as tasty as they were during a fierce bout with the drunk munchies in college. Of course, cars are the same way: your 1976 Buick Century with the K-Mart-sourced Sanyo cassette deck and speaker combo pack would today leave you weeping, and not in a good way.

So it was with a particular 1985 Honda Prelude, conveniently the topic of this episode of How Hard Can It Be?

Reed and I were the German car kings. I had my Rabbit and he had his Quantum wagon (Passat to everyone else in the world). My parents had an Audi and his parents had a Mercedes-Benz. We worshipped at the altar of BMW and Porsche. We would fawn over idiot-bastard coachbuilt cars like the Bitter SC and anything kissed by the aftermarket talents of Ruf and Koenig. Japanese cars were something that happened to other people.

Imagine my surprise when Reed bought a charcoal gray on gray cloth 1985 Prelude with over 190,000 kilometres. Blasphemy! Traitor! You’re not my friend! What could he be thinking?

In fact, Reed was thinking. And thinking clearly. Despite what I ignorantly thought were long kilometres, Reed’s Prelude had no drivability issues, no suspect electronics, and nothing randomly fell off (except the side mouldings, which we’ll get to in a minute). It started in cold weather, and didn’t need a major inspection for a three-hour road trip. He drove it virtually forever, and then gave it to his dad who drove it some more. Sure it was a little rusty. But then, my Rabbit’s nickname was the Bondo Bunny.

Being a poor college student, my limited supply of nickels and dimes was better spent on vodka than niggling car repairs. I flushed the Bunny and bought myself a Prelude, also a 1985. Mine was a mere child with 128,000 kilometres and was positively resplendent in red over charcoal cloth.

Reed and I became the Prelude twins. We were like Devo, except we had two Preludes instead of a bunch of mopeds. So dedicated were we that we parted out a white on black 1987 parked on a rickety trailer in the middle of the night just for the interior and rear suspension. (Side note – you can fit most of a Prelude inside of another Prelude.) So manic was I that while on vacation in Amsterdam I went to a Honda dealer and ordered a shiny steering wheel badge and smoked corner lights.

I drove that the Little Prelude That Could for ten years and more than 240,000 kilometres. It consumed very little; a couple of timing belt  services, the occasional tune-up and oil change, one each clutch and alternator. That was it. I sold it with 375k on the clock to a friend who took it with her from California back to New Jersey. Neither were heard from again.

Honda Prelude DX Honda Prelude DX

Fast forward to a few years ago. In a nostalgia-fueled rage that could only come from the eBay equivalent of drunk-dialing, Reed found and purchased another gray on gray 1985 Quaalude from a dealership in Kansas, or some other Midwestern garden state. It was a one-owner car with tremendous history, no obvious flaws like schizophrenic carburetors or delaminating door panels, and low kilometres. It arrived by carrier to his home outside Washington, DC, and shortly thereafter I had the opportunity to drive it.

Here’s where that nostalgia thing comes in. What had seemed like a taut, zippy little runabout when I was 19 years old had morphed into a slow, buzzy squashed Civic. It’s not that Reed’s new toy was worn out. Indeed, it was probably as nice as my red car and certainly much nicer than his first gray car. It just seemed… old.

Honda Prelude DX

This blue 1985 DX doesn’t seem to have any issues except for the carburetors. But carbs on these car are hard. They are not like SUs despite their appearance. They work on vacuum, which sucks, and there are miles of vacuum lines. When my carbs went flakey, the cold-start idle wouldn’t set so you’d have to heel-toe to keep the car running. The answer was to replace the carbs, which I did not do.

That’s what this guy’s dealer told him. One imagines it is why a sub-62,000 kilometre Honda, even one with an autotragic transmission, is up for sale. The air conditioning is said to work and the original stereo is included. This is my favorite part: “In the trunk are boxes of NOS body side moldings that the original owner purchased for reasons unexplained.” That’s because they fall off if you look at them the wrong way. Mine were all held on with black RTV.

I still have fond memories of my Prelude. I was very sad when I finally sold it. I still pause when I see a really nice red on charcoal example. But I know better. I know nostalgia is a fickle cow. How hard could it be to go home again? How hard could it be to relive one’s youth? How hard could it be… to care?

[ Craigslist – recent ]

[ Craigslist – original ]