The 90s have been referred to as the 'golden age for cars'. Classic cars always stir up some nostalgic memories especially for those who drove them or were driven in them back in the day. They also conjure up the image of rich mid-aged men on a Sunday morning polishing their cars before parking them back into their garages. In the 70s and 80s, most cars weren't as great as the 90s. Their designs were mostly boxy, with poor proportions and performance was mostly terrible.
The strict emission requirements from the 1970 clean air act amendments also limited car makers from putting out fast and famous muscle and sports cars from the 1960s. So nothing was fast in those years, but environmental protection came first. In the 90s, a lot changed, at least for the better. Designers started using curves again, so consumers enjoyed the mass market cars that were simple mechanically, yet much safer due to the airbag phenomenon, and also fun to drive around. Electric cars also began their climb back, as technology caught up to the requirements of the engine emissions.
Performance cars from the 90s are gaining traction today as collector items, as you get the analog driving experience missing from today's tech-laden cars. But there are some rare cars from the 90s which hardly get talked about or mentioned in automotive circles, and here are just 20 of those great yet so rare 90s cars.
20 Mazda RX-7
In the 1990s, thousands of Mazda RX-7s were licensed but only 109 of the cars were made available for the road and 130 of them were declared as a SORN. RX-7 came with a curvaceous styling and amazing performance that anyone would expect from a modern classic.
The only issue with this car was the complicated rotary engine which was both difficult and expensive to repair and this explained why only a few were left for the public.
The car was fitted with an aforementioned 13B-REW twin turbo engine and was available with both 5-speed manual and sluggish 4-speed automatic, according to Evo. The engine produced 237bhp and 218 li-ft of torque. This car was produced for 1992 to 2000.
19 Hyundai SCoupe
The Hyundai SCoupe was meant to be a Sporty Coupe but it wasn’t very fun to drive. The SCoupe wasn’t that popular either with only 144 registered, Cars Guide notes. In 1998 almost 5000 of these cars were made available meaning that its number had significantly dropped in a period of ten years. T SCoupe brought another side of Hyundai with its beautiful two-door coupe shape and broad array of features fitted in it. When it made its debut, the car was fitted with standard power steering, power windows, a sporty tachometer, and alloy wheels. This car was powered by 1.5-liter fuel-injected single engine that made 62kW at 5500 revs and 129Nm or torque.
18 Daimler Double Six
The Daimler Double Six was produced form the early 1970s to the late 1990s. After the long years of production only 1000 of these cars were registered, but their numbers declined steadily over the years, with only 199 available and most of them are SORN. Having been fixed with a six-litre, 313 bhp V12 engine Double and its power delivery is matched to an equally smooth automatic gearbox, the Double Six delivers a heart throbbing speed, said The Independent.
The only issue with this car is that spirited driving will make a gallon fuel be consumed in as few as 14 miles.
On the inside the car features a polished walnut and soft leather abound and its rear passengers are treated with plenty of toy to play with. Each of the rear seats are reclined electronically while the back of front seats are a set controls that allow the left rear passenger to move the front seat.
17 Nissan QX
The Nissan QX had different names depending on which country it was in. In Japan it was known as the Maxima. It was a luxury car, according to Rac, that contained features of a Lexus in it. This car never really took off as expected. It had a dull drive and it was also a fuel guzzler. Only a few of these cars were sold with only 119 of them being registered. The QX was fitted with a 3.0 V6 engine which was mated only to an automatic gearbox. The QX saw a face lift in 1997 on the inside featuring airbags fitted across the range. Other features with the car included leather, cruise control, a 10-CD auto changer and heated seats and all of them were standard fare.
16 Audi S6
The Audi S6 is also one of the cars that were very rare on the roads in the ‘90s. It was made available in the market from 1994 to 1997. Compared to its successors, Car and Driver notes, the S6 wasn’t that popular – only 121 were licensed and tested and 39 of them were declared SORN. The S6 was powered by either a 2.2-liter five-cylinder or a 4.2-liter V8 and both of them offered a swift performance.
The 4.0-liter V-8 was mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and had cylinder deactivation that helped in improving fuel economy.
The all-wheel-drive and the adaptive air suspension helped the car in harnessing all the power that was produced by the engine and made the S6 a blast to drive in any kind of weather. The engine produced a huge amount of power which was rated at 450-hp.
