Shed of the Week: Honda Prelude VTi

Car rust. Don'tcha just hate it? If you're under 40 or so, the chances are you're not that bothered about motoring corrosion, the industry having done a pretty good job of nailing it down in recent years. Add in the culling effect of MOT tests and it's become rare to see a really rusty car nowadays.

It wasn't always like that. Once, the rust-free model was the unusual one on the road, something to be gazed at in reverential awe at a time when every car, proletarian or posh, would succumb to rust at a worryingly early point in its life.

And make no mistake, the word was when, not if. Shed will never forget the sight of his poor old Dad jacking up his HA Viva on one dismal Saturday afternoon, his idea being to find out just how rotten it was underneath. Unfortunately he never got the view he was seeking as, unbeknownst to him, his bottle jack had gone straight through the Vauxhall's sill and up into the cabin. The memory of it still brings a tear to Shed's eye.

Nobody deserved the amount of bad luck Shed's Dad had with cars. At least he had the good sense to ignore Shed's well-meant but misguided schoolboy advice to buy an alluring but potentially ruinous Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud that had come up for sale at the local dodgy motors r us emporium for under two grand. It wasn't really the right car for a joiner on the lump in the late 1960s.

Anyway, the reason for bringing up all this painful stuff is the brown nobbliness that besmirches the offside rear wheelarch of this week's Shed, an otherwise handsome Honda Prelude VTi. If that wasn't there, we'd be looking at a tempting and quick coupe whose angular styling, against most contemporary expectations - and despite the protestations of fans of the earlier, curvier Gen 4 model - has stood the test of time pretty well. Some will specifically criticise the front-end look: others (including Shed) like the overall shape enough to be able to ignore that localised gawkiness.

One man who also liked the Prelude, not just for its styling but also for its all-round performance, was the late, and to some great, motoring journo LJK Setright. "Deftness, adroitness, sensual gratification, agility, accuracy: all these terms come flooding to mind when trying to explain why this car is nicer to drive than anything else," said the monocled beardy about the Honda, which he used as his personal vehicle.

He particularly admired its "supreme ability to dodge", a function at least in part owed to its 4WS four-wheel steering system, which LJKS reckoned had saved him from "an assortment of accidents involving either errant road-users or things falling off lorries". It certainly gives you a crazy-tight turning circle and incredible manoeuvrability in small spaces.

Indeed, the 4WS system that made its debut in this car distracted attention away from the fact that it was still a front-driver. The actual steering feel wasn't top-notch, and the handling was competent rather than inspiring, but that didn't stop road testers and more committed owners from discovering and exploring the four-wheel drift potential made possible by the 2.2 VTEC engine. As 16-valve fours go, this was one of the good 'uns, combining the top-end rush of smaller VTEC units with the relatively strong flexibility that extra capacity brings.

The MOT on this car (which lasts till the end of next August) makes no mention of structural rust or anything else that might concern the prospective next owner. The only advisory on the ticket was a blown balljoint dust cover. Stuff an owner might have to address at some point may well include worn gearbox synchros (difficulty getting into fifth is a giveaway of wear) and crocked wheel bearings. Replacing them isn't that easy. Oh, and mending the rear wheel arches. They all do that sir.

Cambelts are on an 80k/5 year replacement schedule, and it's not a job you'd want to shirk as the automatic tensioners aren't the strongest. Don't be put off by what may seem like heavyish oil consumption, which can reach something in the order of 1500 miles per pint, as this is normal for the engine. Likewise, don't worry overmuch about the mileage on this car, as they'll take a lot of it without complaint.

Once you've ground away the wheelarch rust and splashed a dollop of paint on any metal that's left, you'll have something that you can either Motegi up (air filter, Mugen exhaust, Konig wheels etc) or simply refresh in the suspension and braking departments and use as a surprisingly practical and comfy four-seat grand tourer. With only around 600 examples still driving in the UK, this car is more than worth saving at Β£750.

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Comments (92) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Foodfocus 23 Nov 2018

    Now this is more like it! Always loved the Prelude, despite the typically dour Japanese interior. Top shed, especially considering these are now becoming pretty rare.

  • 2smoke 23 Nov 2018

    Very nice, always had a soft spot for these.

  • oilit 23 Nov 2018

    i had the previous version of this - in it's day it was an absolute blast - and felt much quicker than the 405 MI16 I had prior to it !

    I loved it - but I sold it as I didn't like the massive thirst for oil it had.

  • ShampooEfficient 23 Nov 2018

    My growing up with Gran Turismo means I have a bit of a thing for these. And the previous model (2.2i VTEC in Cobalt Blue being my default first GT car).
    Also why I now own an FTO.

  • dinkel 23 Nov 2018

    Great engines slurp oil. Period.

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