For P.D. Cunningham, racing was the Prelude to a dream
Peter “P.D.” Cunningham and his team, RealTime Racing (RTR), are legends in the world of racing, finding tremendous success campaigning first Hondas and later Acuras. Cunningham and RTR began their run of 27 consecutive years in World Challenge competition in 1993, fielding a pair of fourth-generation Honda Prelude Si Touring Cars. Cunningham finished second in the Drivers’ Championship in 1993 (missing first by three points) and 1994 (again by three points). In 1995 he won his first World Challenge title. From there, Cunningham went on to become the winningest WC Drivers’ Champion of all time, securing numerous world records, including seven World Challenge Championships. Altogether, RTR competed with a variety of models, winning 15 championships for its drivers, along with 14 manufacturers’ titles for Honda and Acura.
Meanwhile, when not on the racetrack, Cunningham dabbled in the car-collecting hobby, purchasing mostly obscure, modestly priced cars with which he had a childhood connection (a 1968 Chevrolet Impala SS, a 1971 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, and a 1980 Saab 99, among others). So when he added the first old Honda to his collection early in 2014, the manufacturer that garnered him so much success suddenly became the focus of Cunningham’s pursuits. And so the RealTime Collection Hall was born.
Since the Gen Four Prelude was the first car Cunningham raced for his own team, this model was one of the first on his list to acquire. He also successfully hunted down clean road-going examples of other cars he had raced in the past, including a first-generation Acura NSX, a second-generation Honda CRX Si, and an Acura Integra Type R. This small but ever-increasing assortment was going along nicely when Cunningham spotted a low-mileage, first-generation Accord in the wild. Cunningham had never raced an Accord of this vintage, but it looked highly desirable. One thing led to another; Cunningham purchased that car, and the floodgates were opened to other models that he never raced but were significant to the Honda and Acura brands.
Today his museum is the largest privately held collection of Hondas and Acuras in North America. The collection spans the entire range of models, including Accords, Civics, Preludes, S2000s, Integras, Legends, and NSXs. But this story is all about Prelude. Herewith is the rundown on each of the five examples of Preludes in the RealTime Collection Hall and the backstory of each car’s acquisition.
Gen One (1979–1982)
Cunningham found this 1982 example on Craigslist; the car was stored in the second owner’s hangar in San Antonio, Texas. The car was originally sold in Kentucky and had 51,000 miles on the odometer. “It was Grandma’s car, and it had not been driven very much,” recalls Cunningham. The car has an automatic transmission; Cunningham says that manual-transmission cars are almost impossible to find because they’ve been driven so hard. This Prelude also has the optional luggage rack and a sunroof. “The first-gen Prelude was the first production car with a factory-installed moonroof,” he says. “Every Prelude thereafter had a sunroof.”
Gen Two (1983 – 1987)
The collection’s second-gen example is a 1985 Prelude Si that was bought at a used-car lot nearby in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “It is a one-owner car that was driven in the winter, but not often, so it’s in pretty good shape,” says Cunningham. The car has 70,000 miles, an automatic transmission, a blue cloth interior, and of course, a sunroof.
Gen Three (1988 – 1991)
This third-gen car is a 1991 Prelude Si with 9,700 miles. “The original owner was an engineer for Lockheed Martin, who recorded every detail of the car in very precise and very small handwriting,” notes Cunningham. “The car was probably never driven in the rain.” It has a black cloth interior, a five-speed manual, four-wheel steering (4WS), and still rides on its original tires. This spec of Prelude was the second-most expensive Honda that was available in 1991.
Gen Four (1992 – 1996)
This 1992 Si was the first car purchased for the collection and is the most important. Not only did Cunningham himself race a Gen Four Prelude from 1993 to 1995 and his team from 1993 to 1997, but a white 1992 Prelude was also his daily driver. “We found this car on eBay in Scottsdale, Arizona,” recalls Cunningham. “A friend checked it out for me, gave it the okay, and we negotiated the price over the phone. It’s in great shape, but since it had spent time in the Arizona sun, the paint isn’t perfect.” The car has 47,000 miles, has a black cloth interior, a sunroof, and a five-speed manual.
Gen Five (1997–2001)
The collection’s fifth-generation Prelude is a 2001 model with 22,000 miles; while not a top-of-the-line Super Handling model, it does have the 2.2-liter VTEC engine and a five-speed transmission, a sunroof, and a black cloth interior. “I found this car from a flipper on eBay,” says Cunningham. “The story was that the original owner bought the car for his wife, but she loved the car so much, she never drove it.” The car came from Washington state and is in incredible condition. “Even the brake calipers look like new!” Cunningham enthuses.
When asked what insights he has gained after owning five generations of Prelude, Cunningham is quick with a reply. “It’s very interesting to go from the oldest to the next oldest and so on through the five generations to see how they share certain similarities,” he muses. “It’s a timeline of how Hondas have changed over the years. Each one is better than its predecessor in a number of ways. Everyone has their favorites, but for me, it’s the Gen Four since I have such history with it and because of what I owe to the car. Having said that, the Gen Five is much more refined and luxurious, and a great step forward from its predecessor.”
What’s next for Cunningham and the RealTime Racing Collection Hall? Like any good racer, Cunningham plays his cards close to his chest. “There are other cars on the horizon,” he says cagily. “It’s safe to say we are always looking for original, low-mileage examples from the history of Honda and leave it at that!”