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20 Cars that Marked the 1990s


Iconic Cars From 1990s


There are awesome cars in every decade, and discussing which era is the best would be in vain. Some people prefer what is going on in the market currently, with new technologies, hybrids and electric vehicles, whereas some others loved the vehicles from the 1980s, for instance. The 1990s features some incredible cars and here are 20 which marked the decade.

1.Ferrari F50


The Ferrari F50 was in production from 1995 to 1997, and the total number of units made was 349. This is a rare model, which has room for two and a removable hardtop. However, Ferrari came up with the poor solution for the top, and you couldn’t store it in the car. Instead of that, the company added a small canvas canopy in case you wanted to drive without one, and the rain started to pour suddenly.

Under the hood, this Ferrari boasted a 4.7-liter naturally aspirated V12 which is based on the 3.5-liter V12 that powered the 1990 Ferrari 641 Formula One model. The complete output of the Ferrari F50 was 520 bhp at 8,000 rpm, and Ferrari advertised it as the closest thing to Formula One that is street-legal.

The vehicle featured the Pininfarina design which was popular among Ferrari models. Even though it was similar to the F40, the F50 had some of the parts more radical, such as the rear wing. In fact, the engineers focused on the car’s aerodynamics over its aesthetics whereas buyers had some options such as choosing large seats instead of the regular ones.

2.Dodge Viper


You can find a Dodge Viper today, but the vehicle became an icon in 1992. The Viper stole hearts of all car enthusiasts, and it was definitely one of the coolest cars in the decade. The manufacturer toyed with the idea to create the new vehicle in 1987, and the Viper made its first appearance two years after that. It is considered to be the 1990s car because even though it was introduced to the people in the late 1980s, it hit the streets three years later, in 1992.

There were two generations of the Viper – the first was out between 1992 and 1995 whereas the second one debuted in 1996 and it was in production until 2002. Out of the two, the first-generation car drew more attention and its engine was the focal point. Interestingly enough, the unit of the first Viper was created as a truck engine that was inspired by the Chrysler LA, and it produced 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. Despite the high output, the Viper was rated at 21 mpg when driven calmly, which was more than satisfactory.

The second-generation Viper was more powerful than the first one, and the powerplant delivered 450 horsepower and its top speed increased by 22 mph. Dodge decided to launch the Viper GTS in 1996 and three years later, an American Club Racing model, which came with enhanced suspension and engine, debuted.

3.McLaren F1


It is hard to position the McLaren F1 among the best cars from the 1990s when it is considered one of the coolest cars ever. The F1’s amazing design and reputation as the fastest of all production cars back in the day launched this model into the stars.

The idea to assemble the finest road car ever made appeared in 1988, and after four years of planning and execution, the F1 was born. Only 106 units of the F1 were made, but this model is still the fastest road car ever with a naturally aspirated engine, and it has been two and a half decades since its introduction. The chief designer thanks to whom we love this vehicle is Gordon Murray. The engine which was used to set the record was a 6.1-liter V12, and it is capable of delivering more than 620 bhp.

This car is just amazing, and the team behind the project spent more than 3,000 hours on every carbon-fiber chassis that was used. Moreover, six separate titanium pieces are used for the throttle pedal, whereas the instrument panel is handmade. We will not even start talking about aerodynamics.

4.Lotus Esprit V8


The entire production of the Lotus Esprit took place between 1976 and 2004, but the V8 model was introduced in 1996. This version was one of the best, and the powertrain which was used was a 90-degree DOHC V8 that was made entirely of aluminum. To protect the transmission from damage, the power had to be reduced drastically, from 500 hp to 350 hp. The top speed of this vehicle was 175 mph, and it could go from a standstill to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.

When Lotus created the new engine for the Esprit V8, they turned for the brand-new powertrain designed by Lotus Engineering. They wanted to keep things simple since their goal was to reduce the costs as much as possible. As a result, the 2.2-liter unit came to life, and it produced 50 horsepower more than the previous powerplant. However, there were complaints about the new engine, but Lotus was still able to top the contenders.

