The '90s are increasingly finding their way back into current pop culture, as we find ourselves almost thirty years from their genesis. More and more people are finding fascination with the era, all the idiosyncrasies, quirks, and character that pervaded a generation maturing and growing from the platform of the '80s.
The car world is a fascinating element and reflection of the culture of the time. The big industries of the US car market had found a formula that was working, but had lost all sense of vitality and creativity. The '90s saw some of the blandest, boring, and uninspired garbage fly out of manufacturing plants by the thousands. Due to effective marketing and cheap pricing, these cars were much more successful than they should have been.
It wasn't all peaches and cream, though, as the import market in the US was proving itself to be miles ahead of anything US-made, both in quality and even price. The '90s proved to be a pretty dismal time for the Big Three in the US market.
Now that it has been a significant amount of time since these cars have been produced, we are, thankfully, seeing a lot of the worst examples of this era silently disappearing from the roads. But not all of them are gone yet, and there are plenty still marring the streets and roads, contrary to all logic. Let's take a look at 25 rustbuckets from the '90s somehow still on the roads today.
The Pontiac Grand Am is perhaps one of the most dismal of the cars to come out of the era of the '90s, and yet they still find themselves where they have no business being, that place being still on the roads.
Enveloped in cheap plastic cladding, saturated through and through with cheap build quality, and endless things breaking in the interior, all this was only made worse by a pitiful engine that didn't have any life or soul of any kind. Fortunately, the amount of these on the road is in quickening decline.
The '90s saw an inexplicable, and inexcusable, rise in cookie cutter cars, the likes of which this earth has never seen before, with car companies rebranding and then rebranding again. The amount of copycat iterations and duplicates the market saw was truly bad, with cars across the board sharing almost everything except a badge.
The Chevy Lumina was just such a car, which had an inexplicable amount of versions as well, a coupe, a sedan, and even a mini van model. They can still be spotted staining the daily drive to work, usually in condition similar to the one pictured.
Let's start things out with a rust bucket in the most quintessential of ways, with the Honda CRX. Obviously, not all models of the CRX are this rusted out, but many are in a similar state of disrepair, as they've always been the kind of car that people don't take tons of care of, because they're cheap.
And they're reliable, too, as these have stayed on the roads for decades, faithfully running year after year. The CRX was a strange little car, too, inordinately small, with enough room for half of your weekly groceries.
As was very common in the '90s, car manufacturers were extraordinarily lazy. The Monte Carlo shared a platform with the previous model, also featured on this list, the Chevy Lumina. Not much of anything changed in the switch.
Save a few updates, a facelift, and a copious amount of the same cheap quality and lackluster drivability. Some of the worst driving cars in recent memory can be traced back to this era, rivaled only by the dismal malaise era of the muscle cars in the '70s.
The Corvette had many, many years of sorrow, sadness, and soul-sucking design. Once upon a time, it was a phenomenal muscle car, a name that defined a nation, embodied a culture, and performed like nothing before it. Then the malaise era came, leveling almost every muscle car made as if overnight.
For the past almost 50 years, the Corvette has struggled to get on its feet once again. The '90s was not the decade for them as the tendency to create the cheapest build cars possibly rendered this Corvette deficient. It didn't have any kind of remarkable performance, either.
The vans that came out of the '90s are some of the most iconic and infamous creations that the entire decade brought to the world. There isn't a van from the '90s that doesn't come to mind when thinking of the bottom of the barrel dregs of the worst and ugliest cars ever to come into existence.
The Ford Aerostar was just such a van, with poor styling, cheap components across the board, and a wheezy engine that could hardly move the massive box with wheels. Yet somehow they still plague the roads and highways.
The Buick LaSabre saw a long run, stretching from well before the nineties to a while after. Buick had found a formula that worked, and capitalized on it for well over a decade, making tons of money selling a car that cost hardly anything to make.
