Gold Nugget: 1980 Honda Prelude

This thing is gold, Jerry, gold! This 1980 Honda Prelude is gold in more ways than one, not just in color. This ridiculously nice car is listed on eBay with a ridiculously low bid of just over $1,000! The next owner could fly in and drive it home from Bend, Oregon. Of course, you’ll still have the airline ticket, gas, hotels, and food for the return trip, but think of the memories you’ll make. The seller has a buy it now price of $3,700 if anyone doesn’t want to take a risk on losing what may be the nicest first-gen Prelude for sale in the US right now. This Prelude is a future (or, present?) collector car, there is just no question about that. My gut says to buy and hold this one, but I’m trying to reason with my unreasonable gut..

When the Prelude was introduced in late-1978 for the 1979 model year, it was the first car under 2-liters to have standard power steering and it was the first Honda to have a standard power moonroof. I know that there are people out there who don’t like Japanese cars no matter how good they really are, for whatever philosophical or other reason, and like anything else, no amount of poking, prodding, or trying to convince them otherwise will ever make them fans. Ever. Not in a million years. Writing for Motor Trend as the Prelude debuted, Brock Yates said, “It is by any sane measurement, a splendid automobile. The machine, like all Hondas, embodies fabrication that is, in my opinion, surpassed only by the narrowest of margins by Mercedes-Benz. It is a relatively powerful little automobile by anybody’s standards.” Word, Brock, word.

This is probably the nicest Prelude of the first-generation variety that I’ve personally seen, or seen photos of. The seller mentions that it’s “90% perfect”, with some clear-coat peeling off of the RF fender and some “very minor” dings, and the windshield has a couple of repaired chips. Other than a couple of little dings and faded black bumpers, and some bent metal under the front bumper where the fog lights are, I don’t see much else wrong with this little gem.

I rarely use the word cute, but that is one cute profile! This car is like a combination of fluffy puppies and bunnies all rolled up in thin, Japanese sheet metal and dipped in Longleet Gold Metallic paint, with some P175/70SR13 radials instead of cute little furry feet. Of course, along with that small cuteness, goes an NHTSA 1-star crash rating! Ouch, literally. The plan is to never be in a frontal-crash with this car, and after 37 years, so far so good. The seller would drive this car crosscountry tomorrow without even thinking about it, it’s that reliable. Some of the work that they’ve done in in the last two years includes “a new (rebuilt) carburetor, 2 new CV joints, new belts including the timing belt, and new brakes. It has been well maintained. Regular oil changes, (synthetic) carb cleaner and tune ups.” Fantastic! This is a bargain right here, folks.

All Preludes initially came standard with a 5-speed manual transmission, but a two-speed Hondamatic was available. In 1980, Honda replaced that two-speed automatic with a three-speed automatic, but you still want the 5-speed manual here. I have never even sat in a first-generation SM (chassis code) Prelude, but from what I hear there is plenty of legroom in front. It’s the rear seat (i.e., package shelf, basically) where the interior troubles are. Car reviewers at the time lamented the fact that the rear seat wasn’t really useful as an actual passenger seat at all. That, and the odd instrument cluster. I personally like it because it’s unusual; the car and the gauge cluster.  The seller says that the tach just started to stick and they’re guessing that it isn’t a huge issue, and the original front seats were replaced by later model Prelude seats. That’s very unfortunate and it could be a big issue, collector-wise. Original is king, as we all know. There is a photo in the eBay ad that doesn’t load and I’m hoping that they at least tried to include an engine photo, but as such, there isn’t one. This would be Honda’s EK1 1.8L CVCC (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion) inline-four with 72 hp. Whether a person likes Japanese cars or not, make no mistake about the fact that they’re the next big thing in the collector market. Get the best examples that you can find and get them soon.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. dirtyharry

    The world has changed if this is collectible. If it is, then what isn’t? Apparently anything with some age on it and survived somehow is a collectible. I disagree and think you are wasting your time if you are thinking appreciation. Cheap cars are rarely collectible or worth much. They were not a good driving experience when new and worse with age. Now all you guys with a Nash Metro or a Crosley can chime in.

    • grant

      Except these are a great driving experience, and always have been. Preludes have always been marketed as a sporty car, they’ve always been popular and they got better with every generation.

      Like 1
    • RX7TURBOII

      Negativity at its finest….if its Not a 69 camaro, 67 mustang or big block mopar then it’s worthless…lol

      Open your minds a little and think outside the box, it’s not just big dollar cars that are collectible…it has nothing to do with money!

      Like 1
    • King Al

      Gotta agree with dirtyharry. Maybe a bit collectible if low mileage. But collectible with 119k miles? No.

    • BRAKTRCR

      Would love a Nash Metropolitan, now that you mention it

  2. John Vreeland

    I remember commuting as a passenger in this car , and the owner loved it, and so did I. The sunroof was smooth, and the shifting fun. For the time, it was a great car.

