Ah, the good old 90s. The birth time of the millennials. The time when the baby boomers began to turn into senior citizens. And the time everyone thought Y2K was going to bring down each computer at the stroke of 1999, December 31st midnight. Of course, this decade was also the time of some good and some crappy cars.
The good ones were made well, but the bad ones were built in Satan’s unholy workshop and sold only to make life a living hell for their buyers. With muscle car mania dying down, the 90s was the time of the sports cars. So here are five you can still find zipping on the road and five that you may find in the nearest junkyard.
10 Rock Solid: Ford Escort RS Cosworth
The Ford Escort RS Cosworth is the perfect example of looking at the brighter side of things and concentrating more on the silver lining. This is probably why Cosworth was able to Cinderella the Ford Escort, a rather mediocre car, into being the Ford Escort RS Cosworth. With a 2.0-liter inline-four engine, this could go 0-60 in 5.7 seconds on both 224 horses and torque, at a top speed of 144mph. A rally car, the Ford Escort RS Cosworth won in many world rally championship events between 1993 and 1997. The massive rear wing remains close to any rally fan's heart and there were limited road-legal editions of this as a perfectly reliable sports car.
9 Shaky From The Start: Mitsubishi 3000GT
Not to say that the Mitsubishi 3000GT was a bad car because it wasn’t, but they built it so complicated – no one could get it. Dubbed a sports car but belonging more to the Grand Tourer class, the 3000GT came with just about anything and everything that Mitsubishi could put in a sports car.
The twin-turbocharged V6 spat out 394 horses and 414 ft-lb torque and took the car to top speeds of about 155mph, bogged down by the weight. Any small problem under the hood proved pretty expensive because the insides were an overcomplicated mass barely any mechanic could figure out.
8 Rock Solid: Porsche Boxster
With engine options ranging from a 2.5-liter flat-six to a 3.2-liter flat-six, the Porsche Boxster was a well-packaged 90s sports car. The Porsche Type M96 water-cooled engine jetted out 201 horses at 2.5-liter capacity. Because of being flat and having a mid-layout, this engine added to the car’s low center of gravity and almost perfect weight distribution. It was released ahead of the more expensive 911’s launch and also worked as a test market for the same. The response for the Boxster was phenomenal – it drove sporty, handled itself well on curves and at high speeds and was one very responsive car.
7 Shaky From The Start: Eagle Talon
Chrysler acquired AMC in 1987 and at the time, the AMC Eagle was one of the cars. Chrysler turned the Eagle nameplate into a marque and introduced the Eagle Talon in 1989 as a 1990 model. It also launched its siblings, the Mitsubishi Eclipse and the Plymouth Laser alongside to hone in on sales.
A hatchback coupe, the Talon did not look very sporty – and therein lay the problem. The styling was all off, though the Pentastar engines did try to do a good job. With plenty of recalls to fix faulty parts and a generic turbo-lag complaint, the Eagle quit in the 90s itself, with 1998 being its last model year.
6 Rock Solid: Nissan Skyline GT-R V·Spec (R33)
The 1994 Nissan Skyline GT-R was a class apart. A twin-turbocharged inline-six engine jetted 280 horses and 264 ft-lb the torque that took the GT-R 0-60mph in flat 4 seconds. The top speed of 155 mph holds good even today, probably why people queue up for JDM cars, never mind the price. The V-Spec Skyline was a commemorative edition of the car brought out when it decimated every motorsport event it took part in. It was then that it began to be known as the Godzilla. Of course, the official 276 horsepower notation is just that, true tuners know that this baby can easily jet 500-600 horses when coaxed a little. And with the 25-year waiting period at an end, this is the time to get your hands on this gem of a JDM.
5 Shaky From The Start: Infiniti M30
We just wrote a little ode to a Nissan car above, and now we denounce it because well, poetic justice. Infiniti is Nissan’s luxury marque and in the 90s, it tried to rebadge a Nissan Leopard as the M30 convertible and people simply did not take to it. The suspension was lackluster and closer to a passenger car than a sports car’s.
The drive train was sluggish and boring plus the car frame and body was strangely prone to rusting in just about any kind of weather. The V6 engine gave out 160 horses, but trying to get the most of out was like trying to put your drunk frat bro to bed – you just oversteered it all.
4 Rock Solid: Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
With the 2020 Corvette coming up soon, let’s hark back to the 1996 Corvette Grand Sport. While the new one can do a 0-60mph sprint in 2.9 seconds, 5.2 seconds wasn’t bad for the 90s. The LT4 5.7-liter small-block V8 gave it all to the Vette at 330 horses and 340 ft-lb torque. With a giant white stripe in the middle with two red stripes on its either side on the hood, some called it a work of art while some hated the looks from the start. But with top speeds of 170mph, you cannot hold onto dislike for long for this excellent end to the fourth-generation Corvette.
3 Shaky From The Start: Oldsmobile Aurora
The Oldsmobile Aurora was not a bad car, in fact when being crash tested, it broke GM’s machine because of its unibody construction strength. The 4.0-liter V8 gave out 250 horses and it went fast. But the design remained boring and uninspiring. Technically, this was also Oldsmobile’s last-ditch effort to save itself from going kaput and for while it seemed to work with the Aurora selling well initially.
However once people began to see this “Tube Car” on the road, interest waned and the Aurora did not shine as brightly. Soon Oldsmobile went belly up and Aurora owners were often left high and dry when it came to service and parts.
2 Rock Solid: Ford Mustang SVT Cobra
The 1994-made Ford Mustang SVT Cobra was a performance special, but this time it was produced by Ford’s very own SVT – Special Vehicles Team. Its 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 gave out 240 horses and 285 ft-lb torque and went 0-60mph in 6.3 seconds at top speeds of 140mph. This is what every Mustang should be like but due to economic and emission restriction, not every Stang can be this Boss. With the Mustang having coasted through every difficult period, the 90s was no toughie for it. With the Cobra it simply sailed through into the next century, still going strong.
1 Shaky From The Start: Cadillac Catera
Cadillac has always been synonymous with luxury, so small sedans have been a sore point with it. Remember the Cadillac Cimarron? This rebranded Chevy Cavalier nearly brought Caddy to its proverbial knees. That apart, the next small sporty sedan was the Catera. Sadly, despite it being a British, German and French collaboration – along with the American Cadillac – it too went nowhere. The 3.0-liter V6 that made 200 horsepower was the only okay bit in there. Otherwise, the Catera did not appeal to the Caddy loyalists because it was small, and could not attract newer and more youthful buyers to the brand either.