5.Hummer H1


The Hummer H1 is one of the models we definitely need to mention. It appeared in 1992, and it was based on the Humvee, but this version was immediately available for civilians. The H1 stayed in production until 2006, and during its existence, it was offered with a wagon body, a four-door hardtop pickup and a soft top pickup which was similar to the convertible.

The Hummer H1 was a massive car to match its size, and it weighed more than 7,000 pounds. A vast majority of the H1 models were equipped with a 6.2-liter V8 and 6.5-liter V8 engines that were developed by General Motors. The company tried to introduce a smaller 5.7-liter gas V8, but it didn’t get enough supporters due to the H1’s size.

The Hummer H1 definitely marked the 1990s. Not only was this machine huge, but it was also capable on the rough terrain. On the other hand, it was not great to maneuver and park, which was expected from a car of this size. Arnold Schwarzenegger did definitely approve the Hummer H1.

6.Lamborghini Diablo


The Lamborghini Diablo was a name people recall today. It was in production between 1990 and 2001, and this mid-engine sports car had the top speed over 200 mph. It was replaced by the Murcielago, but the Diablo had an interesting life. The car could have looked differently had Marcello Gandini designed it, but when Chrysler took over, everything changed. In total, Lamborghini produced 2,884 units, but there are only 51 remaining on the road.

In some aspects, the Diablo reminded us of the Countach, while in 1993, the Diablo VT that was a 4WD vehicle arrived. Moreover, Lamborghini launched the SE30 anniversary edition to mark the 30th birthday of the company. Under the hood, the Diablo packed a 5.7-liter V8 engine that was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The complete output of the car was 492 bhp and 428 lb-ft of torque. The other iterations we have just mentioned had similar numbers.

7.Ford Mustang Cobra


You cannot have any list without a Mustang. The Ford Mustang Cobra which had a wide range of names during its lifespan that lasted from 1993 to 2004 was one of the coolest cars in the 1990s. The Mustang Cobra was designed as a high-performance model, and it sat above the Mustang GT, and this vehicle was targeting racers and collectors at the same time.

The first time the public saw the Mustang Cobra was in Chicago in 1992. Back then, it was difficult to differentiate this model from the GT, but all of the major distinctions were under the hood. The Cobra packed a V8 engine that delivered 235 horsepower and helped the car accelerate to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. Ford produced 5,100 examples of the Mustang Cobra.

Another model which was even better was the Mustang Cobra R. This enhanced version had the aggressive red color that screamed power and better brakes, steering, and wheels. The focus of the Cobra R was raw power and speed, but only 107 rolled out of the factory. Meanwhile, the regular Mustang Cobra went mostly through design upgrades, as well as some minor performance boosts.

8.Acura NSX


The NSX first debuted in 1990, and it was produced until 2005. There was a long break after that, but the NSX model has been revived in 2016, and it keeps on going. However, since we are talking about the 1990s, it is the first-generation car we are interested in. Created by Masahito Nakano and Shigeru Uehara, chief designer and chief engineer respectively and their teams, the Acura NSX’s purpose was clear from the start. The car featured amazing aerodynamic elements, and it was the first mass-produced model with an all-aluminum body.

A 3.0-liter V6 lurked under the hood, while the creators offered the option between a four-speed Sports Shift automatic and a five-speed manual transmission. When it was introduced, the NSX was a coupe, but in 1995, a Targa top arrived. New 3.2-liter V6 engine ensued two years later, and it improved the overall performance of the car. Even though leather was all over the place, which gave Acura the upscale feel, the NSX had too many plastic elements, but that was characteristic for Japanese cars at the time.

9.Ferrari 355


Ferrari 355 was in the market from 1994 to 1999, and it was a follow-up to the 348 model. This two-seater was available as a coupe, convertible and Targa whereas it came with the rear-wheel drive and a V8 engine. Both the 348 and the 355 used the V8 unit, but the one in the 355 was a 3.5-liter, and it had a five-valve cylinder head which was the reason why it was more powerful with 375 horsepower. In the first few years, Ferrari 355 was available only in coupe and Targa forms, but in 1997, the convertible known as the Spider was introduced.

The number of models that were produced reached 11,273, but the models that arrived later on, had numerous improvements, including the switch from the Bosch 2.7 Motronic system to the 5.2 Motronic, which was smoother. As for design, the 355 was clearly distinguishable from the 348, but the sides of the new car were prone to corrosion. Generally speaking, the 355 was handsome and powerful.

