Two lesser-known Japanese icons come together for the Type R that never was
By Cam Tait / Thursday, 3 August 2023 / Loading comments
Had Honda pulled the trigger on a full-blown Type R version of the Prelude, its legacy as a Japanese performance icon would have surely been cemented. The foundations were ripe for a unique Type R offering to sit aside the Civic hot hatch, Integra coupe and NSX supercar, with the Prelude covering off the GT side of things. All it had to do was throw in a set of red Recaros, paint it Championship White, drop a revvy VTEC up front and BAM – another Type R smash hit.
Of course, we all know that never happened. Well, except the VTEC bit anyway. Honda did plant its 2.2-litre screamer into the fifth and final generation of Prelude, with some 200hp on tap at 7,100rpm on Euro-spec cars. A Type S was also developed, with more power than an Accord Type R and even featured a rudimentary torque-vectoring system. Annoyingly, like all great Japanese special editions, the Type S was reserved for the JDM and it would turn out to be the most potent Prelude before the model was pulled in 2001. We did however get the next best thing: the Motegi edition.
Named after the equally underrated Honda-owned circuit in Japan, the Motegi was about as close as Honda got to releasing a Prelude Type R in Europe. Up front was the same 2.2-litre H22A VTEC engine that featured in the Accord Type R, only in a slightly lower state of tune, though there’s still enough grunt to get you to 60mph in ATR-matching 6.7 seconds. It also benefited from stiffer sports suspension, dialling out the standard Prelude’s wafty ride for something a bit more driver focused. A blocky body kit was perhaps a tad dated at the time, but, to my eyes at least, has aged rather gracefully and gives the Motegi a whiff of Type R-ness – even if the badge says otherwise.
Don’t forget, one of the big selling points of the Prelude was its electrically operated all-wheel steering. In fact, the whole point of the car was to show off all the gadgets that Honda intended to filter down to, er, lesser models later on. For some reason it was omitted from the Type S, yet is very much present on the sharpened-up Motegi edition. Besides, it’ll probably be more noticeable than the torque vectoring system on the Type S, which allegedly couldn’t cope with the car’s front-bias weight distribution to effectively dial out understeer.
So it has nearly the same amount of power as a Type R and benefits from some interesting chassis tech. What stops the Motegi edition from being a true R substitute, however, is the leather-clad interior and that it could be specced with a four-speed automatic, which this example comes with. I know bringing an auto to your attention when a manual was also offered is a cardinal sin, but the Motegi is so darn rare that it couldn’t be ignored. Moreover, the Prelude was always more of a grand tourer anyway. Think Bentley Continental GT Speed to the regular Conti, only a lot, lot cheaper.
On that note, this Motegi is up for a very sensible £7,999, having covered 75,000 miles with its two previous keepers. The time-warp interior looks immaculate, and given that Hondas of this ilk are often modded to high heaven, it’s impressive that the only non-factory upgrade is a custom stainless-steel exhaust (and red Honda badges that are reserved for Type Rs). I know, the auto ‘box won’t be for everyone, but if a Motegi has ever been on your radar, this is your best bet at bagging a minter.
SPECIFICATION | HONDA PRELUDE 2.2 VTI MOTEGI
Engine: 2,157cc four-cylinder
Transmission: four-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 200@7,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 156@5,250rpm
Year registered: 1999
Recorded mileage: 75,000
Price new: £25,000
Yours for: £7,999
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