15 Chevrolet Blazer
In the UK markets, the Big American SUVs aren’t that common. The SUVs are made for wider stateside roads and for places were gas prices are relatively cheap. Chevrolet Blazer was available in the market in RHD from between 1998 and 2002. Within that period of production, barely 1000 of Blazers were produced and a few of them remained – 133 of them were registered. This SUV might have not been that popular in the UK because the fuel costs were high since it was large, unwieldy and thirsty. Before entering into a two-row crossover class, MotorTrend notes that the Blazer originally used to be a truck-based two and four-door SUV of different sizes. The four-door SUV was offered with V-6 and V-8 engines.
14 Toyota 4Runner
The 4Runner was dropped by Toyota in the United Kingdom in 1996, an excellent reason that explains why there are a few 90s models registered on the roads. Only 135 were registered in the UK. As much as the 4Runner was considered crude based on the underpinnings of pickup, it was capable and a practical. The vehicle is powered by a 3.4-liter SOHC that peaks at 183 horses and 217 pound-feet of torque. It comes with an option of two or four-wheel drive mated with either a five-speed manual or electronically controlled four-speed automatic, the latter has a torque-control system that momentarily retards the engine sparks to smooth upshifts. The 4Runner hosts safety features, enhanced ride comfort and control, increased interior room and attractive body design.
13 Cadillac Seville
This vehicle was launched in 1975 and underwent many changes through five generations. The sales of the Seville dropped in 1980s due to its clumsy foray into the diesel engine world and assorted quality problems, says Edmunds. It made a comeback in the ‘90s and many people praised it as its sales went high. However, like its predecessors this vehicle was dogged by a disappointing build quality.
To add to the build quality, the Seville was big, thirsty and underpowered and never did well in the UK markets.
Importing this vehicle in the UK cranked their cost and somehow their European competitors were better. Either way this generation wasn’t that bad but it needed some more work. Due to this issues only a few hundreds of Seville were sold in UK. Only 139 of the 90s Sevilles that were registered are still licensed and available on the road.
12 Kia Clarus
The main reason why the Kia Clarus is rare is because it had a short production cycle. The car was sold from 1999-2001. Compared to its competitors, the Clarus wasn’t that popular. Only 108 of this cars that were registered. This car was fitted with a 1.8-liter or 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The 1.8-liter model was present with SX trim and came with either manual or automatic transmissions, while the 2.0-liter model was offered in either GSX or Executive trim with options of transmission types. Despite the fact that the interior of the Clarus wasn’t that classy compared to European cars, everything was well located for the driver and operated well. The car’s steering adjusted only for height but the available ample seat adjustment offered spacious room for passengers.
11 SEAT Marbella
This a Spanish built car that was little more than a face lifted Fiat Panda. Despite the fact that SEAT might be considered a quality and stylish brand, its parent company took some time just to transform the car. Honest John notes that the Marbella was produced as a dull budget car by SEAT in the 1990s. Only 128 of the Marbella were registered and licensed from road use and it is estimated that the numbers will continue to drop until the model is faced off. The Marbella was inferior to the Fiat Panda considering the fact that it relied on a 903cc engine. The car also had a Spanish styled front and rear end. The Marbella proved to be rusty and fragile and unfortunately did not do much to bolster the image of its maker. Despite the setbacks, the Marbella remained in production until 1995 but its import in UK ceased by 1995.
10 Jaguar XJ12
When compared to the Daimler Double Six, the two cars are similar but Jaguar XJ12 has more beef. It has the same V12 engine which is a 6.0-liter. This turbine-smooth power unit, Honest John says, produced up to 300bhp in the later version, and went up to 150 mph. The XJ models boasted independent suspension all-round with an opulent interior that matched it exterior dimensions.
To separate the car from the lower powered models, Jaguar fitted the XJ12 with extra details which include a gold ‘Growler’ on its grille.
The car came with high ride quality with astounding comfort while its grip was tenacious. However rust was a significant issue with this car. A straight-six powered version from the same generation survived in large numbers and can be acquired at a relatively lower price. Only 139 of these cars that are licensed, are available.
9 Audi S8
With only 142 Audi S8 cars that have been licensed on the road today it shouldn’t come as a surprise since it wasn’t a bestseller. The S8, according to MotorTrend, was available shortly after the 1997 Audi A8 was released in Europe. Under the hood of the S8 was a naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V-8 paired to a five-speed tiptronic automatic and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system that is similar to its modern counterparts. Despite the fact that the S8 features a mundane look, this car is quick. The engine produces 360-hp and 317 lb-ft of torque that pushes the car from zero to 62 mph in 5.8 seconds.
