One thing Honda has mastered without a shadow of a doubt is reliability. It's no small feat that out of the tens of millions of VTEC systems they've installed in their cars, not one has ever failed. This translates into a plethora of 20 year old Hondas on the market. How reliable could they be, and could you have an iconic, fuel efficient and fun-to-drive Honda for a grand AND make a profit on it?
In preparation for some new Art Of The Flip articles, in which I chronicle the process in which I buy and sell cool cars, I figured I should post my first one in its entirety in case some people were having trouble accessing the website, as I know some of you were. If you'd like to see more of these types of stories, check us out here.*
The story's original article can be found here
It all started like all great late nights: on my laptop. I set out to find a Honda on the most trustworthy site on the interwebs, Craigslist.org. After an hour of searching, I managed to find a 1993 Honda Prelude Si, offered up for sale by a local mechanic for a more-than-reasonable $950 asking price. Naturally, I called him at the less-than-reasonable hour of 2:30 AM and scheduled a time to see the car the following morning. The ad stated that the car was gutted and wasn't exactly a looker but could certainly take over anyone's daily driver duties. As I approached the place, I got a chance to look around the car before calling the owner. I did this to reassure myself that I'd be going home with my first Honda, and also give me a chance to escape in case the car was a complete dumpster fire.
This is what I saw when I got there:
She was rough, but had a ton of potential. Its previous owner(s) weren't great to the old girl, and I'm sure she had a lot of abuse in her 190,000+ miles. But this was a '90s Honda. There were military tanks less reliable than this car. I was pretty confident in my abilities to polish this turd.
On the test drive, I got a taste of what boy racers fall in love with as soon as they get behind the wheel of one of these cars. The 160HP, 2.3 liter engine revved with urgency and vigor, and without missing a beat, the gearbox made changes a blast. The car's exhaust note had a muted rumble - thankfully not sounding like a hornet's nest being smashed against a bullhorn. I was sold on this car. It would've been a bargain at twice the price.
With a bit of negotiating, I got the car delivered to my house, all in for $750. The owner also threw in a ton of OEM Honda parts he had laying around with the sale.
PRO-TIP: ALWAYS ask if the car has any spares or parts that the owner didn't get around to installing with the sale. You'd be surprised what valuable parts people would simply throw away when they don't have the car anymore.
Pictured: No junk in this trunk.
Now that I had the car firmly in my possession, I could look it over with a fine-toothed comb and hope not to find any dingleberries. Fortunately, this car was actually taken care of by its last owner quite well, contrary to my previous assessment. Here's a list of its bonus upgrades and repairs:
- New Control Arms F&R
- New Sway Bar Bushings F&R
- Shocks Replaced F&R
- New All-Season Tires F&R
- New Rotors and Pads F&R
- New Radiator
- DC Sports Header
- Short Throw Shifter
- Megan Rear Subframe Brace
- Alpine CDE-121 Headunit w/AUX Input
- Pioneer Speakers F&R
Pictured: Blue is the universal color of quality.
Having said that, life wasn't all peachy for my budget pocket rocket - she needed a ton of work in other areas. These were the most pressing issues, in no particular order:
- DC Sports Ceramic headers rusted
- No center A/C Vents
- Speedometer didn't work
- Rear deck wasn't installed/speaker wires cut
- Various Interior panels missing/damaged
- Steering wheel badly worn
- Hood had massive clear coat peeling and paint fade. Also, dents.
- Roof had many tiny paint bubbles
- Traditional "Honda Rust" on both quarter panels
- No carpet
- Seats were ripped and bolsters were badly worn, not original to the car.
- Intake was hacked together from random tubing, cone filter filthy
- Climate Control Blower Unit stuck in one position
- AC did not blow cold
Pictured: This is why you shouldn't put your brake fluid right next to your car wax.
First things first, I had to tackle the non-working aspects of this car. The climate control seemed to be a great starting point, so I did that first. After some quickie interwebs research, I found out that not only is the climate control a known and common fault in these cars, but about $2 worth of solder and a few minutes with a steady hand will solve the problem for good. The only thing better than a fix is a free fix.
Pictured: Every time a Prelude climate control is repaired, an angel does a burnout.
