Honda vehicles have long been known for fuel efficiency, reliability, and low cost. Although there have been some oddities along the way like the Honda Element and Accord Crosstour, the brand has done well to cement itself as a “safe choice” among car buyers during the time it’s been around. However, there is one car in Honda’s history that gained notoriety in Japan as being called “the date car,” and it wasn’t for the best reason.
The “date car”
The Honda Prelude went through five different generations during the time of its production and saw some mild success in the U.S. However, in Japan, it garnered a different type of attention starting with the second-generation Prelude that was around from 1982 to 1987.
For those not in the know, the Honda Prelude was a front-wheel-drive sports coupe that was heavy and more luxurious than a Civic. It was bigger, and while it was meant to be a sports car, it still couldn’t keep up with the likes of Japanese competitors like the Nissan Skyline, for example.
As such, the Prelude was a car that looked sporty but didn’t really qualify in the public’s eyes as a true sports car like other rear-drive, performance-oriented cars. Since it was “more show than go,” it was qualified in the same category as other cars that had sleek looks but lacked performance. In essence, they were cars that were targeted at single men that were looking to attract women and referred to as “date cars.”
The lewd ‘lude
Good looks and less-than-stellar performance weren’t the only reasons that the Honda Prelude qualified as a “date car.” In fact, there was one more specific reason that it earned the title. You see, in the second-generation Prelude, the reclining lever for the passenger seat is actually on the “inner side” of the seat, pointing toward the driver. Normally, the reclining lever faces the “outer side” of the seat, or toward the outside of the car so that the entering passenger can pull it to get into the backseat or just have it recline.
Since the lever handle was pointed toward the inside of the car, that meant the driver had the most access to it and could pull it to have the passenger seat, and the passenger in it, recline at their will. Those following along will understand why that specific lever was aptly referred to as the “pervert lever.”
That’s right, that means that if you were a single male on a date with a female riding shotgun, you can easily pull on that “pervert lever” and make a move in your “date car.” Honda has always been known for their creative ingenuity, however, this feature takes the cake.
It didn’t help sales
As you can imagine, the Honda Prelude’s reputation for being a “date car” and having a “pervert lever” didn’t do much to help sales overall. Although, they did include that handy lever in the third and fourth-generation Prelude models as well.
Ultimately, Honda Prelude sales tanked in Japan due to the fact that it got bigger and heavier as the years went on, which put it in competition with the NSX and Skyline because of its similar size. Unfortunately, a heavy front-drive car with a naturally aspirated engine doesn’t fair well against rear- and all-wheel-drive performance cars, but that lever sure didn’t help sales either.