10.BMW M36 M3


The production of the BMW M36 M3 started in 1992 but it ended seven years later, and unlike some other models from the list, this one was available in the 1990s only. Even though we saw M3 models before, this version pioneered the I6 engine which was known as the S50, and that delivered 282 horsepower. BMW launched the M3 in coupe form, but in the next two years, you could buy it as a saloon or convertible. At one point, BMW also introduced the M3 GT version, designed for racing.

In 1995, the model received a more powerful 3.2-liter engine which was connected to a six-speed transmission, but the model was also gifted with clear indicator lenses and new wheels. The convertible wasn’t modified at first, but it got the same changes one year later. The German manufacturer decided to offer the E36 M3 to the US customers eventually, but the model for the American market came with a few differences such as a single-throttle body and a dumb-down version of VANOS, which, unfortunately, was not as advanced as the European due to emission regulations.

11.Jaguar XJ220


Although the Jaguar XJ220 was on sale for two years only, this supercar needs to be mentioned as the car produced by Jaguar and Tom Walkinshaw Racing that was in the field of race engineering. What was cool about this vehicle was that only 275 models left the factory. It was super fast for its time, with the top speed being 212.3 mph while the engine generated 542 bhp and 475 lb-ft of torque.

Interestingly enough the concept that Jaguar employees built “for fun” served as an inspiration for the XJ220. The goal of the two companies was to create a modern version of the Jaguars from the 24 Hours of Le Mans races in the 1950s and the 1960s, but some significant changes had to be made between the concept and the production version to make the car road legal. One of the major modifications included the switch of the concept’s V12 with a turbocharged V6. The price of the car was ridiculously high – £470,000.

12.Mercedes 500SL


Mercedes was selling the 500SL model from 1989 to 1998, and during that time they managed to produce almost 80,000 units. The most impressive thing about the 500SL was the technology – the car was equipped with features such as a power-operated roof as well as the pop-up rollover bar, numerous airbags, and a dual-range four-speed automatic transmission. Under its hood, the 500SL featured the V8 good for 326 bhp whereas some of the later iterations of the vehicle came with a five-speed transmission that wasn’t available at first.

What separated this model from some other Mercedes creations at the time was the combination of luxury and performance. At that time, German company had already proven that they were able to make upscale vehicles, but they added speed and aggressiveness to the 500SL to make it one of the most memorable cars of the 1990s.

13.Nissan Skyline


The Nissan Skyline, followed by the Skyline GT-R, was one of the most impressive cars produced by Nissan and one of the most beautiful performance models ever! The R33 Skyline replaced the R32 as it debuted in 1993. It gained little more weight than its predecessor, but this Skyline was the safest model in the lineup, whereas buyers could choose between a coupe and sedan. It was the generation of the Skyline which pioneered the HICAS 4-wheel steering system.

However, the R33 offered so much more. Active limited slip differential was introduced instead of the standard viscous LSD system, but to make this car even more iconic, Nissan launched the four-door GT-R that marked the 40th anniversary of the company. At the end of the 1990s, Nissan launched the R34 Skyline that brought many innovations such as NEO engine and a five-speed transmission, and it was the most efficient Skyline.

14.Lincoln Navigator


Lincoln Navigator was popular in the late 1990s when it hit the market, and it is still popular today, 20 years later. When the Navigator hit the market in 1998, it was the largest and the heaviest production model launched by Lincoln. It had room for eight passengers while the engine it used was a 5.4-liter V8. Due to its gigantic size and large powertrain, the Navigator’s fuel efficiency was among the worst with 13 mpg combined.

When it arrived, the Navigator had some amazing features for that time. For instance, the car was equipped with premium leather seating and burled walnut trim inside the cabin that told you right away that you are entering an upscale vehicle. Also, the steering wheel had leather and wood with controls on it, whereas the instrument panel had a soft feel to it. There were storage compartments for your things, captain’s chair bucket seats and 116 cubic feet of cargo. Truly impressive.

