Dealer Trade: 1983 Honda Prelude Survivor

One of my favorite discoveries remains ordinary cars traded in at the dealership that was purchased new at decades earlier. It really is like stepping into a time machine when gently used versions of cars that some of us covet today were being swapped with new models daily. Now, that certainly doesn’t happen much anymore, but seeing preserved specimens like this 1983 Honda Prelude pop up as part of the used car inventory at a new Honda dealership rekindles some of that nostalgia from days wandering the lot when my parents’ cars were being serviced. This Prelude is in exceptional condition and equipped with the preferred manual transmission, and you’ll find it here on the Lamacchia Honda for $8,995.

The Prelude shows very well, with nicely preserved black trim, shiny paint, and all of its original trimmings still attached. Factory hubcaps, mudflaps, and lenses all look to be in fine shape, not to mention a ding- and dent-free body. The Prelude strikes me as an example that resided with one or two careful owners for many years, the kind of folks who didn’t see it is particularly significant that they were driving what has become a collector car of sorts down to the local dealer to swap it for a new Accord or CR-V. There’s certainly nothing as special as a car like this sitting on any Honda dealer lot at the moment, so perhaps they felt a twinge of remorse as they drove away in yet another sleep-inducing CUV.

At first, considering it was likely an older owner that traded it in, I was fearful it would have the less desirable automatic transmission. The previous owner not only kept their sporting Honda in immaculate condition; they also optioned it the right way, with the silky smooth Honda 5-speed manual. The Prelude of this era left the factory with thickly bolstered sport seats, a sharp three-spoke steering wheel, simple driver controls, and an airy greenhouse thanks to thin pillars and plenty of glass. The cabin shows no signs of damage or heavy wear-and-tear, and mileage is reportedly just under 120,000. The Honda retains its original (and rare) factory cassette deck.

I always loved the orange-on-black instrument cluster that Hondas of this era featured, both for being crystal clear in terms of organization and seemingly inspired by dedicated race cars of the same era. Just look at the tach, even – that detail of when you enter redline territory is so artfully integrated, it’s hard to believe this wasn’t a big dollar performance car when it was new. Lately, clean Preludes, Civic Si’s and CRXs have been commanding strong money, and if this car was on eBay, I bet it would sell for more than the asking price. They don’t come along like this too often any more, and many are being snatched up before even being listed for sale publicly – I’d buy one now if an 80s-era Honda has been on your short list.

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  1. Vance

    I worked for a Ford dealer in Tucson, AZ, when an elderly lady drove in with a 1957 Ford Fairlane. Beautiful car, tu-tone black and white, freshly rebuilt motor ( I believe it was T-Bird V8 ), clean interior, a great find. The one thing it didn’t have was power steering, and she was tired of fighting it. As with all trade-ins, managers got first dibs. It didn’t last a day, and was gone. The guy who bought it was a distant relative of Wayne Newton. Yeh, Danke Shoen, darling, Danke Shoen.

  2. Jim C

    Was hoping they’d have the Studebaker listed on their website, but no such luck.

    • Bill Member

      My thoughts exactly.

  3. Ray S.

    What a beautiful car. Back when Honda’s were light and delicate looking. Wish they would go back to that type of styling instead of the faux “tough” look.

    • angliagt angliagt Member

      I know what you mean.Neighbors across the
      street from us have a fairly new Camry,which is,of course,
      white.He usually parks it so I only see the back of it.The
      other day he backed it in.Man,that is one UGLY looking
      They also have a fairly new Subaru “mini suv”.Of
      course it’s white too.UGLY,UGLY,UGLY!
      There is hope,however – their son just bought a
      newer used Passat in a maroon color.

  4. Dan

    One of my all-time favorite designs/models of Honda. I wanted one so badly but being fresh out of college and terminally broke back in ‘83, it wasn’t meant to be! I still think it’s such a beautiful design that it would turn heads even today.

    • Woody

      Me too, Dan. I ended up with a Buick Skyhawk instead. Still wish I could have bought the Prelude.

  5. Chris honn

    I owned one of those in the late 80’s. Great car but the carb sucked to work on. Other than that great cars.

  6. Rx-7 TurboII

    9k? better examples for less money are out there.

