Love at First Drive: How My Honda Prelude was the Best Relationship I’ve Ever Had

For the most part, the cars I’ve owned over the years have all been pretty similar – I’ve bought them used (with a lot of mileage!), and taken good care of them until eventually they fell apart around me. True story: years ago, I was refueling my car (which was old enough to qualify for senior citizen status) at a gas station when most of the rear bumper apparently decided that it was time to retire…like right then, that instant. It dropped with a startlingly loud clang onto the pavement. With considerable aplomb (at least in my somewhat hazy/biased memory of this incident) I reached down and tossed the bumper into the backseat, finished fueling and drove off.

Another time I was trading in one of my elderly cars at a dealership for a slightly younger model. The salesperson was assessing its value, and all was progressing nicely. Then he opened the trunk. There was a moment of surprised silence as he realized that only the skeleton of the trunk remained. There wasn’t any floor. (This was the notorious salt belt after all — upstate NY.) A large board stretched from one wheel-well to the other, a spare tire perched precariously on top. He closed the trunk carefully and walked away. In the end, he was pretty fair with his offer. Of course the car he eventually sold me had a woefully erratic heating system. Given how far north I lived, a working heater was just as important as a working engine. So we probably both came out pretty evenly in that transaction.

When it came time to trade in that car for another, I once again headed to a local dealership to look at their used car inventory. Nothing they had really excited my interest but I was after all more interested in functionality than aesthetics. My car shopping criteria was pretty basic: it had to start and it had to run. I had a long commute each day and I wanted reliability. That was pretty much it.

Now up to this point I had enjoyed my cars, appreciated their usefulness, but that was all, no emotional attachment, no real commitment. So when the salesperson said they had just gotten a 1988 Honda Prelude (with 60,000 miles) in on a trade, I had no idea what I was in for. The car had been traded in so recently it had yet to be cleaned thoroughly, but I thought what the heck and got in.

I can still vividly recall that very first moment…sinking into a plush seat that felt tailor-made just for me, surrounded by a dashboard array of dials and gauges that dazzled with their sophisticated technology. The stick shift was a racing style, truncated, super efficient and smooth as silk. My previous cars had all been standard transmissions too, but nothing like this. It had flipup headlights. Like a little kid I loved opening and closing them. The sound system was awesome and then the pièce de résistance…the salesperson pointed out the moonroof. A moonroof? I didn’t even know what that meant. He demonstrated and I was totally sold, and totally in love with this car.

The car was midnight blue, low to the ground and sleek. When I accelerated onto the highway, it just hummed. I would open the moonroof, crank up the sound system and I was in heaven. Nighttime driving was especially glorious as I could now glance up overhead at the stars and drink in the soft night air…I felt at times like I could just drive on like that forever.

Commuting became a true pleasure, something to look forward to. And I got great gas mileage to boot, averaging around 27 mpg.

I had that Prelude for about five years. By the end it still ran but rattled loudly at highway speed. The a/c was unpredictable as was the odometer and the now outdated sound system. My long commute had taken its toll on my beloved car. It was tired and showing its age.

It was time. I decided to trade it in (for another Honda). I took pictures of it on that last day and felt sadness and even a little guilt when I left it at the dealership and drove off in my new Civic. It had served me very well indeed.

The Civic lasted for 16 years (that’s right, 16 years) until a few months ago when a distracted driver ran into me at a red light and totaled it. But I never felt the same about that car as I had my Prelude. Yes, the Civic had a moonroof too, but it just didn’t come close to providing the exhilaration, the sheer pleasure in taking to the road that the Prelude had. The Prelude was the right car for me, at the absolutely right time in my life, and it elevated my appreciation for cars to a whole new level. It was a one of a kind experience that I will always remember and hope to find again.

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