    • Rosey

      I have a 1989 Honda Prelude and it is 173000 miles on it. I love driving this car. It has a 5-speed. Anyone that’s ever drove a Prelude knows how much fun it is to drive.

      • Matt

        One of my close friends has 2 88 preludes. One for parts and the other we are currently getting running (2.0 Si 4WS). He has other cars though such as the following:
        88 Crx Si
        87 Accord
        90 (?) Civic EF Hatchback
        Typically im a mopar guy, but those hondas are fun to drive. We did 140 mph in the crx.

    • half cab

      One of my best friends had a couple of these (80/81 he wrecked the 80) we went everywhere in those cars and cheap on gas to. Very fun to drive.
      Brought back great memories. He passed away in 1988. Every time I see an old prelude I think of him.

      Like 1
  3. irocrob

    I like this car. The survival rate is so very low. I had 2 small kids when they were new so we bought a Accord new. I see a 1980 Corvette many times in a summer but the last old prelude, heck I dont know when.

    Like 1
  4. SSPBill

    Collectible maybe in the “niche” sence. I think the price reflexs that. A friend’s brother had a new one like this but red. I took an hour ride in the back seat and can confirm there is ZERO legroom. I had to sit across the seat because there was no place for my feet. Good thing I was only 12.

    • grant

      That hurt to read, in the sense that it just didn’t look right, and I think my comment reflects that.

      • SSPBill

        To be fair, it had about as much rear seat leg room as a new Mustang…

  5. The Walrus

    Of course this is collectible and will appreciate. The question that should be asked is whether from today, at $3700 plus whatever cost you incur retrieving it, it will appreciate faster than the inflation rate.

    Car collecting by its very nature is an irrational financial pursuit. It’s driven by emotion, not logic. Good memories of a car are not typically enough to bring value. There must be some passion involved, and it must be shared by many to raise values.

    So, will this early, inspiring for the era Prelude do that? I’ll say this: for its condition, this is likely the cheapest, when adjusted for inflation, that this car will ever be. From here its value will likely outperform Civics and Accords and likely many other vehicles from 1980. I would think this will perform better than average, but it won’t make anyone rich.

    Like 1
  6. Fred W.

    I’m surprised it isn’t already high dollar. Lots of good memories associated with these cars, and 99% were ridden hard and put away wet.

  7. healeydays

    I agree with some of the folks that it being a collectible might be a stretch, but, then again what Honda would be considered so if not the gen 1 Prelude. I had a long term girlfriend back then that bought one new and that car was a blast to drive.

    It wasn’t as quick as my gen 1 Rx7 , but it could scoot down the road at a respectable pace for a Japanese car of it’s time and the front wheel drive could help it corner thru the mountain roads of the White Mountains of NH.

    Fond memories…

  8. Mike F.

    I think these are entering a nostalgia market now, but not quite collectable. Comments here certainly have a nostalgic ring.

    In another 20 years, maybe they’ll be like the 1960’s Valiant, Tempest, or Chevy II? Sort of collectable, to the right people?

    • Moosefeather

      It begs the question then, what defines a collectible car? I certainly hope and would disagree with a definition based solely on value. How many “to the right people” need it be to consider it collectible?

  9. Jeremy Holmes

    This is the second car I ever owned right down to the color. Great little cars and man could it take a beating. Will the price go up who knows but I feel investment wise your better off with the last gen prelude in 10-15 years. They were more popular and better motors so I see more demand as that generation gets older. However I would love to own this one myself but can’t see spending more than about 2k for it.

  10. Kevin

    I had a silver one. Unfortunately, it got wrecked. They’re cool looking. But nothing special about the performance. I’ve got two Alfa Romeo now. Guess I lean towards unique

  11. Enzo

    Sure it’s the first Prelude. But the ones people are wanting though are the late 80s to early 90s examples with the pop up lights.

    You can even find one with 4 wheel steering!

  12. JimmyJ

    You guys show 100 crappy chevettes then a prelude and people complain about collectivity?
    Hondas forgot more about building cars in the 80s than the americans knew…
    Sad but true

    Like 1
    • Stephen

      Yup, can’t argue that.

  13. Mike

    Ah, the Qualude. I love Preludes, still miss my 93, but the 1st gens were always so odd to me. Especially with that funky speedo/tach combo on the same arc. Honda actually called it the “Concentrated Target Meter”. I’m guessing it wasn’t too popular because in 81-82 they went with a traditional analog setup.

  14. Mike

    I can barely see the material but I’m almost certain those seats are from a 4th gen. They’re super comfortable.

  15. Jack Quantrill

    I had a silver ’81. Easy to work on.