The cars to come from the '90s were some of the most dismal, with minimal innovation just adding to the unwieldy and useless nature of the car. These can still be seen on the highways, like a plague, a reminder that we the consumers are just a pawn in a massive money making scheme, worthless cars merely a byproduct.
The Ford Escort is about as plain and unremarkable of a car that ever came out of the '90s. Purportedly it was worse in the '80s, but Ford was playing the same game as it had been for a while, selling the public gutless trash for a profit.
The Escort was a lifeless, unimaginative waste of resources that had the same insides as the ones before it, hardly updated from year to year. The sad thing is that they can still be found on the roads to this day.
The Lumina APV has the same name as the Lumina, shares the same dismally bland boxy looks, and is about the same level of mass produced garbage as the sedan of the same name. It was part of a marketing gimmick to boost sales, as almost every car of the time essentially was.
But, it is mechanically different, almost entirely, technically only sharing a name with the normal Lumina. Of course, how different were any of the cars that came out of the '90s? Not very different at all.
The Chevy Camaro name will forever be haunted and smeared by the cars that came out of the late '80s and early '90s, because while Camaro hadn't been good for almost two decades, these models made absolutely no attempt at being anything but an insult to the name.
Without any drivability, noticeable performance, and made with the cheapest parts possible, these made no attempt at being sports cars, and GM merely used the name to boost sales of the car.
Perhaps the primary reason this car finds itself in this list is because of the rather obvious one: its bad looks. While there are most assuredly worse cars to come out of the '90s, there is hardly one that can be called uglier.
The Fiat Multipla is strangely designed to put things as kindly as possible, but there is a valid argument attesting to the fact that at least this car had made an attempt to be something more than a useless iteration of a square lifeless box.
One of the more instantly recognizable names of the '90s, and the go to car for general hate against terrible cars of the '90s, the Fiat Punto has a dwell deserved place on this list of cars from the nineties still driving the roads.
The Cabriolet version isn't much better, only a much funnier looking example of the same bad car. Taking the roof off and making it a convertible most assuredly wasn't the solution to making this car any better.
The Ford Mustang models from the era of the '90s weren't much more than a marketing attempt by Ford to increase sales, fooling people into thinking that they were buying some kind of sports car when they bought a Mustang. Which, often enough, ended up being a cheap coupe with a pitiful nod to performance.
There were a few models of Mustang's, and indeed most of the muscle car nameplates in production, that did have a notable amount of power and performance. It was often completely overshadowed by the worst build quality imaginable.
The Ford Taurus is a car that has proven to be extraordinarily successful for Ford, as it is still currently in production. It has seen many iterations over the years, but it has for the most part followed a very specific and time tested formula for maximum profit.
The '90s iterations of the Taurus were some of the worst, too, because they were rife with the same issues of almost all the cars mass produced during the '90s. Plastic cladding, cheap components, gutless and lifeless engines, all in an easily marketable platform.
The muscle cars of the '90s were an almost unanimous disaster, where sad shells of what they once were and had barely made it through the '80s, only to become victim to one of the most prevalent issues of the era, badge engineering.
To save money and "fool" the public, car manufacturers did very little to actually distinguish one car from another, beyond the label they slapped on it - on its way out of the factory. The Thunderbird was just such a victim, one that didn't make it more than a year over the new century because of it.
If the Geo Metro doesn't come to mind with all that was wrong with the car industry in the '90s ,there isn't much else that can do it any more efficiently than this, a useless piece of trash that perfectly embodies all of the things wrong with the '90s car industry.
Stripped down to a completely unremarkable box, coated in cheap plastic and components, and given an engine that provided no kind of enjoyable driving experience, this car might as well have never existed. Except, of course, for the massive carbon footprint it left, for virtually no viable reason beyond the profit of GM.
The Honda Del Sol was a fascinating car decision from a company that otherwise has by and large produced sensible and reliable cars over the years (yes even through the 90s). Made to replace the CRX, it was supposed to be an answer to the Mazda Miata.