    • Sam61

      What’s wrong with you Rx-7 Turboll. Don’t you understand premium/certified used car status just because it now resides on a Honda dealer lot. I’m sure the owner got screwed..$2,500 trade in against full price for (fill the blank).

      Don’t get me wrong as I like Preludes alot. We’ve had 2 Hondas and 2 Acuras in the family stable with collective one owner mileage totaling 750,000 miles over 34 years of ownership between 3 drivers.

  7. JCA

    What’s up with the orange tape on the guage cluster? Wierd …Back in ’83 my dad bought one, it was a fun and light car. One weak spot were the brakes, they were prone warping the rotors if you like to drive it like you stole it all the time. Another weak spot was the front end plow when you pushed it too hard, especially in the rain. Maybe the tiny 13 or 14 ” tires were the problem. I found that out the hard way when I took a turn too hard on a rainy night and slid it into an oak tree. The Lude didn’t survive that one unfortunately…

  8. Mick

    I’m sure that the dealer gave the owner 10% of their now-asking price when they took it in on trade.

  9. jokacz

    Tried to buy a new one back then, but the dealers were getting 3 grand over sticker for them and I wasn’t about to do that.

  10. Rodney - GSM

    Bought one (red with the five speed) new for my wife in ‘83. I think it was around 12K new out the door. Drove it daily until ‘98 with about 100K miles. Sold it for 6K. Great car, probably should not have sold it….

    • jokacz

      The base price was $9654.00 But most dealers were price gouging.

      • Rodney - GSM

        I may have remembered the price wrong. All service and purchase records were given to second owner.

  11. Ben T Spanner

    I leased a new 1985 in the same color and trim level. Bought it at lease end, and kept it 2 more years. One of my favorite cars. When I traded it, the dealer opened the door to the used car showroom and had me drive it in. No reconditioning needed.

  12. Mike

    The bumper trim appears to have been painted.

  13. Alan Robbins

    If I had garage space I’d buy this in a heartbeat.

    Back in the mid 80’s my girlfriend and I were driving my Prelude (Which the So Cal crowd dubbed the Qualude) across the Mohave desert in August, pulled into Barstow, the radiator sprung a leak. Had a leisurely lunch, pulled the cap, poured 3 bottles of stop leak in it — and proceeded to drive the thing 100,000 miles like that. When you opened the radiator cap it looked like oatmeal….

  14. Kelly g

    Good grief i hope the dealer manages to eke out a tiny profit on this one.

  15. JayL

    The condition of the car is even more amazing considering the dealership is in Upstate New York (!)

  16. Chucko

    I remember these well, being in high school at the time they were out. Friend had one, it was quick for the period and fun to boot.

    Here’s to 80’s Japanese cars! They were simple(er) and reliable.

    I am refurbishing my ’84 Toyo Celica GTS coupe right now. I’ve had it stored for 25 years. Some parts are unobtanium, but luckily nothing much so far has been needed, fingers crossed…

  17. Chris

    My ’83 had a bulge (from new) in the bottom of the instrument opening- I’ll bet that orange thing is hiding that. Also, wheels are not 1983 and the mirrors are not supposed to be body colored.

  18. Travis Neale

    The bumper trim has oddly been painted black. Not correct and does not look good. Appears to be a clean nice example but not worth $9k. Good luck to the dealer.

  19. Chris

    Lower bumpers are body colored as well- always liked that (usual) grey. Odd repaint and agree, given mileage, probably worth half-ish of asking.

  20. Ken Wittick

    To the author , again this web site is barn finds ,not a used car lot site…..

    • Bhowe Member

      I come here every day specifically because this site has VARIETY! not just muscle cars and sports cars but all variety of years, types, conditions, countries of origin etc. Sont change a thing!

  21. djkenny

    I could see $4500, since it is so clean. Poor soul who traded it in likely got real screwed, regardless.

  22. Kelly g

    This is the only car that a cop actually threw me onto the hood of. I borrowed one (same “arrest me” red color) from a friend at a bar, and me and
    a buddy drove “spiritedly” back to our house. I snatched second gear not knowing the cop was backed into an alleyway as i went past. He gave chase but i never saw him. It was only when i returned to the same parking place and exited the Prelude, red solo cup in hand, that i realized he had been chasing me.

    • Stevieg Member

      Been there lol

      • Kelly g

        With my red Prelude, red Solo cup, and red mullet, i must have made the cop “see red” lol

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