  16. BRAKTRCR

    I think I have said the same thing many times before, but worth repeating, in my opinion. Collecting cars for profit, just makes you a used car dealer. Collecting cars, because you like that particular car, for a host of reasons, is a hobby.
    I love my 66 Toronado, not because it will make me rich someday, but because I like the car. Same with my 89 Vette. If when I have one foot in the grave, and the other on a banana peel, and I sell my cars… whatever they bring me is just what the next person is willing to pay. I’m good with that.
    This prelude looks like a clean fun car at a reasonable price
    Buy it and enjoy it. Or pass on it and say its not my style.

  17. Stephen

    I bought one of these for my teenage daughter about 8 years ago for $1,100. It would stall and not restart for some unapparent reason. Never did figured that out. I couldn’t have my daughter drive something like that so I sold it to a 20ish young man for $1,000 that was happy to get it. It was a pretty cool little car none the less.

  18. Paul B

    I agree with @BRAKCRTR. We should be in this for the love, not the money. All the niches are important. Will I ever make money on my 1960 Panhard? No! And I really don’t care what anyone else thinks about whether it’s “collectible”. To me it is one of the most artful and interesting cars ever built. That’s all I need. My ’97 Miata won’t make me money either. But it’s very cool and I love driving it. Within the past six months more and more strangers strike up conversations about it with me, so at age 20 it is speaking to them too, and that is great. As for this Prelude, I think it is an excellent value for a historically significant and fine-driving, high quality small car. It basically established the market for small sporty coupes in the US in the wake of the larger pony cars’ success. That counts for something. I’d love to see this at a show, where I typically find myself drawn to the unusual. I can’t recall when I last saw one of these in such nice shape. I was never a fan of this generation Prelude. But it did get the segment going, and today its awkward proportions, weird dashboard and high build quality coupled with excelllent driving characteristics make it interesting to me. It should be collectible to someone.

    Like 1
    • Jonathan Lawson

      I have NEVER seen a Panhard, probably since I was in Paris as a child in 1956. Very cool car.

      Like 1
  19. Mike Stillman

    I need a left-rear control arm for my 1989 Prelude SI 4WS, fantastic car that can’t be driven until the replacement part is installed. Beautiful black paint job with rebuilt engine (still needs new brakes). If I can get it fixed I’ll continue driving it (210,000 miles and counting) but it’s bound to be a collector’s item.
    Can you help find the control arm it needs?

    • Gale

      I needed an upper control arm for my 1989 Honda Prelude 2.0 SI. I could not find one on any of the standard Parts websites. I kept calling junkyards and auto part places that could do a nationwide search and ended up finding one in a junkyard in Arkansas. It cost $20 for the part and $20 for shipping. I kept calling places to do a nationwide search until I found apart.

      Like 2
  20. Rich S Member

    I had a 82 which my opinion was the best of gen 1. Roomy, comfortable, and fun to drive, not bad for what was already 21 year old car. But had to sell it since I didn’t have room for a third car, and grown tired having to do a test only smog test every year in Calif since it was considered a high emitted profile. One of the main reason you won’t see these too often in California.😔

  21. pperros

    I drove one of the first ones in this area when they were introduced. I was so impressed that I rushed out and bought a ’79 Scirocco. But you know, after all these years, this one doesn’t look half bad to me.

  22. H.C. P.

    In college is 1985 was racing one of these wasn’t aware of lift off, nailed a tree took 4 hours to cut me out, helicopter ride to the ER, compound femur, broken arm, head wound…so I’ll take a pass on this.

    Like 1
  23. JunkFixer

    My Mom was an early adopter of Japanese cars buying her 1st one in 1969 (’70 Corolla). Later she traded in her ’75 Celica ST for a new ’81 Prelude – Nov, 1980, I think. Hers had cyl head problems that the local Honda dealer could never quite solve, but it didn’t really matter in the end. Due to the universally poor quality of Japanese steel during this era, by the spring of 1985 the car would no longer pass inspection. The tin worm had gotten it, and the car quietly went away.

    Mom never owned another Honda.

  24. Melvin Burwell

    This could be a nice project for honda enthusiasts.

  25. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: the auction ended with a no-sale $2,551.

  26. steve

    Did this 1980 Prelude sell?

  27. Ron

    I had this same model. Bought it in December 1979 and put over 275,000 miles on it before I had to scrap it. I stripped it so I still have many original parts and some custom parts. Do you know if this car is still for sale?

    • Canyen

      Seeing as you recently posted this, would you by any chance have a pass side mirror or even the mounting assembly. It’s almost the only thing I need for my 79 with 92k original miles, chassis no. 00004783

      • Rx-7 TurboII

        Recently posted this?? Lmfao! 2 years ago is not recent…😂😂😂😂😂

      • Ron

        I might. I have to look in my garage and see.

        Like 1
      • Ron

        Also Rx-7Turboll Canyen was replying to my post which was made a few days ago.

        Like 3

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