COAL: 1993 Honda Prelude – My First Car


This is actually a 1995 Prelude, but finding photos of this car in stock condition is harder than you’d think.

A few months after I turned 14, my mom gave me a heads up that if I wanted to drive when I turned 16, it’d be in a car I paid for myself.

That summer, I joined the army of young people who have mowed grass for their neighbors. Before I knew it, I was spending several days a week behind an old mower that I picked up at a yard sale, slowly building up funds in a little checking account at the bank down the street. When I turned 15, I found a part-time job that allowed me to make even more, and slowly the numbers in my ledger started growing.

About 8 weeks before I turned 16, I started looking for a used car. I knew I wanted a Honda or Toyota, but my hopes were quickly dashed. Anything Japanese with fewer than a million miles on it was way out of my price range. Each week, I’d pick up a new Auto Trader and thumb through it, occasionally making a call to go see a car.

After several weeks, a family friend called my mom, telling her that they knew a guy who was selling a Honda that may be a good fit for me. That weekend, we drove over to a car lot full of Volvos and Range Rovers. In the back, behind an old BMW was parked a Honda that I hadn’t dared to hope for: a Prelude.

Being a 1993, this particular example was 4th-generation model. Painted a lovely light blue that my friends would later mock for being a little too purple for their taste, the car was in shockingly good shape. Clearly someone had tinkered with it; a lift of the hood revealed a cold-air intake kit and the stock wheels were long-gone, but the car cranked immediately and idled smoothly, as if was eager to please.

After some re-arranging on the lot, I was able to take the car for a spin, and I was in love instantly. While it lacked the four-wheel steering found on the high-end model, the DOHC motor was responsive and the suspension crisp. I could tell the car was faster than the other cars I had test driven up to this point, but didn’t offer that opinion out loud.

Upon returning to the dealer, we sat down with the salesman who broke the news that the car was about $2000 more expensive than I could afford. In a classic rookie move, I put all my cards on the table as I could feel my mom letting out a slight sigh of relief that the two-door car wasn’t a possibility. Upon hearing my tale of woe, the salesman sat back, clearly thinking back to buying his first car.

He then asked about my job situation. Upon hearing that I was working and cutting grass, he proposed a solution: if I paid a large amount down, he could finance that last portion of the car, interest-free, as long a I didn’t miss a payment.

I could have hugged the guy. After the adults spoke, the deal was done, and I was on my way to owning what would be way too much car for a 16 year-old guy.

For anyone familiar with this generation of Prelude, there’s no hiding that under the gentle curves of the body work, there’s a decent little car waiting to be unleashed. While I don’t think I was every truly reckless in the Prelude, there’s no doubt that I pushed it as I honed my driving skill. Like most Hondas, the Prelude could take a beating, and more than once it paid off.

Not my exact car, but the color is right.

One evening, I went out with some friends and got caught in a torrential downpour. After the storm cleared, we decided to go grab dinner. Being inexperienced, I wasn’t fully aware of just how slick semi-wet pavement can be, and ended up seeing the tail of the car go around me twice after taking a wide curve way too quickly. I got it under control just in time to realize I was facing the wrong way on the wrong side of the street. Thankfully, there wasn’t anyone coming, or it would have been the end of my little blue Honda.

The car did attract some attention from our local suburban police department. About a year into owning it, the exhaust system lost an epic battle to some rust, and suddenly the car was *much* louder than it had been. Coupled with the looks and the fact that a high school student with long hair drove it, more than once I picked up a buddy on the way home from taking my girlfriend home.


I don’t remember having a rear wiper on my Prelude, but this brochure shows one.

To this day, I stand by my opinion that this is the best-looking generation Prelude. While pop-up lights certainly had their time, the low front-end, swooping A-pillar and high deck lid found on this car form a nearly-timeless design. In typical Honda fashion, visibility was great out the front, even if the C-pillar was a bit chunky.

The 4th-generation Prelude had an interior to match. Mine was donned in black with dark gray cloth, and was a great place to be. The seats were low and comfortable, with the pedals and wheel just right where you wanted them. The dashboard was a weird mixup of the old, and new though, as you can see in this photo:

4thgenpreludedashboardImage courtesy of

The tach and speedo, in addition to the temperature and fuel gauge, were fully digital in my 93. This meant that if the car were off, the entire dash was black, but it had some other interesting side effects. While the gauge was subdivided into small segments, it was hard to determine exactly how much fuel was in the tank.

This setup also unfortunately dated the interior. Even in 2002 when I bought it, the gauges felt older than their 9 years. Thankfully, while some owners had issues with the gauges failing, mine worked flawlessly.

In my two years of ownership, the Prelude wasn’t perfect, sadly. With over 110k on the clock when I got the keys, it leaked a little oil and had a nasty habit of burning through main relay every 6 months or so. Those issues aside — and the exhaust leaks — I never fixed, it was a great first car. It was easy to work on, fun to drive, economical and good-looking.

But in what will become a pattern in my COAL series, my heart began to wander, and I went in a radically different direction for my next vehicle.