1988 Honda Prelude: A Jewel in Thailand

Back in 1988, prior to the SUV onslaught that began barreling through the U.S., Honda fans and potential customers had quite a few fun-packed options to choose from. The CRX, a hit among buyers young and old, entered its second generation with an all new body style that had bulked up, and its sibling, the Civic, was entering its fourth generation with similar styling and an Si model that was rumored to re-enter the U.S market the following year. Both vehicles demanded consideration from those looking for Honda reliability with plenty of fun baked in, but neither carried the same sophistication or sleek styling that their cousin, the third generation Prelude, did upon its introduction.

1988 honda prelude driver side rear view Photo 2/31   |   1988 Honda Prelude Driver Side Rear View

Of course, with sophistication, refined styling, and creature comforts comes some additional dollars and cents, and with the Civic and CRX Si sitting comfortably at around $10K at that time, as compared to the more feature-laden Prelude Si fetching over $16K (add another $1,300 if you wanted 4WS), many were put off by the MSRP. The younger crowd seemed to gravitate toward the more affordable option, and as a result the aftermarket took notice and dedicated far more resources toward the EF/ED platform. Years later, we don’t see many third generation Prelude builds at meets, shows, and track events, and when we do, they’re nowhere near as aggressive as Satit Suwantong’s ’88 model.

1988 honda prelude passenger side rear view Photo 3/31   |   1988 Honda Prelude Passenger Side Rear View

In 2005, Satit owned a fourth gen. Prelude that he loved. In fact, the only Honda he loved more was the third gen., but coming across one in Bangkok was a rarity. Four years ago, however, he got lucky and caught wind of someone selling this ’88 model online and he didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. He enjoyed the car as-is for a short stint but eventually wanted to put the car on the drag strip.

1988 honda prelude gaia MMXV wheels Photo 4/31   |   1988 Honda Prelude Gaia MMXV Wheels

Admittedly, a third gen. Prelude isn’t most people’s idea of an ideal Honda drag car, especially with so many lightweight options available, but that didn’t bother Satit one bit as he liked the idea of doing something completely different. Taking things a step further, he didn’t take the more traditional route of swapping in an H22 or F20B heart and instead decided to go with K24 power, something we’ve yet to see done with this Prelude generation.

To assist with clearing the sloping Prelude hood and encourage weight transfer even further forward for drag duty, Satit’s 2.4L utilizes custom mounts that clock the engine forward. The other benefit, after having converted to a half-size radiator, is that the rotation points the 64mm Kinsler throttle bodies directly forward. Brian Crower cams, valve springs, and retainers make up the head’s internals, while spent gases are routed through a Bangmod custom exhaust manifold that exits through the passenger side of the hood.

The bottom half of the power plant was also addressed and now relies on Wiseco pistons and Manley rods along with ARP hardware, and the transmission’s been re-geared with a custom set up by GT Garage. The hard work resulted in well over 300hp at the command of a Motec M800 and Satit had no issues outrunning plenty of opposition during the car’s most competitive drag racing days. At that time, the car’s appearance wasn’t exactly inspiring. Born in red with random black body panels, it was well overdue for a makeover.

1988 honda prelude gaia MMXV wheel Photo 6/31   |   1988 Honda Prelude Gaia MMXV Wheel

The Prelude-savy will quickly notice that, other than the front lip and the holes made in the hood to clear the valve cover and vent the exhaust, Satit’s coupe is completely stock on the outside. A fresh coat of black rectified the unappealing two-tone treatment from the past and aggressive Toyo R888R tires of the 225/45 variety are wrapped around 17in Gaia wheels – a brand that Satit owns.

1988 honda prelude technocraft carbon fiber bucket seat Photo 7/31   |   1988 Honda Prelude Technocraft Carbon Fiber Bucket Seat
1988 honda prelude mugen steering wheel Photo 8/31   |   1988 Honda Prelude Mugen Steering Wheel

If you were to somehow miss the K-series valve cover and exhaust opening poking through the hood and happened to wander into the cabin, well, you’d realize something was up. The driver’s seat’s been replaced by a featherweight TechnoCraft carbon fiber bucket, the passenger area now filled by a fuel cell with dual pumps and a battery for weight distribution, and anything behind that has since been pulled entirely. The entire interior was sprayed in silver before reinstalling the dash and door panels that have been wrapped in alcantara and the gauge cluster’s been modernized with an AIM digital display that sits just behind a suede Mugen steering wheel.

1988 honda prelude custom front lip Photo 9/31   |   1988 Honda Prelude Custom Front Lip

Not unlike the U.S., if you take a look at Thailand’s Honda enthusiast community, the majority tend to build Civics and Integras. And much like the U.S., when you take a different path and build something as good as Satit’s ’88 Prelude, there’s a damn good chance it’s going to stand out.

1988 honda prelude driver side view Photo 10/31   |   1988 Honda Prelude Driver Side View
1988 honda prelude technocraft carbon fiber seat Photo 17/31   |   1988 Honda Prelude Technocraft Carbon Fiber Seat

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