1982 Honda Prelude: Factory-Backed?

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In the 1980s, it seemed like conversion companies were springing up everywhere you looked to chop the roof off a decent looking car to increase its appeal. From plane-jane family sedans to sporty coupes, nothing was safe from the aftermarket’s vision of a convertible that was never built by the factory. As we all know, these conversions didn’t always yield better cars, but sometimes the manufacturer at least authorized it – like this 1982 Honda Prelude convertible here on craigslist, supposedly built by Solaire, which would make it one of about 100 ever sold. 

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We’re glad Barn Finds reader Jake P. sent this one in, because if it’s a genuine Solaire-built convertible, it’s a rare find. Honda did put these in showrooms when new, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t get the memo given how few were ever made. Solaire was a California-based company that Honda commissioned to perform the conversion, and based on original sales literature, they actually undertook some impressive measures to keep the structure rigid and the interior looking factory-correct.

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The aftermarket company didn’t touch the mechanical systems, and that’s a good thing given Honda’s reputation for quality and fuel economy. Unfortunately, this is a rare case where the engine bay is where this car’s biggest sins reside. One of the cylinders is leaking oil and the seller says the entire engine needs a rebuild, so that’s a chore for the next owner. If you’re flying out to California to buy this car, however, there are plenty of these vintage Preludes in West Coast junkyards if you want to pull a motor while you’re out there.

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Personally, the desire to own a convertible has never been strong unless we’re talking a vintage Datsun or Porsche. These conversions always look clunky to me, even when factory-backed. Plus, the Prelude coupes were quite attractive in their day, so I don’t consider the droptop treatment an improvement. But for the Honda collector, this car and the Straman CRX are two desirable examples of rare times when Honda allowed the aftermarket to mess with its recipe. How do you feel about these aftermarket conversions?

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Comments

  1. Adam Wright

    Ironically, I had a deal in college to buy one of these for $300, and my plan was to chop the top, and paint bricks on it, alas, the deal fell through.

  2. Tirefriar

    Surprisingly, this generation Prelude lends itself to make an attractive convertible, with the top down. I agree that it takes on a bit of a kit car character with the rag top in a shut position.

    The price here is fair. It’s an easy and interesting project. All you would need is a cherry picker and a decent set of tools. The auto trans is a turn off – these didn’t shift all that great and the gears were not spaced for the best performance. Fitting a 5 speed while the engine is out shouldn’t be an issue. Like Jeff said, you can pull one with a trans already. The bosses for the pedal assembly are already in place to make conversion easier.

    The real issue will be all that vaccum spaghetti. You will need to make sure the carb is set up properly or passing smog will be a nightmare.

  3. Mark S Member

    When my daughter was about 3 years old if we would have walked by this POS on the street she would have said yugly car daddy yugly car, and that is about all that needs to be said.

  4. Jason Houston

    Between 1980 and 1982 there were at least 14 after-market US companies converting dumb sedans into hoaky, unreinforced, hand-job convertibles. Only one was of any quality, and that was an Italian coachbuilder named Intermeccanica. They actually reinforced their products and these are the only ones that have endured. Their biggest drawback was the lack of a power-operated top and the very unattractive lack of a quarter glass. Of all these companies, Ford received the lion’s share of complaints, with the public believing they were factory jobs.

    Finally, it became clear to myopic domestic manufacturers that the time was ripe to bring back factory convertible production, and these desperate aftermarket clunks quickly faded into oblivion. Only a handful of Intermeccanica cars are seen today.

    As for styling?

    Good riddance!

  5. Terrence Jasso

    I LOVE IT !! DROP THE TOP, baby !! 😍

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