Next up was to tackle the horrid condition of the engine bay. The ceramic headers had an uncomfortable amount of surface rust on them and the valve cover looked like it had never seen the underside of a moist rag.
Pictured: Needs moar clean.
I cleaned up all surfaces with a liberal amount of Purple Power Degreaser, sanded all surfaces with 3M 120-grit paper, used a can of VHT Flame Proof on the Headers (3-4 coats), and sprayed the valve cover with 4 thick coats of Rustoleum Bed Liner for that textured, scratch resistant look. I carefully sanded the "H" and "Honda" logo to bare metal afterwards, to give a nice contrast while retaining that stock feel.I also recharged the A/C system with 2 cans of R134A.
Never underestimate what a little paint and elbow grease can do.
I started working on the interior, since that would involve ordering parts online. After looking around various forums and trolling eBay for good deals, I all but gave up on a $1000 max budget for this car. Shipping on the items I needed would've pushed this way over budget, and we certainly couldn't have had that.
Enter a last-resort that came through just in the nick of time. I called an unassuming number on craiglist, advertising that he had all sorts of Honda Prelude parts (very rare in this area), and we set up a time when I would be able to make the 2 hour drive. We didn't work out prices over the phone, but he did assure me that the parts would be of quality and he would work with my budget. Music to my ears.
I grabbed my keys and rushed over to the hills of Pennsylvania, where things got a little weird for a bit.
Pictured: Seems legit.
The place itself was like a mini-junkyard with all the parts I spoke about on the phone already removed. I remembered some other ones I needed, and worked out a price with him. Everything was as described and exceeded my expectations. If you ever have the option, buy local.
Pictured: Singlehandedly saved my budget.
Here's what $180 bought me:
- OEM Black Carpet w/dead pedal
- Megan Cold Air Intake w/bonus Turbonator!!!!!11!!1
- (2) OEM Cloth Seats
- OEM Steering Wheel
- Battery tray and cover
- Center A/C Vent
- Rear center vinyl trim
- Rear Honda Emblem
An added bonus that went straight in the garbage.
This is what the rest of the parts looked like installed on the old girl:
She cleans up pretty well.
Now that the interior was done, I had to focus on the exterior. The rust on the quarter panel wasn't going to get done on this kind of budget, so that was something that got pushed out of the major priorities. I was VERY fortunate in finding a white 1992 Prelude that had been crashed in the back locally. The owner was looking to sell the car, and I convinced him to trade his hood for mine, plus $40. He agreed, and I had a shiny new (to me) hood on my legal-to-vote-but-not-to-drink car. To update the look of the car a bit, I decided to use some 3M 1080 vinyl in matte black on the roof. It's VERY easy to apply and forgiving enough that you can re-apply many times over.
The car now looked as good as it ran, all for around $1000. As a delightful twist, the person I found selling his crashed 1992 Prelude offered me $2000 for this car, which I accepted, and let this car go to a good home.
Before I parted ways with my first Honda, I had to clean her thoroughly. Here's what I used:
- 2 buckets
- Dishwashing soap
- Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash
- Meguiar's Clay Bar
- PC 7424XP w 6" backing plate
- 3 pads for agressive cut , medium cut and fine cut/polish.
- Collinite 845 wax
- Microfiber Towels
I also followed these tutorials, made by Larry Kosilla at AMMO NYC and /DRIVE:
- Audi R8 BLACKBIRD: Basic Car Wash Techniques -/DRIVE CLEAN
- Top Ten Detailing Mistakes -/DRIVE CLEAN
- Interior Detailing: Tools, Techniques, and Materials -/DRIVE CLEAN
- Polishers and Swirl Removal Tips -/DRIVE CLEAN
The car went from a rough around the edges, dependable driver to a truly clean example of what Japanese ingenuity in the '90s had to offer. 30MPG all day with a torquey 160HP engine and 5-speed on tap to get you and your 2600lb coupe up to speed as fast and having as much fun as possible. Here's the rundown of costs for this car:
|1992 Honda Prelude Si||-$800.00|
|Interior Parts w/Extras||-$180.00|
|Valve Cover Paint||-$9.75|
I made nearly $1000 for essentially sprucing up an old Honda and getting it ready for its next owner.
Do you have a car flipping or restoration story? We'd love to hear it!
Post in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to be featured!
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