15.Aston Martin DB7


The Aston Martin is famous for being James Bond’s favorite car, and the DB5 was truly iconic. But it was the DB7 model that was introduced in the 1990s, and despite the fact that only 2,461 DB7s were made over the course of three years, this vehicle will always be remembered as one of the coolest. It featured the new TWR-built engine with twin overhead camshaft, light alloy wheels, and a water-cooled supercharger. In 1996, Aston Martin launched the convertible version named the DB7 Volante.

What should you know about the Aston Martin DB7? Its engine developed 355 bhp and 368 lb-ft of torque whereas the car could reach 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds and it had a top speed of 165 mph. This model was replaced by the DB7 Vantage which was launched in 1999, and it boasted a six-liter V12 mated to a five- and six-speed manual.

16.Toyota Supra


Everyone’s heard of the Toyota Supra, and the good news is that it is coming back to the market soon! The production of the Supra lasted from 1978 to 1998, but the one that appeared in the 1990s was by far the best version, and many collectors want to put their hands on it. The generation we are talking about is the fourth one, and at that time, the Supra showed off its new exterior which was sportier and more aerodynamic.

The model lost some weight compared to its predecessor, but the engines were still powerful, and the one we need to mention is the I6 that produced 320 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the exterior, the cabin hasn’t changed much, while the drivers could select either a five-speed manual or a four-speed transmission.

17.Alfa Romeo GTV


The Alfa Romeo GTV was on the market for ten years, from 1995. This model is sometimes called the 916 which was the internal designation from Alfa Romeo, but either way, the GTV was a coupe with room for four passengers, whereas its Spider counterpart that was on sale from 1995 to 2006 had room only for two. What made this Alfa Romeo beautiful was the front-wheel-drive handling that was unrivaled.

You could have bought the GTV with a 3-liter V6 engine and despite Alfa Romeo produced a total of 270,000 examples, the GTV is dying out due to costly repairs, and there are about 3,200 left today. Even though the car was launched in the middle of the 1990s, the design dates from the 1987 and various elements were characteristic for this Italian carmaker such as the front grille and round headlights.

18.BMW M Coupe


The M Coupe that was produced in the ‘90s is closely related to the modern M-Series, and the man in charge of the old model was Burkhard Goeschel. But, when BMW was developing the M Coupe they wanted to keep the costs to the minimum, which is proven by the fact that this version borrowed many of its body panels and interior parts from the roadster that it was based on. The difference between the M Coupe and the M Roadster was under the hood.

The model which was sold in the USA used the engine good for 236 lb-ft of torque and 240 horsepower whereas the same car on the other markets had the engine rated at 317 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The BMW M Coupe was not an attractive car, but it was one of the most memorable vehicles in the 1990s.

19.Mazda RX-7


Ah, the Mazda RX-7. It was the classic sports car with amazing performance, and although the name appeared in 1978 for the first time, it was the 1992 model that left everyone standing in awe. Everything about this vehicle was perfect – design, its 13B-REW twin turbo engine, and its four-speed automatic and five-speed manual transmissions. The complete output of the powerplant was 327 bhp, and it was the first car with the combination of a rotary engine and a turbocharger.

Truth be told, there were two turbochargers, but the second one activated when the rpm exceeded 4,000. Despite amazing performance numbers, Mazda had to reduce the price of the RX-7 because the sales were low. In North America, there was a choice between three models, each with different features inside.

20.Audi TT


The Audi TT is the last vehicle on the list, and its production lasted between 1998 and 2006. The buyers had a lot of options, and one of them was seating arrangement – they could select either a two-seater or a 2+2 version. The TT showed that the German company was not as conservative as many people perceived it, and it gave the brand credibility and improved its reputation. 1.8-liter turbocharged engine was the only choice, but you could have selected different output as Audi offered either 178 bhp or 222 bhp tunes. After 2000, the TT was no longer the same with different engines and a lot of new features.

When it first appeared, this model was similar to the concept, but there were some obvious differences such as the new rear quarter-light windows set located behind the doors. Some of the features that the TT received after the release included the Audi Electronic Stability Program, Anti Slip Regulation, and suspension changes. It was nominated for the 2000 North American Car of the Year, and the TT truly was one of the best in the 1990s.

Borin Oldborg :Computer and Cars Lover, Specialist for Ford & Toyota