8 Roll-Royce Silver Seraph
The Seraph made its debut at the Geneva motorshow in 1998 and it replaced the Silver Spur, according to Honest John. Only a few of them were sold in the 1990s and only 144 of these vehicles are still available on the road while a few of them are locked away on the SORN. The Seraph was made together with Bentley at the Crew factory and under its hood was a BMW powerplant – the 322bhp 5.4-liter V12 that was taken from the 7-series. The power produced by the engine was sufficient to push the car from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds.
This was great for a car which weighed 2.3 tons.
Seraph would have not been the finest car in the world but boast of being the first Rolls to be built under the ownership of BMW.
7 Toyota Yaris Verso
Since its production started in the last months of the nineties, there are only a few Toyota Yaris Verso cars that had been registered. Only 144 of this vehicles were registered and available on the road, Rac says. However their numbers grew quite fast from 2000 going forward. From the looks, Verso seems to be a stronger car and with the current rate of decline, the car might take 88 years to completely vanish from the market. Despite its dominance, Yaris Verso never caught on quite well in the market. This might have been probably because of its Popemobile looks or it is almost a foot shorter than Fiat Punto. All of the Yaris Verso trim – base trim and premium were powered by the same 1.3-liter VVT-I engine.
6 MG RV8
To come up with the RV8, Range Rover perfectly used a combination of off-the-shelf parts like the Range Rover’s V8 engine and body shell from MGB. The 3.9-liter Range Rover EFi V8 engine fitted in the RV8 makes 185 bhp that gives it enough power to crack 6.0 seconds for a sprint from zero to 60 mph. The engine is mated to a five-speed LT77 transmission taken from Rover SD1 and was implemented alongside a Salisbury axle. If you want a vehicle which is perfect for a lazy summer cruise, then the RV8 would be a perfect choice. But if interested then you gonna have to hurry since only a few were produced. Those that were licensed and available on the road are 146. However most of them are occasionally taken to SORN therefore the number of those licensed might reduce with time.
5 Peugeot 605
The 605 was a big car for Peugeot that was produced between 1989 and 1999. The main reason for their production was to win sales from the executive market. To achieve the objective, it offered a smooth ride, and featured leather all over, according to Honest John. Unlike the set objective, things went opposite to what was expected. The styling of 605 was also criticized. This made buyers wonder why the car was so expensive. The car eventually started falling apart. It was hampered by build quality problems and electrical issues hence making it subject to an expensive recall. With those kind of issues only 147 of these cars were licensed for road use.
4 Fiat Barchetta
The development of the Fiat Barchetta began in 1990. Its chassis was based on the Punto but featured a beautiful curvaceous body together with top-down fun.
Despite the features put on the car, its sales were hindered by the fact that it came only as a left-drive car.
This car was kind of slow too. As a result of this setback this car received fairly underwhelming sales figures leading to only 1500 of them being registered at the peak of its popularity in the market. Only 163 of this vehicles that are registered are still available on road but they are very expensive to insure.
3 Daimler DS420
The Daimler DS420 is one of the rarest vehicles in the ‘90s. It's production ran from 1968- 1992 which led to only a few being made in the two years of the ‘90s. Honest John notes that there are only 106 of these Daimler limousines that are still licensed. The car was based on the underpinning of the enormous Jaguar MkX that was fitted with straight-six 4.2-liter XK engine. DS420 came in many trims and specification options. What made this car a darling to the specialist industry was the fact that you would buy and trim it to match your budget and personal requirement. This would allow it to be cloth-trimmed and have such things as manual windows or other features such as boardroom-on-wheels with on-board TV.
2 Citroen 2CV
Citroen has almost seven decades since it made its debut in 1949 and since then it has become expected to give an affordable transport and ease of maintenance. The combination of minimalist charm and French chic made this car look very admirable compared to when it was first produced in 1948. The production of this car didn’t last far into the 1990s and for that reason only few of the ‘90s model were available. Only 169 2CVs were registered and made available for road use. However there are many of its examples from the ‘80s and still has some loyal following.
1 Honda NSX
This is a very fast sports car fitted with a high-tech hybrid petrol-electric engine that makes it drive in silent electric power without any assistance. In the ‘90s Honda NSX was regarded as one of the finest handling cars at that time. The car offered easy to drive quickly and it was a clear indication that the Japanese had what it takes to produce a supercar. Its production has continued until the 2000s but most of the surviving NSX were licensed in the 1990s. During that time only 169 of them were registered for the road. NSX came with naturally aspirated 270 PS engine that was fixed with features while its steering was completed of feel and feedback. NSX had acquired a cult admiration and toady it is increasing in value meaning that its numbers will not drop massively at the moment.
Sources: autoblog.com, autoweek.com, honestjohn.co.uk, caranddriver.com