At a glance, it looks like a worthy competitor, but with too much weight, not enough power, too much complication, and a lackluster driving experience, the Del Sol was a complete flop. Though you can see them still perusing the roads to this day.
The Saturn SW1 might as well not exist, as it was rebadged and re-marketed in an attempt to increase sales. We saw right through the ruse, though, which left this iteration and repeat to find very little success in the way of sales.
Essentially, the SW1 was an SL (though Saturn didn't want anyone to know that), with virtually the only change being the fact it was a station wagon. The styling wasn't any different. Hooray for badge engineering! These can still be seen plaguing the roads today.
The Pontiac Firebird was one of a few muscle cars to make it to the '90s, and they really were an unlucky few. At least the ones that didn't die off (or were brought back to life in miserable shame) weren't marred by the disappointment of the era.
The Firebird was mechanically identical, yes in every way, to the Chevy Camaro. And if that isn't one of the biggest disgraces to what muscle cars used to be and embody, I'm not sure what is. These still persist to this day, though we all wish they never even existed.
The '90s saw a fairly long list of hilariously styled and terrible vans - mini vans in its ten years, and while they led to the mini van explosion that shaped the market we see today (though crossovers are quickly becoming the new mini van), they're origins are awkward and rife with poor models.
The Honda Odyssey was just such a mini van, a dull wedge shaped box that in some respects looked better than others, it still suffered for low build quality, lack of power and drivability, along with endless plastic.
The Hyundai Tiburon was a coupe that by all means looked fairly unique, dare we say even sporty, especially considering the state of the cars around it at the time. But, no matter how sporty a car looks, there's no getting around the fact that how it performs is the deciding factor.
The Hyundai Tiburon was an asthmatic, unwieldy sports car that could hardly muster enough power to move itself forward. It had barely 100 horsepower and took over 7 seconds to get to 60. Hardly sporty.
The Plymouth Voyager was a giant box with four wheels, no matter what way you looked at it. Everything except the wheels was designed with squares. Square grille, square headlights, square turn signal lights, it was all one big box decorated with smaller boxes.
Apart from its looks, it was a fairly decent and reliable car, though it lacked a soul, and performed quite terribly in front crash tests. These particularly rusty rust buckets still roll the streets to this day.
The Mercury Cougar was subject to many woes of the '90s, due to all of the poor decisions that GM, the manufacturing company that owned almost all of the industry at the time, made in regards to the cars they built and sold.
Badge engineering is a term often used to describe one of the biggest issues of the industry rampant in the '90s. It makes it sound like more work than it is, though there is satisfying irony in it. It amounts to a marketing ploy, and doesn't involve engineering of virtually any kind. The Mercury Cougar shared way too many similarities with the Ford Probe to be acceptable.
There are a lot of things to say about Chrysler acquiring Jeep, and almost all of them are negative. Chrysler took a thriving and unique company, owned by AMC, and stole almost all of the life out of it, creating cars that didn't handle off-road, were rife with reliability issues, and were hardly unique.
Granted, some of the best Jeeps come from Chrysler, but the Jeep Grand Wagoneer of the '90s isn't one of them. The true Wagoneer (one of the greatest SUV models of all time) was discontinued a few years before Chrysler, in a quintessential example of badge engineering, revived the namesake, slapping it on a Jeep Grand Cherokee and putting it up for sale.
The Buick Roadmaster Estate is one of those cars that you may pay hardly any attention to as you pass it on the road in your day to day life, but when you look for it, sure enough it's there, lying in wait, lurking, never leaving, despite the fact that this cheap, ugly boat of a car has no business on our roads these days.
The Roadmaster Estate was perhaps nowhere near the worst car you could get in the '90s, but it was plagued by the characteristics of the era, bad build quality, corners cut at every step of the way, and nothing at all remarkable about the driving experience.
Sources: Jalopnik, Car Domain & Zombie Drive