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1982 Honda Prelude - Oldest School

A build three decades in the making!

Brian McGurk
May 28, 2013
Htup 1304 01 o+1982 honda prelude+custom front lip Photo 1/5   |   1982 Honda Prelude - Oldest School

When you say “old-school Honda” most people conjure up images of the classic EF family armed with ZC swaps, maybe a set of Mikuni sidedrafts and some Mugen CF-48s. For Mathieu Caron of Ottawa, Ontario, that’s not nearly “old school” enough. Mathieu had previously built a few ’90s Hondas but was looking for a different kind of project for himself and his brother. He recalls, “My brother found it online, and it was a piece. He convinced me to go see it in person, and I fell in love.”

Like most cars from the early ’80s, the Prelude wasn’t in the best of shape when purchased. “The car had a ton of electrical problems and was painted a horrible brown.” Though it didn’t run and wasn’t in pristine condition, it was no doubt a rust-free car which is a rarity in Canada, making it the perfect platform to start with. The car was brought home, and the brothers began a full teardown while addressing the rat’s nest of wiring that the previous owner had butchered. Parts sourcing began with the dash, which was cracked and broken in a dozen places. With the interior in pieces, Mat junked the 30-year-old carpet and rear seats and replaced them with a fresh rug and some careful planning to create a one-off rear seat delete. After sorting out the wiring, a push-button start was installed to replace the toggle switch originally installed.

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The car was then sent to his body shop for some attention. “I had a clear vision for the car, I wanted a period-correct, almost Bosozuku car using only pieces available in 1982.” Mat planned to have the car in the body shop for the entirety of oncoming winter, so he could execute his vision which started with a handmade sheetmetal front and rear splitter, and shaving the factory side moldings and markers. Mat removed the original side mirrors, shaving the mounting points in the process, and installed some very rare JDM fender-mounted versions.

With the Honda already under the knife, Mat sourced a set of 15x7 Watanabe race wheels that look right at home on the revitalized 30-year-old chassis. “The car was already getting worked on, so after I got the wheels, I rolled the fenders to fit the wheels exactly.” Unfortunately, there aren’t any aftermarket springs for an ’82 Prelude, so Mat had to cut the stock springs to get the car sitting properly on its new wheels; don’t worry, though, Mat’s ordered a full custom suspension system from King Springs in Australia, and they should be on the car as you’re reading this.

“I had a clear vision for the car, I wanted a period-correct, almost Bosozuku car using only pieces available in 1982.”

Before summer broke, Mat laid down a fresh coat of the car’s original color simply named “Red,” and installed a set of vintage Recaro’s borrowed from a late-’70s Porsche on custom rails. Mat picked up a classic Nardi steering wheel, but not surprisingly, nothing bolts straight in. “Of course they don’t make hubs for these cars, ha-ha, I customized a Sparco hub from an EG and an NRG slim quick-release.” Mat opted to stick with the original powerplant but needed to freshen up the little four-banger. He adds, “There is zero aftermarket support for the car, so a lot of the pieces are either custom made or modified from other cars.” Mat managed to swap out the carburetor, starter, and master cylinders for the brakes and the clutch without much trouble. However, the first major hurdle came when the transmission kicked the bucket. “The Canadian, American, and Japanese cars all use different drivetrains; it’s nuts trying to find parts, so I had to cannibalize.” Mat couldn’t just find the transmission he needed by itself, so he made the only logical decision; he bought a whole other car just for the trans! “The car was an original owner ’79 Prelude, which incidentally was built with shorter gears at the factory. He used his existing housing and stuffed all the pieces from the ’79 in it, and quickly got his Prelude back on the road. After months of work, Mat premiered the car at the last show of the season, and after a two-hour ride, took first place.

Mat absolutely loves his vintage Honda and enjoys getting questioned about his ride on the regular. “I get asked all the time what it is, and people never believe it’s a Honda.” We know what it is Mat, and we’re glad you’re keeping the history alive and kicking!

Bolts & Washers

Original EL1 engine
Modified carburetor jets
Custom-made K&N filter
Custom-made header back exhaust
Custom-made clutch
Custom-built transmission Custom lightened flywheel
NGK spark plugs NGK spark plug wires

Htup 1304 03 o+1982 honda prelude+EL1 engine Photo 3/5   |   Over 30 years old and still kickin’.

King Springs lowering springs
Koni Yellow shocks

Custom ’85 Accord brake conversion

Wheels & Tires
Watanabe 15x7 +35
Goodyear Eagle 195/55-15

Custom-made front lip
Custom-made rear wing
Shaved side markers
Shaved side moulding
JDM fender mirror conversion

Porsche Recaro seats
Custom-made seat rails
Custom-made rear seat delete Custom refinished dash
Custom push start
Customized Sparco hub
NRG slim quick-release
Nardi steering wheel
’79 Accord shift knob

Htup 1304 05 o+1982 honda prelude+nardi steering wheel Photo 4/5   |   1982 Honda Prelude - Oldest School

Kenwood head unit
Bazooka sub
Alpine speakers

Nathan Mitchell
My dad, mom and girlfriend
My brothers
Phil and Alex
Car-On auto sales

Owner Specs

Daily grind
Service manager at Car-On auto sales

Htup 1304 02 o+1982 honda prelude+shaved side markers Photo 5/5   |   1982 Honda Prelude - Oldest School

Favorite sites and

Screen name
Tokyo Bum Drift

Building Hondas
7 years

Dream cars
NSX and MK4 Supra

Inspiration for this build
To be honest, a ’70s Skyline Bosozuku style

Future builds
My ‘79 prelude and looking for a 70s Accord

Hen’s Teeth

“I had to order my suspension from Australia, and it had to be made to order.” That sums up the scale of Mat’s entire build, nothing was off the shelf for this three-decade-old import. Mat got lucky finding new old stock from various dealers around North America (and beyond), but don’t think for a second that it was easy. He adds, “I’m pretty mechanically inclined, but the amount of time I spent looking for stuff was nuts.” Mat also works in the industry and touts his connections as a huge bonus for getting him parts, but even that couldn’t help when he needed to do a brake job. “I actually had to call Aisin to try and find parts; they told me I could upgrade to the brakes from an ’85 Accord. They’d be bigger and the parts would be readily available.” Mat’s brake change saved him in the long run, but if you’re thinking of an old-school restoration, be prepared to hunt and wait!


By Brian McGurk
47 Articles



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