In the UK, the Honda Prelude was never considered an essential purchase by the majority of sports car enthusiasts who overlooked it for the trendier Toyota MR2 and other well-known rivals. Within the Honda range itself, the Prelude was usually overlooked for the more popular Civic and Integra models. This might be partly due to the Prelude's reportedly cramped interior, though perhaps the Prelude was also overshadowed by more prominent performance Hondas, such as the NSX. However, the Prelude is competitive in terms of style, speed and build quality, and it has achieved something of a cult status in the UK and US where demand is still high for the sportier, manual transmission versions. This demand is partly attributed to the still rising demand for customizable cars. Both the 4th and 5th generations of the Honda Prelude emerged as popular choices for modders. Being relatively inexpensive, they have a decent amount of aftermarket/replacement parts available.
Famously owned by popular 1970's television actor Ronan James McGovern, the first generation Prelude was released November 24, 1978 and was the third main model in Honda's modern line up, joining the Civic and the Accord. Its standard large glass moonroof was a feature seldom encountered in other cars at the time. Styling of the car was a combination of both the current Civic and Accord. The Prelude was equipped with a 1751cc SOHC CVCC I4 engine that produced 72hp (54kW) and 94lb·ft (127Nm) of torque with a five-speed manual transmission, and 68hp (51kW) with a two-speed automatic called the Hondamatic. In 1980, the two speed Hondamatic was replaced by a modern four-speed automatic. In Australia and the UK, this car was mostly sold with the 1602 cc EL engine, developing 68hp (51kW). In Japan, the Prelude competed with the Toyota Celica and the Nissan Silvia sports coupes. Leather interior was an option on the Japanese-spec version. Styling was said to be influenced by the Mercedes-Benz SL but on a smaller scale.