$3,500 Solaire: 1981 Honda Prelude Convertible

As they say, when the top goes down, the price goes up. That may or may not be true with this inexpensive ragtop. This is a 1981 Honda Prelude Convertible made by a company called Solaire. This unusual and rare car is posted on craigslist with an asking price of $3,500, or the price of a season worth of tanning booth sessions. It’s in a city that knows a thing or two about catching some rays: St. Augustine, Florida.

The first-generation Prelude, made from 1978 to 1982, is probably the one to have, future-collectible-wise. And yes, these will be future collectible cars. Maybe even more so with the rare Solaire convertible conversion option. The trunk on this car still has a lot of usable space, the conversion hasn’t taken too much of that space, which is nice. There is no mention of a “boot” for the convertible in the top-down position, but there would have been one. I wonder if anyone has actually carried anything on the rear deck (trunk lid) luggage rack? I don’t know if I would trust that to hold too much while speeding down the road.

This was actually a factory-approved convertible conversion and the cars came with a full factory warranty. It had to have been a top-notch job for Honda, a company that’s known for its quality, to have approved them enough to still offer a factory warranty. There were only around 100 conversions made, give or take, by Solaire of Santa Ana, California. The car seen here looks like it’s in great condition but not much information is given in the ad. It’s being sold by a car dealer.

Red over silver, it doesn’t get much better than that for me. The interior of this car looks like it’s in nice condition. The lipstick-red seats are bright, and by bright I mean BRIGHT! The dash appears to be crack-free which is nice. And, a great feature of this car is its 5-speed manual! An automatic transmission would have been an option but unless you have some mobility issues, and many of us do, most folks would want a manual in a small car like this one.

This is Honda’s EK 1.8L inline-four with around 75 hp. It reportedly “runs good” and has 94,000 miles on it. Have you seen a Prelude convertible before?


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  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    I admit it–I like it. But someone needs to go to the classifieds and buy my Heralds first! Gee, it happens to be the same dollar figure…

  2. KeithK

    The three rectangles at the bottom of the speedometer are red meaning it its in need of an oil change and tire rotation. Please stick the key in and make these green again said every fuming,returning customer that I mistakingly neglected. Some customers refused to attempt this on their own and returned to the shop only to have a snarky tech reset these while they sat in the car. Guilty as charged.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Keith, see, that’s the thing. I don’t need a car that tells me when THEY think I should change my oil ( probably in cahoots with Pennzoil) and I’m sorry, I don’t need a light telling me the tires are rotating, the tires rotate every time I drive the car. ( Father Guido Sarducci) :)

  3. flmikey

    …it’s only 3 hours away from me…may have to make a call right now…

  4. irocrob

    That is a very inexpensive convert. Probably fetch $6000 no problem here in Canada.

    • Madman ruiser

      Yes $6000 which equates to roughly $3500 USD. :P

  5. irocrob

    More like 4500 US by my math…

  6. slimwhitman

    How do you know it was built by SolAir? They weren’t the only coach builder converting the Prelude. National Coach (in N. Vancouver, Can), Solaire, Classic Touch, Con-Tec, Silcco and Steas all converted the first gen Prelude.

  7. Royal Ricci

    The luggage rack was an option on the Prelude, or at least I had one on my 1979. Oddly enough, I can not recall whether mine was an automatic or standard. All I know is it was Black with orange interior. Too bad the head gasket was shot. Wound up selling it to a kid who flipped it the first or second night he had it. Dumb ass.



  9. Jack Quantrill

    These ’81’s will keep you happy, long time! EZ to work on.

  10. Tacoma, Washington USA

    Sweet looking Quaalude convertible. I’ve seen plenty of Squanda Quaaludes of this vintage, but never as a convertible. This one must’ve been a one-off custom for someone

  11. David

    Just a quick correction: The car is silver over red, and not the other way around as was stated in the article.

  12. Mr. TKD

    I’ve always been infatuated with first-gen Preludes. I believe it’s the first car that was sold in America with a standard moonroof. It’s also the first car I rode in with a moonroof.

    I don’t know that this chopped-up Prelude would be anything I’d be interested in. I want the car I remember. As nice as this is, it doesn’t match up with what I have in my head and what I’d want in my garage.

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