Honda surprised us last night with the Prelude Concept at this year's Japan Mobility Show. The company is being quite coy about the hybrid-electric model, providing very few details about it or its possible production. But with the Prelude name back on Honda's lips, here's a look at the model's storied history.
First Generation: 1978 – 1982
Honda launched the first Prelude for the 1978 model year. It borrowed many components from the Accord, including the struts, brakes, and engine. The Prelude was 10 inches shorter than the Accord overall, with 2.4 inches removed from the wheelbase.
The coupe's 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine made just 72 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque, but it did feature the company's Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion technology that eliminated the need for a catalytic converter. It'd take the coupe about 19 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour, and Honda would go on to sell nearly 172,000 first-generation Preludes in the US.
Second Generation: 1983 – 1987
Honda redesigned the Prelude in 1983, turning the coupe's chunkier proportions of the late 1970s into the sharp and slim styling popular during the 1980s. It was larger and more powerful than its predecessor, with a new double-wishbone front and a MacPherson strut independent rear suspension.
The automaker introduced the Prelude Si in 1985, which featured a larger 2.0-liter engine. It produced 110 hp and 114 lb-ft of twist, and the extra power dropped the car's 0-60 time to the mid-nine-second range.
Third Generation: 1988 – 1991
The third-generation Prelude signified a substantial shift in the car's available technology. Honda introduced its mechanical four-wheel steering system on the Prelude Si, becoming the first automaker to sell a model with the technology in the US.
The Prelude's base engine during the late 80s and early 90s was a 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivering 109 hp and 111 lb-ft of twist. The Si made more, churning out 135 hp and 127 lb-ft. The car's mid-cycle refresh would introduce a larger 2.1-liter engine with 140 hp and 135 lb-ft of torque for 1990.
Fourth Generation: 1992 -1996
The Prelude rolled into 1992 with a new generation, new engines, and new looks. Honda left the sharp-edged 80s styling behind with the 1992 model. It became curvier and softer than its predecessor.
Under the hood came automaker's 2.2-liter engine, making 135 hp and 137 lb-ft of torque. The Si had the larger 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 160 hp and 156 lb-ft of twist. The fourth-generation Prelude also ushered in Honda's VTEC technology in 1993, with the engine producing 187 hp and 153 lb-ft.
Fifth Generation: 1997 – 2001
The Prelude's saga ended with the fifth-generation model. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2001 that US dealers had only sold 3,500 examples through the first five months of that year. Dealers sold 10,000 Preludes in 2000.
The fifth-gen Prelude arrived in 1997 with just one engine choice – the 2.2-liter four-cylinder that made 195 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque, and Honda eliminated the rear-wheel steering option. Buyers could get the coupe with either the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
Honda Prelude Concept
It's been over 20 years since the Prelude existed, but it's the name Honda picked for its new hybrid-electric concept. The model looks ready for production, but the company didn't say if it'll ever enter production. Instead, Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe said that the concept would "become the prelude for our future model" that will embody the company's "unalterable sports mindset."