I sometimes look back to the 90s with nostalgia, and for good reason, 90s blockbusters are hard to beat, the music wasn’t all that bad either; ok, sure fashion was pretty bad, but we kids of the 90s have some things worth looking back and remembering fondly. Seeing as this is a car blog, I’d like to take a little time and remember the stylish and affordable (in most cases) Honda coupes that dominated the 1990s.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit my previous pro-Honda bias. I guess you could say that this list is a bit personal. My formative cars years were spent behind the wheel of a Honda Civic coupe. It was red, had a sunroof, a pair of sweet door-mounted Boston Acoustic tweeters, and of course, a 1.6 litre VTEC (yo!). This was the car I learned to drive stick in and many of my early formative experience took place within its cosy cabin. The Civic and its close cousin the Integra, we’re the real stars of the 90s sport compact car (remember that magazine?!) scene. Today, I’d like to look at two other Honda products, two unsung heroes who did not make it past the 1990s.
Acura Legend Coupe
I’d honestly forgotten all about Acura’s big coupe until last week, and I’ll bet most of you did too. That’s really always been Acura’s problem, hasn’t it? Good cars that are seemingly invisible. Anyway, the second generation (91-95) Legend Coupe and its sedan brother, were long, lean and handsome things, with reserved (probably too reserved) styling which has aged very well.
From the side and with the right wheels the big Acura evokes a kind of R-32 GTR feel. Of course, that’s only in passing. Under the skin the Legend was a much more prosaic machine. With the front wheels driven by a 3.2 litre V6 and a respectable for the time 200bhp, the Legend was a half-measure answer to Lexus’s RWD offerings.
Later updates would see power bumped to 230bhp. Perhaps most surprising about the Legend was the option of a 6 speed manual transmission! Also, proving once again that things are always better over there, the JDM spec coupe (called the Honda Legend), had an even more powerful 260 bhp engine and a gas gyroscope navigation system. I don’t really know what a gas gyroscope navigation system is, but suddenly I want one!
I loved my Civic coupe, loved, loved it. What can I say? I was 16 and thought the automotive world began and ended with the company Soichiro built. For all my love of the Civic, I would have given it up in a heart beat for a Prelude Si. The Prelude began life in the late 1970s as Honda’s answer the affordable sport coupe question. Through five generations the car developed into a very competent and rewarding front driver.
For me, the 4th and 5th generation cars epitomized the genius of Honda in the 90s. Affordable, reliable and rewarding to drive sports coupes for the masses, which is more than can be said of today’s cars. It didn’t matter that the car was a front-driver because it had one of the best chassis and motors of its day. Backed up by one of the best manual gearboxes ever made by the hand of man, the Prelude was the stuff of my teenage dreams. As and added bonus, some 3rd and 4th generation cars were available with four-wheel steering! How cool is that?!
Power was provided by a range of four-cylinder motors, which benefited from Honda’s cutting edge (at the time) application of variable valve timing. You might know it as VTEC, yo! The Prelude really was a sort of killer application in the late 1990s. While sales were slow (leading to its demise post 2001) the cars were very popular among the Honda set. This unfortunately meant many were victimized by their owners. Trying to find one today that hasn’t suffered the Fast and the Furious treatment is very difficult.