Welcome to 21st Century Restomod, the chronicles of the still-ongoing transformation of my 2001 Honda Prelude from a junkyard rescue to an autocross superstar. To check out the first part of the story, see here.

January 2014. I’d just bought one of the last Honda Preludes ever made, with several beneficial parts and some of the model’s rarest and most desired options, for a three figure price. There were, of course, several catches. As I wrote in the first part of the story, the car had had its engine rebuilt poorly, by a shop that didn’t know what it was doing. Honda’s H-series engines have fiber-reinforced metal cylinder walls, which have to be honed properly. The shop didn’t do that, so the car burned oil. The valves were also out of adjustment and it had an idle surge. Outside of the engine bay, the interior was grimy and the taillights and trunk held water. I was planning an engine swap, rather than rebuilding the H22A4 a second time, but first I wanted to get to cleaning the insides.

I took the car on a single drive around my neighborhood before starting the teardown. It didn’t do well. She was an angry one that day.

I know the wheels were backwards. That’s for a future entry.

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I parked the car in the driveway, where it stayed for a few months until the garage was free. First order of business was taking off the rear wheel well liners, which are infamous for holding water and causing what’s known as Honda rust or Honda cancer. Next I took out the lower portion of the back seats to clean them.

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That’s disgusting.

Eventually I decided to just take out the back seats entirely. They’re vestigial at best. Also, weight reduction, bruh. To solve the watery trunk and taillights, I had to completely gut the trunk. Drilled a few holes to let the water drain from the trunk and took the taillights off to let them dry out, using some Target bags taped to the inside to keep water from leaking into the trunk in case it rained. After new gaskets and some new sealant, the taillights have stayed dry since.

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This is not product placement. The “10687" is the build number.

The next step was getting another engine. If I had an infinite budget, I’d swap in a K-series engine, but for simplicity’s sake I was going for a direct fit. I had a few choices. I could get a regular H22A as it’s essentially an H22A4 (why Honda chose to add numbers at the end of the engine code only for export markets, I have no idea), but that’s no fun. A Type S H22A wouldn’t be an ideal fit for a car without ATTS, and S-Spec or Accord Euro-R H22A’s are always sold with transmissions attached and were thus out of my budget. That left two choices, both from variants of the 6th generation JDM Accord. The first was the iron-sleeved F20B from the SiR and SiR-T sedan, a 2.0 liter engine that’s the most affordable of the group but different enough to the rest that a few different parts that would have to be sourced from Japan are needed. It also had the least torque of the group. My choice was the SiR wagon’s H23A, a 2.3 liter motor that is essentially, but not exactly, an H22 head on the block of the H23 engine from the mid 90s. It had a longer stroke than the other engines, and most importantly, while the power numbers are only slightly better than the H22A (200 hp/163 tq for the H23 vs. 200/161 for the H22), the H23’s torque curve is significantly better. Unlike the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the H22 in and out of VTEC, the H23’s power comes on more naturally and at a usable RPM, almost like the Nissan SR20DET. With a good driver, a stock 5th gen Prelude with the H23A has a 0-60 time in the low 6 second range, and a 13-second quarter mile time. While I’ve come close on the former in my (admittedly lightened) car, I have no intentions of taking it to a dragstrip.

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The project had started in winter, but I wasn’t going to start taking the old engine out until spring. I ordered the H23 in February and it arrived on a snowy day in early March. The black 4th gen Prelude has been my daily driver since 2012, and the red 3rd gen was a car I flipped to fund the build.

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We pushed the engine up the driveway into my backyard garage. My black Lab Coal investigates the strange object.

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Just beginning to tear down the engine. We were following the Honda service manual.

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The teardown took a few months due to how busy I was. In this picture, Coal wants me to pay attention to him instead of lift the car off the ground.

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Me and one of the pieces I got for the car, JDM Honda Access fog lights. I still haven’t put them on yet.

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In addition to prepping the car, there was prepping the new engine too.

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Finally, after three months of working on it, the engine comes out.

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My dad’s strategically hiding his face.

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Up next was restoring the headlights and cleaning out the engine bay.

Before...

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...after.

After that was finished, I got a hold of the experts, a pair of guys who had done this particular swap before, and we set a date to put the H23 into the car.