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First-Generation Gem: 1980 Honda Prelude

Coming fairly late to the game, at least in order to compete with the Toyota Celica, this 1980 Honda Prelude nonetheless came locked and loaded and ready for the fight. Maybe that’s too strong of a description for such a friendly company like Honda – after all, “you meet the nicest people”… and all that. This one-owner Prelude can be found here on craigslist in Spokane Valley, Washington, just east of Spokane. The seller is asking $3,900 cash. Thanks to David R. for sending in this tip!

The odometer shows just over 74,300 miles which is barely over 1,850 miles a year over the last four decades. A lot of people ride a bicycle more miles than that. It’s unfortunate to see the dings on the right quarter panel in the photo above, but maybe a paintless dent repair person could take care of those for a few hundred bucks. When it debuted in late-1978, the Prelude was the first Honda to have a standard power moonroof. US-versions received a glass sunroof which freed up some extra headroom over the sliding metal moonroof for Japan-based cars. I’m not sure how I feel about the wire wheel covers, how about you?

You can see the giant roof opening in a few of the photos and there’s also air-conditioning which I’m assuming is cold but there’s no mention of that. Along with the same era Honda Accord, the Prelude came with standard power steering. That seems almost comical now but this was four decades ago and they were the first cars to have that standard feature with engines under 2-liters in size. In keeping with an age-old craigslist tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation, there are no engine photos. This one should have Honda’s 1.8L EK-CVCC inline-four with 72 horsepower.

The interior looks great, or what we see of it does. This one has an automatic transmission which is a bit of a drawback for driving fun, but at least, by 1980, it evolved up a notch from a two-speed Hondamatic to a three-speed automatic. The seller says that this is a one-owner car that they bought from a family friend and it has 75,000 miles on it. It sure looks like a nice one. Have any of you owned a first-generation Prelude?


  1. Avatar photo Bluetec320 Member

    These were popular in the 80s, and fun to drive too. The price seems fair to me, but I am definitely not a 4 wheel Honda expert, if it had 2 wheels, that would be a different story. I agree with Scotty, remove the dents, replace the Walmart wheel covers with a set of original steelies with trim rings, and have a blast for only $3900.

    Like 6
  2. Avatar photo alphasud Member

    With so few of these cars remaining and the JDM market coming on strong this seems like a great buy. Too bad it’s not a 5-speed but still that car still looks new. Hope someone buys it and takes care of it.

    David R.

    Like 7
  3. Avatar photo alphasud Member

    Posting already deleted!

    Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Dantheman

    Wow, i thought the 1st gen only came as a manual trans. Very rare honda these days.

    Like 0
  5. Avatar photo PaulG

    Ex wife and I bought a brand new one / same color combo but with the 5 speed.
    Nice well built cars that feel quite zippy. Got terrific gas mileage too, especially for the times. The salesman let the ex drive if off the showroom floor, still remember the look on her face…

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo Tom D

      I had a 1982 Prelude, same color scheme but with 5 speed. Did not have a cruise control, dealer put on aftermarket one, which was fine. Ran great, but it had dual carbs, not fuel injection. When the 84 came out it was such an advance change I had to upgrade. I had two more Preludes after that because in those days they were business cars and I put on a lot of miles.

      Like 0
  6. Avatar photo Mike

    The wheels have got to go otherwise I wouldn’t change another thing. Let’s hope the moon roof does not leak

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo CJinSD

      Hopefully the original styled steel wheels are hiding under those covers.

      Like 0
  7. Avatar photo Eric D.

    A 1981 was my first car in ’83 or ’84. Always likened the engine to a sewing machine. You’d lose 2 or 3 mph at highway speeds when the A/C cycled on. Loved that car.

    Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome looking Honda Prelude. Although I was too young to drive at the time, I remember when they were on the market.

    Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Jasper

    I was just a youngster when these came out, but they were a real “it” car to have. Dealers weren’t doing any dealing on them.

    I bet the steelies are just fine under those goofy wheel covers. Just score a set of trim rings and it’ll be fine. Bummer about the slush box, but still a neat car. Almost too bad it’s not a Hondamatic, they weren’t so bad and strangely novel.

    Now to find one as nice in that copper metallic with a five speed.

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo schooner

    Wife bought one new. Decent around town runabout. Took a vacation drive and by the end of the first day hated the seats, Worst seats ever. Too short seat bottoms (and she’s 5’2″!), found the seat frame early on and the bolsters were in the wrong places. Rather than torture ourselves for a week we tortured ourselves for one more day driving home.

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo oilngas

    Timing belt and front rotors were a pain in the butt. Otherwise a great car. The a/c always worked. In Texas that was a big deal.

    Like 1
  12. Avatar photo JoeNYWF64

    Great bumper protection. Grey starting to “creep in” to the interior in 1980.
    Crank windows & no passenger mirror – need neither.
    & an AFFORDABLE 2 door with a trunk.Perfect for a single person ir even childless couple. Try to find 1 of those today or even a sub $20k 2 dr hatchback – disgraceful!

    Like 0
  13. Avatar photo ABikePeddler

    Best feature on these cars has to be the tachometer integrated inside the speedometer. Why has this not become the norm? You can see both your speed and RPM at one glance! Brilliant design and very very cool since so few other manufacturers ever did it.

    Like 1
  14. Avatar photo Skip

    We bought one new. It was dark blue with off white interior. Great car never any problems for any kind.
    My wife is 5-2 and I am 5-6. The seats were great and comfortable for us.

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo Chris Webster

    Yuk. Hate the typical (for the time) overwrought Japanese ‘styling’ And the worst wheel trims I’ve seen in a looong time.

    Like 0
  16. Avatar photo Mudd

    I had a used one red in red. I switched from VW Rabbit and thought it was a great car. I had an adventurous trip on Route 50, coast to coast.

    Like 0
  17. Avatar photo matt

    I drove one to college in 1994; dad had put a little over 200k on the odometer, and I put another ~70k on it in a year and a half. fantastic car. Mine was this color scheme, with the 5-speed and luggage rack on the trunk lid; we used to keep a wiffle-ball bat in the trunk to hold it open. Fun fact: you can, in fact, get a keg in the trunk, and get the trunk to latch. BTW, mine did -not- have power steering; there was no provision for power steering in fact. If you’d let the pressure in the tires get low, topping them up might make it feel like it had power steering, but it most certainly did not have a hydraulic power steering system.

    Like 0

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